Let’s put that new ESPN rights deal in context.
While each team keeps its own local broadcast money, national TV money is split equally among all 30 teams. I’m assuming MLB gets the vig, so it’s not all divided up, but we’re just dealing with rough numbers here.
Beginning in 2014, ESPN’s annual payment for MLB rights will jump from around $306 million to $700 million a year. Meaning that the annual payment to each team will jump from just over $10 million to around $23 million. That’s $13 million more in each team’s pocket per year starting in 2014, though the ESPN deal alone.
Now, figure that there will be at least similar and perhaps greater proportional annual bumps for the deals currently held by Fox and TBS. Which are bigger money overall given that they include the playoffs. And that’s assuming that baseball and their would-be network partners don’t get creative and add in a new broadcast product of some kind. Figure then, what, $25 million more a year on top of the ESPN bump? $40 million? With numbers going they way they’re going right now, it’s entirely possible. The upshot of all of this means that, without doing a single thing, each major league team is looking at an increased cash payment of, at minimum, $40 million. Probably much more. Just for the national TV rights increase.
Put differently: the Dodgers seemingly insane assumption of the Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Adrian Gonzalez contracts will basically be paid for out of TV money eventually. The vast majority of the entire 2012 payroll for teams like the Padres, A’s, Rays, Astros and Royals will be covered.
It’s a new world out there. Or will be soon.
Last week, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reported that Astros starter and reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander changed his mechanics in order to prolong his career. Specifically, Verlander lowered his release point from 7’2″ to 6’5″.
As Brooks Baseball shows, Verlander drastically altered his release point after being traded to the Astros from the Tigers on August 31, 2017. The change resulted in a huge bump in his strikeout rate. Verlander’s strikeout rate ranged between 16% and 27.4% with the Tigers, mostly settling in the 23-25% range. With The Tigers through the first five months of 2017, Verlander struck out 24.1% of batters. In the final month with the Astros, he struck out 35.8% of batters. He then maintained that rate over the entire 2018 and ’19 seasons with respective rates of 34.8% and 35.4%. Just as impressively, the release point also resulted in fewer walks. His walk rate ranged from 5.9% to 9.9% with the Tigers but was 4.4% and 5.0% the last two seasons with the Astros.
Verlander finished a runner-up in 2018 AL Cy Young Award balloting to Blake Snell before edging out teammate Gerrit Cole for the award last season. Despite the immense success, Verlander described his mechanics as unsustainable. Per The Athletic’s Jake Kaplan, Verlander said, “I changed a lot of stuff that some people would think was unnecessary. But I thought it was necessary, especially if I want to play eight, 10 more years.”
Verlander is 37 years old, so 10 more seasons would put him into Jamie Moyer territory. Moyer, who consistently ranked among baseball’s softest-tossing pitchers, pitched 25 seasons in the majors from 1986-2012. He threw 111 2/3 innings with the Phillies in 2010 at the age of 47 and 53 2/3 innings with the Rockies in 2012 at 49. But aside from Moyer and, more recently, Bartolo Colon, it’s exceedingly rare for pitchers to extend their careers into their 40’s, let alone their mid- and late-40’s.
The Astros have Verlander under contract through 2021. The right-hander will have earned close to $300 million. He’s won a World Series, a Rookie of the Year Award, an MVP Award, two Cy Youngs, and has been an eight-time All-Star. Verlander could retire after 2021 and would almost certainly be a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2027. That he continues to tweak his mechanics in order to pitch for another decade speaks to his highly competitive nature.