The Rundown: Cubs Have Allegedly Received Naming-Rights Offers for Wrigley, Cardinals Sign Leake, Miscellaneous Moves and Notes

Top Of The First

With all of the excitement over the Cubs’ spending spree this offseason, which came from owner Tom Ricketts giving Theo Epstein the okay to acquire both Ben Zobrist and Jason Heyward, it’s comforting to know that the Cubs can spend like a major-market franchise if the right opportunity presents itself.

Team financial valuations are at an all-time high across baseball and growing at a rate faster than the escalation of salaries paid. Yet there are still a number of untapped revenue sources for many clubs. Forbes has calculated that the average baseball team was worth $1.2 billion at the start of the 2015 season — almost 50% more than in 2014 — with half the teams in the league valued at more than $1 billion dollars. Forbes also listed average team revenue at $262 million in 2014.

Should The Cubs Sell Naming Rights To Wrigley Field?

In my life away from Cubs Insider I am in the business of streaming television and I am fortunate to work with and speak to some of the biggest names in digital media on a daily basis. I was told yesterday that the Cubs have allegedly¹ received offers in excess of one billion dollars to lease the naming rights to Wrigley Field for twenty years. That’s $50 million dollars or more per season if it is indeed true.

Obviously, the financial terms at the beginning of that deal would heavily favor the ballclub, but would eventually even out and subsequently favor the sponsor at the end based on current media valuations and projections. To put that in perspective, $50 million dollars this season would have bought the Cubs David Price or Zack Greinke plus Jeff Samardzija, in addition to the moves they already made. By 2035, $50 million dollars may be the AAV for an average ballplayer (based on what Mike Leake received from the Cardinals yesterday).

Going forward, a deal like that could cover the team’s salary obligations and demands of their core players beginning in 2018.

Yes, the business of baseball is booming. In 2003 the Chicago White Sox sold their stadium naming rights to US Cellular for only $68 million dollars on a 20-year agreement. That’s not even enough to get you a decent mid-innings relief pitcher now.

It’s also possible the Cubs could sell a secondary naming rights opportunity, something like “ABC Ballpark at Wrigley Field” for example, though the payoff would be considerably less — likely in the neighborhood of $400 million dollars for twenty years.

Old timers will cite the selling out of the “Wrigley Experience” and the nostalgia attached to it as a reason to protest such an obviously abominable consideration. Then again, the new, more modern look of the ballpark that began with last season’s renovations has met very little resistance with no significant change in culture or in the cachet of attending Wrigley Field. In fact, the Cubs already sold the naming rights to the bleachers to Budweiser on a secondary sponsorship deal starting with the 2014 season.

Regardless, there is a lot of money sitting on the table should the Cubs decide to attach a sponsorship partner to their ballpark. Were it my choice, I wouldn’t care what they call Wrigley Field as long as it houses a world champion in my lifetime. If selling the naming rights helps achieve that goal, I say go for it. In fact, why not sell the all-encompassing rights to Budweiser. Just another 2015 dagger to the back of Cardinals fans everywhere.

In Thursday’s Rundown I will look at the expected windfall of the Cubs next television deal.

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Fact, Fiction, Truth Or Rumor

The St. Louis Cardinals were 2nd in overall attendance in 2015. In July of 2015, the Redbirds landed a $1 Billion Dollar TV Deal with Fox Sports Midwest. What did they do with all that cash? They signed a league average SP to a 5/$80M contract with a 6th year option. Welcome to the new baseball, where verified mediocrity is worth $16M AAV. PS – signing John Lackey was highway robbery by the Cubs.

After signing Mike Leake, the Cardinals have dropped out of the mix for SP Scott Kazmir.

The Cleveland Indians cannot afford to trade elite pitching because they can’t compete with larger market teams. That didn’t stop them from flushing $17 million dollars when they released Chris Johnson yesterday.

The Indians did sign swingman Ross Detwiler to a minor league deal yesterday.

The Mets signed former Chicago White Sox outfielder Alejandro De Aza.

The New York Yankees do not want to part with young players Luis Severino, Aaron Judge, Greg Bird or Jorge Mateo but are looking for a SP outside of free agency.

Veteran minor league executive Lou Schwechheimer wants to bring professional baseball back to Cuba via the International League.

During the 1970 season Cincinnati Reds SP Jim McGlothlin was the final starter at Crosley Field and the first starter at Riverfront Stadium. Today marks the 40th anniversary of his tragic passing at the young age of 32.

The Toronto Blue Jays were Canada’s biggest sports story of 2015. That Jose Bautista bat flip won a few year-end awards as well.  Speaking of the blue jays, former Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos expects to be working in a baseball front office within the next month.

Bottom Of The Ninth

Once the holidays pass we can eagerly look forward to January’s Cubs Convention and then Spring Training. Baseball’s offseason seems to get shorter and shorter each year and an extended postseason run by the Cubs certainly contributes.

I am hoping to attend this year’s Cubs Convention, which would be my first. If you are planning on attending, let me know. I love to make new friends and talk Cubs baseball, two things that go very well together.



¹Editor’s note: I do want to make clear that we are not saying the Cubs are soliciting offers or that something is in the offing, just that a little birdie — albeit one Mike trusts — shared the info about an alleged naming-rights offer. Using italics may have provided enough emphasis already, but you never can be too sure in the event that the rumor mill picks up on something and decides to change the tune.

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