Springtime means that the birds are chirping in the trees, the grass and flowers are creeping out from their winter sleeps, and Major League Baseball returns to stadiums, ballparks and your television sets. Professional baseball is a unique sport among the top-tier competitions in North America in that Big League Baseball does not utilize a roster system that includes a hard salary cap, but the teams that are worth the most money and that spend the most cash on players do not always win championships. Unlike in soccer leagues that feature the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Chelsea, Manchester City and Juventus, there are no true “giants” in Major League Baseball these days.
Take the San Francisco Giants as just one example. Despite the fact that the Giants have won the World Series on three occasions since the fall of 2010, nobody considers that team to be a dynasty and rightfully so. The fact of the matter is that the Giants may even struggle to make the postseason this coming fall considering the players that the club has lost coupled with the talent that is on other rosters in the National League. Of all of the pro sports titles out there, none may be harder to win than is the World Series due to the amount of teams in MLB and also how the playoffs are structured.
It should come as no surprise to even casual sports fans who follow the sport that the most valuable pro baseball franchises out there in 2015 come from the biggest media markets in the United States. Both of those teams are facing severe scrutiny for not winning a World Series over recent years, and both have routinely been outdone by local rivals as of late. The team atop this list could be in for a long season considering the one-man circus that is on the roster, the fact that its biggest rival may be the best team in the division, and that its field will be torn apart by a Major League Soccer club.
Team values from Forbes
20 Cincinnati Reds: $885 million team value
The overall team value of the Reds is expected to rise at some point over the next couple of years. Cincinnati currently has a deal with FOX Sports Ohio, a network that also features home games for National Basketball Association team the Cleveland Cavaliers and for Major League Soccer side Columbus Crew, and that contract reportedly earns the Reds roughly $20 million per year. That media deal is set to conclude at the end of the 2017 season, and all indications are that both sides are willing to re-up at what will, for the Reds, be a higher value.
19 San Diego Padres: $890 million
While National Football League team the San Diego Chargers are reportedly looking at moving to Los Angeles, perhaps in a deal that will also include the Oakland Raiders, the Padres are going strong on bringing a playoff berth to the team's current city. San Diego acquired star pitcher James Shields via free agency, and the club added some much-needed power to the lineup by trading for Matt Kemp. The Padres could prove to be one of the more underrated teams in the National League, and San Diego could make life and a playoff race rough for both the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers.
18 Minnesota Twins: $895 million
The belief was that the opening of Target Field would represent the final piece of the Twins completing a turnaround into the best team in the American League Central and into one capable of winning at least one World Series. Instead, the Minnesota roster has fallen apart. The Twins have failed to win more than 70 games every season over the past four years. A large majority of MLB preseason previews that are out there are forecasting that the Twins will again finish dead last in the division standings. Some are even stating that the Twins could finish as the worst team in all of baseball.
17 Pittsburgh Pirates: $900 million
The Pirates are arguably the most likeable team in Big League Baseball in 2015. Pittsburgh built what is one of the best sporting venues in the United States and a personal favorite ballpark. The Buccos are not in a place where the team can spend money on players as can big-market clubs such as the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox, and yet Pittsburgh has made the postseason for two straight seasons after a long playoff drought. Andrew McCutchen, an incredible talent who is also a great guy, is the star man for the Bucs, and he is an easy athlete to root for and a role model for the youngsters out there.
16 Chicago White Sox: $975 million
While the Chicago Cubs have become the baseball darlings of the Windy City – not to mention a team some are picking to win it all in 2015 – the White Sox will be hoping to register mere blips on the radar this year. Jose Abreu is a fun young player to track, especially for those of you who enjoy some fantasy baseball, and Jeff Samardzija and Melky Cabrera were solid pickups. They likely will not do enough, however, for Chicago to surpass the Cubs in the overall league standings or in local or national headlines. The White Sox are right now Chicago's other baseball team.
15 Baltimore Orioles: $1.0 billion
The first team to check in at the billion-dollar mark for team value, the Orioles were one of the big stories of the 2014 regular season. Baltimore emerged somewhat out of nowhere as the best team in the American League East, winning that division with ease. Fans flocked to beautiful Camden Yards throughout the summer months, and attendance climbed nearly six percent from the prior year. The O's will once again be seen as big underdogs this time around, however, as Nelson Cruz moved on and out west to the Seattle Mariners. Meanwhile, the Boston Red Sox have rebuilt their roster.
14 Seattle Mariners: $1.1 billion
The Mariners are one of several teams showcased in this list who have banked a ton of money on massive local television deals. Root Sports Northwest will be the TV home of Seattle baseball for the foreseeable future, as that network has invested a reported $103 million on broadcasting the club's regular season games. That contract, which kicked off at the start of the 2014 season, is set to last 18 years. Seattle made waves in the free agency pool when the team acquired slugger Nelson Cruz during the offseason. The Mariners nevertheless may learn that the club needs more offense.
13 Detroit Tigers: $1.125 billion
Fans of the Tigers have got to be high on owner Mike Ilitch, who has shown that he is not shy on spending money on his clubs. He sure has the revenue to do so. Along with owning the Tigers, Ilitch also owns National Hockey League team the Detroit Red Wings, and he is the founder and owner of franchise Little Caesar's Pizza. The Tigers routinely do massive local television ratings, and they are now one of the more consistent teams in the American League Central. Detroit also happens to play in one of the more beautiful sporting arenas in the country.
