Commissioner Rob Manfred refused to provide a timetable for the sale of the Marlins, other than to say two bidders remain in the running, and touched on a number of other issues Thursday upon the conclusion of this week’s owners meetings at Major League Baseball’s headquarters on Park Avenue.
Among the most significant developments: games in Europe by 2019 or shortly thereafter, an expanded competition committee that now includes GMs and managers, the switching to Under Armour as on-field uniform provider (logos on jerseys) a year ahead of schedule in 2019 and yet another modification to the posting system for Japanese professional players, with pitching star Shohei Otani expected to come to the States this winter.
On the Marlins front, Manfred criticized what he called inaccurate information about the process, but did say it was moving forward. The two frontrunners are a group led by Derek Jeter/Jeb Bush and the other by Tom Glavine/Tagg Romney. With a reported $1.3-billion price tag, coming up with the cash apparently has been a monumental task for both potential buyers. Manfred, however, sounded optimistic it would get done, eventually. Any team sale has to be approved by 75 percent of the owners.
“There are two bidders, at least, for the franchise,” Manfred said. “ The bidders are in relatively the same place in terms of price — maybe minuscule differences — and they are in fact the price range (owner Jeffrey) Loria as looking for. Those are the facts.
“It’s really between the Marlins and the bidders at this point. Two things need to happen. There needs to be a solidified financial structure presented to us so that we’re sure that we actually have a transaction that can move ahead. And certain documents, a purchase-and-sale agreement that need to be negotiated between the buyer and the seller. We’ll be ready to process the transaction when those two things are completed.”
With the Marlins preparing to host the All-Star Game on July 11, Manfred would prefer not to have a looming sale overshadowing one of the sport’s marquee events, so the hope is the details can be hammered out in the next month or so. In the meantime, here are some of MLB’s other ongoing projects, as presented Thursday by Manfred.
* MLB will start live-streaming a national game Friday nights on Facebook, beginning this week with Reds-Rockies, with no blackout rules, unlike with their MLB.TV app. As a result, the Twitter live-streaming game will now move to Tuesday.
* Expect to see more corporate logos on uniforms, and even sooner than expected. With New Era’s logo already adorning caps this season, Under Armour will do the same on jerseys, starting in 2019, a year earlier than planned.
* Playing games in Europe, like the NFL, has been a priority for MLB and Manfred is hopeful that will happen by 2019, at the earliest. The commissioner did not provide any potential sites, but the groundwork is being laid.
* With the new collective bargaining agreement in place, Manfred said MLB is striving for “uniformity” in the signing of professional players from other countries, which is why the Japanese posting system is due for yet another adjustment. The current system, negotiated three years ago, involves a $20-million buy-in to the Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) club as a precursor to striking a free-agent deal with the player, as the Yankees did for their seven-year, $155-million contract with Masahiro Tanaka. All indications are that MLB wants to significantly lower that $20-million fee, and just in time for the Otani bidding this winter.
“We have different systems for different countries right now,” Manfred said. “And usually uniformity is a good thing. We’d like to have more uniformity.”
* Manfred also denied that the World Baseball Classic, the international tournament that enjoyed a significant uptick in popularity this spring, is causing more injuries. The Mets’ Seth Lugo has not pitched because of small UCL tear since starring for Puerto Rico and Jeurys Familia, who closed for the Dominican Republic, just had surgery for a blood clot in his right shoulder.
“We actually reviewed with the owners today injury data from the WBC,” Manfred said. “Over time, including this last year, there is no statistical difference between injury rates for players who participate in WBC and those who don’t. You can pick out individual players that were injured in the WBC. But if you look at the body of players, the rate of injury for those who participate is not statistically significantly different from those who did not participate.”