Major League Baseball officials complained “to the highest levels of ESPN management” after commissioner Rob Manfred’s fiery interview with ESPN Radio’s Dan Le Batard on Wednesday, Ryan Glasspiegel of The Big Lead reports. Le Batard took Manfred to task for the payroll slashing the Marlins have done this offseason under rookie owners Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter, and Manfred insisted (perhaps disingenuously) during their discussion that he was unaware the club would cut costs under its new leadership. ESPN spokesperson Ben Cafardo confirmed to Glasspiegel that MLB officials did reach out after the Manfred interview, though the exchange doesn’t seem to have fractured the two entities’ relationship. Cafardo passed along a statement to Glasspiegel from ESPN Executive Vice President, Programming and Scheduling, saying: “We have a terrific relationship with Major League Baseball and we’re in constant communication at all levels, so it’s not uncommon that we would discuss both issues and opportunities in the course of that communication.”
Even if the Le Batard-Manfred dust-up has led to resentment, ESPN and MLB are married to each other for the foreseeable future, as Glasspiegel points out. Back in 2012, the two reached an eight-year, $5.6 billion broadcasting agreement that runs through 2021. More recently, ESPN spent almost $2.6 billion to acquire 75 percent of BAMTech (formerly MLB Advanced Media). Further, with ESPN’s parent company, Disney, having agreed to acquire 21st Century Fox, ESPN will take over Fox’s regional sports networks. That puts ESPN in position to be the regional rightsholder for roughly half of MLB.
More on Miami and a couple more East Coast teams:
- Had one of the other serious bidders for the Marlins acquired the team, this winter’s controversial roster teardown likely wouldn’t be occurring, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. The runner-up, Jorge Mas, told Jackson he’d have retained Giancarlo Stanton, increased payroll from $115MM to $130MM and hired a new general manager. Fellow would-be owner Wayne Rothbaum would not have slashed payroll, either; instead, he’d have saved money by cutting “wasteful non-player spending,” including reducing executive salaries, a league source informed Jackson. Under Rothbaum, the Marlins would have tried to contend and improve their farm system – not one or the other. But both Mas and Rothbaum were outbid by Sherman and Jeter, who acquired the franchise for $1.2 billion. In doing so, they overpaid by roughly $400MM, a Marlins official suggested to Jackson.
- It’s “probably not even a remote possibility” that the Orioles will cut ties with closer Zach Britton in the wake of his ruptured Achilles, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com hears. Britton, who’s entering his last year of arbitration eligibility, would receive his full 2018 salary (a projected $12.2MM) even if he’s released, according to Kubatko. So, it’s more likely the Orioles will attempt to extend the Scott Boras client and keep him in the fold beyond next year, Kubatko suggests. Interestingly, there’s a small chance a healthy Britton could eventually return to his original role as a starter. The Orioles approached Britton with the idea earlier this year, and though he expressed a desire to remain in the bullpen, he “wasn’t adamant about resisting the switch,” Kubatko writes. Whether it would make sense to change Britton’s role has drawn mixed opinions in the organization, Kubatko details, and his injury may reduce the likelihood of it happening. Regardless of whether he starts or stays in the bullpen going forward, the O’s are hopeful Britton will return before the All-Star break, Kubatko relays.
- The Red Sox’s farm system has declined in recent years and currently lacks upper-level talent, making it more likely a high-profile addition(s) will come through free agency, Chad Jennings of the Boston Herald posits. The Red Sox could meaningfully upgrade their roster by trading one of their top pitching prospects, Jay Groome or Tanner Houck, but Jennings argues that they’re not in position to move either because current rotation members Chris Sale, David Price, Drew Pomeranz and Rick Porcello could depart in free agency in the next couple years. While Boston’s prospect pool isn’t in great shape at the moment, it’s worth mentioning that some of its recent farmhands (including Andrew Benintendi and Rafael Devers, as Jennings points out) have turned into more-than-capable majors leaguers, thus improving the Red Sox but weakening their farm. And last winter’s system-hurting trade that saw the Red Sox send big-time prospects Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech to the White Sox for Sale hasn’t exactly led to regret from Boston. Sale continued to serve as one of the best pitchers in the game in 2017, after all, and he’s eminently affordable for two more years.