A’s: No contracts until stadium situation resolved

And speaking of threats, Oakland A’s execs are apparently telling their players that they won’t talk about new contracts for 2012 until they know whether the team is getting a new stadium in San Jose. Or at least that’s what GM/part-owner Billy Beane told the agent for outfielder Josh Willingham:

“We gave the A’s an idea of where we were, and we were told they have interest in bringing Josh back, but before they did anything, they want to see what happens with the stadium,” [agent Matt] Sosnick said. “Josh and I both made it clear he’d like to stay, but at this point, I’m pretty sure he’ll test the free-agent market.

“We talked about a time frame, given that Billy would like Josh back, but it seems like Billy is sort of hamstrung right now.”

If this sounds familiar, it may be because you remember when the Florida Marlins signed then-third baseman Mike Lowell to a contract extension that would be nullified if the team didn’t get a new stadium approved promptly. They didn’t, but then they renegotiated Lowell’s deal to keep him anyway, and the whole issue went away. (The issue of Lowell leaving, that is — the Marlins kept pressing for public stadium money, and ultimately got it.)

In the A’s case, either owner Lew Wolff genuinely thinks that the San Francisco Giants ownership shakeup could open the door to approval of an A’s move to San Jose, or he’s trying to put pressure on MLB to get the Giants to quickly resolve a deal, or both. Though to be honest, it’s hard to see how the rest of baseball is going to quake in its boots at the prospect of the A’s not having Josh Willingham, notwithstanding his agent’s insistence that he’s “the one guy on the team who would be the most difficult to replace” — especially when you consider that MLB’s next collective bargaining agreement is likely to penalize teams that take revenue-sharing money without spending it on payroll.

Another interesting note from Susan Slusser’s San Francisco Chronicle article: She writes that “according to one person familiar with the team’s thinking,” the A’s would likely cut spending if they moved to San Jose, since they’d move into rebuilding mode to try to have a winning team by the time a new stadium is ready; if they stay put, they’d be more likely to spend on players to get any fans they can coming through the gates in Oakland in the short-term. That actually makes a fair bit of sense, but it would mean that the threat here is really that if the A’s can’t get a new ballpark, they will re-sign Josh Willingham. Maybe they should threaten to sign Mike Lowell, too, just for good measure.

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17 comments on “A’s: No contracts until stadium situation resolved

  1. More monkey business from the A’s. The solution seems to be to build a stadium on the waterfront near Jack London Square but I guess that would not allow Lew Wolff to use the A’s as leverage to build his next mega-complex in San Jose.

    If MLB strips McCourt of his ownership of the Dodgers I hope they in turn do the same for the A’s and find a real owner for the A’s and not some used-car salesman who only cares about using the A’s to further the owner’s real estate empire.

  2. ridiculous posturing like this shows how powerless the a’s (as in a daze) are inside mlb. the other franchise still has a stranglehold on all the area revenue streams, regardless of who’s the front man. their stand on holding on to the south bay territory is a corporate policy and mlb will respect that.
    lew-lew & co. are still stuck between the rock and hard place.
    if you wanna see the a’s win at something, go see a movie…

  3. Dean, Wolff isn’t building any mega-complex in San Jose. He never planned to as part of the A’s ballpark. It’s always been a ballpark-only plan at the Diridon site.

  4. As much as I would like the Athletics to move to San Jose, it IS nice to have an affordable option for MLB in the Bay Area. Perhaps the status quo is the best option for us A’s fans. I am not sure how they are going to increase payroll with a mortgage payment on a $400 – $500 million ballpark, especially with only 32,000 seats, as it is currently proposed.

  5. Sounds a lot more like an attempt to raise the ire of A’s fans (as if years of poor decisions hadn’t been enough) in the hopes that they will put pressure on the city to surrender to Wolff.

    It is very hard to see how the A’s voluntarily making their team worse will spur their MLB partners (or the league office) to do anything other than rejoice, in the case of their fellow ALW clubs.

