The Twins aren't done tweaking their uniforms for 2023. At least they hope not.
But it's now likely that the season will begin late next month without an advertiser's patch on the sleeve, MLB's new money-making venture that utilizes the most valuable real estate in the ballpark: on the players themselves.
Several potential advertisers have been in contact with the Twins about signing a long-term contract for the sleeve patches, which the players association agreed to as part of their new collective bargaining agreement that ended the lockout last spring.
But the team is being careful about selecting the winning bidder, knowing that that company will become part of the Twins' own brand.
"You know, this partner will go everywhere with us, home and road. Next to our naming-rights partner at the ballpark, this is the most significant partnership that we will have," Twins President Dave St. Peter said. "We have been having conversations with dozens of different organizations and companies, most of them based here in Minnesota or somewhere in the Upper Midwest.
"We're encouraged. But at this stage, it's probably not likely that we enter the season with that partner on board."
A handful of teams have already sold the rights to their uniform space; the Red Sox announced a deal with insurance company MassMutual last month, which according to Sports Business Journal will pay the team $17 million per year. The Padres will wear the logo of electronics company Motorola, which is reportedly paying $10 million a year.
The Reds (Kroger supermarkets, for a reported $5 million), the Astros (Oxy Energy) and Diamondbacks (technology distributor Avnet) also have deals in place.
But many teams appear wary of rushing to pair up with companies that might not be around long term; the recent bankruptcy of cryptocurrency exchange FTX, whose logo appeared on MLB umpires' uniforms for the past two years, embarrassed the league and likely made teams hesitant to simply take the largest offer. It also may be true that the price of the ad space may increase as the season approaches, TV contracts are settled, and advertisers see them in use.
"For a lot of reasons, I expect perhaps six to eight, maybe even as many as 10 teams will start the season with ad patches in place," St. Peter said. "We probably won't be among them, but that doesn't mean we won't have an announcement at some point during the 2023 season. We're in active dialogue about it."
One unusual aspect of MLB's new policy: The patches won't be on the same sleeve on every uniform. Left-handed hitters will wear them on their right sleeves, while right-handers will wear them on the left. That way the ad patches will always be visible from the center-field camera when a pitch is delivered.
Still to be determined, St. Peter said, is where the ads will appear on the jerseys of pitchers, coaches, managers, coaches and switch-hitters. But once a Twins sponsor is signed, those patches will be added to "authentic" jerseys for sale in the teams' merchandise stores.
New sponsor needed
The Twins open spring training at the Lee County Sports Complex in Fort Myers next Wednesday. That's another thing the team's front office would like to change.
As with the jersey sponsor, the sale of naming rights for the site where Hammond Stadium, a half-dozen practice fields and the Twins' minor-league offices and dormitory sit has taken longer than expected.
CenturyLink's agreement expired a year ago and the name reverted to its original form. The Twins planned to rechristen the complex during last summer, but finding a new sponsor has proven tricky.
"It's safe to say the ideal partner would have strong ties to both markets, to south Florida and Minnesota," St. Peter said. "We have had conversations with potential options on both fronts, but we haven't quite been able to blend the two yet. But the hunt is ongoing."
The Twins' roster was raided by the Rays last week, though not for a player. Elvis Martinez, who served as the team's Spanish interpreter for the past five years and appeared on the field several times to help manager Rocco Baldelli communicate with Spanish-speaking players, was hired for a similar position with Tampa Bay.
"He was a great contributor for us on a lot of levels. He advanced us mightily, frankly, from when he first joined us," St. Peter said. Martinez also served as a communications assistant, helping media members interview Latin American players.