On the verge of a sale, Tampa Yanks could move to Orlando

Game 136: Can they make it eight?
Marte may be headed for shoulder surgery

The New York Yankees are in talks to sell part of the Single A Tampa Yankees to an Orlando businessman. If the partnership deal goes through, the Yanks’ representative in the Florida State League would likely move to Florida, but the big league club will continue to use Steinbrenner Field in Tampa for its Spring Training home.

At a press conference Wednesday, Orlando businessman Armando Gutierrez Jr. and the Yanks confirmed days of speculation about the potential sale. Gutierrez expressed his desire to bring the Tampa Yankees to the Orlando area but stressed that his deal covers just the minor league team. “You’re not losing spring training. That would be my comment to Tampa,” Gutierrez said.

The Yankees in a statement echoed Gutierrez. “These exploratory conversations will have no impact on the Yankees’ Spring Training facility or the Major League team,” the team said.

In the world of Central Florida, Gutierrez is an intriguing figure. He’s 28 and the son of a wealthy Cuban-American scion. He had been running for Congress as a Republican to fill a vacant House seat but recently dropped that bid to pursue this baseball opportunity. Earlier this year, he spoke at length about bringing a Major League franchise to Orlando, but it seems as though he’s willing to settle for a Class A team instead. “You have a chance to see an 18- or 19-year-old Derek Jeter before he becomes a Hall of Famer,” Gutierrez said of the Minor League affiliate.

Despite this public proclamation, though, a move is no sure thing. The biggest hurdle would, of course, be a stadium deal. “Until we secure a site, there’s still a chance that this could not happen,” Gutierrez said. “But if the county works with us to get us a site, we will make this happen.”

The Orlando Mayor Rich Crotty said a press conference earlier this week that the county has available approximately 12-15 acres of a 29-acre site that could be used for the stadium, but talks for that land are in the very early stages. The land may also be taken over as part of Florida’s ambitious high-speed rail plans, leaving Gutierrez left empty-handed. “I’m not going to go at this in a helter-skelter way,” Crotty said. “As usual, we’ll exercise a lot of due diligence. We’ll make sure that the taxpayers are well-protected and that if we do participate with a land donation in terms of a lease, there will be a return on investment to our citizens in terms of sales-tax collections and so on.”

Even with the land in hand, Gutierrez would have to foor the bill for construction costs. Orlando isn’t going to build a stadium with taxpayer money, and Gutierrez vaguely said he had “multiple options” when it came to carrying the stadium costs. No deal, in other words, is imminent.

Before any potential deal is completed, Gutierrez and the Yanks would have to secure approval from numerous bodies within baseball. The Florida State League and its clubs, Minor League Baseball and Bud Selig’s office all must weigh in on the deal. These hurdles, however, are generally considered nothing more than a formality. The other complicated pieces have to fall into place well before either side grows too concerned with Major League Baseball approval.

Interestingly, this move appears to be the first major one taken by the Steinbrenner family in the wake of George’s death. The team hasn’t said too much about any potential sale, and Hank, Hal, Jessica and Jennifer have been largely silent. They sent Felix Lopez, a team vice president and Jessica’s husband, to the press conference. Still, it appears as though the family may look to consolidate its holdings and focus on the Big League club. One day, they might look to sell the Yankees, but for now, only the Tampa franchise is on the block.

Game 136: Can they make it eight?
Marte may be headed for shoulder surgery
  • http://twitter.com/stophamm3rtime Dela G

    damn, i wish george was around to block this himself

    • whozat


      unless you live in Tampa and go to a lot of a-ball games, this is irrelevant.

      • Gonzo

        I gotta agree with Dela G after reading that great minor league article about the minors. It was mentioned that George would actually watch minor league games and make calls if there were players with ripped uni’s. He made sure that they had the best funded minor league system in baseball in terms of equipment. This sale would probably mean an end to that for the Orlando Yankees.

        • whozat

          The Trenton Thunder, Charleston Riverdogs, and Scranton-Wilkes Barre Yankees are all not owned by the Yankees. The Columbus Clippers weren’t either, which is where the AAA affiliate was for a huge chunk of George’s tenure as owner.

          So, no. This sale would absolutely NOT signal the end of that for the Orlando Yankees.

          • Gonzo

            Except they probably make money. But it’s cool, you seem married to your view.

            • Gonzo

              Also, this will be the first new owner that will never know George’s will. However, I am sure you KNOW nothing will change, so please reply thusly.

  • Andy In Sunny Daytona

    It still won’t happen until 2012.

  • Andy In Sunny Daytona

    Maquinito in downtown Orlando is a dangerous thing.

  • Chris

    What is the current ownership situation with the Tampa Yankees? Is it owned 100% by the major league team? I didn’t know that any major league teams owned their minor league affiliates…

    • hornblower

      The Yankees own the Tampa club. It is a loss leader. I was at a game this summer. It cost $4 and parking was free. The crowd was about 400. Opening the park probably cost more than they made. Why not let someone else lose money while they get the benefit of player development?
      I doubt if it is at all related to selling the Yanks.

      • YankeesJunkieinMadrid

        Tampa does not really like attend the games of good ball teams, but if it is the Bucs then everyone goes to the games. Can’t wait til A-Rod and Pettitte make their rehab starts in the minors. Honestly, if they went down to Tampa and just utterly dominated for two games that would be great to watch.

        • http://www.teamnerdrage.com dr mrs the yankee

          The FSL just has bad attendance period. Worst full season in MiLB by a mile, and worst non-rookie league attendance.

  • Jon in Cyclist-Unfriendly Orlando

    I remember reading somewhere that a Yankee official pegged the chances of a deal at 5%. Certainly there’s a lot to do, but these Orlando guys will do everything possible to complete the sale.

    I’d love to have this deal go through, simply for convenience reasons, though the area they’re discussing is pretty far from where I live and really sucks to get to.

  • http://nutballgazette.blogspot.com/ Larry

    I live in the Orlando Area, There is no way this is going to happen unless Armando Gutierrez Jr. builds a Stadium on his own property with all his own money or partners, There is no way Orange County or The City of Orlando will spend a dime on this project, besides the team even a Yankee farm Team will draw less than 500 fans a game.

    • Jon in Cyclist-Unfriendly Orlando

      Probably true. The political climate in Florida right now is not very conducive to a taxpayer-financed park, the Marlins stadium notwithstanding.

      There are two highly competitive Orlando-area congressional races going on right now – I wouldn’t be surprised if this became a minor political issue (especially since Gutierrez was a candidate for one of the seats until he dropped out earlier this year.) Any hint of taxpayer-financing and it’ll get noticed.

  • YankeesJunkieinMadrid

    I am honestly sort of surprised by the lack of people that go to the TY games just because of the number of fans in the area. I know if I was a Yankees fan that I would at least go to five or six games just to watch a Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances, etc. type player.

  • pat

    They probably make more money during Spring Training games than every TY home game put together.