Saturday Links: Posting System, IFAs, Sanchez, All-Star Game

Otani. (Masterpress/Getty)
Otani. (Masterpress/Getty)

The Yankees and Cubs continue their three-game weekend series with the middle game today, though not until 7pm ET. Weekend night games are just the worst. Here are some notes to check out as you wait for first pitch.

MLB seeks to revise posting agreement with NPB

According to report out of Japan, Major League Baseball has applied to renegotiate a provision in their posting agreement with Nippon Pro Baseball. That’s the system used to bring players from Japan over to MLB. Apparently MLB wants to reduce the maximum release fee, which is currently $20M. The owners are trying to cut costs? I’m shocked. Shocked I tell you. The two sides will reportedly discuss the matter Monday.

MLB managed to get NPB to agree to an overhauled posting system four years ago, conveniently right before Masahiro Tanaka came over. The old system was a blind auction, and the team that made the high bid won the player’s negotiating rights. Under the new system, the player is allowed to negotiate with every team like a true free agent, and only the team that signs him has to pay the release fee. That’s how the Yankees landed Tanaka.

So, the last time a significant player was set to come over (Tanaka), MLB was able to change the system to lower costs. (The Rangers won the rights to Yu Darvish with a massive $51.7M bid under the old system years ago.) Now another significant player (Shohei Otani) is expected to come to MLB soon, and they want to lower costs again. A sense a pattern.

Yankees expected to sign three top international free agents

MLB.com released their top 30 prospects for the 2017-18 international signing period earlier this week, and according to the write-ups, the Yankees are expected to sign three of those top 30 players: Venezuelan OF Everson Pereira (No. 4 on the top 30), Dominican 2B Ronny Rojas (No. 11), and Venezuelan OF Roberto Chirinos (No. 16). You can read the scouting reports for free at the MLB.com link. We’ve heard the Yankees connected to Pereira before. The international signing period opens July 2nd, as always.

A few things about the 2017-18 IFA signing period. One, the Yankees can spend again! The penalties from the 2014-15 spending spree, which limited the Yankees to a maximum bonus of $300,000 in the 2015-16 and 2016-17 signing periods, have expired. Two, this is the first signing period with the hard cap, and the Yankees only have $4.75M to spend. Not a penny more. That stinks. And three, this is potential the Otani signing period. He’ll be subject to the hard cap because he is not yet 25 years old. His earning potential is severely limited at the moment.

Based on the write-ups, several other potential Otani suitors (Red Sox, Cubs, Blue Jays, Mariners, etc.) are expected to sign some of MLB.com’s top 30 international prospects, indicating they are not saving their bonus money for Otani. Others like the Dodgers, Giants, Astros, Nationals, and Cardinals will be limited to $300,000 bonuses as part of the penalties for past international spending. Is anyone going to have hard cap space left for Otani? Assuming teams following through on their agreements with international amateurs, there might not be any money left over. Hmmm.

Sanchez has top selling AL jersey

Gary & 'Hiro. (Elsa/Getty)
Gary & ‘Hiro. (Elsa/Getty)

Two weeks ago MLB and the MLBPA announced their annual top selling player jerseys list based on online sales since the end of the 2016 World Series. Here is the press release. You will be surprised to learn the defending World Series champion Cubs dominate the top of the list:

  1. Kris Bryant, Cubs
  2. Anthony Rizzo, Cubs
  3. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
  4. Javier Baez, Cubs
  5. Kyle Schwarber, Cubs

Gary Sanchez ranks ninth on the best selling jerseys list overall, but is first among AL players. He’s one spot ahead of Mike Trout and five spots ahead of Mookie Betts. Sanchez, Trout, Betts, Francisco Lindor, Jose Altuve, Dustin Pedroia, and Josh Donaldson are the only AL players in the top 20. The list is decidedly NL (and Cubs) heavy. Pretty cool that Sanchez is so popular already. I guess doing what he did last year has a way of creating attention.

Over the last week, however, Aaron Judge has the third best selling player jersey behind Bryant and Rizzo, according to Buster Olney. The Yankees should have give away Aaron Judge-sized Aaron Judge shirts at a game one day as a promotion. That would be pretty cool.

All-Star Game voting opens

Voting for the 2017 All-Star Game starters is now open. They get a really early start on this each season. The ballot is right here. You can vote pretty much an unlimited number of times, though you’ll need different email addresses. On merit, both Aaron Judge and Starlin Castro legitimately deserve All-Star votes right now. Will they in two months? I sure hope so. I doesn’t really matter though. Royals fans are going to stuff the ballot like they always do anyway. Looking forward to seeing Eric Hosmer at first base, you guys.

