Baer softens stance, new San Jose rumor emerges

Earlier today, Giants CEO Larry Baer was on the MLB Network show Clubhouse Confidential, reflecting on World Championships and Barry Bonds, when he spoke briefly about the A’s and their continuing ballpark problem. A couple of sharp observers were watching closely, including KCBS’s Joe Salvatore.

Fangraphs’ Wendy Thurm also picked up on this, and I was quick to reply:

I later qualified things:

So here’s what I know. Remember how Bud Selig imposed a gag order on both ownership groups going back over a year ago? That went part and parcel with the Commish bringing (forcing?) both parties to the table. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve heard from multiple sources that Selig apparently has other team owners lined up and ready to approve a move to San Jose. The remaining issue is, naturally, compensation to the Giants. Effectively, we can consider the battle half over for the pro-San Jose forces. Getting Giants ownership to back down from their no-negotiation stance is a major development. That said, determining proper compensation for the rights to the South Bay is not expected to be a picnic. Prior to this latest set of rumors, I had heard that the Giants were seeking $200 million or more to cede San Jose. In keeping with the A’s giving away the South Bay in the first place 20 years ago, A’s ownership wanted to keep the payment as close to $0 as possible. With such a huge gap, it’s hard to know what number would be mutually acceptable for both parties. They may be subject to binding arbitration, which is sometimes the case when settling team-team or team-league disputes.

The remaining issue is one of timing. Lew Wolff has been pushing out a San Jose ballpark opening date, first to 2016 and now 2018. Unless there’s some newfound sense of urgency on his part, he’s probably in no hurry to pay money for something he won’t be able to claim for several years. He’s probably not willing to make a huge lump sum payment for the privilege either. Then there’s this upcoming season, which is the last at the Coliseum without a new lease extension, and there have been no real talks about an extension to date other than Wolff’s request for a five-year deal. So there has to be determination of when to make an announcement that doesn’t impact the A’s finances and their status in Oakland in the interim. For those and related reasons, no one should expect an announcement anytime soon. Chronicle beat writer Susan Slusser checked in with Lew Wolff and another source, and got this out of the owner:

If it happens for real, we won’t hear about it until it’s all done, approved by the owners and Selig. Until then, keep dreaming.

Added: A transcribed snippet of the Larry Baer-Brian Kenny interview:

KENNY: What’s the club’s view on the Oakland A’s attempt to go to San Jose?

BAER: Our view is that it’s really up to the commissioner and the baseball processes. We’re not involved talking about it. It’s really something that the commissioner has to sort out. Obviously the A’s need a new ballpark and we hope that they get one.

Note: Clubhouse Confidential is on MLB Network today at 4:30 and 9:30 PM.

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