The Powerball Lottery jackpot has now reached a record $1.3 billion and eventually someone is going to win it. Maybe one of you will win. And picking up this idea discussed in this video that I found linked on MLB.com, I thought we could play the same game. So I ask you: What baseball team would you buy with your lottery winnings?
Here are the ground rules. You've got $1.3 billion to spend. I know that the lottery pays out the winnings over a 29-year period and if you take the lump sum, you get less. We're going to assume that someone will sell you a major league team on the installment plan. I also know about taxes. Because once you got done with taxes you'd probably only be able to afford the Tampa Bay Rays, we're not going to take taxes into consideration. Assume there is a code in the tax law that makes the purchase price of a major league baseball team tax deductible or something if you want. In any case, you've got enough money to buy any team with a purchase price below $1.3 billion. The purchase price will be determined by these estimated Forbes values from last season.
Also, you're not going to be allowed to be a partial owner. You've got to buy the whole team, lock, stock and barrel. No going to the bank to take out a loan to pay for half the team.
Guess what? You don't have enough money to buy the Cubs. So you're going to have to pick a new favorite team. In fact, there are seven teams that even after winning $1.3 billion, you still don't have enough money to purchase. In addition to the Cubs, you can't buy the Yankees, Dodgers, Red Sox, Giants, Cardinals or Mets.
After buying the club, you have to run it. Any money that you have left over of the $1.3 billion can go towards improvements in the ballclub. So you can buy the Angels for $1.3 billion, but then you've got nothing left over for anything else. If you want to purchase the Rays for $625 million and then spend $675 million on a new stadium, that's allowed. Of course, then there's no money left for you.
Once you get the team, you can do whatever you want with it, although you still have the same stadium lease, the same TV contracts and the same players under contract. If you want to move the team, fine, but you still have to get the same permissions from MLB. So no moving the Athletics to San Jose unless you want to give the $575 million that you have left to the Giants to pay for the rights. And then you've got no money for a stadium.
So which team would you buy? Would you go to the limits of your spending and get a major-market team like the Angels, Nationals or Phillies? Or would you want a smaller team on the rise like the Pirates or Astros and spend the money you have left over on free agents? (I think the Astros' value is probably a lot higher after last season than what it is listed at here, but you can buy now at last year's prices if you want.) Or do you just want a team close to home like the White Sox or if you can't handle that, the Brewers or Twins?
For me, the temptation would be to purchase the Phillies, who are a bit down on their luck right now but are a major-market team that would be able to support a winner for years to come after a rebuilding effort like the Cubs just underwent. Maybe you could lure away Jed Hoyer to run the team. The Indians also seem underpriced, play in a traditionally-weak division, already have a smart front office and a lot of young talent. You could also kill Chief Wahoo with one stroke of the pen if you owned the team.
But for me, I'm picking the Seattle Mariners. For one, they've got a first-rate stadium in a beautiful city to spend a summer in. (No, you don't have to live in the city your team plays in. But what's the fun of being an owner if you can't spend the summer sitting in the owner's box and hanging out with the team?) The team itself needs a top-to-bottom overhaul, but I'd want to tear down and rebuild any team I had purchased anyway. Seattle's not a huge media market, but having the territorial broadcast rights to Portland pushes the club into the top third of major league TV revenues. Cheering for the Mariners also wouldn't make my skin crawl the way some teams would either. (Although if you bought the White Sox, you could can Hawk Harrelson the first day.)
The big downsides I see to the Mariners, other than they're not really competitive right now, is that they play in a tough division and they've got major travel headaches. But spending a summer in Seattle watching your own team play baseball would be worth it to me. Plus I'd have enough money left over to pay off Robinson Cano's contract if I had to.
So that's my choice. What's yours? (Remember: you can't buy the Cubs.)