Everyone believes that the new Mets ownership will be spending in Flushing, but they won’t be flushing “stupid money” down the loo like Phillies owner John Middleton proudly did after he exclaimed those words less than two years ago before they signed Bryce Harper as their team’s highest-paid player. Rumors are out there that Harper is on the trade block and will join Jean Segura and now reportedly Zack Wheeler as pieces that the team from Philadelphia could move as the Phillies face a “financial crunch” according to Buster Olney of ESPN.
“The Philadelphia Phillies have communicated to other teams that they are facing a financial crunch and are open to offers for their second-highest-paid player, starting pitcher Zack Wheeler, according to sources,” per Olney.
It is fair to mention that the Phillies claim that Buster Olney’s statement (above) is not accurate.
“Through a Phillies team spokesperson, team president Andy MacPhail as well as Middleton indicated that the idea that the Phillies are shopping Wheeler has ‘zero truth to this.'”
Remember, Wheeler was just signed before the 2020 season and is in the first year of his five-year, $118 million deal he signed with the Phillies last winter. Wheeler, 30, had a good season for the Phillies in 2020 with a 2.92 ERA in 11 starts and he would be an attractive trade target for many teams.
Keep in mind that Harper has a full no-trade clause and is still owed $274 million over the final 11 seasons of his 13-year, $330 million contract, and that would make him nearly untradeable unless the Phillies ate a ton of cash, kind of like the Marlins had to do when they traded Giancarlo Stanton to the Yankees. The Phillies already got two of Harper’s prime years and he will be 28 ½ on Opening Day of 2021. What does he have, three or four prime years remaining?
The Phillies, on the other hand, have not been in the playoffs since 2011, the franchise’s last season with a winning record and last week a reporter from NBC Sports Philadelphia claimed the Phillies lost $145 million in 2020 which is higher than the league average based on reports from Rob Manfred that baseball teams were going to lose a combined $2.8 to $3.0 billion.
“We are going to be at historic high levels of debt,” Manfred told Sportico after the season. “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.”
What got little attention is that baseball teams are suing insurers over the work stoppage because most teams carry some form of catastrophic insurance. The lawsuit was filed on October 16, and claims that MLB teams purchased “top-shelf All Risks Policies” to protect baseball “against the risk of catastrophic economic losses” that it now has incurred due to the pandemic.
“Baseball paid millions of dollars in premiums year after year because it deliberately bought broad, more protective coverage” but the insurers “have very publicly refused to live up to their contractual obligation to pay what they promised,” according to the lawsuit.”
Some clubs are planning to spend money, but most are going to spend less than last year unless that insurance lawsuit makes teams whole. The purported $2.8 to $3 billion in operating losses spread over 30 teams is not divided by 30 teams to say the average is equal for each team. Some teams that were at the bottom of team payrolls could have conceivably made a profit in 2020 if their TV payouts were large enough. Most teams relied on TV revenue as their main source of income in 2020 with no fans in the stands.
Even before the season started, Cubs owner, Tom Ricketts, whose family purchased the team on October 27, 2009, called the bleak financial situation and losses would be of “biblical” proportions.
“The scale of losses across the league is of biblical [proportions],” Ricketts said. “To cover their losses, all teams have gone out and borrowed. There’s no other way (to handle this situation). “
“The league itself does not make a lot of cash. I think there’s a perception that we hoard cash and that we take money out that’s all sitting in a pile we’ve collected over the years. Well, we don’t.”
So far, the free agent market is moving slowly, and if the Phillies are in “sell mode” this offseason is getting more bizarre by the day.