According to the Associated Press, 21st Century FOX announced an agreement Friday to raise its ownership stake in YES Network from 49 percent of 80 percent, thus taking majority control. The deal is expected to close by the end of March.
Fox originally bought in on YES in 2012 and had the right to increase their stake to 80 percent. The Yankees, who have never had a majority share in the network according to Newsday, will continue to own the remaining 20 percent after the deal is finalized.
Here’s a statement from Yankees co-chairman Hal Steinbrenner:
“Clearly, 21st Century Fox is a great partner for us as the YES Network fulfills and expands its potential as one of the nation’s premier regional sports networks. We are gratified that 21st Century Fox has increased their stake and investment in the network. Yankee Global Enterprises is eager to continue working with 21st Century Fox as we explore ways to take YES to even greater heights.”
Wendy Thurm, who does an excellent job tracking the various television rights deals over at FanGraphs, writes that this will result in more cash for the Yankees. While it’s not quite on the level of the Dodgers, Thurm estimates that they’ll receive somewhere in the range of $150 million annually.
In an age in which even baseball’s richest teams talk about tight budgets and keeping payroll low, it’s pretty rare to hear anyone connected with a front office talking about freely spending money. Phillies owner John Middleton, however, offered up something rare about the team’s approach to free agency.
“We’re going into this expecting to spend money, and maybe even be a little bit stupid about it,” he told Bob Nightengale or USA Today. He then added, “we just prefer not to be completely stupid.” That save aside, it was a pretty unusual sentiment these days.
“Stupid” could certainly mean Bryce Harper, who the Phillies have long been expected to pursue. It could even mean Harper and Manny Machado. Why not? At the moment the Phillies’ payroll for 2019 is looking to be just a shade above $100 million, so even adding, say, $70 million to that would not put them in an unreasonable position compared to other competitors. And that’s before you figure in any sort of back-loading or deferred money that Harper and/or Machado might agree to.
Or, even if they didn’t get one or both of those guys, they could spend that same kind of money on multiple free agents. Patrick Corbin? Marwin Gonzalez? A handful of others? We counted down the top 100 free agents last week and any number of them could be acquired given the sort of payroll flexibility a large market team like the Phillies appear to have. It merely requires the will to do it. A will which, it seems, John Middleton possesses.