Chicago Cubs set to cash in on new television deal?


The biggest news surrounding the Chicago Cubs of late has been the long-anticipated groundbreaking of the Wrigley Field renovation project, which is expected to open up previously unavailable revenue streams.

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With a new radio deal in the bag from earlier this year and the renovation project underway, the organization’s financial future – and baseball operations outlook – has brightened. And it could be ready to look even better, according to a report from Patrick Mooney of CSN Chicago.

Mooney’s report indicates that although the major portion of the team’s television broadcast rights aren’t up for discussion for several more years, the team could be nearing a major payday sooner than anticipated – due to the fact that the television rights are split up.

"(Cubs President of Business Operations Crane) Kenney said negotiations are in “extra innings” for the roughly 70 games that would have aired on WGN and WCIU next season. That’s part of the big media play revolving around the end of the 2019 season, when the Cubs could become free agents, no longer locked into Comcast SportsNet Chicago as their exclusive cable home."

Kenney said that “a number of potential partners” have emerged for the television rights, which are viewed by most organizations – especially those in major markets such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles – as the key to increased payrolls and competitiveness.

The team won’t necessarily sign a long-term deal in 2015, but the opportunity remains present for an organization that has not won 90 games since 2010. Kenney added that the team won’t rush into poor decisions as they have in the past in these types of negotiations – something that has happened under his watch on multiple occasions.

"“We want to make sure we’re always on the front edge of that,” Kenney said. “2019 is an important date for us. It does kind of play back into what’s going to happen in 2015, (but) we’re not going to rush it. Just to make sure if there is something there that we want to do today for the long-term, we can."

He went on to say that, “There is time, but the marketplace is really, really exciting right now and we want to make sure we don’t miss it,” leading many to speculate that there could be potential fits for the team at this point in time. However, the team’s competitiveness on the field – which is the main focus of fans at this point – is not tied to a major television deal being done in the immediate future, according to President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein.

"“You can start taking on high-salary players in trades from other organizations that maybe can’t afford them. Every free agent is all of a sudden on the board. You can look at multiples in a given offseason. You can look at your young players and realize you’re going to sign them all. It really affects the lens through which you view every single transaction. And right now we feel really good about our TV deal.”"

Last season, Chicago ranked 23rd amongst the 30 Major League Baseball organizations in terms of payroll, entering the 2014 campaign at approximately $88 million, according to a preseason report by the Associated Press.

With the team having relatively few major guaranteed contracts on the books for 2015, a television deal would only increase the organization’s financial flexibility moving forward. A recent breakdown of the team’s roster by MLB Trade Rumors showed just a handful of larger commitments – including several team-friendly deals in the mix.

As shown by last winter’s pursuit of coveted Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, the Cubs are coming out of an organization-wide rebuilding effort. With the renovation project and new radio deal in the bag, and the team’s top talent making its way to the Friendly Confines, the new television deal – whether it comes in 2015 or 2019 – is one of the final pieces to the puzzle, which fans hope will culminate in the ultimate payday – a World Series championship.