After the defeats of both the Yankees and Phillies in the divisional round, the most oft-tweeted fact was that all of the payrolls of the remaining four teams (Detroit, Texas, Milwaukee, St. Louis) were less than $107 million. All four teams can be considered midrange in terms of revenue and payroll, which makes it incredibly refreshing that those are the four left standing, not the mega-money teams of the biggest markets. We can only hope that this continues, if only to start a trend of “right-sizing” payrolls all over baseball in order to optimize efficiency. (Yeah right.)
That culling of the playoff herd was preceded by Lew Wolff’s observation (during the Tuesday interview with Carl Guardino) that should the A’s make the move to the South Bay, the team’s annual revenue could jump to $230-240 million. At first that seemed improbable and to me, perhaps a bit of a lark. Over the weekend I started to dig into the numbers to try to understand if it was possible. Not only is it possible, by the time the A’s finish their first year at Cisco Field, $230 million may be mandatory.
To get a better sense of this, it’s best to look at how MLB’s revenue has grown over the last decade, especially since the first revenue sharing CBA year in 2003. Back then, baseball’s total revenue was a shade under $3.9 billion. Last year was a cool $7 billion. During the last decade, the average annual revenue growth has been 6-7% year over year. That growth slowed with the recession, but it’s realistic to see growth rebounding to at least 4%, which would at least outpace inflation. To that end, I’ve run some projections over the next few years with a 5% growth rate (conservative, I expect Commissioner Selig and the owners to be satisfied with no less than 6% if the corporate customer base is considered healthy enough).
It gets even more interesting when the numbers are broken down per team.
By 2015, the average revenue should be $250-260 million, an amount that would support a payroll of $125 million, almost twice what the A’s payroll was this past season. In effect, projecting to $230 million is merely trying to keep up with the Joneses. It’s what will be required for the A’s to truly minimize their revenue sharing “welfare” status. If the A’s can’t hit the median or mean revenue mark on a somewhat regular basis, it’s probably worth asking if it makes sense for the Bay Area to host two teams.
To get to $230 million in 2015, the A’s ownership group will have to sell the hell out of Cisco Field, including a 50% jump from 2014 to 2015 across the board in terms of local revenue sources. Given the meager results they’re getting while at the Coliseum, this is not an impossible task. (The Twins experienced a similar jump when Target Field opened.) Season sellouts for the first year or two would go a long way towards hitting the target. In 2015, the difference between 24,000 per game and 32,000 per game is over $26 million, let alone whatever additional money they get if the ballpark is larger than 32,000 seats.
When Lew Wolff and Billy Beane talk about planning for the next three years, the reasons for doing so start to crystallize when the numbers are laid out like this. Already, the Earthquakes’ $60 million stadium appears to be moving forward without significant upfront sponsorship commitments, indicating that Wolff is willing to make the cash calls necessary to get the ball rolling there. I’ve heard rumblings of private equity firms perhaps being involved, though it’s hard to see any heavy investment there when the return may not be as great as what such firms may be looking for. After all, it was only two months ago when Wolff said:
(Baseball’s) not an internal rate of return 20% or something like that. You shouldn’t be in this business if you want that.
Getting commitments for Cisco Field should not as difficult as for the Earthquakes stadium; in fact it should be a highly competitive situation. Still, ownership has to be looking at trying to reduce debt service as much as humanly possible, so they must have an internal target of upfront money they’ll need to push forward. Maybe it’s $200 million, maybe more (roughly 40% of the total cost). This is incredibly important because the private stadium loan market could be a complete wildcard over the next couple of years. Keeping debt service manageable doesn’t just help the bottom line, it will surely raise the franchise’s valuation due to its favorable debt position. Keep in mind that Cisco’s $120 million naming rights deal has a present value of $60 million, so the A’s will need much more than that to truly get going.
If Wolff gets a “no” decision from MLB, that leaves Beane with the regular revenue streams to fund the next several seasons’ payroll. It’s easy to see the A’s consistently hovering in that 74-86 win range depending on the team’s health. The team may be good enough to go for the division crown with some luck, and without luck the team would not be bad enough to score a top five first round draft pick. On the other hand, if San Jose is a go the controversial full rebuild could occur, with a key focus being another top ten pick to go along with Michael Choice (2010 #10). Jeffrey’s post from Friday explains the need for any money-challenged team to have a stable of developed top ten picks to serve as franchise cornerstones. This also highlights the importance of reining in debt, as it may be expected that the team run lean should a more aggressively enforced debt rule come into play.
