Forbes: Yankees most valuable team in baseball at $3.4 billion


On Wednesday, Forbes released their annual MLB franchise valuations, and for the 19th season in a row, the Yankees are the most valuable franchise in the sport. They’re worth at least $3.4 billion. The Dodgers are a very distant second at $2.5 billion. That’s some gap, huh? The Red Sox are third at $2.3 billion. The Giants and Cubs are the only other clubs over $2 billion.

That $3.4 billion covers only the Yankees and the ballpark. Yankee Global Enterprises, which includes the YES Network and Legends Hospitality, is worth much more. Here’s more from Forbes:

The New York Yankees, worth at least $3.4 billion, have held MLB’s top spot since our first estimation of team values in 1998. That $3.4 billion represents just the enterprise value of the team and its stadium economics. But in reality, a big reason why someone would be willing to pay seven times revenue for the Yankees instead of, say, the MLB average of five times revenue, is the ability to extend the team’s brand, acumen and relationships beyond baseball into ventures such as Legends Hospitality, the YES Network, Major League Soccer and college football (full disclosure: I am co-host of Forbes SportsMoney on the YES Network).

Ancillary businesses are what separate the big boys (teams worth over $2 billion) from their less valuable rivals because MLB’s 30 teams equally share 27% of the league’s overall revenue, versus 65% for the NFL. This is why big market teams with business models that reach beyond the diamond dominate the top of our rankings.

The Yankees generated $516M in revenue last season even after paying out revenue sharing, and again, that’s only the Yankees and the ballpark. Whatever they made from YES and everything else is on top of that. (Non-baseball revenue is not subject to revenue sharing.) The team’s operating income was $13M in 2015.

MLB as a whole is insanely healthy financially. The average team is worth $1.3 billion, an increase of 7% from a year ago, and player costs (salaries, benefits, etc.) totaled $4.4 billion in 2015. The average franchise value has increased 146% over the last five years, which blows my mind. Much of that has to do with all the new massive television deals being handed out. Owning a baseball team is pretty great work if you can it.

The Yankees’ franchise value is up from $3.2 billion last year. They were valued at $2.5 billion in 2014, $2.3 billion in 2013, $1.85 billion in 2012, $1.7 billion in 2011, and $1.6 billion in 2010. The huge jump in franchise value from 2014 to 2015 was thanks in part to baseball’s new national television deals, as well as the sale of 80% of YES to News Corp.

The Rays, not the Yankees, appear to be Derek Jeter’s best opportunity to join an ownership group

Derek and Rob go to Cuba. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty)
Derek and Rob go to Cuba. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

Earlier this week, Derek Jeter was part of MLB’s contingent in Cuba for the Rays’ exhibition game against the Cuban National Team. Tampa Bay won the game 4-1, though the trip was about much more than that. MLB wanted to make some inroads in Cuba and help grow the youth baseball landscape, and the trip also served a diplomatic purpose as President Obama, who was also on the trip, seeks to normalize relations between the U.S. and Cuba.

Among the other ex-Yankees to join Jeter in Havana were MLB executive Joe Torre and MLBPA executives Tony Clark and Dave Winfield. During yesterday’s game, Jeter sat down with the ESPN booth for a lengthy interview, and during that interview he reiterated his desire to get back into baseball as an owner.

“I needed to be away from the game for a year,” said Jeter (video link). “I didn’t watch too many games at all — obviously I have a lot of friends that are still playing, so I follow them, I communicate with them, I talk with them — but in terms of sitting down and following the game, I haven’t done it. But I’m going to start doing it again because I’ve always been very vocal about my next goal and desire is to be a part of an ownership, so I have to start paying attention.”

The Cap’n joked he doesn’t have the money to be considered for an ownership group — “Do you know much these teams cost?” he said — and added he is very early in the process of getting his foot in the ownership door. “The first step is sitting next to (commissioner Rob Manfred). I’m trying to get on his good side and hopefully get that opportunity,” added Jeter.