Saturday Links: Top 50 Prospects, Cabrera, Forbes, Uniforms

Gleyber. (Presswire)
Gleyber. (Presswire)

The Yankees and Pirates will resume their three-game series with the middle game later this afternoon. Until then, here are a few bits of news and notes to check out.

Three Yankees on Law’s updated top 50 prospects list

I missed this last week, but Keith Law (subs. req’d) posted an updated list of the top 50 prospects in baseball. This isn’t a re-ranking. It’s more of an update to Law’s preseason top 100 to reflect prospects who have either graduated to MLB or will soon. Here are the Yankees in the updated top 50 list:

2. SS Gleyber Torres (No. 4 preseason)
16. OF Blake Rutherford (No. 22 preseason)
20. OF Clint Frazier (No. 27 preseason)

Torres is behind only Mets SS Amed Rosario. He was also behind Red Sox OF Andrew Benintendi and Braves SS Dansby Swanson on the preseason list, but those two have since graduated to the big leagues, which is why Gleyber has moved up two spots.

OF Aaron Judge ranked 44th preseason but recently graduated to MLB, so he’s no longer a prospect. RHP James Kaprielian went from 28th before the season to out of the top 50 in the update, presumably due to his continued elbow problems. LHP Justus Sheffield was 88th preseason and did not jump into the top 50. So, in the eyes of at least one prospect ranker, the Yankees currently have three of baseball’s 20 best prospects in their farm system. And Judge and Gary Sanchez and Greg Bird and Luis Severino at the MLB level. Hooray.

Cabrera among top DSL prospects

Ben Badler (subs. req’d) recently put together a list of the top 20 prospects who spent time in the Dominican Summer League last year. The players are listed alphabetically. Not ranked. The Yankees had one player in the top 20: SS Oswaldo Cabrera. He tore up the DSL in 26 games last year before the Yankees brought him stateside. Here’s a piece of Badler’s scouting report:

He’s a true all-fields hitter with a sound swing and natural hitter’s actions in the box. When he swings, he doesn’t miss much, with innate feel for the barrel and good plate coverage with a chance to develop into a plus hitter. Cabrera isn’t that big and will probably always have a hit-over-power profile … He should be able to stick at shortstop.

Badler also notes Cabrera, who signed for $100,000 in 2015, made a slight adjustment after signing that has paid big dividends. He backed up a bit in the batter’s box, giving him more time to react and allowing him to use his hands more efficiently. The just turned 18-year-old Cabrera is off a slow start with Low-A Charleston — he’s the youngest player in the South Atlantic League by several months — but he hit .345/.396/.523 (193 wRC+) in 52 rookie balls games last year. A spot in the organizational top 30 prospects list awaits.

MLB unveils 2017 special event uniforms

Earlier this month MLB unveiled their special event uniforms for the 2017 season. These cover Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and the All-Star Game. Rather than wear the special uniforms only on the day of the event, this year players will wear them the entire holiday weekend. Everything will then be auctioned off for charity. Here are the Yankees special event hats and jerseys, via Chris Creamer:

2017-special-event-uniforms

That stars and stripes hat for the Fourth of July is pretty awesome. These special event caps usually don’t do anything for me, but I dig that one. Also, during the All-Star Game this year, each player will wear a patch on their sleeve that includes the number of All-Star Games they’ve been selected to in their careers. That’s pretty cool.

Yankees are still the most valuable franchise in MLB

Surprise surprise, the Yankees remain the most valuable franchise in baseball, according to Forbes. By a lot, too. The Yankees are worth an estimated $3.7 billion. The Dodgers are a distant second at $2.75 billion. Yeah. This is the 20th consecutive year the Yankees have ranked as baseball’s most valuable franchise. They generated an MLB best $526M in revenue in 2016 despite a 10% drop in attendance the last few years.

Amazingly, the average MLB franchise is now worth $1.54 billion, up a whopping 19% from last year. Incredible. The league can thank new television contracts and the rapid growth of the MLB Advanced Media juggernaut for that. The Yankees were worth an estimated $3.4 billion last year. Back in 2010 they were worth a comparatively tiny $1.6 billion. The franchise could very well triple in value before the decade is over. Owning an MLB team is good work if you can get it.

Update: YES will return to Comcast on March 31st

(MLB.tv screen grab)
(MLB.tv screen grab)

February 28th: YES will return to Comcast on March 31st, the network announced. Opening Day is April 2nd, so just in the nick of time. The Yankees are playing an exhibition game against the Braves at brand new SunTrust Park on March 31st, and the press release says that game broadcast will be available to Comcast customers. Hooray for that.

