Marlins get permission to move from Florida

I’m wrapping all Marlilns-related items into a single post.

New Jersey has stepped into the fray with a plan to attract the Marlins. The plans would call for “retrofitting Giants Stadium into a ballpark,” whatever that means. The Meadowlands lies in Bergen County, so if Jersey officials are able to work an agreement between the baseball team, the Giants, and the Jets, there’d still be a nasty little territorial rights problem to figure out. It’s somewhat similar to the Giants-A’s situation in that on paper, the Marlins would be invading the Yankees and Mets market. The Giants-A’s relationship is much more nuanced, but should Jersey’s very unlikely scenario go deeper into actual negotiations facilitated by the commissioner’s office, it could make for some very interesting fireworks. Again, it’s very unlikely.

Unable (or unwilling?) to bridge the funding gap for a new ballpark adjacent to the Orange Bowl, the Florida Marlins received permission from MLB to talk to other cities. Among the likely candidates: Portland and Las Vegas.

This is, of course, straight of the stadium negotiation playbook. Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria declared, “No longer can baseball in South Florida be assured.” The Marlins lease at Dolphins Stadium ends after the 2007 season, at which point they could move free and clear with MLB’s blessing.

Since that 2007 date coincides with the end of the A’s lease (the A’s have year-to-year options in 2008-10), it sets up an unusual scenario. The A’s and Marlins could both move after 2007. Should that be the situation at that point, it sets up an strange dilemma for the teams and MLB: How can they extract the greatest number of concessions from bidding cities and original cities in an inherently less competitive environment? This isn’t like the DC situation, where the principals decided to take care of the details after the team moved. MLB’s motivations were a big payoff (which they’ll get in the $450+ million franchise price) and a virtually free stadium (which they also got).

This time around, the proposal from Portland will be well-prepared (just as it was before) and Vegas will most certainly roll out the red carpet (though the funding as of now is still a mystery). MLB may not be able to execute the complicated buyout/exchange/contraction operation that facilitated the Expos move to DC, and there won’t be a big difference in the Marlins’ franchise value if they moved to either Vegas or Portland.

We in the Bay Area can only hope that the A’s search for a ballpark doesn’t devolve into the bidding war that the Marlins and Miami are entering. If the A’s do, you’d probably have the A’s dealing exclusively with Portland (vs. the Bay Area) and the Marlins dealing exclusively with Vegas (vs. South Florida). Not having another city from which a proposal could be sent means having one fewer bargaining chip. Could San Antonio or Charlotte enter the picture? I imagine that the Norfolk-Hampton Roads market is now out because of the Nats being in DC.

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