Over at The Athletic, Meghan Montemurro takes a fascinating look at how monster free agent contracts are negotiated. Subscribers will certainly want to read the entire piece for themselves, but there are a few notable takeaways that are worth discussing here. Notably, Montemurro’s efforts at canvassing prior signings reveals that heavy and early ownership involvement is a staple in major, long-term deals. Every front office/ownership dynamic is different, of course, but unsurprisingly the level of coordination required increases as the deal size goes up.
Ultimately, there’s no way to separate the higher-level business considerations from the hot stove — or, indeed, the game itself. With that in mind, here are some recent industry notes …
- The Nationals are hoping that a hearing later this week will represent a major step toward the resolution of their longstanding dispute with the Orioles over television rights fees, as Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post reports. A three-person panel consisting of Brewers owner Mark Attanasio, Mariners CEO Kevin Mather, and Blue Jays CEO Mark Shapiro will hear the case. A prior arbitration proceeding way back in 2014 was invalidated by the courts owing to a finding of a conflict of interest in the Nats’ choice of counsel; that decision ultimately led back to this new MLB-constituted panel. As Janes explains, the arbitral proceeding will address a pair of five-year rights-fees periods for the jointly-owned (and Orioles-controlled) Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, with hundred of millions of dollars at stake. Even if the Nationals get the outcome they hope for of course, there’ll still be a possibility of further appeal, though the odds are long against upsetting a properly convened arb panel (which is why the original Baltimore victory, though procedural, was so notable). It’s not entirely whether the Nats’ immediate roster plans will be much affected, but Janes does conclude by noting that, “if the Nationals do get the revenue they are owed, their ability to sign elite free agents will improve, according to those familiar with the organization’s plans.”
- There’s less at stake for the division-rival Mets, but they too face an upcoming date of note for resolving a financial matter. As Ken Davidoff of the New York Post reports, the wind-down of the David Wright contract is not quite as complete as was generally supposed. The Mets stand to receive coverage for three-quarters of the $27MM left on Wright’s deal, but there’s one wrinkle. While his playing career is now over, Wright remains on the club’s 40-man roster … even as the deadline for protecting players from the Rule 5 draft approaches (November 20th). Because he was activated late last year for a brief farewell, the first 59 games of the 2019 season are, by the terms of the insurance policy, not covered. And the club still has not worked out a settlement that will enable it to trim Wright from the roster (he otherwise must remain on it for the team to collect) and thereby open up a roster spot to utilize as the organization sees fit.
- Allegations arose recently of racist statements from key baseball operations figures with the Mariners — a worrying situation, unquestionably, the future course of which remains unclear. Regardless of how things shake out, writes Larry Stone of the Seattle Times, “the stain from this episode will cling to the organization for a long time.” Even as Stone rightly advises that it’s too soon to issue any final judgment on the specifics of the case, he explains that this matter coincides with other, preexisting issues with the organization’s management.
- MLB has now announced the formation of a new Prospect Development Pipeline League, as Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports recently reported. The idea here is to present a showcase opportunity each year for top high-school draft prospects. Such chances exist already, of course, but they are run by a private entity (Perfect Game) and may not be within the means of many prospects. This new PDP development will also allow team to access physical testing and data-tracking on the participating players. That’s something of a concern to the MLBPA, per Passan, though the union is said to be on board. As he puts it, “any fear is mitigated by the recognition that the youth system, as currently constituted, is broken.”