Rob Manfred says MLB is 'going to be at historic high levels of debt' after COVID-19 affected season

·2 min read
Rob Manfred at podium in front of MLB logo
Rob Manfred at podium in front of MLB logo

According to MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, the leagues 30 teams have amassed an unprecedented $8.3 billion of debt from their various lenders and will post $2.8 billion to $3 billion in operational losses this year.

In an interview with Sportico on Monday, Manfred discussed how the debt was accrued so the teams could fund their businesses during the COVID-19 affected season without fans in the stands and negligible ballpark revenue.

“We are going to be at historic high levels of debt,” Manfred said. “And it’s going to be difficult for the industry to weather another year where we don’t have fans in the ballpark and have other limitations on how much we can’t play and how we can play.”

“I think the one thing we’ve learned is that COVID is a really unpredictable virus. We don’t know what’s next. But at this point it’s just impossible to speculate what next year’s going to look like. We’ll just have to get closer and then we’ll make the best decisions we can.”

With the colder months of the year churning ahead as scheduled, COVID cases have began to rise again across the country, including New York.

So with no certainty on what's to come for teams with revenues and costs once the World Series finishes up this week, some executives are already saying they may not be willing to commit money to players in free agency just yet — which is something that would create problems for Winter Meetings in December and spring training in February (if they can even happen at all). 

“The economic losses [this season] have been devastating for the industry,” Manfred said. “You’re seeing the ramifications of that in terms of decisions clubs are making with respect to [laying off] baseball operations and business employees. I mean, you’ve never seen those type of decisions, at least since I’ve been around.

“In order to get through the year the clubs did a great job preserving liquidity, but they also took on a lot of additional debt.”

Everything that happens from the final pitch of the World Series to December 2021 — when the current CBA expires — will surely go down in history, along with the 2020 season.