Experts: the City of San Jose is delusional when it comes to the A's

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At least as far as the numbers go:

A recent analysis commissioned by the city — part of San Jose’s renewed quest to land the A’s — offers a rosy picture of the financial benefits such a stadium would bring.

But experts who study the economics of ballparks reviewed the numbers for the Mercury News and raised plenty of concerns. Chief among them: The cost for the city land the ballpark would be built upon is significant, they said. With three more parcels to buy, acquiring the land for the stadium over the years could amount to at least $42 million, according to a Mercury News analysis.

“You can’t come out saying that this doesn’t have a cost if all we’re supplying them (the A’s) is the land,” said Victor Matheson, associate professor of economics at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass. “The land is very valuable real estate.”

This is the central problem with any stadium plan, even the ones where the public outlay is intended to be minimal. In fact, it’s probably even worse in those cases.  If Whoville is going to actually build a stadium for the local nine, at least all of those expenditures are out in the open.  Sure, the final price will end up being higher than anyone predicted, but at least it will be sold to the public as “Whoville taxpayers to pay for stadium.”

In places like the Bay Area, where pure public funding is a political impossibility, there are all kinds of incentives to hide the ball with respect to just how much the taxpayers are actually going be hit for.  As the experts here note, nothing is free in this world, even when all of the politicians involved claim that it is.

I still think that San Jose is the right place for the A’s, and if I lived there, I don’t think I’d have a problem with some minimal public outlay to make it happen.  But there has to be honesty from the government when it comes to this stuff.  They can’t sell it as a painless financial panacea.  Come out and say: “this will cost a little, but it will be worth a lot in the long run,” and let the chips fall where they may.

For much, much more on this — and I really mean much more — check out the most excellent “New A’s Ballpark” blog, which is all over the entire A’s-to-San Jose story.

What happens with all the players the Braves lost yesterday?

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Yesterday’s unprecedented sanctions leveled on the Atlanta Braves hit them pretty hard, but it also turned a dozen players into free agents. What happens to them now? Who can sign them? When? And for how much?

First off, they get to keep their signing bonuses the Braves gave them. It wasn’t their fault the Braves messed up so it would make no sense for them to have to pay the money back. As for their next team: anyone can, theoretically, sign them. As far as team choice, they are free agents in the most narrow sense of the term.

There are limits, however, because as young, international players, their signings are subject to those caps on each team’s international bonus money which were imposed a few years back. Each team now has a “pool” of finite dollars they can spend on such players and, once that money is spent, teams are severely limited as to what they can offer an international free agent. Each summer the bonus pools are reset and it starts anew.

Which, on the surface, would seem to create a problem for the 12 new free agents, seeing as though a lot of teams have already spent much if not all of their July 2017-18 bonus pools. The good news on that, though, is that Major League Baseball has made a couple of exceptions for these guys:

  • First, the first $200,000 of any of the 12 former Braves players will not be subject to signing pools, so that’s a bit of a break; and
  • Second, even though these players will all likely be signed during the 2017-18 bonus pool period, teams have the option of counting the bonus toward the 2018-19 period. They can’t combine the money from the two periods, but they can, essentially, put off the cost into next year for accounting purposes.

Which certainly opens things up for clubs and gives the players more options as far as places to land go. A club can decide whether or not the guys on the market now look better than the guys they’ve been scouting with an eye toward signing after July 2018 and get a jump on things. Likewise, teams don’t have to decide whether or not to take a run at, say, Shohei Ohtani, burning bonus money now, or instead going after a former Braves player. Ohtani’s money will apply now, the Braves player can be accounted for next year.

The new free agents are eligible to sign during a window that begins on December 5 and ends on Jan. 15. If a player hasn’t signed by then, he can still sign with any club but cannot get a bonus. If a player hasn’t signed anywhere by May 1, 2018, he has the option of re-signing with the Braves, though they can’t pay the guy a bonus either.

Ben Badler of Baseball America has a rundown of the top guys who are now free agents thanks to the Braves’ malfeasance. Kevin Maitan is the big name. The 17-year-old shortstop was considered the top overall international free agent last year, though his first year in the Braves minor league system was less-than-impressive. There are a lot of other promising players too. All of whom now can find new employers.