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Lots of people want to buy in to MLBAM, but the owners aren’t selling

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Major League Baseball Advanced Media — the baseball subsidiary behind MLB.com. MLB.tv and a lot of stuff about which you have no idea — is a gold mine.  It, more than anything, has been responsible for the sharp increase in baseball revenues in recent years. And as an added bonus, the company just gets stuff right.  I can watch a Mariners-A’s game on a Tuesday night in Ohio if I want to, and I can do so relatively cheaply. And it works. As does most of the stuff they do. Viva MLBAM.

But when you get a money-making enterprise that folks like, other folks will want to invest in it. And as Business Insider reported the other day, lots of private equity groups want to invest in MLBAM.  But baseball is rejecting these overtures, preferring to forgo the instant liquidity in favor of keeping it the league and the owners’ very own private thing.  BI has some possible explanations for this:

A source close to the talks tells us the company gets “call a day” from private equity firms, but that the company isn’t looking to sell a stake for a few reasons:

  • It’s already loaded with cash.
  • Owners are already getting a huge dividend.
  • Selling a billion dollar stake in MLBAM any time soon would make it very hard for owners to argue that they’re broke in upcoming labor negotiations with players.
  • Selling a stake could further complicate the ownership stake and perhaps even force a dreaded shotgun IPO.

Those are all very plausible reasons. I’ll add another one:  The books of major league baseball owners are a thicket of self-dealing and chaos, and there’s no way in hell they want to open them up to anyone they don’t have to lest people see just how ugly they really are.  If you doubt this, just recall the fun stuff we saw when Frank McCourt and Tom Hicks were forced to open their books in litigation. Or when Deadspin reported on a bunch of leaked financials from the Pirates, Marlins and other teams.

It’s less the case than it used to be, but in a lot of ways baseball teams are multi-million dollar businesses being run like a small town auto dealership.  They make money to beat the band, but they’re not about to share that with the Wall Street crowd.

Report: Dexter Fowler will take a physical in St. Louis on Friday

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Dexter Fowler #24 of the Chicago Cubs reacts after lining out during the third inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game Seven of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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Update (8:51 PM EST): The deal is in place, according to Heyman.

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Update (8:27 PM EST): Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Cardinals made an “over-the-top offer” to Fowler to ensure he’d sign.

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Frank Cusumano of KSDK Sports reports that free agent outfielder will take a physical in St. Louis on Friday. Presumably, that means that Fowler and the Cardinals have gotten pretty far along in negotiations.

Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports recently reported that Fowler was looking for $18 million per year. The Blue Jays reportedly made an offer to Fowler in the four-year, $16 million range several days ago. The Cardinals’ offer to Fowler, if there is indeed one, is likely somewhere between the two figures.

Fowler, 30, is coming off of a fantastic year in which he helped the Cubs win their first World Series since 1908. During the regular season, he hit .276/.393/.447 with 13 home runs, 48 RBI, 84 runs scored, and 13 stolen bases in 551 plate appearances.

Fowler rejected the Cubs’ $17.2 million qualifying offer last month. While the QO compensation negatively affected Fowler’s experience in free agency last offseason — he didn’t sign until late February with the Cubs — his strong season is expected to make QO compensation much less of an issue.

Braves acquire Luke Jackson from the Rangers

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 16:  Relief pitcher Luke Jackson #53 of the Texas Rangers  throws during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Houston Astros at Globe Life Park on September 16, 2015 in Arlington, Texas. Texas won 14-3. (Photo by Brandon Wade/Getty Images)
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Tommy Stokke of RanRag Sports reports that the Braves and Rangers agreed to a trade. According to ESPN’s Keith Law, the Braves will receive pitcher Luke Jackson from the Rangers in exchange for pitchers Tyrell Jenkins and Brady Feigl.

Jackson, 25, is under team control through 2022. He has logged only 18 innings in the majors, yielding 14 runs on 22 hits and eight walks with three strikeouts. While Jackson has struggled with control, the Braves likely see upside because his fastball sits in the mid- to high-90’s.

Jenkins, 24, is also under team control through 2022. The right-hander made eight starts and six relief appearances in his first major league season in 2016, putting up a 5.88 ERA with a 26/33 K/BB ratio over 52 innings.

Feigl, 25, was an undrafted free agent and was signed by the Braves in 2013. The lefty underwent Tommy John surgery in 2015 and briefly rehabbed in rookie ball this past season.