Sale StuffApril 17th, 2012 by terrybenish
Geoff Baker of the Times pushed a story from Baseball Prospectus about the Mariners being poised for sale. The link to Baker’s story and Baker’s story are below as is the link to BP’s story.
This is something that I have been following and digging around since last fall. From a real journalism perspective, the Times and Baker are being kind of cute. BP has no evidence, nor do they have anybody on record nor like Deep Throat, my Mariner source, name hopelessly stolen from Woodward and Bernstein, giving them deep secret stuff.
Like them I can read all the valuation presentations and see the overt actions of the ownership such as reducing payroll by not signing free agents and letting contracts roll off. They retain Ichiro for marketing purposes, here and Japan, despite the huge falloff in the level of his pay. The upcoming, and it’s a few years off, renegotiation of their TV deal with ROOTSports or some competitor is part of that market valuation.
It IS like a Tom Sawyer shuck and jive thing however in that clearly Lincoln/Armstrong and all marketing/hucksters they employ have Ichiro teed up for his 75th Bobble Head day celebration, which along with the Japan Trip are huge cash bonanzas.
Whoever buys the team has to consider shellacking Ichiro so that they can set him up in right field for people to come to Bobble Head days for years and fans from Japan can continue to come on pilgrimage to see him play. Years ago in old Yankee stadium they had monuments of old players on the field in deep left center that were in play. The Mariners could put him on a Pedestal out there at some point, alive or dead. In the old days at Yankee stadium, people could walk on the field after the game. The Mariners could do that and people could leave flowers or candles by Ichiro’s statue. The team could keep up the Bobble Head day too and sell flowers and candles to boot.
Sarcasm aside the reason the sale looks to be close on the horizon is that this group of executives would re-sign Ichiro now, while someone else, someone that has some kind of ties to MLB would not be pleased if that contract extension were in place. The Figgins experiment is all about dumping some or all of that salary commitment which would improve the net return from a sale.
More to come.
RED SOX STUFF: The Bobby Valentine Experiment is heating up. Everybody heard the Kevin Youkilis dust up where Valentine threw him under the bus on TV and Dustin Pedroia countered with this isn’t Japan anymore. Well tonight in two innings against the Rangers Valentine left Jon Lester in for 80 pitches in two plus innings. Forty eight in the second alone and another 20+ in the third when he got no one out. He was totally baked and done in the second and should have been removed during the inning let alone at the end of the inning. Lester is under contract through 2013 with a club option for 2014. I suspect that the Red Sox would like him pitching rather than rehabbing after surgery.
Baseball Prospectus story says Mariners “perfectly positioned” to be sold
Posted by Geoff Baker
Just in case you missed it, here’s my Talkin’ Baseball segment from today’s Mitch in the Morning show on Sports Radio 950 KJR.
We’ve been around this block quite a bit over the past several months, but now, Baseball Prospectus and well-known sports business analyst Maury Brown have collaborated on a piece taking a look at the Mariners.
Brown’s conclusion is that — while he has no direct evidence the team is for sale — the Mariners are “perfectly positioned” for that exact thing to happen. Yes, he quotes some of our paper’s past work on this issue, but the interesting new stuff to read concerns the franchise’s value and where it now rests in light of the recent $2.15-billion sale price fetched by the Dodgers.
Remember that high-end evaluation of the team’s worth during the Chris Larson divorce trial? That $750-million figure? Brown feels — and shows via comparisons with other clubs — that it was probably right on the money.
One thing I can tell you is that, having sat in on parts of the Larson divorce hearings, everyone in the court seemed in general agreement that the Mariners were worth more than the San Diego Padres.
So, as Brown points out, if the Padres do ultimately fetch $700 million in a sale, then that $750 million figure for the Mariners will likely become reality. And that $641-million figure placed on the team by the judge in the Larson case will seem conservative indeed.
Other factors cited by Brown are worth taking note of. Namely, the team’s future payroll commitments and continued shedding of long-term contracts. The last of those will be out of the way just in time for the team to reap the rewards of an expected new television deal.
Oh yeah, the team’s debt load. This got overlooked by many in the recent Forbes valuations, but the Mariners were said to be carrying a debt-to-value ratio of zero. That, by the way, is the best of any of the MLB teams. Naturally, since it’s tough to get any lower than zero, but no other team has an identical score.
And that debt is unlikely to grow any time soon since the team — have we mentioned this? — continues to cut payroll to ensure that it won’t spend more than it takes in (or burn through their substantial cash reserves) as attendance keeps dropping off due to the fact the team lost 196 games the past two years.
“If ownership is not in a position to (or does not desire to) pour money into the roster with cash calls, the light and easily managed contract structures that the club has in place make it attractive to a would-be buyer,” Brown writes.
Yes, the Mariners are rebuilding. And that’s a darned good thing for them because auditioning several young, cheap players at once supplies the catch-all excuse for the next several years as to why they won’t spend — or ask owners for any cash injections to speed the rebuilding up — as the calendar slowly counts down to that much-awaited TV windfall. Check out what Brown has to say about the team’s TV territory, also something we haven’t covered as much in this paper.
Anyhow, enjoy the read. It will tell you plenty about what
is really going on with this team behind those legally-mandated
yearly profit/loss statements.