Fox to put a lot more Saturday games in prime time this season

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I don’t know about you, but my summer Saturday afternoons are filled with shopping, cleaning, kids’ birthday parties, trips to the community pool and drinking beer while staring into the middle distance and wondering, if I jumped into my car and drove west with a purpose, how far I’d get before the authorities caught up with me and brought me back to the domestic existence from which I have no hope of escaping until at least the summer of 2023 when my son goes away to college.

Sorry. I may have said too much there.

The point is, it’s often very hard for me to find time to sit down and watch a baseball game on Saturday afternoon.  Last year Fox, realizing this, moved a couple to prime time where, amazingly, the ratings were higher.  So this year they’re doing it with several more games:

The latest attempt to turn TV’s least-watched night into a showcase for sports: Fox’s regular-season baseball will move to Saturday prime time (7 ET) for eight weeks in a row. The move, to be formally announced today, will start May 19 with regionalized coverage of five games, led by Boston Red Sox-Philadelphia Phillies. Fox’s idea is to package five or six games in prime time, compared with the usual three in Fox’s afternoon slots, offering options to swing viewers between games and, when games end quickly, switch to other games.

Given how much success ABC and ESPN have had with college football on Saturday nights, it makes perfect sense that baseball would do better in the evening hours than it does in the afternoon.  Yes, the big drawback is that it messes with local broadcasts of non-national games — the blackout rules will still apply, it seems — but it’s probably better for MLB to have another prime time national showcase apart from Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN.

Yankees trade Sonny Gray to the Reds

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The deal was much talked about all weekend and now the deal is done: The Cincinnati Reds gave acquired starter Sonny Gray and lefty Reiver Sanmartin from the Yankees in exchange for second base prospect Shed Long and a 2019 competitive balance pick.

The key to making the deal happen: Gray agreeing to a a three-year, $30.5 million contract extension. The Reds will likewise hold a $12 million club option for 2023. The deal had been struck and a window granted through close of business today to get Gray to agree to the extension and, obviously, he has.

The Reds will get a pitcher coming off of a bad season in which he posted a disappointing 4.90 ERA in 23 starts and seven relief appearances. He was hammered particularly hard in Yankee Stadium but pitched better on the road. Great American Ballpark is not a great pitcher’s park itself but any change of scenery would be nice for Gray, who had become much unwanted and unloved in New York. In Cincinnati he has the assurance of a spot in the rotation and, even better for him, he will be reunited with his college pitching coach, Derek Johnson, who joined new manager David Bell’s Reds staff earlier this offseason. If he bounces back even a little bit, the Reds will have a useful starter at a below market price for four years. If he doesn’t, well, they haven’t exactly gone bankrupt taking the chance.

The Reds will also get Reiver Sanmartin, 22, who started in the Rangers system before being traded to the Yankees. He’s a soft-tosser who figures to be a reliever if he makes the big leagues. He played at four different levels last season, with one game at Double-A and the rest below that, posting a composite 2.80 ERA in 10 starts and 13 overall appearances while striking out 7.8 batters per nine.

The Yankees will get Shed Long, who is ranked as the Reds’ seventh best prospect. The 23-year old second baseman hit .261/.353/.412 at Double-A in 2018 and has hit very close to that overall line for his entire six-year minor league career. He strikes out a bit and may not stick at second base long term, shifting to a corner outfield slot perhaps, but he’s a legitimate prospect.

The Reds get another starter with some upside. The Yankees get rid of a problem and gain a prospect and a draft pick. Sonny Gray gets some job and financial security at a time when it is not at all clear what his future holds. Not a bad baseball trade.

UPDATE: Welp, the Yankees don’t have a prospect anymore. They just traded long to the Mariners for outfielder Josh Stowers. Stowers was a second-round pick in last year’s draft. He’s 21 and batted .260/.380/.410 with five homers and 20 steals over 58 games in Short-Season ball in 2018. He’s ranked by MLB.com as the Mariners’ No. 10 prospect, but now he’s New York bound.