  6. Pudgie, problem is MLB won’t let the status quo at the Coliseum last forever. And the city has already said they won’t renew the A’s lease for their part. So the future of the A’s is in a new ballpark in the Bay Area (with SJ being the most likely option), somewhere else, or last resort contraction along with Tampa.

  7. Dan;

    Do you have a link to info on the city categorically refusing to renew the A’s lease at the coliseum?

    I understood their ‘rejection’ had more to do with proposed lease terms than the entire concept of a lease renewal.


  8. John, I’ll have to look for it when I get off work. But it was months ago on Newballpark.org that I saw it.

  9. No one will contract teams in MLB, NBA or NHL until one of them blinks which will probably be the NHL. The Coyotes will move Quebec next year and then Columbus & Florida bleed outrageous amounts of money compared to the other NHL clubs so they’ll probably get the axe. After that, it could be fair game for the other two leagues because they’re a little over-expanded. Hell the NFL is the only one where they’re at a perfect number.

  10. Dan, Not sure what information you are privy to that claims Wolff has plans to build a baseball-only stadium in San Jose. Wolff is a Real Estate developer. It is in his DNA, so to speak, to leverage assets and develop land.

    I would welcome evidence from you to contrary other than the ubiquitous artist skitches…

  11. Dean, how about everything that has been written on the ballpark plan by the press, every report filed with and by the city of San Jose, every statement made by Wolff to date… I’d turn your question around. ALL of the evidence points to it being ONLY a ballpark. What evidence do you have for your cockamamie claim that it will have a development attached on a site that is barely big enough for the ballpark?

  12. I’m still baffled how Wolff expects to make money on this without any ancillary development. Yes, San Jose is a nice market, but $30-40 million a year worth of new revenues worth? Plus whatever he’d need to increase payroll to actually sign some players who can shave?

    Anyone else wondering if he’s thinking of building an Earthquakes-style cut-rate stadium? Not that that’d necessarily be a bad thing – AT&T Park was built to a tight budget and is pretty awesome – but it’d be interesting, to say the least.

  13. @Neil- You underestimate the area of Silicon Valley and how much $$ there is.

    The San Jose-Santa Clara-Sunnyvale metro is the wealthiest in the country.

    He will get more than $30-$40M in revenues as suites and club seats will sell very quickly. He can charge pretty decent prices even in a 32k seat ballpark.

    If Wolf decides to charge for Charter Seat Licenses like the Giants did he will make more cash.

    San Jose is getting the best ballpark deal of all time and Wolff knows it. The city will return the favor in some way with ancillary development in that area or some other area in the city.

    Too bad it will never happen as Selig will never let the A’s into San Jose.

    He wants to give his buddy “Lewie” the Dodgers and move the A’s out of the Bay Area so the Giants can become “Red Sox West”.

    We shall see what happens, but I have no faith in Selig to do the the right thing.

  14. They’re not going to get an extra $30-40m without increasing payroll to have a better team, which means they’ll really need more like double that, plus whatever they have to pay to the Giants.

    Let’s say it’s $60-70m they need, though it’s probably more. The A’s brought in $161m last year, per Forbes. To add $60 million, you’d need to raise their revenue to the level of the Angels. To add $70 million, the Giants. San Jose is a decent market, but top-ten in the US?

    Also, I’m pretty sure the Forbes figures include revenue sharing. Once the A’s start selling tickets, they go from revenue sharing payees to payors. So you really need more than $100 million more a year – which would put them third in baseball, ahead of the Cubs and behind the Red Sox.

    Yes, these numbers are guesstimates. Still, a privately financed A’s stadium in San Jose is no slam dunk, at best. Yes, the Giants pulled it off in SF in the 1990s, but this isn’t SF, it’s not the 1990s anymore, and the price tag on AT&T Park was 40% lower.

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