On Saturday night Cincinnati Reds pitcher Trevor Bauer released his latest “Business Casual” video – a series he posts on his personal youtube channel with some frequency, especially now that there’s not much baseball happening. He and his agent, Rachel Luba, sat down to discuss a plethora of different things in the game, but the first thing they jumped into was whether or not they felt that there was going to be baseball played in 2020.

“I’m very convinced that there will be baseball in 2020. But not for the same reasons that many of you may be convinced of that.” That’s one of the first sentences out of Trevor Bauer’s mouth to begin the video. But he let’s agent Rachel Luba go into why she believes it’s going to happen first, and she brings up a rather interesting point.

“It makes sense to me that there’s a huge incentive for baseball to play enough games to get to the post season. And that’s because in the post season, that’s where the teams are making the most money and revenue from the tv deals,” Luba says. “If you look at the money they’re generating from the gates during the season, it’s not that much compared to the revenue they’re getting when they make it to the post season. So by having a post season they are able to cash in on those tv deals. So playing however many games they need, and there’s a minimum to be able to have a post season.”

That’s when her and Trevor Bauer discuss the number of games needed to have a season officially count. They decide that the number is 60 regular season games.

The breakdown of just how much money is paid for the playoff games isn’t known, but it’s a majority of the contracts from Fox, TBS, and ESPN. And it’s typically worth about $2,700,000,000 according to Fangraphs. A smaller portion of that is for regular season games, as well as the All-Star game. None of that revenue is from the local television contracts, either. Between the 29 teams in the US there’s another $2,079,000,000 in local contracts. Toronto’s contract in Canada is unknown. Those figures also don’t account for what teams get as a “profit” for now owning part of their regional sports network, which 17 teams have at least some ownership of, and the Blue Jays are owned by the same company that owns the entirety of their television network.

Suffice to say, in a normal year, Major League Baseball is making nearly $5,000,000,000 on television contracts. And that doesn’t include another $1,000,000,000 they get from MLB Network, MLB.com, MLB.tv, and MLB Extra-Innings packages.

This, however, isn’t a typical season. Assuredly the billion dollars from the MLB owned entities won’t be the same this year. MLB.com has to be selling far fewer ads and seeing far fewer visits. Likewise, MLB.tv and MLB Extra-Innings packages have to be down in large ways as there’s no baseball being played.

The local contracts are a bit of a mystery, though. We aren’t sure of the exact language in the deals with regards to if they are paid a flat fee for the year with a minimum number of games being required, or if they are paid out on a rate-basis per game. The playoff money, though, is a flat fee. And getting enough games in in order to be able to have playoffs is huge.

It took nearly 24 minutes for Trevor Bauer to get back to his first statement, but much of the information in the middle is necessary for his point.

“I think there’s going to be baseball this year. I think there’s going to be about 60 games of baseball, or whatever the cutoff is. I got to fact check that – if it’s 100 games to make the post season viable, then there will be about 100 games. If it’s 60 games to make the post season viable, then there will be about 60 games. That’s my guess. They’re going to do whatever it takes to get at least that minimum number in so they can get to the post season,” said Trevor Bauer. “In breaking down the incentives in the industry, and at least from my chair the incentives of the owners is to play as few games as possible to be eligible for the post season so they can minimize their losses as much as possible.”

It’s a deep dive into the business of baseball, but it’s very informative to see how things break down between what the players get – particularly in the post season – and what the owners get. The breakdown was honestly a bit shocking to me in terms of how the split was.

Photo of Trevor Bauer by Erik Drost. Photo has been edited. License can be found here.

9 Responses

  1. ClevelandRedsFan

    Interesting to hear the owners want fewer games. I thought all parties were on board with playing as many games as possible. Perhaps that’s a bargaining chip owners are touting to negotiate lower salaries.

  2. renbutler

    Of course there will be MLB games this year. Not only is the league motivated to play, but the majority of MLB cities will have appropriate conditions by this summer, and there could be perfectly viable opportunities in limited cities before that.

    That’s not to say there won’t be challenges. You could even see a handful of infections among players or other participants. That’s not a valid reason why they shouldn’t move forward. I say that even as an “essential worker” who has been in contact with literally hundreds of people within a major metro area over the past few weeks.

    The long-term health risk to 99.5% of us is minimal. Protect everybody else, and move on with our lives. Gradually at first, then full speed ahead after a trial period.

    • RedNat

      it just doesn’t seem like the players are all that motivated to get back out there right now. they are still in the camp of “abundance of caution”.

      they will be the limiting step to the return to the field. and you just don’t here of may “chomping at the bit ” to get back

  3. Tom Mitsoff

    It’s all about the TV contracts this year. There is likely to be zero or next to zero revenue from ticket, concession, souvenir and parking sales.

  4. Tom Mitsoff

    A 60-game season would be intriguing — every game would take on so much more added importance. For example, you might not see David Bell rest Raisel Iglesias (or any key reliever) after pitching for two or three consecutive days. And I just wonder if you might see some teams trying a four-man pitching rotation.

    • centerfield

      Maybe a four man rotation is what Bauer had in mind when he threw out that number. I personally think they will aim for about 81 games, half a season, then playoffs. Or they could play 60 games and expand the playoffs. NBA style we’ll could have 8 teams per league in the playoffs. I think MLB would be well served to time the end of the playoffs around mid to late October, maybe bumping up the schedule a week or three to avoid any potential virus bounce in the fall.

  5. TBD

    60 would be a lower number of regular season games than i thought they’d be able to do.
    I guess that would put them around an Aug 1 start

  6. AirborneJayJay

    I think it will be around 80 to 90 games played. I am leaning towards the schedule being re-done though. I don’t believe we’ll see teams from the NL West play NL East teams to save on travel. Same with the AL. They probably will have teams play 15 games within their own division for a total of 60 games. There could be interleague games where the NL Central plays the AL Central and so on. They could play 6 games with each team. 3 home and 3 away, and that will be 30 games for a total of 90 regular season games. That’s about one of the very few ways to get an equitable schedule. Two game series will increase the amount of travel so I don’t think there will be any of those. All series will be 3 games.

  7. TR

    The latest word is MLB is planning to begin action by late June or early July playing a 100-110 game season with the 30 teams divided into three divisions based on geography as follows:
    East: Mets-Yankees-Red Sox-Blue Jays-Phillies-Nationals-Orioles-Rays-Marlins-Braves.
    Central: Reds-Indians-Tigers-Pirates- Cubs-White Sox-Brewers-Twins-Cardinals-Royals.
    West: Dodgers-Angels-Padres-Diamond Backs-Giants-Athletics-Mariners-Rockies-Rangers-Astros.