Cardinals officials met with reporters to close the organization’s Winter Warm-Up on Monday. The team’s local broadcasting contract was among the topics.
Owner Bill DeWitt Jr. confirmed the Cardinals would receive their full rights fees for 2024, per their contract with Bally Sports Midwest (link via Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch). The Cardinals are among 12 teams affected by the ongoing Diamond Sports Group bankruptcy. Even as MLB and the broadcasting conglomerate continue discussions about renegotiating some of the deals, St. Louis has been assured they’ll be paid in full next season.
That doesn’t provide any kind of certainty beyond 2024. There’s a real possibility Diamond ceases operation of all the Bally Sports RSNs after next season. In that case, the teams will need to find a new means of in-market broadcasting. DeWitt suggested the Cards were considering a handful of different paths. One option would be a partnership with the NHL’s Blues for a shared channel. The club could also create a standalone channel of its own or partner with some of the other MLB teams that will likely be dropped by Bally after the ’24 campaign.
However they handle their post-’24 broadcasts, they’ll have one more season at their negotiated rights fees. Goold reports that number to be around $73MM (potentially more depending on inflation adjustments). DeWitt said the Cardinals approached the 2023-24 offseason without any spending restrictions tied to the rights fees as they operated on the assumption they’d be paid at least 80% of their contract for next season.
St. Louis is on track for a similar payroll as they had a season ago. Roster Resource projects their 2024 spending around $178MM. According to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, they opened the ’23 campaign in the $177MM range. President of baseball operations John Mozeliak indicated last weekend there was still some room to add this offseason, even if team president Bill DeWitt III has downplayed the chance of any huge splashes.
The middle relief corps stands as perhaps the team’s top remaining priority. After the Cardinals dealt Richie Palacios to the Rays for Andrew Kittredge, Katie Woo of the Athletic writes they’re likely to continue searching for free agent bullpen help. Previous reports have linked the team to Ryan Brasier and Phil Maton, each of whom remains unsigned.
Also in attendance on Monday was center fielder/middle infielder Tommy Edman. The switch-hitter discussed his rehab from October’s arthroscopic wrist procedure. He noted he hasn’t yet been cleared to make contact when he swings a bat. He’s likely to be delayed on the hitting side in camp but said he’s “very confident” he’ll be at full strength by the start of the season (Post-Dispatch link via Goold).
Edman also discussed his contract situation as he prepares for a potential arbitration hearing. He’s one of 22 arbitration-eligible players in MLB — and the only Cardinal — who didn’t reach a settlement before last Thursday’s deadline to exchange filing figures. Edman’s camp filed for a $6.95MM salary, while the team countered at $6.5MM. Like most clubs, St. Louis takes the “file-and-trial” approach and won’t continue negations on a one-year salary past the filing deadline.
Even “file-and-trial” teams are typically willing to discuss multi-year pacts after exchanging figures, however. Edman said he hasn’t heard anything about a multi-year deal to this point but suggested he expects there to be some discussion between the team and his representatives before the hearing. Edman has between four and five years of service time. A two-year deal would allow the sides to avoid a hearing without affecting his free agent trajectory.