12 Atlanta Braves: $1.15 billion
Atlanta fans have plenty of reasons to believe that the Braves are on the rise. The club will move into a brand new ballpark in 2017, one that will, when all is said and done, reportedly be worth $673 million. Whether or not 2015 will be the year that the Braves turn things around, however, has yet to be seen. Like division rivals the Philadelphia Phillies, Atlanta is rebuilding its roster in an attempt to return to the glory days that the club enjoyed during the 1990s. The Braves were one of four teams in the NL East to finish with a losing record in 2014.
11 Texas Rangers: $1.22 billion
Texas recently cashed in on a new naming rights deal for the club's ballpark, one that could be worth $5 million per year over the next decade. The Rangers have also taken steps to make attending home games even more enjoyable for local fans. Customers will find a revamped menu at the park, one that includes all kinds of bacon-related items. Everybody associated with the club will be hoping that the play on the field improves from what the Rangers offered in 2014. Texas finished last season dead last in the American League, and only Arizona and Colorado had worse overall records.
10 Philadelphia Phillies: $1.25 billion
It's not the best of times to be a fan of the Phillies as the start of the 2015 MLB regular season approaches. The reality of the situation is that the club is in the middle of a badly needed rebuild, and most insiders feel that the Phillies are on the verge of what could be a long season. That is not the type of news that fans of a Philadelphia club that went 73-89 in 2014 want to read or hear. It is always darkest before the dawn. You have to fall before you can rise up. Keep repeating those things to yourselves, Philadelphia fans, and remember that football season is not that far away.
9 Washington Nationals: $1.28 billion
It doesn't seem as if it was that long ago when the Nationals were seen as guaranteed wins for the powerhouses of the National League East such as the New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies and the club that was then known as the Florida Marlins. Those days are gone. Washington is now responsible for what is, on paper, the best team in the division, and many expect that the Nats will cruise to another NL East title. Washington is going all-in on doing more than just making the playoffs, as the Nationals gave superstar pitcher Max Scherzer a seven-year deal worth a total of $210 million.
8 Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: $1.3 billion
While the city of Los Angeles is reportedly in the market for two National Football League franchises, the Angels may be on the verge of playing outside of Anaheim at some point down the road. Angel Stadium is in need of renovations, but the club has thus far been unable to come to an agreement with those running the city of Anaheim. Local fans should not be overly concerned about this, however, as it is rumored that the team could locate a spot for a new stadium just eight miles from Anaheim. Such a relocation may not even come until the end of the current decade.
7 New York Mets: $1.35 billion
He may not like it or even think that it is fair, but Mets manager Terry Collins is in denial if he does not realize that he is in the hot seat even at the start of spring. Fans of the team that stands as little brother to the New York Yankees have grown tired of the Mets being an afterthought by the time that the National Football League preseason rolls around. The Amazins have one of the best young rotations in the game today. They did well to bring in some talent during the offseason. It is now on Collins to put everything together and turn the Mets into a winner if he is to keep his post past the end of the year.
6 St. Louis Cardinals: $1.4 billion
The Cardinals are not flashy. They don't go on crazy spending sprees during the winter months, nor do they possess a boatload of players who would be recognized were they to venture into a small town pub. St. Louis just consistently wins year in and year out. They have had just a single losing season over the past 15 years, a remarkable run that has also included the Cards winning the World Series on two occasions. Of all of the teams in the Big Leagues, St. Louis may be the most respected club of them all because of the team's successes and because of how it does business.
5 Chicago Cubs: $1.8 billion
Just how high are the expectations for the loveable losers for the Windy City this time around? Mike Francesa of WFAN out of New York City and of FOX Sports 1/FOX Sports 2 has, over the air, claimed that he likes the Cubs to win it all in 2015. Chicago did not shy from spending large amounts of money over the offseason, including luring well-respected and beloved manager Joe Maddon to the Cubs. This is the most “win-now” roster that the Cubs have had in recent memory, and it is one that diehard fans of the club will be expecting to finally break a World Series drought that has lasted over a century.
4 San Francisco Giants: $2.0 billion
A media member from out west that I met some time ago has, over the years, lamented about how boring the Giants can be to cover from time to time. San Francisco is in a “win every other year” mode currently, and the team is, to be honest about it, not all that exciting except for the fact that the Giants win the World Series three times in five seasons. Plenty of respected analysts and even some fans of the club are expecting that the Giants will be in for a down campaign following the events of 2014. Those inside of the San Francisco clubhouse will be looking to prove those doubters wrong.
3 Boston Red Sox: $2.1 billion
Win a World Series. Trade away some dead weight and finish dead last in the standings. Win another World Series. Dump salary once again. Build a squad capable of winning a championship. Say whatever you will about how the Red Sox due business these days. The team's methods have netted positive results. Boston will once again be advertised to be a World Series contender, as the team went out and splashed cash on both Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandovel during the offseason. There is little question that the Red Sox are on the upswing once again. Watch out, American League.
2 Los Angeles Dodgers: $2.4 billion
The Dodgers are currently enjoying a 25-year television deal that is going to net the club a reported total of $8.35 billion. That is undeniably a positive for those running the club, but fans will be expecting more from the team that has the highest payroll in the league this time around. LA was one of the best teams in the National League during the 2014 regular season, but the club once again fell short during postseason play. The Dodgers last won a World Series in 1988. The San Francisco Giants, meanwhile, have been a model MLB franchise over the past five years. Ouch.
1 New York Yankees: $3.2 billion
The Yankees have gone from celebrating the final season in the career of all-time great Derek Jeter to wondering what Alex Rodriguez could possibly have left in the tank. A-Rod is the true lightning rod of sports talk and of baseball media, and whatever he does on the field – good or bad – is going to make headlines and generate talk on social media websites and on talk shows. Add in the fact that players are irate that the Yankee Stadium turf is going to be torn up numerous times by MLS side New York City Football, and it could be bad times for the Yanks and for the team's fans this summer.