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Mariners lead MLB in operating income & year-over-year value growth in 2023 Forbes franchise valuations

The annual projections see that 2022 was a very good year in Seattle.

Cleveland Indians v Seattle Mariners Photo by Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images

It’s almost Opening Day, which means it is time for so many time-honored traditions. The first barbecue of the spring, getting picked up early from school, and of course trying to remember what the word “amortization” means. That’s right, the annual Forbes valuation of every MLB team has arrived for 2023, a practice that is the closest and most detailed estimate of the financial state of the sport and the handful of wealthy individuals who own the 30 clubs.

The Seattle Mariners, per Forbes’ estimates and research, had a banner year in their bank account as well as on the field, leading all of MLB in operating income at $84 million (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation & amortization), a step up from ranking third in 2021. By Forbes’ calculations, the organization also saw the largest year-over-year leap in its value of any club, with a 29% swell in overall valuation to $2.2 billion, a full $1 billion growth in value for John Stanton and co. since his group purchased primary ownership of the club in 2016.

For Forbes methodology, see the quote below:

Forbes’ team values are enterprise values (equity plus net debt) based on historical transactions and the future economics of the sport and each team. Revenue and operating income (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) are for the 2022 season and are net of revenue sharing, competitive balance taxes and stadium revenue used for debt service. Our figures also include revenue and expenses from non-MLB events at the stadium that go to team owners, include spring training games and the revenue and expenses for team-owned minor league teams. Ownership stakes in regional sports networks, as well as related profits or losses, are excluded from our valuations and operating results, as are investments in real estate and other businesses. (For our all-inclusive sports ownership valuations, see our annual Sports Empires ranking.) Sources include sports bankers, team and league executives, public documents like leases and filings related to public bonds, and media rights experts.

That growth for Seattle’s valuation spring-boarded the M’s from 16th to 13th in all of MLB, just behind the Texas Rangers and World Series-winning Houston Astros, and just ahead of the Toronto Blue Jays and Chicago White Sox. This leap came despite valuations continuing to rise dramatically across the sport even in the face of uncertainty for many clubs around their regional sports networks. Specifically, those concerns have been most pronounced among nearly half of the league which broadcasts with Sinclair-owned Bally Sports, whose parent company Diamond Sports Group filed for bankruptcy less than two weeks ago. The M’s are not only broadcast on Root Sports Northwest but are the primary owner of the network (60% is the Mariners, 40% is Warner Bros. Discovery, though Warner Bros. is apparently leaving), which affords them similar insulation from the financial uncertainty as other clubs with their own networks such as the Yankees and Cubs.

Notably, while the valuation data does include the money the Mariners receive from Root for the rights to broadcast their games, per the methodology, the value the team receives for owning Root itself is excluded, which is likely a notable boon. Even in the event that there is a transformative shift in streaming league-wide, it is likely MLB would need to compensate the M’s and other clubs in more stable situations to get their go-ahead. That should also be a reminder that while these are useful benchmarks for financial states of organizations, there is only so much that we can know from this info. To see the full valuation data on Seattle’s projections you can go here.