One of the things I wanted to do when I re-started this blog was to make it more than just my own personal thoughts. When it comes to baseball, I certainly feel as if I’ve been around it long enough where I could share an opinion or two on the game I follow. That said, I also wanted to talk to others in the game and put their thoughts down on my blog whether via the written word or through video or audio podcasts.
So I’ve written four posts & now it’s time to “hear” someone else’s thoughts. I was trying to come up with the perfect first guest on The Spoils & figured since we were still in the off-season, why not get one of the best insiders out there? So after being turned down by three different insiders, I ended up with Ken Rosenthal. Ha, just kidding. Ken was my first & only choice. If he had said no, I would’ve been in trouble.
I’ve known Ken for a couple of years now. My first opportunity to work with him was while we were at MLB Network back in 2009. I think the world of Ken…he works his tail off & he does a heck of a job of trying to get the information right instead of just trying to be first.
He’s currently a reporter on MLB on FOX, a FoxSports.com senior baseball writer & still an MLB Network insider. In other words when it comes to baseball, he’s legit.
After we negotiated his fee (not really), Ken was kind enough to join me for a little baseball conversation. We talked about the free agent market, the regional & television contracts as well as bow ties. I hope you enjoy.
Victor Rojas: What are your thoughts on how this MLB off-season has played out so far? I don’t think that many anticipated the markets to explode the way they have.
Ken Rosenthal: It’s interesting, Victor, that some of the markets did explode. Certainly for (Josh) Hamilton & (Zack) Greinke & a few others. But for others, the market hasn’t exploded. There’s been a lot of talk, of course, about some of the players who received qualifying offers that have not gotten deals yet. Of course we’re talking about Michael Bourn, Rafael Soriano, Adam LaRoche & Kyle Lohse. It seems like the new rules have affected them somewhat. It’s a little early to pass judgment still because we don’t know the outcomes of the market but it has been a little different kind of market because of a couple of things…one of course, is the television money, which is affecting everything now & also the new CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement), which has changed things as well.
VR: That said…when you look at the contracts that Shane Victorino & Nick Swisher signed, are you surprised by some of the dollars that have been allocated to certain players that may not be at the Hamilton/Greinke level?
KR: I was a little bit surprised at Victorino, yes. Swisher was about where I thought he should be, quite frankly. And there are some people that said ‘if he didn’t have a draft pick attached, he would’ve gotten even more.’ Perhaps that’s true. He’s been a really consistent player, switch-hitter & he still should have a few good years left. But to the degree where guys have been overpaid where you shake your head and say this is ridiculous, in my view covering this stuff everyday, it hasn’t been that outlandish. Now I know the average fan might not see it the same way. They see a Lance Berkman, who barely played last year, get $11 million & say, ‘what the heck is going?’ But again from my perspective, given all the money that is in the game, I don’t know that it’s been terribly out of line.
VR: Let’s take a look at Torii Hunter’s signing. He signed early in the off-season & why not? He got a great deal from the Tigers. Would he have made more had waited a little bit longer?
KR: Perhaps & certainly that’s always a question you could ask. But 2 x 13 (2 years @ $13mm per season) was pretty good at his age & he was very mindful of getting to the kind of team where he wanted to be…a very competitive team, a team that has a chance to go to the World Series & maybe win the World Series. So, in his mind, he said, ‘you know what? I’m going to take the best deal I can with the best team I can as quickly as I can.’ And in my view, that’s smart because the other side is a guy like Bourn right now who is still sitting out there wondering…maybe he’s not wondering, maybe he knows a lot more than we do…and he doesn’t have a job yet and the game of musical chairs to some degree, we don’t know the full extent, might be alluding him to a degree. So to me if guys sign early, Victor, and they get a little bit less, I don’t know that’s bad strategy because many times they end up exactly where they want to be.
VR: Exactly. Speaking of Bourn as well as Lohse, Soriano & the guys you’ve mentioned already…there’s was an article a couple of days ago about Scott Boras and his ability to get the big deals even into January or February. Where do you see these guys landing? In Bourn’s case, teams that may have been in the market for a leadoff hitter may have already addressed that particular need.
KR: I agree. From our perspective right now sitting on the outside & not knowing the state of negotiations, it’s difficult to see where he might land. Could it be Seattle? Yes but they prefer a power hitter. Could it be the Cubs or Rangers if his market drops? I guess. Could it be the Braves? Go back there on a short deal if his market does not develop fully. All these things, I guess, are possible. But the one thing we’ve learned over the years, and it’s not just true with Scott Boras clients but it is perhaps especially true with some of them, things come out of nowhere in free agency. In Anaheim, they know that very well…it’s happened twice in two years with Pujols & Hamilton. So I don’t rule that out with Bourn. And if you look at last year, Prince Fielder, no one thought that’d turn out the way it did & of course that did take an injury to Victor Martinez for it to happen. So I’m reluctant to pass any judgment at all until I see what exactly happens. Now, if all three of these guys end up with one-year deals or bad deals in our view, then you can say ‘wow! Boras got burned.’ But he hasn’t gotten burned yet on these three, so it’s best just to wait to see how all this evolves.