Jeter first acknowledging owning a team is “the next goal” back in June 2014, when he was still playing. I’ve always sorta assumed that when the time did come, the Steinbrenners would allow Jeter to purchase a chunk of the Yankees, but it’s not really that simple. First and foremost, the Steinbrenners say they aren’t selling the team, and it seems unlikely Derek would have much control with the Yankees. Does Jeter seem like the type to settle for being a figurehead owner? Nah. Buster Olney (subs. req’d) has more:

After it was announced that Jeter would be part of Major League Baseball’s entourage to Cuba, there was a fair amount of buzz within the industry that this might be the latest indication that Jeter will eventually but inevitably join the Tampa Bay Rays’ ownership group.

Two MLB sources say they have not heard anything substantive about a Jeter-Rays link, so for now this appears to be a rumor without substance. But the speculation makes sense in some ways: Jeter lives in Tampa, and he would be a perfect agent for change whenever the Rays reach a turning point in their ballpark situation, in the way that Magic Johnson was the right guy to be part of the Dodgers’ new ownership group in L.A. Jeter carries star power and credibility, of course, which will only grow once he is inducted into the Hall of Fame. It’s easy to envision Jeter having power as a lobbyist for a team looking for a new ballpark situation.

The Rays recently received clearance from the City of St. Petersburg to begin looking for ballpark sites in the Tampa area, and they’re currently reviewing sites. This is step one in what figures to be a very long process in getting the Rays a new ballpark. They’ve got to find a site, get approval from all relevant parties, figure out the financing, then design and build the ballpark. That ain’t happening overnight.

The Rays represent the best opportunity for Jeter to get in on the ground floor of something big. It doesn’t seem MLB will be expanding anytime soon, at least not before the Rays get a new ballpark, so this is the best chance to buy into a team and immediately have some impact. Jeter lives in the Tampa area and he could be part of the ballpark process. He could play a major role right away.

Rays owner Stu Sternberg is a New Yorker — he grew up in Brooklyn and now lives in Westchester — so he’s seen Jeter’s star power up close. Sternberg has talked about potentially selling parts or all of the team if they don’t get a new ballpark soon, and letting Jeter in could help the stadium cause. Jeter would certainly add some name recognition to the franchise. Heck, he’d be their popular player as an owner.

It would be weird to see Jeter as part of the ownership group of another club, especially an AL East rival, but it’s not something that is impossible. Not even close. The Yankees and Jeter don’t owe each other anything. He has every right to look for ownership opportunities around the league and the Steinbrenners have every right to run their organization as they see fit. They don’t have to sell him anything.

For now, it seems like we’re a long way away from Jeter buying into a team. Manfred and the owners have to approve any ownership candidate, though I doubt Jeter will have trouble there. It’s just a question of finding the money and finding the right opportunity. Right now, the Rays appear to present more of an opportunity than the Yankees.

Ackley & Hicks: The New & Important Bench Players [2016 Season Preview]

Smackley. (Presswire)
Smackley. (Presswire)

Since the end of last season, Joe Girardi and the Yankees have said they need to give their regulars more rest going forward so they remain productive all season. Last year’s second half offensive collapse was not something anyone wants to go through again. More rest is the key — or at least the Yankees think it’s the key — which means the bench will be vital in 2016.

The Yankees currently have two open bench spots: the backup catcher and the backup third baseman. The other two spots will be occupied by fourth outfielder Aaron Hicks and utility man Dustin Ackley. Both are former tippy top prospects — prior to the 2010 season, Ackley ranked 11th and Hicks ranked 19th on Baseball America’s top 100 list — who fell out of favor with their former teams, so the Yankees scooped them up while their stock was down. Where do they fit this season? Let’s preview.