In light of the lessons of Moneyball, it’s crazy to think that the A’s payroll in future seasons could frequently eclipse $100 million. Thanks to a little inflation and a lot of revenue sharing, the A’s are coming along for the ride. That will only take them so far, however. If the A’s are unable to significantly grow their own locally-sourced revenue on a regular basis, they be left behind competitively. With the future threat of multiple teams having $200+ million payrolls, the A’s have no choice. As Brad Pitt’s Beane flippantly says to a defiant Grady Fuson in the film, “Adapt or die.”
Damn you put threads together late RM 🙂
You suggest that the Bay Area might not be suitable as a two-team market if the A’s can’t sustain certain revenue levels. But then we go back to the same ole question we’ve asked the past couple of years: what other market out there would get the A’s $230 million? Heck, $200 million? Portland, LV, SAC, SA? Don’t see it happening in the aforementioned. At this point its the Bay Area (home since 1968) or bust. And based on the economics and info/data you just presented, its SJ or bust.
It’s astonishing to think about how much money free agents will be making once the league-wide average payroll is in that $100-120M range. If you think about it, the salaries of the pre-arb guys will still be dramatically suppressed, because the Players’ Association isn’t even fighting to fundamentally change the CBA with a drastic request like reducing the years of team control pre-FA to 4-5 years, for example.
So, going forward, we can project that revenues will continue to rise, the A’s and Marlins will move into new stadiums…and yet 0-5 year players will still see their salaries set at values significantly below their market price. So free agents will inevitably be paid much more.
I wouldn’t be shocked if teams are paying $7M per win in free agency in five years. The people who panned the Ryan Braun and Tulowitzki extensions would need to eat some crow if that happens.
Long-term gameplan if Cisco Field gets green-lit in the next five months:
a.) Trade away Gio Gonzalez to the Yankees for Jesus Montero and one of their pitching prospects.
b.) Explore a Cahill trade to at least see if anyone overwhelms the A’s with offers.
c.) Tumble to a 95-loss season and earn that top-5 pick in the 2013 draft.
d.) Open a beautiful new park in downtown San Jose in 2015-2016.
***e.) Sign one of these five guys as the headline attraction in the new park once they reach free agency: Brett Lawrie, Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, Mike Stanton, Jason Heyward. Certainly the five of them won’t all reach FA…but at least one of them will, and the A’s should be poised to be an attractive FA destination by then (newest park in the league, great weather, competitive team).
(***Somewhere, xbhaskarx is shaking his head in disgust).
@nsj – That’s why I think the battle between MLB and MLBPA is not for this CBA, it’s the next one. The disparity will be so great that it will only be natural for the union to ask to drop the free agency trigger from six to five years, with arbitration coming in the third year. The owners, naturally, would fight that tooth and nail. It’ll be interesting to see what the salary-to-revenue percentage will be by the end of the next CBA (probably 2015-16). I bet it’s around 45%.
Gio for Montero makes sense whether they’re going to SJ or not, but I’d be surprised if Cashman makes that trade. He’s been pretty adamant that it takes a pitcher the level of Cliff Lee, and only Felix Hernandez and possibly Matt Cain fit that category.
I’m not feeling good about this idea of gutting the team if San Jose is a go. I care about the 2012 season, not 2015. The A’s are usually at least somewhat competitive.I’d hate to see them drop off signifigantly the next 3 years, just due to the fact that they want to be at a peak with the opening of the new stadium.
There are no guarantees that the team will perform as expected in 2015, with a rebuilt team.Does this scenario also occur if Oakland gets the green light?? I’m guessing so.
My guess is that if the A’s have to stay in their current territory the ownership will look to put lipstick on a pig to make the team more attractive to someone who might want to buy the team. What’s worse is that at that point, all bets are off as far as the team staying in the Bay Area.
Not that there is anywhere to move, but if the plan is to stay at the Coliseum indefinitely I doubt MLB will be into approving an ownership group that is okay with that.
