Peter Angelos

MLB kicks money to the Nationals to keep them from suing over the MASN deal

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Jonah Keri has a great, in-depth story about the Orioles today. Specifically about their status as a team that rakes in money yet spends relatively little on payroll. He traces the arc of the team from the mid-90s to today, speaking with former Orioles officials and telling a really illuminating story about the team got to where it is. There’s a lot in there that we either didn’t know before or didn’t know quite as clearly.

There’s also a passage in the middle that discusses the Oriole’s TV partnership with the Nationals and the MASN regional sports network. Jonah explains it in detail, but the short version is that, while both the O’s and Nats get the same amount in rights fees from MASN, the Orioles own a much larger percentage of the network than the Nats do. The O’s reap huge profits — profits that are not subject to evenue-sharing — while the Nats get a relative pittance. Meanwhile, there’s a strong argument that the network’s subscription rates are undervalued, keeping even more money away from Washington.

At times there have been negotiations to change this arrangement and at times there have been threats of legal action by the Nationals to get a bigger piece of the pie. Keri reports, however, that there’s a good reason why no one has been sued yet:

For now, the MASN status quo remains. The Nationals aren’t completely helpless, though: According to a source close to the Washington franchise, MLB has sent the team an undisclosed sum every year to help bridge the gap, and to prevent the Lerners from taking matters to court, until the deal becomes more balanced.

That’s pretty astounding. It’s been pretty effective so far, sure, but it’s still pretty astounding. It’s also, one may assume, unsustainable. And in any case it is pretty telling of a system that is increasingly inequitable. If you own your network or struck your deal at just the right time, you’re flush. If not, you’re not. And if you’re flush you have a far greater ability to shield money from revenue sharing than the poor sisters are.

And that’s not very sustainable either.

Report: Mark Trumbo signs three-year, $37.5 million contract with Orioles

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 04:  Mark Trumbo #45 of the Baltimore Orioles runs the bases after hitting a two-run home run in the fourth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays during the American League Wild Card game at Rogers Centre on October 4, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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Update #2 (6:21 PM EST): Make that $37.5 million, per Heyman.

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Update (6:02 PM EST): The deal is for “around” $37 million with deferrals that lower the present-day value, per Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.

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Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that free agent 1B/OF Mark Trumbo is close to a deal with the Orioles. He first reported that the two sides were back in touch earlier on Thursday afternoon. According to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, the deal is expected to be for three years and under $40 million.

Trumbo’s market hasn’t developed as he expected. The slugger turned down the Orioles’ $17.2 million qualifying offer back in November. Then the Orioles reportedly made a four-year contract offer to him in December but pulled it off the table. Most recently, a report indicated that Trumbo lowered his expectations to a three-year deal in the $40-50 million range.

Trumbo, 31, led the majors with 47 homers for the Orioles this past season. He also hit a solid .256/.316/.433 with 108 RBI in 667 plate appearances. With Trumbo back in the fold and some slight offensive upgrades made, the Orioles figure to have a formidable offense in 2017.

Astros avoid arbitration with Mike Fiers

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 17: Starting pitcher Mike Fiers #54 of the Houston Astros walks to the dugout after pitching an inning during a game against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on September 17, 2016 in Seattle, Washington. The Astros won the game 2-1. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
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The Astros avoided arbitration with pitcher Mike Fiers, agreeing on a $3.45 million salary for the 2017 season, per Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle. The right-hander was in his first of three years of arbitration eligibility.

Fiers, 31, made 30 starts and one relief appearance for the Astros in 2016. He finished the year with a 4.48 ERA and a 134/42 K/BB ratio in 168 2/3 innings.

Fiers had a much better showing in 2015 as well as in limited action in 2014, so the Astros are hoping he rediscovers that effectiveness going forward. He’ll slot into the back of the starting rotation.