This is back-of-the-napkin type math based on a lot of assumption so please, do not attempt to cite the concluded numbers as final. They are, in essence, an educated guess that is founded from bits and pieces of available public information. But let’s use it to attempt to figure out why the Tigers are able to make it rain on the free agent market while the Twins are left counting pennies.
The Tigers recently signed Torii Hunter to a two-year, $26 million deal
. With that addition, Detroit now has five players under contract for 2013 who are scheduled to make $10 million or more for a grand total of $81 million. Plus, they have not completely ruled out extending pitcher Anibal Sanchez, who is seeking roughly $15 million per year
. How is it that the Tigers are spending small principalities worth of money while the Twins stand idly by and target the one or two-year bargains?
Detroit made approximately $93.93M at the gate last year (based on attendance multiplied by the $31 ticket price average sold). The Twins, on the other hand, made $91.74M (averaging $33 per ticket sold). That’s without taking into consideration advertising the stadium, suites, luxury boxes, concessions (which can range from $3.4 million to $20 million depending on the attendance and offerings
). Assuming the Tigers were one of the teams to make the higher end of that based on their competitiveness and relatively new stadium, with a payroll of $133 million in 2012, they likely came in $10 million short. Comparatively, the Twins who also likely made the higher end of the stadium-generated revenue from suites and concessions, could have potentially made $10 million in profits (without taking in to consideration the operating costs, farm system expenses, etc, etc).
Then there is the benefits of being a playoff team. According to research done by BizofBaseball.com’s Maury Brown
, teams can stand to make an average of $1 to $2 million per game in the playoffs. If we split the difference, the Tigers could have made approximately $19.5 million for the 13 games played in October. In addition to that, Brown notes, the real windfall is the revenue generated for the following year as the club receives additional season ticket requests, sponsorships and are able to leverage that if local TV/radio contracts are up in the air. With the Twins not making it into even playoff contention for the second straight season, undoubtedly season ticket sales and sponsorship requests are down. The Tigers can plan for additional revenues whereas the Twins will likely brace for some fallout.
The biggest difference maker between the two markets is the size of the TV contracts: The Tigers get an estimated $50M per season from their Fox Sports affiliate while the Twins are getting $29M per season.
So, rather than having an operating loss as described above, the Tigers have somewhere closer to a $60 million profit thanks to the playoffs and broadcast rights. The Twins, meanwhile, could have somewhere in the ballpark of $39 million – a difference of $21 million in favor of the Tigers. What’s more, both teams, starting in 2014, will receive $50 million from the MLB central fund because of the new television contracts with ESPN and TBS. This added bonus certainly is taken into consideration when teams and agents are projecting long-term contracts.
In the end, the Tigers could be poised to spend roughly $110 million (with some operating expenses removed) in 2014 while the Twins will be trying to compete with $89 million (with operating costs and what is certain to be a decline in ticket/stadium-based revenue).
While it is not at the level as Detroit, the Twins still have plenty of money to spend for 2013 (particularly when you consider how much they have dropped off their payroll from the 2012 season) so they should not be crying poor. Sure, the ownership may be pocketing this additional funds – and that’s their prerogative – but, based on my outsider calculations, there appears to be plenty of revenue to add a few of the game’s top free agents…if they wanted to.