Quick Hits: TV Contracts, Sugano, Orioles, Pruitt (www.mlbtraderumors.com)

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Major League Baseball is bracing for a reduction in rights fees in negotiations with ESPN on a new television contract, according to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal (subscription required). Current discussions surround a seven-year deal that would see ESPN pay approximately $550MM per season in exchange for the right to continue to broadcast Sunday Night Baseball, the Home Run Derby, and a to-be-determined number of postseason games. As Rosenthal notes, this will be a rather significant reduction from the parties’ last rights contract, which covered eight years at $700MM per season. That’s a disappointing turn for MLB, which had picked up considerable increases in rights fees (relative to previous contracts) from both Turner and FOX in recent years.

More from around the baseball world…

  • In an interview with the Kyodo News and other media outlets, Tomoyuki Sugano and agent Joel Wolfe discussed Sugano’s talks with Major League teams. Wolfe said six clubs made offers, but with just two minutes remaining before the expiration of Sugano’s 30-day posting period, the right-hander decided to remain in Japan and accept a four-year, $40MM pact from the Yomiuri Giants. “There were a lot of discussions, but none were able to convince me 100 percent,” Sugano said. “I can’t say I have no regrets about not going. I have a fire inside me and the best thing is to move forward with high expectations for myself.” Sugano believes he “needed just a little more time” to land a deal with a North American team, but felt he was hampered by both the 30-day window and the slow pace of the overall free agent market.
  • The Orioles are looking to add to their rotation, with MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko reporting that the team has “Major League offers on the table to multiple starters.” There was a general assumption that Baltimore might stick to just minor league contracts as it continues its rebuild process, yet offering guaranteed deals indicates that the O’s are planning to shop at a slightly higher tier, though these MLB offers are likely still relatively inexpensive. The Orioles’ current list of rotation candidates is short on big league experience, apart from veteran Alex Cobb and (with just over two years of service time) ace John Means.
  • Astros right-hander Austin Pruitt underwent elbow surgery in September and was cleared to begin throwing this week, Jake Kaplan of The Athletic reports (subscription required). Unfortunately, he hasn’t been able to immediately begin that process after subsequently testing positive for COVID-19, although Pruitt said he is suffering only minor symptoms. Pruitt is not expected to be ready to return by Opening Day but he does figure to contribute to Houston’s pitching staff at some point in 2021, Kaplan writes. After being acquired from the Rays last winter, injuries have prevented Pruitt from making his official debut in a Houston uniform.

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