Posted on February 9, 2017 by Bryan Zarpentine

Miami Marlins Jeffrey Loria

Image via sports.yahoo.com

Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria has agreed to sell the team for $1.6 billion. Forbes reported on Thursday that a “handshake agreement” is in place for the sale of the team. The report from Forbes cites two anonymous sources who heard about the agreement from Marlins president David Samson.

Loria bought the Marlins in 2002 at the price of $158 million, and so if the report is true, he will have made quite a profit after 15 years of ownership. Back in December, there were rumors that Loria was quietly shopping the team in search of a buyer, but that he would only sell the Marlins for the right price. At the time, that price was reportedly $1.7 billion, so if the report from Forbes is true, Loria will receive close to his asking price.

But the sale of the Marlins is far from a done deal. The Forbes report states that the buyer is a New York-based real estate developer whose name the team source would not say. However, the buyer does not have the cash to purchase the team for $1.6 billion, as his assets are tied up in real estate. If the potential buyer isn’t able to come up with the cash, MLB would have to sign off on a team being sold with such a large amount of debt, something the league may be reluctant to do.

In 2012, the Los Angeles Dodgers were sold to Guggenheim Partners with a great amount of debt. However, the Dodgers had a $6 billion television deal in place, and the Guggenheim Partners had a bounty of other assets, including a hedge fund. The Marlins don’t have a lucrative cable deal to fall back on, and the potential buyer may not have the assets to make MLB comfortable agreeing to the sale.

Other than the report in December, there has been nothing to indicate that Loria is ready to sell the team. By all accounts, Loria was business as usual at the MLB owners meetings last week. “I would tell you that to me there is no difference today than there was yesterday. Or tomorrow,” Samson said about Loria. “I don’t know what tomorrow brings, but I know what yesterday and today bring. To me, there’s nothing to talk about on that front still.”

The possible sale of the Marlins comes at an interesting time in franchise history. The club is set to host the MLB All-Star Game at Marlins Park this summer. The Marlins are also poised to set a franchise record for payroll in 2017, with an estimated payroll of $115 million.

It’s also the final year in which star outfielder Giancarlo Stanton will make a reasonable salary. Stanton will make $14.5 million this year before his salary increases to at least $25 million per season over the next 10 years. With Stanton about to receive a huge pay raise, the Marlins may need to continue to increase their payroll in order to stay competitive. The Marlins have never won a division title and haven’t made the postseason since their last World Series win in 2003.

Despite the report from Forbes, the Marlins being sold is far from a sure thing. However, Loria appears to be a willing seller and the reported buyer appears to be serious about purchasing the Marlins. The Marlins may not be the most attractive team, but a new owner may be what the franchise needs to start moving in the right direction after more than a decade without a playoff birth and the lowest attendance in the majors last year.

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