@Robo–if Oakland gets the green light, LW/JF will probabably sell the team, hopefully to locals and not out of state. So instead of gutting the team, they may actually beef up the team to be more competitive and attractive to potential buyers.
…exactly, Jeffrey. If it’s no for San Jose, the team gets put up for sale and when no one comes forward willing to spend $1 billion to buy the team and keep it in the East Bay by paying for a new ballpark, it’s then open season for buyers from other parts of the country to move the team far away. There will be places to go – San Antonio, El Paso, Las Vegas, Charlotte… Let’s not kid ourselves into believing there won’t be any locations available.
This analysis also points out the need to obtain the rights to the South Bay without having to pay the Giants a hefty sum of cash.
@pjk–if the team is put up for sale, the city will find someone– like they always have– to buy the A’s. They should get a home-town discount (under 300 mill), and wait till the 9er/Raider deal is set in SC. By that time, we’ll know if VC is viable or not. If it isn’t, tear down the old Coli and build a new one. All this can be done for hopefully under 800 mill total.
How many times has the city found someone willing to build a $500 mill ballpark on their own dime? Zip. Not even Haas did that. If Oakland really wants the team, it can write a big check. But the city has shown it’s not going to do that.
Now these #s are more in line with what I calculated. Although I think the average revenue of a MLB team being 250M-260M is a little high in 2015. The big market teams (Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Mets) skew the averages. The median should be the right # to go with.
The Nationals according to forbes are 16th right now at 194M. That # I believe is the one we should go off of instead of the average. Otherwise good analysis ML.
In my analysis I had the A’s paying 30M into revenue sharing and still pulling a profit. MLB will not allow the A’s to continue to being a “welfare case” in San Jose.
If Selig gives the go ahead for San Jose that means MLB is certain the A’s will be a revenue sharing “giver” and not “taker”.
If San Jose gets the go ahead, rebuilding makes total sense. Put a contender of the field so the revenue streams start pouring in big time.
The Giants did the same with Pac Bell years ago and had some real good teams the first 3-4 years. The A’s would be smart to pair down payroll, build up the farm system, and in 2014 sign a big name FA to headline Cisco Field in San Jose just like Bonds in 2000 for Pac Bell.
The culture of the A’s will change for the better in San Jose. I am sorry Oakland could not get anything done over the years….They will lose all 3 teams this decade it looks like. (Raiders to SC, A’s to SJ, and GSW to SF)
I am still adamant even with the Rays owner’s “hook and crook” statement that Selig will do nothing in the meetings this year…..We will be sitting here talking about this for another year or so. The Dodgers, Mets, and new CBA will or something new will take precedence again.
Selig will not retire after 2012, he has too much to deal with that is not going to get resolved before then.
Jk, I think we already know that VC isn’t viable. How else do you explain that the EIR hasn’t even started? What about all the development that has been slated for that general area since the late 90’s but hasn’t ever happened? The high number of vacant properties in the area? The Public Market is opening when, again?
How bout the guy who approached Wolff wanting “make it work” at the Coliseum? Jean Quan supposedly talking to Wolff about the Coliseum? Rebecca Kaplan pimping the Coliseum in interviews?
If those who have the political power to make something happen are talking about other places, it’s curious… No?
Did I mention RM that you put threads together late? 😉
@ JK – Yes, he wanted to go back to the depressed area and build a new Coli there…. with Oakland’s money.
@ RM – Sorry for the OT. Although I understand what Beane and Co. is trying to do to maximize profits when (not if) Cisco Field opens in SJ by tearing the team apart, I’m not as inclined to agree to that Marlins West philosophy. Wouldn’t the MLBPA get on the A’s case, as they did the Marlins for this blatant attempt at minimizing the players salary? Maybe, the MO could be instead to just continually lease 1 year rentals on players (a la the Thomas’, Piazzas, and Matsuis of the world) and continually develop the young guys at the MLB level though. Something in me finds this somewhat unethical as it relates to “how the game” should be played.
@Tony D. – I worked on the material for much of the weekend. I often don’t get a feel for writing posts until late at night. It’s how I work.
