Between 2008-12, the Phillies were among baseball’s best when it came to filling seats on their home turf. Citizens Bank Park seats about 43,650 and officially sold out 257 consecutive games dating back to July 2009.
The Phillies missed the playoffs for the first time since 2006 last year and GM Ruben Amaro’s tepid off-season gave fans very little to get excited about, particularly when you glance a bit south on I-95 to the Washington Nationals. As a result, attendance at Citizens Bank Park is way down thus far, as the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Matt Gelb reports:
The Phillies drew 513,147 fans for their first 14 home games in 2013. That is 117,031 fewer fans than in the first 14 games of 2012. Their average decrease of 8,359 fans per game is second-most in baseball; only the gutted Marlins are worse.
If the trend continues, it could have a serious effect on the team’s finances.
An average decrease of 8,359 fans projected to 81 home dates is a total loss of 677,079. The team’s average ticket price is $37, according to Team Marketing Report and Forbes. That could represent, on average, a $25 million loss in revenue. And that’s just in ticket revenue alone. When fewer people are in the ballpark, less money is spent on concessions and merchandise.
(Important note: Gate receipts used to be split between both participating teams but that is no longer the case, as of 2010.)
Since 2009, the Phillies have operated with one of baseball’s largest payrolls, north of $100 million. They owe $104.5 million to just six players in 2014. If attendance continues to fall, the Phillies may find it difficult to maintain a payroll in the $160 million area. With a barren Minor League system, their ability to field a competitive roster will become more difficult as well.
Matt Hague got a cup of coffee in Toronto this year after winning the International League MVP, but the 30-year-old first baseman/third baseman found a better opportunity in Japan and the Blue Jays have sold him to the Hanshin Tigers.
Hague hit .338 in 136 games at Triple-A this past season and is a career .301 hitter in eight minor-league seasons overall, but his lack of power limits his opportunities in the majors and he’s received a grand total of 91 plate appearances as a big leaguer.
Ben Nicholson-Smith of Toronto Sportnet reports that the sale price for Hague is $300,000, which goes to the Blue Jays. And then Hague will no doubt sign a deal for a lot more than he could have earned at Triple-A and perhaps more than the MLB minimum salary.
The Arizona Diamondbacks just announced that have traded righty Allen Webster to the Pirates for cash considerations.
Webster, who turns 26 in February, was DFA’d by the Dbacks a few days ago. He pitched in nine games, starting five, in 2015, posting a 5.81 ERA and a K/BB ratio of 17/20 (eww) in 31 innings. Before that he pitched 89.1 innings for the Red Sox over two years with numbers not too terribly more impressive than that.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the Yankees “have let teams know Ivan Nova is available” in trade.
Nova returned from Tommy John elbow surgery in May to throw 94 innings with a 5.07 ERA and will be a free agent after the 2016 season, so it’s tough to imagine his trade market being particularly robust.
Despite that, Sherman writes that the Yankees “are not selling low” on Nova and might try to package him with other players to bring back a young starting pitcher under team control for multiple seasons. In other words, they’d like to trade Nova for a pitcher who can step into his rotation spot in 2016 and beyond.
Nova has had some good years in New York, but he’s 29 years old with a career 4.33 ERA and just 6.7 strikeouts per nine innings. He’s more middle-of-the-rotation starter than front-line starter and even that might be in question following elbow surgery.
All offseason there have been reports that the Marlins are looking to trade 25-year-old outfielder Marcell Ozuna because he’s fallen out of favor with the organization and specifically owner Jeffrey Loria.
And now Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com reports that the Mariners “are working on a trade” for Ozuna, speculating that they’re offering a starting pitcher such as Nate Karns or Roenis Elias. MLB.com Marlins beat writer Joe Frisaro says “nothing is imminent” with an Ozuna trade but “everything is subject to change.”
Karns or Elias alone would seem like a light return for Ozuna, who’s hit .265 with 36 homers and a .727 OPS through 346 career games as a big leaguer and put up good numbers in the minors. He’s a plus defensive corner outfielder with 25-homer power under team control through 2019. There’s value there, whether Loria likes him or not.
But then again if the Marlins are dead set on parting ways with Ozuna perhaps new Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto is taking advantage by swooping in with a mediocre offer. Or maybe that was the initial proposal and the Marlins are currently holding out for James Paxton or Taijuan Walker?