The Philadelphia Phillies just got paid.
Early on Friday, Jan. 3, news came down that the Phillies had reached an agreement on a long-term extension with Comcast SportsNet, according to Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Later, David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News reported that the extension had been finalized.
The deal between the Phillies and the broadcast company, which was set to expire following the 2015 season, will now cover the next 25 years, according to Todd Zolecki of MLB.com via MLB Trade Rumors:
The Phillies' new television deal with Comcast SportsNet is for 25 years, according to @ToddZolecki.— MLB Trade Rumors (@mlbtraderumors) January 3, 2014
The number of years is but one factor here, as the major impact really comes from the pact reportedly being worth billions. That's "billions" with a "b" and plural, as in more than one.
In fact, Gelb reports that the total tally is, well, rather large indeed:
Source: Phillies' 25-year TV rights deal with Comcast SportsNet is worth $2.5 billion in addition to an equity stake and some ad revenue.— Matt Gelb (@magelb) January 3, 2014
For those who want that amount broken down into an annual figure, Eric Fisher of the Sports Business Journal has done the math:
#phillies new TV deal w Comcast worth avg of $100M/yr, inc minority equity stake in CSN Philly— Eric Fisher (@EricFisherSBJ) January 3, 2014
And, as they say on game shows, "That's not all!"
#phillies minority stake in CSN Philly in new deal pegged at 25 percent— Eric Fisher (@EricFisherSBJ) January 3, 2014
So what does this mean for the Phillies and their finances?
As far as the impact on the upcoming 2014 campaign, Gelb writes:
The contract is unlikely to have an immediate effect on general manager Ruben Amaro Jr.'s spending habits. Amaro said his payroll will be consistent with last year's, and the Phillies are nearing their self-imposed $170 million limit.
But looking further into the future beyond 2014—and hey, a "self-imposed" $170 million budget ain't exactly small potatoes—the Phillies will be in position to spend. And spend a lot.
Of course, this is a club that already has spent quite a bit. The Phillies have ranked among the top five in baseball payrolls for the past several seasons, in large part due to nine-figure contracts having been handed out to Ryan Howard, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels. And that's to say nothing of the "smaller" deals with Jonathan Papelbon, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Carlos Ruiz that either remain on the books or were signed recently.
|PLAYER||TERMS||LAST GUARANTEED YEAR||CURRENT AGE|
|Cole Hamels||6 years, $144 million||2018||30|
|Ryan Howard||5 years, $125 million||2016||34|
|Cliff Lee||5 years, $120 million||2015||35|
|Jonathan Papelbon||4 years, $50 million||2015||33|
|Jimmy Rollins||3 years, $33 million||2014||35|
|Chase Utley||2 years, $27 million||2015||35|
|Carlos Ruiz||3 years, $26 million||2016||34|
As a big-market organization, the Phillies have been able to afford all this up to this point. Here, though, is where it should be pointed out that not one of those players listed in that chart is under 30 years old—Hamels turned the big three-oh in late December—and most of those contracts cover the next several seasons. And many also have options, some of which are the vesting kind, so the Phillies will still be paying rather large sums to rather old players.
In other words, the Phillies don't just benefit from this multi-billion dollar "TV money" extension—they flat-out needed it. Otherwise, the cost of doing business and staying competitive as those past-their-primers continued to age simply would have been too steep.
Sure, this extra cash is going to help offset a lot of potential problems and ease a great deal of the financial burden. Where things might get interesting, though, is finding out what the franchise's plan will be going forward once the new money really starts kicking in.
Will the Phillies follow the lead of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who inked their very own—and even bigger—broadcast deal, which has allowed them to spend major money on all facets, seemingly without any sort of limitation?
And if that's the case, is that a good thing considering that Amaro—the very man responsible for many of the above massive (and questionable) contracts—may view this as yet another opportunity to continue spending big now and worrying about the consequences later?
Or will there instead be a shift in strategy? Perhaps the Phillies could choose to unload some of the dead weight deals by trading the likes of Howard in what essentially would be akin to buying out what's left of his albatross of a pact. It won't be easy to find any takers until the final year or two of that deal—similar to what the Chicago Cubs did with Alfonso Soriano last summer—but then again, it would allow the club to turn the page at some point.
In this case, that's the sort of thing that money actually can buy.
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