January 2nd: According to Joe Flint, Comcast and the FOX News Channel have reached a new broadcast agreement, and as part of the deal, Comcast will resume carrying the YES Network this year. It’s a four-year agreement between the two cable giants.

Now, the bad news: Flint says YES will not return to Comcast subscribers immediately, and it’s possible it won’t be back until later in the spring, after the start of the regular season. That would be a bummer, though at least it’s coming back at some point. That’s better than nothing.

Comcast stopped carrying YES in late 2015 due to a rights fee dispute. They said the subscriber fee was too high — it was reported YES offered a rights fee reduction at one point, but to no avail — and supposedly Comcast argued the team wasn’t good enough to justify the price.

YES is available for in-market streaming through the FOX Sports Go app, but only if you subscribe to the network through your cable provider. It was no help for Comcast customers last year. Anyway, more people can watch the Yankees this year, and that’s good news.

Saturday Links: Gurriel, Beltran, A-Rod, Forbes, Watson

Lourdes Jr. (Getty)
Lourdes Jr. (Getty)

The Yankees and Angels continue their weekend series later today, but not until 9:35pm ET. Blah. I hate Saturday night games, especially when they’re on the West Coast. Oh well. What can you do? Here are some links to help you pass the time.

MLB declares Gurriel a free agent

MLB has declared Lourdes Gurriel Jr. a free agent, reports Eric Longenhagen. He is the younger brother of Yulieski Gurriel, who signed a five-year contract worth $47.5M with the Astros a few weeks ago. Lourdes is a free agent but he’s not going to sign right away. Once he turns 23 in October, he will no longer be eligible for the international spending restrictions. He’s going to wait until then to sign to max out his earning potential.

Longenhagen and Ben Badler (subs. req’d) say reports on Lourdes are mixed. He’s a good athlete capable of playing an up-the-middle position, and while he has speed and power, his swing can get long. Gurriel has a lot of upside, but is also a bit of a project for a kid who will soon turn 23. He’s probably not someone who will zoom through the minors and be in the big leagues within a year. That’s fine. Talent is talent, and Lourdes has a lot of it.

Red Sox tried hard to land Beltran

According to Nick Cafardo, the Red Sox “tried very hard” to acquire Carlos Beltran at the trade deadline, though the Rangers swooped in with a better offer. I assume Boston would have played Beltran in left field, where they’ve had a revolving door pretty much all season. Or maybe Beltran plays right and Mookie Betts moves to left. I dunno. Who cares. Whatever.

The real question is whether the Yankees (and Red Sox, for that matter) would have actually gone through with the trade if the Red Sox had indeed made the best offer. Potentially losing a trade to your biggest rival is enough to make anyone squeamish. My guess is Brian Cashman and David Dombrowski would have been willing to go through with a trade, but the two ownership groups would not have signed off. This is much different than a Stephen Drew-for-Kelly Johnson swap.

Hal not ruling out a spot for A-Rod in Monument Park

During a radio interview last week, Hal Steinbrenner did not rule out the possibility of Alex Rodriguez one day winding up in Monument Park. He didn’t exactly endorse it, but he didn’t shoot it down entirely either. Here’s what Hal said, via Brendan Kuty:

“It’s a bridge to cross when we come to it, but he has done a lot for this organization, on and off the field,” Steinbrenner said. “And I’m talking about players way back, even (Mariners second baseman Robinson) Cano, who he was a mentor to. He’s done a lot for this organization on the field though the years, but also off the field that people don’t know about. He’s been a great mentor.”

A-Rod is, unquestionably, one of the greatest players in Yankees history, especially recent history. He’s among the all-time franchise leaders in a ton of categories, including homers (6th), OPS (7th), WAR (8th), OPS+ (10th), runs (10th), and total bases (10th). Alex also won two MVPs in pinstripes and was a major factor in the team’s most recent World Series title. If that’s not Monument Park plaque worthy, I don’t know what is.

(Christopher Pasatieri/Getty)
(Christopher Pasatieri/Getty)

Yankees among most valuable sports franchises

A few weeks back Forbes posted their annual look at the most valuable sports franchises in the world. The Yankees placed fourth, with an estimated value of $3.4 billion. That’s up 6% from last year. The Yankees are behind only the Dallas Cowboys ($4 billion), Real Madrid ($3.65 billion), and Barcelona ($3.55 billion). The Dodgers are the second most valuable MLB franchise at $2.5 billion, so the gap between the Yankees and everyone else is significant.

