The Hot Stove needs stoking

The uncertainty over the pandemic’s scope and duration is having an impact on baseball’s off-season. There haven’t been very many trades or free-agent signings since the World Series ended the last week of October. While MLB has roughly $2 billion per year in revenue from TV rights (Fox, TBS, ESPN), it derives close to $3 billion from gate receipts (tickets, concessions, parking). A sports industry analysis company called Team Marketing Report created a data set showing truly horrific business results for 2020:

TMR annually produces what it calls the Fan Cost Index, a calculation of the average cost for a fan to attend a game for teams across sports. For the 2020 MLB season, TMR produced a data set looking at how much game-day revenue each club missed out on with the absence of fans. The projection draws from TMR’s 2020 MLB Fan Cost Index and uses what each team saw for attendance across its full 2019 slate of games to approximate the spending that didn’t happen for home games in 2020 because fans weren’t in attendance.

The result: More than $5 billion in lost revenue across the league, according to TMR’s calculations. The New York Yankees topped the list, with an estimated $437 million in game-day revenue lost compared to what the Yankees might have drawn with fans attending a traditional 81-game home schedule. The Miami Marlins were on the other end of the scale, at No 30, with $37 million in game-day revenue lost.

See the projected game-day impact for each of MLB’s 30 teams through the gallery above.

If a COVID-19 vaccine or several vaccines become available to the general public by April the season might conceivably begin with fans in the stands, but there’s no guarantee of that. There’s also no guarantee that enough of the public will actually get vaccinated, a requirement before any form of herd immunity can be assured. Failing that, baseball may start its season with cardboard cutouts in the seats again with a resulting loss of revenue.

No GM is going to commit a lot of money to a free agent pitcher without having some idea of how much money he or she is going to take in during the years of that pitcher’s contract. I wouldn’t expect a big surge in player contract signing or movement before spring training begins, or even until it’s close to ending. The US may have a better feel for how its vaccination program is proceeding by then.

50 thoughts on “The Hot Stove needs stoking

  1. Earth-shaking news!

    Cleveland will change its team nickname.

    the Cleveland Indians have decided to change their team name, moving away from a moniker that has long been criticized as racist, three people familiar with the decision said Sunday.


    Cleveland could announce its plans as soon as this week, according to the three people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

    It is not immediately clear what Cleveland’s exact steps will be beyond dropping the Indians name. The transition to a new name involves many logistical considerations, including work with uniform manufacturers and companies that produce other team equipment and stadium signage.

    One of the people said Cleveland planned to keep the Indians name and uniforms for the 2021 season while working to shift as early as 2022.

    Wow. First the Washington Football Team, now the Cleveland baseball team.

      • Low risk, high reward. When he’s healthy, he’s great, and it’s only a minor league contract.

        • Objectively, you’re right. But here’s what I most remember about Morrow: Bottom of the 7th, Game 5, 2017 World Series, in Houston. He comes in with the Dodgers ahead 8-7: Home run, single, double,wild pitch, home run. Four runs in six pitches.

        • Objectively, you’re right. But here’s what I most remember about Morrow: Bottom of the 7th, Game 5, 2017 World Series, in Houston. He comes in with the Dodgers ahead 8-7: Home run, single, double,wild pitch, home run. Four runs in six pitches.

          • Yeah, but hadn’t he worked in every game at that point? That”s as much on the manager as it is on the pitcher. The Astros (even aside from the sign-stealing) had seen a LOT of his pitches.

          • Yes, he had worked every game to that point, and he eventually worked all seven games of the World Series. So that is more aptly on Roberts.

          • I recall his being dominant throughout that entire season. It’s also worth remembering that the Asterisks were peak cheaters during the Series.

  2. 59 players were non-tendered contracts yesterday, adding to the free-agent pool.

    SI tries to figure out what’s behind the teams’ unwillingness to resign even those players who are above average, like the Cubs’ Kyle Schwarber, the Rockies’ David Dahl, and others.

    Is this another point for the “baseball’s middle class is dying” discourse?

    Yes. What is the future for average baseball players? That question has been prompted by free agency in each of the last few offseasons—elite players have continued to break records with huge deals, while players in the middle of the pack have been squeezed, signing shorter contracts for less money than likely would have been the case 10 or even five years ago. And non-tenders fit in that structure, too. The 59 players who did not receive contracts this week are not bottom-of-the-roster sorts.

    • All of them should go, including the DH in the AL. If you can’t play a position, you don’t belong between the lines.

  3. Living members of the 1955 Dodgers, the only Brooklyn team to win the World Series, number just four: Roger Craig (90), Carl Erskine (93), Sandy Koufax (84) and Tommy Lasorda (93).

  4. DH in NL still needs to be defined, no? That is probably also delaying moves. Guessing that instead of relying on some theoretical notion of herd immunity, MLB/states might require some sort of pass to enter stadiums.

  5. 2020 Dodgers win World Series
    2021 Pederson, Turner, Hernandez perhaps gone
    2022 Seager, Kershaw, Jansen perhaps gone

    • I’d bet on Turner returning, Quique maybe, Joc likely not.

      Seager has Boras as an agent, will bargain hard. Kershaw will stick around, Kenley in a reduced role.

      • Seager will be seeking an enormous contract, quite aware of what the Dodgers signed Betts for. I would hate to see Seager depart, but given the financial realities of baseball now and the fact that Boras is his agent, I wouldn’t be surprised if he left after 2021.