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.
The Orioles singlehandedly kept the rumor mill churning this weekend. MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports that the club is interested in making a play for free agent right-hander Lance Lynn, adding him to a list of potential candidates that also includes free agent righty Alex Cobb. The two are expected to command similar contracts in free agency, but Morosi notes that the Orioles may prefer Cobb based on his familiarity with the AL East.
Lynn, 30, is two years removed from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. Despite missing the 2016 season, he bounced back with a respectable 11-8 record in 33 starts and complemented his efforts with a 3.43 ERA, 3.8 BB/9 and 7.4 SO/9 over 186 1/3 innings for the 2017 Cardinals. He lost several days with a blister on his pitching hand in early September, but managed to avoid any major injuries and can reasonably be expected to shoulder another heavy workload in 2018.
Lynn may not be the Orioles’ first choice to beef up their starting rotation, but there’s no doubt that he’ll be in high demand as one of very few viable starters on the market this winter. The veteran righty rejected his one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Cardinals on Thursday and will likely be seeking a multi-year contract, one that Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch estimates around five years and $100+ million. If the Orioles are willing to bite that bullet, they’ll still need to compensate the Cardinals with their third pick in next year’s draft.