The Super Utility Guy

I am irrationally excited about Ackley heading into the season. I know I shouldn’t be, but dammit, I have that bug. Ackley tweaked some things at the plate after coming over last year and he’s hitting rockets all over the field this spring. (Ackley struck out for the first time yesterday, in his 32nd plate appearance.) The raw hitting ability is there, we saw it late last season, and Ackley being good now would be wonderful for Mariners trolling purposes.

In all seriousness, the Yankees acquired Ackley because at worst, he was an upgrade over Garrett Jones, and at best, he’s an everyday player with first round talent. His arm prevents him from playing the left side of the infield, but Ackley will back up at first and second bases, and also serve as the fifth outfielder. He’s also a left-handed hitter with the propensity to pull the ball in the air. I mean, look:

2013: 32.2% pull / 27.0% fly balls
2014: 37.4% pull / 36.6% fly balls
2015: 43.5% pull / 40.3% fly balls

That is exactly the kind of batted ball profile and trend that will play in Yankee Stadium. Like I said, I’m irrationally excited to see what Ackley can do this season. The problem: when is he going to play? He plays positions that are pretty well occupied.

For Ackley to get playing time, he’s either going to have to force the issue with his bat, or hope the Yankees are true to their word when it comes to giving the veteran players more rest. Spots could always open via injury, but no one wants that. It seems like the best case scenario for Ackley is one game at first base and one game at second base a week. His only outfield time figures to come in blowouts or in emergencies. Not great, but what can you do?

Bench players can be hit or miss because they don’t play regularly and for the most part they work in small sample sizes. Unpredictable things happen under those circumstances. If nothing else, Ackley offers the illusion of upside — he just turned 28 and he is former top prospect — and is a versatile left-handed bat. If he’s nothing more than the 24th man on the roster, so be it. I think there’s the potential for more.

The New Fourth Outfielder

The Yankees had a great fourth outfielder last season. Chris Young annihilated lefties, held his own against righties, and played rock solid defense. He was awesome. It was also kind of tough to expect similar performance going forward. Last season was Young’s best offensive year overall since 2009 and his best year against lefties ever. The Yankees didn’t want to bet two years and $13M he would do it again. The Red Sox did.

Hicksie. (Presswire)
Hicksie. (Presswire)

Instead, the Yankees acquired Hicks from the Twins in exchange for John Ryan Murphy. Hicks is only 26, he has four years of team control remaining, he’s a switch-hitter, and he’s an outstanding defender with a cannon arm. That is a pretty desirable player, wouldn’t you say? Hicks has yet to gain consistency at the MLB level — Minnesota did him no favors by skipping him right over Triple-A — which is why he was available. The Twins got tired of waiting.

There are indications Hicks is close to breaking out. He added a leg kick last season and improved his selectivity; PitchFX data shows he swung at way more pitches in the zone without substantially increasing the number of swings he took on pitches out of the zone. Hicks is a switch-hitter who has been better from the right side of the plate, and now he’s moving into ballpark that rewards left-handed hitters.

The Yankees are planning to play Hicks and play him often. As you know, the plan is to give the veteran players a little more rest this season, and that includes the starting outfielders. “I think Hicks has a chance to help those guys in spelling them and keeping them healthy and strong,” said Girardi at the Winter Meetings. Because he can switch-hit, Girardi doesn’t have to worry about platoon matchups when playing Hicks. Because he can play all three outfield spots, Girardi also can keep his regulars in their normal positions.

Last season Young batted 356 times and appeared in 140 games — he started 77 games — so the playing time will be there, especially since the plan is to rest the other outfielders a little more often. I could totally see a scenario in which Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury start four out of every five games in the outfield, and Carlos Beltran starts three out of every five games in the outfield. Something like this:

Day One: LF Gardner, CF Ellsbury, RF Beltran (Hicks on bench)
Day Two: LF Gardner, CF Ellsbury, RF Hicks (Beltran on bench)
Day Three: LF Hicks, CF Ellsbury, RF Beltran (Gardner on bench)
Day Four: LF Gardner, CF Hicks, RF Beltran (Ellsbury on bench)
Day Five: LF Gardner, CF Ellsbury, RF Hicks (Beltran at DH)

That make sense? Gardner, Ellsbury, and Hicks would be starting four out of every five games in the outfield, and Beltran would be starting three out of every five games in the outfield plus one more at DH. The Yankees would effectively have four regular outfielders. Hicks would be getting as much playing time as the veterans.

