The return to a 154-game schedule? Not bloody likely.

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Today Buster Olney takes up an issue that many have taken up over the years. Usually when the playoffs are near and the weather is getting cold and people wonder why the World Series can’t be over by October 15 like it used to be. The issue: the length of the regular season schedule and the possibility of it returning to 154 games.

Buster’s argument, inspired by some of Rob Manfred’s recent comments, is that the season is a grind and players may be willing to trade some salary for more time off. And that owners, if they were saving on some player salaries, would be amenable to taking four fewer home games worth of gate.

I’m not buying any of this.

As Olney notes, the average salary of the major league player is about $4.5 million. Hacking eight games off the year hacks an average of $222K off a player’s salary. That’s an awful lot of money to expect the average player to give up for less than two extra off-days a month. But let’s say, for a moment, players would be willing to do that.

Owners would give up eight games. Four games at home. Obviously the revenue a team makes per game varies widely, but one estimate from last week’s empty-ballpark game in Baltimore had the Orioles losing a little north of $1 million in revenue from concessions and tickets and so forth. For one game. The average player payroll savings per game — for the entire 25-man roster — would be around $695,000. So, already, the average owner would be losing more money than the average player would per cancelled game.

But wait, that’s not all the owners would lose! Currently, the biggest driver in team revenue are television contracts. Television contracts which pay billions to the league and to teams. Do you think that the good folks at Fox, ESPN, Comcast, the local broadcasters and the regional sports networks are going to pay the same amount to clubs for nearly 5% fewer games? Think again. There’s another big haircut for the owners. And that’s before you take into account the revenue MLBAM gets for streaming games, preroll ads for game highlights at MLB.com and stuff like that.

That TV money thing is not accounted for in Olney’s argument, by the way. Nor are the complications arising from team’s relationships with vendors like Aramark, parking companies, local government, advertising partners and, all of whom have relationships with clubs that either directly or indirectly count on 81 home games a year. That all vanishes if you cut eight games off the season. At least to the tune of 5% or so, maybe more. Currently baseball’s revenues are $9 billion. Are the Lords of the Realm likely to give up $450 million a year (at least as a baseline) in order to give some players a few extra days off?

Call me crazy, but I don’t think it’s bloody likely.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.