Eric Fisher of Sports Business Journal reports that the single-A Dayton Dragons are being sold by current owner Mandalay Baseball to a company called Palisades Arcadia Baseball. That’s not a big deal. Minor league teams sell all the time. What is a big deal is the price: $40 million, which Fisher says is the highest price ever paid for a minor league team.
Now, the Dragons are not your run-of-the-mill minor league teams. As Fisher notes, they have the longest sellout streak in the history of U.S. sports. They set the record in 2011 with their 815th straight sellout. It’s still going strong. In May they sold out their 1,000th straight game. While only a Midwest League team, their ballpark holds over 8,000 fans, which means that they draw more than just about every minor league team at every level. Usually only one or two Triple-A teams do better in overall attendance.
But still: sellouts or not, they are just a single-A team that can only charge single-A prices for tickets, beer and big foam fingers. Making that $40 million price tag pretty darn incredible. To put it in perspective, the Steinbrenner family bought the Yankees for $8.7 million in the early 70s. Current Phillies’ ownership bought that team in 1980 for $30 million. Current Twins ownership bought the team in 1984 for $44 million. Major league franchise prices have gone through the roof, but it wasn’t too terribly long ago when the price the Dragons’ current owners are getting was what you might expect to pay for a big league club.
But, for as interesting as this news is, let’s not allow it to make us lose sight of a couple of immutable facts: (1) Baseball is Dying, You Guys; and (2) Minor League Sports aren’t Very Successful.
Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Tigers are in discussions with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. His sources have told him that the talks have become “serious”.
Zimmermann, 29, has a career 3.32 ERA across parts of seven seasons in the majors. He finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award balloting in 2014, finishing with a 2.66 ERA and a 182/29 K/BB ratio over 199 2/3 innings.
Among starters who have amassed at least 1,000 innings since 2009, only Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Greinke have compiled a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Zimmermann’s 4.09. While he doesn’t have the star power of other free agents such as Greinke or David Price, the Tigers would certainly improve their rotation by bringing him on board.
Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.
The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.
Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.
Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.
The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.
Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.
Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.
Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.