It’s not quite that simple, of course. At some point someone is going to get hot and it’ll be tough for Girardi to take that player out of the lineup. It’s going to happen a bunch of times across a 162-game season. That rotation seems like a great idea until, say, Gardner is on a 15-for-30 hot streak and the Yankees have lost four of five because they’ve scored eight runs total, know what I mean? You know that’s going to happen at some point.

The Yankees want to develop Hicks into an everyday player and that’s not going to happen without at-bats. They want to rest the regulars and they want to play Hicks. This seems like it will be simple enough. Will it work? We’ll see. Hicks needs to build on the strides he made offensively last season and continue to play excellent defense, because even when he doesn’t start, he’s going to come off the bench to replace Beltran in the late innings.

The Yankees won’t say it, but the rotation is already lined up for the regular season


Opening Day is only ten days away now. Soon the mundane monotony of Spring Training will be replaced by meaningful games that have a real impact on the standings. We can celebrate wins and lament losses. The very best and the very worst thing about baseball is that it’s every day. Soon the every day games will mean something.

Joe Girardi and the Yankees have not yet announced their rotation for the start of the season, which is not a big deal at all, though they do seem to be going to great lengths to keep the rotation order secret. The team claims the fifth starter’s spot is up for grabs and the closest Girardi has come to announcing Masahiro Tanaka will start Opening Day is that we “could surmise” it.

“We’ve kind of thought about (the rotation order), but because we had so many things we were dealing with when we came back this spring, we didn’t have anything set in stone,” said Girardi to Chad Jennings yesterday. “We’re starting to try to line them up. Obviously you have to figure out who your Opening Day guy is, and then you go from there. We have to iron out the fifth starter situation, too. We don’t have an exact order yet, but we’re happy with where the guys are.”

The rotation is not like the lineup. You can’t just move pieces into different spots on different days. Pitchers are on schedules and they have their throw days, they need a certain amount of rest, all that stuff. Especially this late in Spring Training. It’s a little too late in the game to be shifting pitchers around and disrupting schedules, you know? This is how the rotation is lined up at the moment:

Tuesday, March 22nd: Luis Severino (Nathan Eovaldi in a minor league game)
Wednesday, March 23rd: Tanaka
Thursday, March 24th: CC Sabathia
Friday, March 25th: Ivan Nova
Saturday, March 26th: Michael Pineda
Sunday, March 27th: Severino or Eovaldi (guessing Eovaldi starts to give Severino an extra day of rest)
Monday, March 28th: Severino or Eovaldi
Tuesday, March 29th: Tanaka and Sabathia in split squad games
Wednesday, March 30th: Nova
Thursday, March 31st: Pineda and a spot starter (Bryan Mitchell?) in split squad games
Friday, April 1st: Severino or Eovaldi (would have to be whoever starts the 27th)
Saturday, April 2nd: Severino or Eovaldi
Sunday, April 3rd: off-day

That lines Tanaka up to start Opening Day, April 4th, with an extra day of rest, which the Yankees prefer. April 5th is the typical post-Opening Day off-day, then Pineda is lined up perfectly to start the second game of the season on April 6th. He’s currently two days behind Tanaka on the spring schedule. Severino and Eovaldi are then lined up for the third and fourth game of the season — I’m guessing the veteran Eovaldi starts before the kid Severino — then Sabathia or Nova are in line for the fifth game. Make sense?

