Update 12/27 5:40 PM – A report at MLB.com has Lew Wolff saying there is no movement on the stadium front yet. Yet.
Update 8:54 PM – Interviewed by Rick Tittle and John Dickinson on The Game (MP3), Bob Nightengale has the estimate at $50-100 million, which would fall in line with the other cases listed below. Nightengale guesses that the number will be less than what the O’s received, with some chance to compensate the Giants for lost attendance. (Thanks letsgoas)
There’s been plenty of discussion about a the A’s leaving Oakland for San Jose. Little has been said or written about what deal will have to be struck to make the move happen. The Giants have consistently said there is no acceptable price for ceding the South Bay, while the A’s would prefer they get the Valley for the same price Wally Haas gave it up in the first place: zero. Obviously, that’s a massive gap to bridge and neither side is going to get exactly what they want, so a compromise is in order. As much as I’d like to think Commissioner Bud Selig has spent significant effort in crafting a solution, I can’t help but think that he’ll simply go with whatever his handpicked panel put together (probably as early as 18-24 months ago).
The Giants believe the South Bay market is practically priceless, though they’ve surely been pressed privately by MLB, and upon being pressed, the market for them is worth nine figures. My semi-educated guess is that they said $200-250 million, which is representative of potential franchise value change for both the Giants and A’s. I mentioned in the last post that some within the Giants camp believe that if the A’s left the Bay Area altogether, the Giants’ valuation could jump as much as $500 million, making them a superteam with the Yankees, Red Sox, and the LA teams.
Roger Noll has estimated the value at $20-30 million, which has to be at the low end of the spectrum (I can’t see $0 happening). Some recent owner compensation examples also exist:
- 2005: Peter Angelos (Orioles) gets a guarantee of at least $365 million for a future franchise sale price and $75 million to start a new regional sports network that would carry both the O’s and the soon-to-be Nationals. Half of the $75 million came from MLB, the rest came from the future owners of the Nats. The Orioles did not technically have territorial rights to DC.
- 2011: Jim Crane (Astros) gets a $70 million discount from the original $680 million price for the franchise. Again, half came from MLB, the other half came from seller Drayton McLane. The discount was negotiated as the price to move the Astros from the National League Central to the American League West. The discount doesn’t necessarily mean any cash changed hands.
So it seems that MLB has a sort of standard in place when it comes to offering a compromise: fund half and make the desirous party pay the other half. Both the Giants and A’s know this, and it’s possible that Selig, wanting to cut to the chase, has already offered something to this effect. That brings us back to the number. Territorial rights (with regards to stadium placement) were at stake into the two aforementioned scenarios, which means they can’t be counted on as exact precedent. The method is in place, so there’s at least indicator of what could be done. While many fans and much of the media think of Selig’s panel as either a ruse or a joke, I think they’re quite important in terms of determining a fair value. That’s what’s really at stake here, not so much whether the Giants’ entitlement to the South Bay or A’s request for it are valid.
In August I brought up the Zito trade option again. He’s owed $19 million next season, $20 million in 2013, and either an $18 million full salary in 2014 (unlikely at this rate) or a $7 million buyout. That’s $46 million guaranteed to the former Cy Young winner, whose combined WAR in five seasons in orange and black is 6.6. I’m not particularly interested in a Zito return to the A’s other than it’s a business win-win for both teams. That the $46 million is essentially equivalent to $90 million in revenue over those three years based on how much revenue is allocated to team payroll, which is more meaningful in terms of putting together assets for a T-rights exchange agreement than a specific bottom line argument. In any case, moving Zito will make it much easier for the Giants to swallow the likely $20+ million arbitration award Tim Lincecum will get next month, and long term, easier to sign both Lincecum and Matt Cain for the next five years or so (combined: $350 million?). I’m the only person with any standing talking about this, so I won’t belabor the point any further.
Then there’s the issue of the remaining debt service on AT&T Park. Remember that this was the original argument put forth by the Giants, and it’s a valid one: $20 million per year through 2017. They even took it a step further by having SF City Attorney Dennis Herrera threaten MLB with a lawsuit because a move by the A’s to San Jose would hamper the Giants’ ability to pay SF its measly $2,000,000 in land rent, along with property and sales taxes. Legal sabre-rattling aside, what it comes down to is the years 2015 through 2017, which if a San Jose Athletics ballpark were to move forward, would be the years when debt service for both venues would be in play. The Giants argue that half of their fanbase and revenue comes from south of San Francisco, which means that their ability to pay half of the debt service would be in jeopardy. Taken at face value, the risk is $30 million, which may be where Noll gets his compensation estimate.
The big takeaway rumor I got from the GM Winter meetings a three weeks ago was that supposedly the Selig panel report was made available. If so, it probably has one or more recommendations on moving forward, including a primary consensus-building option that Selig has rubber-stamped. Only The Lodge knows what that is. Personally, I hope it’s something creative and not a simple cash payment, since that may not properly address both teams’ concerns and may handicap the A’s unnecessarily. The A’s are a gimp as they are right now.
At The Biz of Baseball, Maury Brown thinks that if the two sides can’t hammer out a compromise on T-rights, binding arbitration may be in order. That could explain why there’s talk of a final February solution. Player arbitration occurs during the first three weeks of February, so it wouldn’t be out of line for MLB to use the same resources take care of the A’s and Giants once and for all. Certainly there isn’t much in terms of precedent compared to negotiating a deal with a Super Two, but the principle is the same: the two parties name their figures, and a judge reviews the situation and picks a winner based on the one that is closest to market value. No appeals, no lawsuits (per ML Constitution), no whining. The important thing there is that since the winner is based on the appraised market value, there’s a sort of built-in protection from the sides making overly outlandish offers, since an unreasonable offer is more likely to be dismissed.
That leaves one question: Why has it taken this long? I suppose the reasoning is twofold. MLB wanted to defer to the Giants, who are still paying for China Basin and as mentioned, have six years left on the mortgage there. That ties into making the pain of compensation by the A’s (and MLB?) less since with every year that elapses, another $20 million comes off the ledger. That’s a big deal. Imagine if the A’s started playing in San Jose this past season. MLB would’ve had to account for seven years of debt service at AT&T Park, or $140 million. Even if that’s split in half, that’s nearly as much as the highest payroll in A’s history. Unfortunately, the collateral damage for the delay becomes the excruciatingly ongoing limbo of the have-not A’s. At least an end is in sight.