@Anon – These things don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Beane doesn’t have to sell off everyone. Besides it’s unlikely that the A’s will be able to keep more than two of the new Big 3 pitchers anyway.
I’d love to see Gio signed to a deal like Cahill’s. I think if Anderson can come back and fulfill at least 80% of his potential he’d be a bargain.
Apologies for the above off topic stuff, everyone.
I wonder, with Choice, Taylor, Weeks, Carter, Allen, and the new dude from Kansas City whose name escapes me right now… Is it possible that some of those dudes will at least provide some offensive production? Enough to allow for a splurge on a bat, please?
@jk-usa – I’ll be happy to pay for the experience. As for the food and amenities, Wolff is on the record as encouraging people to eat and imbibe in Downtown SJ before and after the game.
@all – You keep straying, I’ll keep deleting.
@Jeffrey – you last said you were looking for “clarity” on the rumblings (re: the EIR). Have you found clarity? Because you just stated that the Oakland EIR “hasn’t started”. Is that a hunch, or what?
David, I strongly believe it hasn’t started. We can chat offline about why.
The whole situation feels disingenuous; once ML had mentioned last week about how the Angels and Giants are getting that revenue now, I lost hope that the new ballpark would be a change in mindset. How exactly would they be able to compete if they won’t spend their own cash? All this ends up being is asset flipping because they’re still left with the same ratio of revenue to expenditures.
I come back to the fact that Wolff would not accept terms of ownership that forced him to stay in an area without his own ability to induce a change of circumstance. This is where I think Ratto has credence, in that If Wolff can’t do the previous financial plan with the adjoined housing component at Diridon, he’s got to come up with the money from somewhere else.
And there goes another mention of top-ten picks as the panacea when the reality is that there is much more the A’s could do than just balancing on one pillar. It’s more like the A’s need to have a top-notch player development system which would force them to make better decisions in conjunction with top picks, international free agent signings, and better management of the 25 man roster, all of which do not require a top payroll to do. The Haren trade to the D’Backs alone was 4 years worth of top ten picks but all but one of those players wasn’t squandered.
@Genaro – It’s simple. As long as they are consistently being heavily funded with other teams’ money (revenue sharing), any bold moves are discouraged. Wolff is a go-along-to-get-along guy, so he wouldn’t stray from that. Once a team has lifted yourself up by its own bootstraps, they have the freedom to start spending – even go into Haas/Ilitch territory if you like. It’d be much more manageable if the free agents they chose to sign were their own. Call it nefarious, disingenuous, whatever you like. There is an obvious code to the way business is done, and if the A’s want more freedom they have to show they’re more worthy of that freedom from a bottom line standpoint.
What do you consider “bold moves?”
@Genaro – Any contract that involves nine figures. Trading for Joey Votto makes more sense. Taking a gamble on Grady Sizemore might make sense, as would re-signing Josh Willingham. Let’s remember a couple of things:
* Josh Willingham had no trade value at the All Star Break due to injury, and he was handled with kid gloves the rest of the season. If he weren’t re-signed that reasoning would be understandable.
* The three free agent sluggers Beane went after prior last offseason (Willingham, Beltre, Berkman) were the only ones who weren’t busts. The org’s record isn’t spotless, but in that regard it was quite sound.
Regardless, this discussion of player personnel is not the main thrust of the post, only an aside.
I don’t think this is immaterial to your post; you’re speaking about Wolff’s revenue projection just matching the general increase in revenue and the question becomes what are we really looking at in terms of what the A’s can do in fielding a team.
You mentioned the attempted free agent signings as bold moves that would be discouraged yet the A’s attempted those twice just this past season(Willingham was traded for). Decisions made with the same-or-worse ratio of revenue so the restraint still conforms to doing more with less. That’s what’s most unfortunate about this rebuilding speak because are they really going to be making better decisions or is it an attempt at a mulligan?
@Genaro – Those weren’t bold moves. Not nine figures.
Oh, I read that first paragraph as items in addition to nine figure contracts.
@ML–if LW/JF ever went into Haas/Ilitch territriory, I’d buy everyone on this board a steak dinner. It will never ever happen. Just spending 2/3rds of the revenue sharing would be a miracle, but they pocket 2/3rds of it, or 20-22 mill profit a year instead. Lew’s getting up there in years, 76 I think, and wouldn’t he want to just go for it for a couple years to get a ring before he passes on, or is making a certain profit margin more important?