Attendance dropped from 41,995 fans per game in 2014 to 39,430 last year, and again to 38,967 so far this year. That’s roughly 3,000 fewer fans per game since two seasons ago. The attendance decline was at least somewhat expected after Derek Jeter retired, though obviously the team’s less than inspiring play for much of this season has played a role too. That said, the Yankees are still raking in money through other avenues (YES, Legends Hospitality, etc.), and there’s no real end in sight. The team prints money.

Watson battling kidney failure

Going to close with some sad news: Bob Watson, former GM of the Yankees, is currently battling kidney failure, he told Chuck Modiano. He is on nocturnal dialysis and doctors told him he only has a few years to live. “I really wanted to be (at the 1996 World Series reunion last weekend), but my health won’t allow it. I am battling Stage 4 kidney failure. Not too many people know about it,” said Watson, who beat prostate cancer in the mid-1990s.

Watson, 70, had an incredibly productive playing career — he hit .295/.364/.447 from 1966-84, mostly with the Astros, but also with the Braves, Yankees, and Red Sox — and he became the first African American GM in baseball history to win a World Series in 1996. Watson served as Yankees GM from October 1995 to February 1998, when he stepped down and took a position in the commissioner’s office. He bridged the Gene Michael and Brian Cashman eras. I’m sad to hear he isn’t doing well. Keep fighting, Bob.

Yankees announce new ticket partnership with StubHub

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Earlier today, the Yankees officially announced a new multi-year agreement with StubHub, making them the team’s official ticket resale marketplace. Yankees Ticket Exchange? That’s gone. Fans have to go through StubHub now. The new system will be operational by July 7th. Here’s the press release.

“We are committed to providing our fans with a first-class ticket experience, and offering the safest, most secure and efficient platform for our fans to sell and purchase tickets,” said team president Randy Levine in a statement. “This new product was the result of many productive discussions with StubHub, which will allow them to fully integrate into our ticket system. We are confident this collaboration will best protect our fans in the resale ticket marketplace.”

Two important details. One, this covers mobile tickets only. You still can’t print your ticket at home, so if your phone dies or you’re not that tech savvy, you’re pretty much out of luck. Mobile tickets and hard stock tickets are still the only way to get into the ballpark. Two, the price floor is set at 50 percent of the full season ticket plan price. Don’t expect any super deep discounts.

Make no mistake, this deal is not about fighting ticket fraud or making sure fans get a good deal when they resell their tickets. The Yankees agreed to this deal because, as Samantha Pell reports, StubHub is going to pay them roughly $100M from now through the end of 2022. C.R.E.A.M. That’s all there is to it.

Forbes: Yankees most valuable team in baseball at $3.4 billion

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

On Wednesday, Forbes released their annual MLB franchise valuations, and for the 19th season in a row, the Yankees are the most valuable franchise in the sport. They’re worth at least $3.4 billion. The Dodgers are a very distant second at $2.5 billion. That’s some gap, huh? The Red Sox are third at $2.3 billion. The Giants and Cubs are the only other clubs over $2 billion.

That $3.4 billion covers only the Yankees and the ballpark. Yankee Global Enterprises, which includes the YES Network and Legends Hospitality, is worth much more. Here’s more from Forbes:

The New York Yankees, worth at least $3.4 billion, have held MLB’s top spot since our first estimation of team values in 1998. That $3.4 billion represents just the enterprise value of the team and its stadium economics. But in reality, a big reason why someone would be willing to pay seven times revenue for the Yankees instead of, say, the MLB average of five times revenue, is the ability to extend the team’s brand, acumen and relationships beyond baseball into ventures such as Legends Hospitality, the YES Network, Major League Soccer and college football (full disclosure: I am co-host of Forbes SportsMoney on the YES Network).

Ancillary businesses are what separate the big boys (teams worth over $2 billion) from their less valuable rivals because MLB’s 30 teams equally share 27% of the league’s overall revenue, versus 65% for the NFL. This is why big market teams with business models that reach beyond the diamond dominate the top of our rankings.

The Yankees generated $516M in revenue last season even after paying out revenue sharing, and again, that’s only the Yankees and the ballpark. Whatever they made from YES and everything else is on top of that. (Non-baseball revenue is not subject to revenue sharing.) The team’s operating income was $13M in 2015.

MLB as a whole is insanely healthy financially. The average team is worth $1.3 billion, an increase of 7% from a year ago, and player costs (salaries, benefits, etc.) totaled $4.4 billion in 2015. The average franchise value has increased 146% over the last five years, which blows my mind. Much of that has to do with all the new massive television deals being handed out. Owning a baseball team is pretty great work if you can it.

