Barry Jackson

Marlins’ master plan could get a financial boost

Marlins owners Bruce Sherman (left) and Derek Jeter (right) are counting on a large increase in TV revenue to help them execute their master plan.
Marlins owners Bruce Sherman (left) and Derek Jeter (right) are counting on a large increase in TV revenue to help them execute their master plan.

A six-pack of Marlins notes on a Friday:

▪ Fox’s decision (reported by Sports Business Journal) to pay the Tampa Bay Rays an average of $82 million annually in a not-yet-finalized new 15-year deal — up from $35 million annually — is very good news for the Marlins, who need an enormous jump from their $19 million annual television rights fee for their master plan to work.

The Marlins privately expect their new deal, kicking in after 2020, to be worth at least $50 million annually but could ask for more in the wake of the Rays’ deal.

If the Marlins could somehow convince Fox to give them close to $60 million annually in a new contract, that would help significantly in having the revenue to afford an annual payroll of $130 million or more in 2021 and beyond.

Tampa’s deal is expiring after this season, while the Marlins’ contract with Fox runs through 2020. The Marlins and Fox remain in discussions about an extension, and the Marlins would love an up-front payment as part of an extension.

Keep in mind that ESPN is buying more than 20 Fox regional cable networks, including Fox Sports Florida and Fox Sports Sun. So if the Marlins and Fox don’t reach an extension before the sale closes and is approved, then the Marlins could end up negotiating with ESPN instead of Fox.

And also keep in mind that the Tampa-St. Petersburg TV market is 11th-biggest in the country, whereas Miami-Fort Lauderdale is 16th. That gives the Rays a built-in advantage in the value of their rights deal compared with the Marlins.

▪ Lewis Brinson, looking to win the center-field job, is 4 for his first 10 with two doubles.

“Out of our young outfielders, to me, [Brinson] is more advanced,” manager Don Mattingly said.

Among the Marlins’ other top young outfield prospects, Braxton Lee is 3 for his first 10, Magneuris Sierra is 3 for his first 11 and Monte Harrison (who needs more minor-league seasoning) is 2 for 10.

Veteran journeyman outfielder Scott Van Slyke continues his strong early push for a roster spot (5 for 11, two homers, 7 RBI). Outfielder Isaac Galloway, a .250 hitter in 10 minor-league seasons, is 5 for his first 9 this spring.

▪ If Sandy Alcantara keeps pitching like he did in his first two spring outings (five innings, four hits, one earned run), a strong case could be made to keep him to start the season, even though the Marlins don’t want to rush their top prospects.

Zac Gallen, one of two other pitchers acquired in that Marcell Ozuna trade with Alcantara and outfielder Sierra — allowed five runs in one inning in his first spring appearance and starts at 1 p.m. Friday against Detroit in Lakeland.

Gallen, 22, was 10-7 with a 2.93 ERA in 26 starts at three minor-league levels last season and has a 2.86 minor league ERA in two seasons since the Cardinals drafted him in the third round out of North Carolina in 2016. So his first spring training appearance wasn’t reflective of his good work since turning pro.

▪ Tomas Telis (2 for his first 8) is the favorite for the backup catcher’s job; he’s out of minor-league options. Chad Wallach would be a long shot to beat out Telis.

▪ Miami-Dade County’s Michael Spring — director of the county’s department of cultural affairs — told me that even if the Marlins remove the home run sculpture, it’s not going to happen by Opening Day because talks are in the early stages.

The Marlins told the county they want to remove it; Spring says the Marlins would have to pay to do so but says the county doesn’t know a cost yet because that would depend on multiple factors, including to where it’s moved.

Artist Red Grooms, who designed the sculpture, told the Miami Herald’s Doug Hanks that he opposes it being moved.

▪ Though the Marlins’ payroll is $96 million, their on-field payroll will be only $65 million as long as Wei Yin Chen (due $18 million this season, including an $8 million bonus in June) is sidelined by elbow problems.

Chen is throwing and on track to pitch this season, but the Marlins have said he won’t be ready for Opening Day.

Edinson Volquez, who had Tommy John surgery last year and was released during the offseason, accounts for the other $13 million. Volquez, who signed with the Texas Rangers recently, isn’t expected to pitch this season.