Wolff put pressure on Beane to win in 2009, and it turned out miserably with the Holliday-Gonzalez deal. At this point, just reading his interviews, the new stadium is the most important thing to him.
@jk – you’ll be buying us all steak dinners around 2015-2017 then, but then again, you won’t be an A’s fan anymore when they move to SJ. As far as revenue sharing and expenditures, the A’s are last in the league in attendance, probably near there in revenue, yet outspend 1/3 of the league year and year out. I don’t recollect any VC proponents offering their salaries to make it happen (heck no one has offered any money at all lol), so why should LW?
@Anon–how do you figure I’ll be buying everybody steak dinners in 2015-17? He’d have to spend at least 60% of revenue on payroll, or around $135 mill. No way in San Jose that will happen (or at VC/New Coli) for that matter). Like Rick Tittle said last week on his show: “The A’s run their team like a Target: money in money out.” Sometimes in sports you have to go against that and do the unthinkable and spend a little more than you’re comfortable with. You may get some good results. If, heaven forbid, the A’s do go to SJ, the last few years in Oakland are gonna be real sad. Guaranteed 29th or 30th in attendance (at least Wolff’s consistent in that category), lackluster team (Wolff’s specialty), out of the hunt by June (par for the course), and Wolff just concerned about his little bandbox in SJ.
@jk – I think it will be 30th period, challenging levels not seen since the 70’s.
@Columbo–it will be a battle with TB for last place in attendance again, since MIA should be much better with their new park. BUT, the A’s do have a better schedule next year with more Yanks and Bosox games. Lifting the tarps for those premium games(and Giants games) may help beef up those games numbers some, but Wolff won’t have it.
A.s didn’t sell out the Yankee$ games even with the tarps on this past season, no? Are we again getting into the same argument about how uncovering 10,000 more seats that would just remain empty would somehow benefit the team? What would help the A’s is a groundbreaking on the San Jose ballpark, so fans can know their team isn’t leaving the Bay Area. People that refuse to make the drive 35 miles south, well, we’ll find plenty of new fans in the South Bay…
I agree with ML we are off topic.
He spent some real time on these #s and he is almost dead on it my opinion. I still think 230M as an average is a bit high for 2015. I think the # will be 210-215M, even so it is still in the ballpark easily.
@ML- My apologies as I missed the median piece on your graphs above. You took that into account 100%.
In reality guys even a VC ballpark would not net 230M in revenue with the Giants 12 miles away. Premium seating would be impossible to sell along with corporate sponsorships.
In San Jose those two will sell all day long and Wolff will have money to burn and you will see a different situation than the sad one we see today in Oakland.
The A’s can no longer play “Moneyball” as their secret is out all over MLB as Beane has pointed out. They need more revenue so he can work his “magic”.
With Cisco Field Beane will have all the resources he needs to field competitive teams year in and year out. Keep players for the long run and have a successful long term plan in place.
The A’s would be a big-market team playing second fiddle to another team (Mets, Angels, White Sox)….difference is in San Jose their revenue, value, and payroll would finally be on the same mark as those teams.
Yankees, Dodgers, Giants, and Cubs will always be the primary teams in their markets. The A’s unlike the Mets, Angels, and White Sox are the only team not in top 10 in value in the league.
That needs to change…..San Jose is the only way….Too bad Selig sucks.
Sid, you need to look at the charts again; the numbers say that the A’s will still be close to the same ratio of revenue compared to the average team. Beane will still be forced to make decisions that the top payroll teams aren’t bothered with.
@pjk–.Yanks sold out the first game of the 3 game weekday series this year. I was there, look it up–35k+.
Next year they have them for a 3 game weekend series in May and a 4 game Thur–Sunday series in July. Bosox for a 3 game weekday series in July and 3 game weekend series in August. They just had them for 2 days on the weekday this year and pulled in 25 and 29k.
You and Wolff may not care, but it’s frickin embarrassing to be in last place in attendance again. If it can be avoided by lifting the tarps for a bunch of games next year, I’d say do it damnit!!!.