The Yankees’ franchise value is up from $3.2 billion last year. They were valued at $2.5 billion in 2014, $2.3 billion in 2013, $1.85 billion in 2012, $1.7 billion in 2011, and $1.6 billion in 2010. The huge jump in franchise value from 2014 to 2015 was thanks in part to baseball’s new national television deals, as well as the sale of 80% of YES to News Corp.

The Rays, not the Yankees, appear to be Derek Jeter’s best opportunity to join an ownership group

Derek and Rob go to Cuba. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty)
Derek and Rob go to Cuba. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

Earlier this week, Derek Jeter was part of MLB’s contingent in Cuba for the Rays’ exhibition game against the Cuban National Team. Tampa Bay won the game 4-1, though the trip was about much more than that. MLB wanted to make some inroads in Cuba and help grow the youth baseball landscape, and the trip also served a diplomatic purpose as President Obama, who was also on the trip, seeks to normalize relations between the U.S. and Cuba.

Among the other ex-Yankees to join Jeter in Havana were MLB executive Joe Torre and MLBPA executives Tony Clark and Dave Winfield. During yesterday’s game, Jeter sat down with the ESPN booth for a lengthy interview, and during that interview he reiterated his desire to get back into baseball as an owner.

“I needed to be away from the game for a year,” said Jeter (video link). “I didn’t watch too many games at all — obviously I have a lot of friends that are still playing, so I follow them, I communicate with them, I talk with them — but in terms of sitting down and following the game, I haven’t done it. But I’m going to start doing it again because I’ve always been very vocal about my next goal and desire is to be a part of an ownership, so I have to start paying attention.”

The Cap’n joked he doesn’t have the money to be considered for an ownership group — “Do you know much these teams cost?” he said — and added he is very early in the process of getting his foot in the ownership door. “The first step is sitting next to (commissioner Rob Manfred). I’m trying to get on his good side and hopefully get that opportunity,” added Jeter.

Jeter first acknowledging owning a team is “the next goal” back in June 2014, when he was still playing. I’ve always sorta assumed that when the time did come, the Steinbrenners would allow Jeter to purchase a chunk of the Yankees, but it’s not really that simple. First and foremost, the Steinbrenners say they aren’t selling the team, and it seems unlikely Derek would have much control with the Yankees. Does Jeter seem like the type to settle for being a figurehead owner? Nah. Buster Olney (subs. req’d) has more:

After it was announced that Jeter would be part of Major League Baseball’s entourage to Cuba, there was a fair amount of buzz within the industry that this might be the latest indication that Jeter will eventually but inevitably join the Tampa Bay Rays’ ownership group.

Two MLB sources say they have not heard anything substantive about a Jeter-Rays link, so for now this appears to be a rumor without substance. But the speculation makes sense in some ways: Jeter lives in Tampa, and he would be a perfect agent for change whenever the Rays reach a turning point in their ballpark situation, in the way that Magic Johnson was the right guy to be part of the Dodgers’ new ownership group in L.A. Jeter carries star power and credibility, of course, which will only grow once he is inducted into the Hall of Fame. It’s easy to envision Jeter having power as a lobbyist for a team looking for a new ballpark situation.

The Rays recently received clearance from the City of St. Petersburg to begin looking for ballpark sites in the Tampa area, and they’re currently reviewing sites. This is step one in what figures to be a very long process in getting the Rays a new ballpark. They’ve got to find a site, get approval from all relevant parties, figure out the financing, then design and build the ballpark. That ain’t happening overnight.

The Rays represent the best opportunity for Jeter to get in on the ground floor of something big. It doesn’t seem MLB will be expanding anytime soon, at least not before the Rays get a new ballpark, so this is the best chance to buy into a team and immediately have some impact. Jeter lives in the Tampa area and he could be part of the ballpark process. He could play a major role right away.

Rays owner Stu Sternberg is a New Yorker — he grew up in Brooklyn and now lives in Westchester — so he’s seen Jeter’s star power up close. Sternberg has talked about potentially selling parts or all of the team if they don’t get a new ballpark soon, and letting Jeter in could help the stadium cause. Jeter would certainly add some name recognition to the franchise. Heck, he’d be their popular player as an owner.

It would be weird to see Jeter as part of the ownership group of another club, especially an AL East rival, but it’s not something that is impossible. Not even close. The Yankees and Jeter don’t owe each other anything. He has every right to look for ownership opportunities around the league and the Steinbrenners have every right to run their organization as they see fit. They don’t have to sell him anything.

For now, it seems like we’re a long way away from Jeter buying into a team. Manfred and the owners have to approve any ownership candidate, though I doubt Jeter will have trouble there. It’s just a question of finding the money and finding the right opportunity. Right now, the Rays appear to present more of an opportunity than the Yankees.