VR: Let’s talk about rumors that have been floated…the Marlin’s Mike Stanton’s name has been out there a lot this off-season. Is he being shopped? Is there a possibility he ends up a new uniform before the beginning of the 2013 season?
KR: Never say never, Victor…that’s lesson one of covering or following the off-season. But at the same time, their position seems to be no, certainly not shopping him. Will they listen? Yes they’ll listen but the price will be so high that the chances of trading him are very small. In fact, I was told by someone who has knowledge of that teams plans & thinking, that the chances of trading Stanton are as close to zero as they can be. Now, does that mean he could be traded tomorrow? Yeah, he could get traded tomorrow but I would I say right now that that talk is very much overstated.
VR: Kind of like word coming out of Arizona that Justin Upton wasn’t going to be traded & then hearing that it still may very well be possible.
KR: Yes. I don’t know how many times this off-season they’ve said, or one of their people has said, ‘highly unlikely he’ll be traded’ & yet the next day they resume discussions. So it’s still possible he’s traded & my gut tells me that he will be & maybe even soon.
VR: Earlier you touched on television contracts…they’ve been in play in a big way the last couple of years regionally & just recently, FOX Sports purchased Sports Time Ohio (STO). Knowing what the Angels & Rangers have done & what the potential is for the Dodgers as far as rights fees are concerned, do you see it becoming a problem where the large market teams will be receiving greater sums because of market size/share compared to the Kansas City’s & Cleveland’s of the world & how that could affect how those smaller markets allocate dollars on free agents down the road?
KR: I do see this as an issue. It’s a developing issue & one that baseball needs to monitor quite carefully because the way the game is structured economically, there is always going to be disparity…we get that. Big market, high revenue versus small market, low revenue. It’s not like the NFL where everything is shared…it can’t be like the NFL because a lot of the money, as we see, is locally generated. It doesn’t all come from the national TV contracts. So given that, they’ve got to be really vigilant about maintaining as healthy a balance as they can. It’s not easy when you have the Dodgers & Angels getting what they’re getting (or what the Dodgers are about to get) & when you have the Kansas City’s & Cleveland’s of the world getting so much less. So I don’t have the answer to that. I don’t know how it resolves itself but to answer your question, is it a concern? Yes, it’s very much a concern.
VR: What do you think of the national TV deals that were struck & announced by MLB this off-season?
KR: Impressive to say the least. You had a very healthy, spirited competition for the rights & it led to some pretty big numbers. But those contracts, I should say the revenue from those contracts, that’s divided equally among all the teams. So while it’s good for everyone & it’s good for the Cleveland’s & Kansas City’s of the world, it doesn’t give them any kind of advantage. It’s just in that particular area of revenue, it’s equal.
VR: Let’s talk about divisions…in your mind, what’s the most improved division in baseball?
KR: Ooh…good question. I would say most improved division would probably be the American League West simply because…I can’t even say that because Hamilton switched teams within the division <laughs>. I don’t know, I was going to say the East…I was going to say the AL East simply because Toronto took, what appears to be, such a jump. But at the same time Baltimore did nothing or at least hasn’t so far. The Yankees, I believe, went backwards. The Red Sox put together a new team; I don’t know if it’s a better team. But the AL West remains strong & Texas still has a move or two left & Seattle has a move or two left. So by the end of all this, I can say with some reasonable confidence that the AL West could be the most improved division although the mere fact that Houston is joining the division, overall is a weakening effect.
VR: So are you of the mindset the AL West is the best division of baseball?
KR: Possibly yes because of the competition between the top three teams & at the end of this off-season, I do believe Seattle will be better. They were better last year but are still an offensively challenged group but they’re getting there. So I would say yes…obviously Houston is going to be a patsy for everyone but what we saw last year between the three teams: Oakland, Los Angeles & Texas…that was impressive.
VR: Before I let you go…you’re obviously a very busy guy with your FOX Sports & MLB Network commitments. Anything new on the horizon for you?
KR: Nope. That’s it, man!
VR: Not writing any books?
KR: Shoot, Victor…I don’t have a minute.
VR: Will the bow tie be back on FOX Saturday Baseball?
KR: The bow tie will be back. For those that don’t know, the bow tie is not because I want to look like Pee Wee Herman or establish myself as a geek. Each one is for a different charity & that’s why I wear them. And yes, they will be back & we’ll have some different organizations & charities that are represented this year and we’re pretty excited about it.
VR: Hey buddy, I’ve got an idea for you. You should get a couple of the local broadcasters that are not going to be on FOX Saturday Baseball to follow suit & wear a bow tie that promotes the charity you’re promoting that particular week. I’d be more than happy to be a part of it.
KR: That’s a heck of an idea but I don’t know how many guys would go for it though <laughing>…
VR: Well, you’ve got one & I know I can get Gubi to do it as well.
KR: We’ve got one & Gubi would do it. Let’s keep that in mind.
My thanks to Ken for taking the time to chat…never gets old talking baseball with him. Feel free to follow Ken on Twitter.
As always, I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Livin’ the dream…