Rays in Financial Trouble?

Nick Cafardo mentioned the following bit in his column this morning:

Carl Crawford, LF, Rays – The feeling is that if the Rays’ financial picture gets any gloomier, Crawford will be trade bait by the trading deadline or even earlier. In fact, both he and Carlos Pena could have new addresses at some point in the season.

I do not necessarily disagree that both players might find new homes this season if the Rays season does not work out as well as we all hope it does, but the context of the sentence disturbs me. This past April, Forbes stated the Rays had the 3rd largest gain in value from 2008 to 2009 trailing only the Yankees and the Mets who were both enjoying new revenue potential from new stadiums rather than any success on the playing field as both teams missed the playoffs in the 2008 season. The Forbes review of the Rays financial situation is actually quite impressive as the franchise had the:

  • Third highest change in value from 2008 to 2009
  • 9th best debt/value percentage in baseball and 5th best in the American League
  • 4th highest operating income at $29.4m

Additionally, the franchise’s value has increased from $176m to $320m and the team’s revenue has gone up $54m since Stu Sternberg and group purchased controlling interest in the franchise. The club’s attendance figures saw a 28% spike in the great 2008 season but just a 4% spike last year thanks to a sour economy that has hit the state of Florida and in particular the bay area very hard.  Steve Slowinski of DRaysBay tells us that baseball’s overall attendance was down 7% last season and the Rays were one of only eight teams to post an attendance increase in the 2009 season.

The current economic market likely keeps the club in Tropicana Field longer than any of us had hoped, but a simple scan of the club’s payroll future shows the situation would need just about everything to go wrong at once in order to get into dire straits. The 2010 payroll sits at approximately $72m but at the end of this season $36.5m of contracts from Pena, Crawford, Burrell, and Soriano come off the books that currently represent 50% of the club’s payroll. Burrell is easily replaceable, Desmond Jennings awaits a spot in the outfield, and Soriano’s closer role could be filled by a plethora of arms in the organization. Pena’s situation is the only one that needs to be addressed as the club currently lacks a clear replacement for him long term. I feel these moves would be inevitable for any team facing this type of contractual situation and are not related to any supposed gloomy financial picture of the Tampa Bay Rays.

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About Jason Collette

Writer/Analyst
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2 Responses to Rays in Financial Trouble?

  1. Kericr says:

    The Rays didn’t just post an attendance increase mind you, but an increase where they raised the average ticket price. They also saw a spike in TV revenue and merchandising. Pretty sure this is just more uninformed, cliche’d sportswriter talk with little basis in the reality of today.

  2. That’s a great point! I neglected to include the ticket price spike from 08 to 09. I do think fans need to continue to step up so the front office can take the payroll to the next level, but that article would have been more appropriate for 2004.

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