Will the Yankees actually start Sabathia in the fifth game of the season? It’s possible, sure. They would also have the option to start him earlier, perhaps in the third game of the season, given the way the schedule is laid out. Tanaka, Pineda, and Sabathia started the first three games of last season in that order. I guess Sabathia’s place — assuming he gets the rotation job, of course — could depend on the matchups. Would the Yankees rather have him face the Astros at home in the first series of the season, or the Tigers in Detroit in the second series?

My educated guess right now is the Yankees will start the season with Tanaka on Opening Day, followed by Pineda, Eovaldi, Sabathia, and Severino in that order. Should Nova actually beat out Sabathia for a rotation spot, as unlikely as that may be, I think he would be the fifth starter and Severino the fourth. I still have a hard time believing that will happen, but who knows. Maybe the Yankees will stash Sabathia on the DL to give him an extra long Spring Training.

In the grand scheme of things, the rotation order on Opening Day doesn’t mean a whole lot. The rotation at the end of the season and heading into the postseason is far more important. The Opening Day start is more ceremonial than anything. The Yankees are keeping their rotation a bit of a secret right now, which is fine. Given the way the pitching schedule is laid out right now though, it’s easy to see how things line up. Now the Yankees just have to make it official.

March 23rd Camp Notes: Ellsbury, Miller, Slade, Williams

The Yankees got spanked 13-0 by the Nationals earlier this evening. They committed four errors in the eighth inning alone, two by Cesar Puello. Ah, spring baseball. Masahiro Tanaka had his second straight rough outing, allowing seven runs on nine hits and a walk in four innings. He struck out three. Tanaka has one more Grapefruit League start to get things straightened out.

Not much happened offensively. Brett Gardner had two hits, and Dustin Ackley, Austin Romine, Rob Refsnyder, and Chris Denorfia had one each. Gardner also threw a runner out at the plate. This was some uninspired baseball. Here is the box score, here are the video highlights, and here are the day’s notes from Spring Training:

  • Jacoby Ellsbury (wrist) hit off a tee and soft toss today, and said he was “very happy” with the way things went. He is tentatively scheduled to play tomorrow, but he’s going to take batting practice first and they’ll see how he feels. [Chad Jennings, Erik Boland]
  • Michael Pineda threw his between-starts bullpen session and Andrew Miller threw a simulated inning. That’s notable because Miller pitched in last night game. This was his first time pitching back-to-back days this spring. [Jennings]
  • Slade Heathcott has a sore right (non-throwing) shoulder. It’s the kind of thing he could play through during the regular season, but there’s no reason to push it in March. Mason Williams (shoulder) is still taking batting practice and throwing from 90 feet. That’s all right now. Domingo German (elbow) has resumed throwing bullpens. [George King, Jennings]
  • Joe Girardi said “you could surmise” Tanaka will be the Opening Day starter. This is getting so silly that I assume it’s on purpose. Tanaka’s been lined up to start Opening Day since his first Grapefruit League appearance. [Ryan Hatch]
  • Shane Hennigan posted the day’s minor league lineups and workout groups, if you’re interested. Wilkerman Garcia is listed under rehabbing players for whatever reason. He was working out on the minor league side earlier in camp. Not sure what happened there.

The Yankees have another night game tomorrow, at home against the Rays. There is no broadcast for that game. CC Sabathia is the scheduled starter.

Spring Training Game Thread: Tanaka on the Road


Masahiro Tanaka is making the fourth of his five Grapefruit League starts this afternoon. He says he’s been struggling with fastball command this spring, which makes sense. He’s coming off surgery to remove a bone spur from his elbow and command is usually the last thing to come back following elbow surgery. Tanaka has two starts to iron it out.

In other news, Austin Romine is starting behind the plate, which is pretty notable. Romine caught Nathan Eovaldi in a minor league game yesterday and he’s catching Tanaka today. He’s also batting higher in the lineup than Gary Sanchez. I’m not saying Romine’s definitely getting the backup catcher’s job, but there are more and more signs pointing in that direction with each passing week.

