We talked about lucrative local TV rights yesterday. Let’s talk national: ESPN just agreed to pay Major League Baseball nearly double what it’s paying now to keep baseball rights through 2021:
ESPN has agreed to a deal that locks down MLB rights into the next decade, according to several sources. The eight-year deal is worth $5.6B (an average of $700M per year), approximately doubling the nearly $306M ESPN currently pays MLB every year for domestic TV rights.
That includes digital, radio and, for the first time, the playoffs: one wild card game. Otherwise the deal is basically the same: Sunday Night Baseball and Monday and Wednesday night games.
The current deals with ESPN, Fox and TBS are in place through the end of the 2013 season. As the New York Times reported in July, there is a frenzy afoot, with those three outlets still wanting to keep their games, plus NBC wanting to get in on the action. Clearly those remaining will be in frenzied bidding for the Saturday and Sunday afternoon games, the postseason and any other national products that may be added over and above what exists now.
That’s a recipe for skyrocketing rights fees. And we just saw the first rocket launched.
UPDATE: Putting this money in perspective. Short version: windfall.
Veteran right-hander Bartolo Colon was released from his minor league deal with the Rangers on Saturday, MLB.com’s TR Sullivan reports. Despite his strong showing in spring training, Colon wasn’t considered a lock to make the Opening Day rotation. This may not be the end of his time with the team, however — according to multiple reports, the Rangers have expressed their desire to restructure a minor league deal with the right-hander and could work out an arrangement to keep him on as bullpen and Triple-A depth this season.
Colon, 44, is preparing for his 21st year in the majors. He split his 2017 campaign with the Braves and Twins, posting a cumulative 7-14 record in 28 starts and finishing the season with a 6.48 ERA, 2.2 BB/9 and 5.6 SO/9 in 143 innings. While those numbers were some of the worst he’d seen since 2009, the veteran righty made a compelling case in camp this spring, holding batters to six earned runs, four home runs, two walks and 10 strikeouts in 18 innings.
The Rangers are expected to open the season with a rotation comprised of Cole Hamels, Doug Fister, Matt Moore, Mike Minor and Martin Perez. Perez is working his way back from an elbow injury in his non-throwing arm and is slated to miss his first start of the season, which would provide a brief window of opportunity for Colon when the Rangers hit the road in April.