@Sid-3324- are you a new Sid, or the same controversial Sid? Anyways, i will stay on topic and question some of your figs. VC planned to have more seats, 39k, than Cisco’s 32k, and less premium seating than Cisco, so it may be a push there revenue wise, for the first few years at least. That’s quite an assumptiion that premium seating and sponsorship will sell all day long at Cisco. And Wolff having money to burn then. He has money to burn now by revenue sharing, but refuses to spend it on more player payroll or his exisiting venue.
JK. So the A’s did not sell out two of the three Yankee$ games, even with the tarps on. OK. No need to remove the tarps, obviously. A’s are in last place in attendance because of the traditional weak support in the East Bay. Nothing to do with Wolff, who has so many giveaways and perks that still fail to draw in fans, I can’t even go through them all here. For reference on A’s traditional weak attendance see: 2006, A’s finish in MLB’s Top 4, rank 26th in attendance. A’s should move to San Jose, where the comparable, the Sharks, are smash-hit successes at the gate 2 decades long…
Second and third Yankee$ at A’s games in 2011: 13,000 and 10,000 short of sellouts, even with the tarps on. Yikes. Maybe it’s time to start tarping off parts of the second deck, too?
@jk The fact the A’s sold out one of three Yankees games in no way suggests they would have sold more tickets with the tarps off. The probability is, those who wanted to see a Yankees game and couldn’t get into the first game simply bought tickets for the second or third.
In other words, taking off the tarps wouldn’t have brought in more money, it just would have caused the A’s to incur more expenses.
“VC planned to have more seats, 39k, than Cisco’s 32k,”
Hah! You can’t say VC is “planned” to have more seats unless the owner, or something with financial responsibility, proposes such a thing. The VC proposal is being made by people with a private agenda and no skin in the game, spouting off about how they think Wolff and Fisher should spend their money. It’s never gonna happen, and if it did happen, it would have fewer seats than 39K for the same reasons Cisco Field will.
“and less premium seating than Cisco, so it may be a push there revenue wise”
This statement just shows a poor understanding of baseball economics (and basic math). Selling 7,000 more $20 upper deck seats doesn’t come close to making up for 5000 empty $100 club seats and 100 empty $4-5K suites. Never mind the fact that those upper deck seats cost more to build than the lower level, premium seats and will be the ones which sit empty most frequently. This, in a nutshell, is why a privately-financed ballpark will not be built in Oakland, by anyone.
“A’s should move to San Jose, where the comparable, the Sharks, are smash-hit successes at the gate 2 decades long…” The Warriors are a better comparison to the Sharks than the A’s, IMO.
re: the Warriors.
…But we already know the A’s draw poorly in Oakland. We’ve had several decades of factual evidence. We can’t say -” the Warriors tend to draw well in Oakland therefore the A’s will, too,” since we already know that the A’s don’t draw well.
@pjk – Fair enough. However, from a theoretical standpoint the same thing could be applied to the Sharks argument, i.e. “the Sharks tend to draw well in SJ therefore the A’s will too” is comparable to what you said was a weak argument for Oakland. The difference, as you pointed out, is that we have historical data for the A’s in Oakland whereas SJ data is all assumptive at this point. My personal opinion is that the Sharks argument for potential A’s attendance in SJ is complete guesswork at this point and that one does not necessarily follow the other.
..a bit off the subject, but Oakland’s police chief just resigned in apparent frustration after only 2 years on the job. Doesn’t give me a warm feeling that the folks in Oakland are the ones to get a new ballpark built there.
@Sid/Genaro – One thing I didn’t explain in the post is that I think the A’s will need to have substantially better media deals (TV & radio) if they want to hit the $230-240 million mark. I’m talking double what they might be getting now.
Hmm, was this not reflected in your summery chart? I thought it was; in any case, I wonder if the resolution of the Kings situation will happen with the A’s being able to buy-out their interests in CSNCA. The broadcast inequity is going to be the biggest difference for the A’s in terms of the Giants and Angels.
@Genaro – It’s somewhat buried in there so I wanted to emphasize it.
As I understand it the Kings have already sold their share of CSNCA back to Comcast as they struggled to raise cash over the last couple of years.
Interesting ML; that should force the issue in the next tv contract.