The Yankees made the long cross-state trip to Viera to play the Nationals this evening. As you can imagine, they didn’t bring many regulars. They’re not going to send guys on long bus trips this late in camp if at all possible. Here is the Nationals’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Aaron Hicks
  3. 2B Dustin Ackley
  4. C Austin Romine
  5. 1B Chris Parmelee
  6. DH Gary Sanchez
  7. 3B Rob Refsnyder
  8. RF Chris Denorfia
  9. SS Ronald Torreyes
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

Available Pitchers: RHP Johnny Barbato, RHP Luis Cessa, RHP Nick Goody, LHP Tyler Olson, RHP Nick Rumbelow, RHP Anthony Swarzak, LHP Tyler Webb, and RHP Matt Wotherspoon are all on the trip according to Chad Jennings. I’m not sure who is scheduled to pitch after Tanaka though.

Available Position Players: C Carlos Corporan, C Francisco Diaz, IF Deibinson Romero, IF Pete Kozma, IF Tyler Wade, IF Donovan Solano, IF Jose Rosario, OF Cesar Puello, OF Juan Silva, and OF Lane Adams are all on the trip, says Jennings. No idea who’s going to come off the bench to play.

Today’s game will begin just after 5pm ET and the internet tells me it is mostly sunny with temperatures in the mid-70s in Viera. There is no YES Network broadcast of today’s game, but you will be able to watch live on MLB Network and There is no blackout for either, so yes, you watch on MLB Network in New York. And also MASN if you live in the Nats’ home market. Enjoy the game, ladies and germs.

A-Rod planning to retire following the 2017 season

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

This is not surprising but it’s still a bummer. Alex Rodriguez told Andrew Marchand today he is planning to retire following the 2017 season, once his current contract expires. “I won’t play after next year. I’ve really enjoyed my time. For me, it is time for me to go home and be dad,” he said. Is he the first player to announce his retirement two years in advance? Probably. That’s so A-Rod.

I have long assumed A-Rod’s playing career would end following the 2017 season one way or the other. Either he was going to retire and walk away, or teams would straight up collude him out of the game Barry Bonds style. He’s still persona non grata around the league, though the Yankees seem to be softening up a bit. Not that they have much of a choice.

Rodriguez has first ballot Hall of Fame credentials, though there is almost no chance he’ll be inducted into Cooperstown. He admitted to taking performance-enhancing drugs with the Rangers from 2001-03 and he was suspended the entire 2014 season due to his ties to Biogenesis. Bonds and Roger Clemens were never suspended and they haven’t come close receiving enough votes for the Hall of Fame. Hard to think Alex will get in.

A-Rod will turn 41 this July and he is one of the best players in history by any objective measure. He’s third all-time in RBI (2,055), fourth in home runs (687), 12th in bWAR (118.9), and 21st in hits (3,070). Rodriguez is only 27 dingers behind Babe Ruth for third on the all-time list, so he could pass the Great Bambino in the second half of this season. Hitting the 76 homers needed to pass Bonds for the all-time lead is unlikely but not completely impossible, I suppose.

During his eleven years with the Yankees — A-Rod has played more games with the Yankees (1,444) than he did with the Mariners and Rangers combined (1,275) — Alex has won two MVPs (2005 and 2007) and helped the team to the 2009 World Series title. He was a major factor in that 2009 postseason run too.

That homer is a top five moment in new Yankee Stadium history, right? The 2009 World Series, Derek Jeter‘s farewell walk-off and his 3,000th hit, Mariano Rivera‘s farewell … what else is there? Love him or hate him, damn has it been fun to watch A-Rod over the years. He’s a baseball playing machine.

A two-year farewell tour would be the most obnoxiously awesome thing ever, but that’s not going to happen. I’m not even sure A-Rod will get a one-year farewell tour. Either way, Rodriguez is one of the best players in history and he still has plenty of fans even though most seem to hate him. I’m going to miss Alex. Baseball will be way less interesting without him.