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Saturday, February 24, 2024
Rates for the 2024 Best Venue Awards increase this Sunday at 11:59 p.m. ET

MLB Clubs Brace for Record Player Spending As Winter Meetings Kick Off

  • Expected record-level contract for Ohtani set to highlight offseason activity.
  • MLB revenue outlook still looks strong despite RSN disruption.
Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

Despite ongoing uncertainty surrounding critical revenues from local media rights, MLB clubs are expected to begin another robust offseason of spending on players at this week’s Winter Meetings. 

As the sport’s key offseason event began Sunday in Nashville, clubs are likely to challenge, if not surpass, the $3.53 billion committed last offseason on free agents. 

Somewhere around $500 million to $600 million of that will be earmarked for two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani, by far the biggest star on this year’s market, in what is projected to be a record-level contract for any player in North American team sports. 

But even with continued concerns about the erosion of health in regional sports networks and a relatively light pool of position player talent, many more hefty deals are anticipated.

Even the Brewers, currently playing in MLB’s smallest media market, made a big early move, reportedly signing 19-year-old prospect Jackson Chourio to an eight-year, $82 million contract that set a record for any player who has yet to make their major league debut. The deal contains escalators and options that could bring the total payout to $142.5 million.

Several factors are supporting the wide financial confidence. MLB just finished with its best attendance year since 2017, and it is eying further gains. National-level revenue continues to grow amid rising sponsorship dollars and escalators in existing media contracts. 

And even with the current disruption among RSNs, particularly those operated by bankrupt Diamond Sports Group, commissioner Rob Manfred is projecting a long-term rise in local media revenue, fueled partly by greater reach for games, after a near-term decline.

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