The Philadelphia Phillies and Comcast Sportsnet have agreed on a new 25-year television contract according to multiple reports on Friday, including one from the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Matt Gelb. Gelb also reports the new deal is worth an astounding $2.5 billion
Source: Phillies' 25-year TV rights deal with Comcast SportsNet is worth $2.5 billion in addition to an equity stake and some ad revenue.
— Matt Gelb (@magelb) January 3, 2014
Just in case you didn't believe it the first time, that was indeed $2.5 billion. And a little stake in the network itself.
#phillies minority stake in CSN Philly in new deal pegged at 25 percent
The new agreement won't begin until their current contract with Comcast expires following the 2015 season. Once in place, here's how it will break down.
W avg of $100M/yr plus escalators and 25 yr term, total value of Phillies TV deal in excess of $2.5 billion
— Eric Fisher (@EricFisherSBJ) January 3, 2014
For a little perspective, the Phillies are bringing in $35 million a year under their soon-to-be-expired television contract. That might sound like a lot in and of itself, but even the smaller market teams are making nearly double that under their contract television contracts. For example, the San Diego Padres rake in $65+ million annually.
The Phillies new contract pales in comparison to the 25-year television deal the Los Angeles Dodgers recently agreed to that's worth around $7 billion, but it's considered reasonable as it fits the Philadelphia market size on the scale set by the Dodgers' deal.
Of course, of utmost importance to the fans is what this will mean for Philadelphia's already fourth-highest payroll going forward. As Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer explains, it's not likely to have an immediate impact with the deal still two years away from taking effect and the Phillies nearing their self-imposed $170 million limit. With veterans Cole Hamels, Ryan Howard, Cliff Lee, Jonathan Papelbon, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Carlos Ruiz all locked into large salaries (only Rollins is in his final year), their flexibility will remain limited in the short-term.
With that said, only Howard, Hamels and Ruiz will remain under contract once the new television deal kicks in prior to the 2016 season. That means their contracts, as good, bad or ugly as they may look at the time, will be easier to absorb (or dump or even trade) and would still give the team plenty of money to spend on the open market if they so choose.
But will they so choose? According to team president David Montgomery, we shouldn't assume that will be the case.
"I don't see us going any higher than where we've been," Montgomery said. "For us, the secret is to spend it well, not necessarily tied to how much. Since we've moved in here, we have been able to be a club that is substantial in its payroll. I assume we will continue to be in the top four or five in the game. Hopefully we'll make some good decisions and people will see an improved club in 2014. That's what we believe."
As we've seen time and time again in recent years, spending doesn't equal winning. In fact, the Phillies have become a pretty good example themselves as the roster ages and declines in ability. Taking a smarter, more controlled approach sounds like the smart way to go, but it would be easy to see the front office getting bored and the fanbase getting restless knowing there's money there to be spent.
What will be interesting to watch is whether or not general manager Ruben Amaro and company can stick to a budget if one is kept in place, knowing the margin for error will be much greater two years down the road.
The temptation to throw money at current problems will only grow as the new contract nears. Will they be able to control the urge?
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