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Sunday night games to be televised an hour earlier in 2019

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ESPN will begin broadcasting baseball games on Sunday nights an hour earlier beginning in 2019, with first pitch scheduled shortly after 7 PM EDT, Ronald Blum of the Associated Press reports. Games had typically started shortly after 8 PM EDT. ESPN has not made an official announcement but is expected to do so at the Winter Meetings.

ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball broadcasting team features Matt Vasgersian, Alex Rodriguez, Jessica Mendoza, and Buster Olney. The first Sunday Night Baseball game will see the Braves visiting the Phillies on March 31. It’s part of a TV doubleheader. The first game will be the Rangers and the Cubs in Chicago.

Other Sunday night matchups include the Dodgers and Red Sox on July 14, several instances of the Red Sox versus the Yankees, and the Little League Classic between the Pirates and Cubs in Williamsport on August 18.

Part of the reason for the change is that players had been complaining about a lack of rest. Given that the games typically end around 10:30-11 PM EST and Sunday games are typically the final game of a three- or four-game series, teams were often getting to their next destination in the early morning. As a result, players’ sleep schedules were disrupted. Such concerns were brought up during negotiations for the current collective bargaining agreement, which caused earlier start times for weekday games on getaway days.

Cubs have considered trading Ben Zobrist

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The Athletic’s Sahadev Sharma reports that the Cubs have considered trading super-utilityman Ben Zobrist in order to free up payroll space, which would allow the club to address other areas of the roster.

Zobrist, 37, is entering the final year of his contract and will earn $12 million in 2019. According to Cot’s Contracts, the Cubs project to have an Opening Day payroll of about $204.5 million, just a hair below the luxury tax threshold of $206 million. The Cubs have notably been absent from the free agent marketplace, particularly involving Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, due to luxury tax concerns.

Last season, Zobrist hit .305/.378/.440 with nine home runs, 58 RBI, and 67 runs scored in 520 plate appearances. He played all over the field, logging 100-plus innings in both outfield corners and second base while also spending a handful of games at first base. With Addison Russell serving a 40-game suspension to open the 2019 season, Javier Báez will handle shortstop and Zobrist figures to be the starting second baseman.