The St. Louis Cardinals' payroll is in danger as Bally Sports' operating company faces bankruptcy possibilities.
The St. Louis Cardinals had the highest local television broadcast ratings in 2022, but their sustained popularity could be the team's undoing after Diamond Sports Group cut its profitability projections, potentially leading to Bally Sports' extinction and a massive cut in team revenue.
The New York Post reported that Diamond Sports Group is struggling to find a buyer for its networks and may go to bankruptcy court next year, so the cable sports industry, long in decline because of the increase in "cord cutting," could accelerate its demise. MLB owners would feel the repercussions of losing television contracts, and the Cardinals are likely to be hit the hardest given the uniquely large chunk of revenue that comes from television viewership.
The slice in payroll would almost certainly lead the Cardinals to be more stringent in spending, and they might not pursue players they would have otherwise considered. Any necessary moves, such as the team's sorely needed upgrades to its 2024 starting rotation, might not be to the level fans expect.
The Cardinals shouldn't be excused for being unnecessarily frugal, but the balance between winning while managing contracts will be increasingly difficult if Diamond Sports Group goes under. Nolan Arenado's decision to remain with the Cardinals and not exercise his opt-out clause was a massive exhale for fans, and that decision looks better than ever for the Cardinals given the potentially tighter budget around the corner.
The Cardinals would undoubtedly take quite a hit to their payroll if their television contract were terminated, and while one silver lining could be more league parity if the highest television-deal teams are forced to spend less, most of the big-market teams have providers other than Bally Sports. The Cardinals, Atlanta Braves, San Diego Padres and Tampa Bay Rays are currently the most successful teams that are on their respective Bally Sports networks.
The elimination of television deals would be a difficult one for the Cardinals to swallow given the recent improvement of the division rival Chicago Cubs, and the Cardinals' ability to perennially remain in contention could be jeopardized by the loss of a medium that has helped them be so successful.