It looks like ESPN is set to make another big reporting addition. As per Andrew Marchand of The New York Post, the network is set to add Yahoo’s Jeff Passan in a role focusing on reporting baseball news:
ESPN has Adam Schefter on the NFL, Adrian Wojnarowski on the NBA and now it is hiring Yahoo’s Jeff Passan with the plan for him to be its top breaking-news insider on Major League Baseball, sources have told The Post.
…Passan, 38, will be asked to be as prolific as Schefter and Wojnarowski, who are generally regarded as the top insiders in their respective sports. Passan is expected to be on TV a good amount, though ESPN greatly favors the NFL and the NBA on its studio programming.
…Passan begins after the new year. In the interim, he will continue to write for Yahoo. Yahoo still has Passan’s tag-team partner, Tim Brown, on baseball, and is expected to replace Passan. The site did try to retain Passan, according to sources.
Passan may be most known for his baseball work, which includes the recent book The Arm: Inside the Billion-Dollar Mystery of the Most Valuable Commodity in Sports. He’s been at Yahoo since 2006, following stints at The Kansas City Star and The Fresno Bee, and he’s also covered plenty of other sports there, including the Olympics and college football (where he co-wrote Death To The BCS with Dan Wetzel and Josh Peter). He’s been involved in some high-profile exchanges, too, including going after Doug Gottlieb over Gottlieb’s take on the Dominican Republic and performance-enhancing drugs and giving up his Hall of Fame ballot last year in protest of Joe Morgan’s letter asking voters not to support candidates linked to PEDs. It will be interesting to see how Passan does at ESPN in a role that sounds like it will be focused on breaking news, especially as there’s plenty of outside competition there from the likes of Ken Rosenthal (The Athletic/MLB Network/Fox), Jon Heyman (MLB Network/Fancred) and Joel Sherman (MLB Network/The New York Post).
ESPN does already have quite the cast of baseball reporters in-house as well, including Buster Olney, Tim Kurkjian and Pedro Gomez, so Passan adds to that lineup. But as per Marchand, Passan won’t be asked to be on game broadcasts at first (unlike Olney and Kurkjian), so that should free him up to focus on that breaking-news role and to make appearances on ESPN studio programming. The timing is interesting here, though, as “in the new year” would be after December’s winter meetings, where a whole lot of deals get made. That’s presumably about Passan’s contractual commitments, but it suggests he’ll be covering those meetings for Yahoo rather than ESPN, and that ESPN will be relying on their existing team for the news that happens there.
Meanwhile, this adds to the list of insiders who have left Yahoo recently (Wojnarowski for ESPN in July 2017, Shams Charania for The Athletic and Stadium earlier this year). And Passan is one of the longest-tenured writers there, so his departure is another change for the site. But Marchand’s report that Yahoo tried to retain Passan and is expected to replace him suggests this particular move isn’t about a strategy shift on their end. Instead, it perhaps more speaks to ESPN’s desire to be a key outlet breaking news (and relaying it according to their own reporters rather than outside sources, perhaps especially in SportsCenter updates and on the ticker), something seen with hires of people like Schefter and Wojnarowski. And they’ve certainly made another splashy hire with Passan.