The Marlins might sell for $1.6 billion, and you can bet the players will notice

Next time you’re tempted to complain about baseball player salaries, consider this:

Jeffrey Loria bought the Marlins in 2002 for $158.5 million. Fifteen years later, he might sell them for $1.6 billion.

That’s a 912 percent increase in less than 15 years, and the strongest possible evidence imaginable of how lucrative owning a major-league team can be.

The Marlins’ sale — a handshake agreement, according to Forbes — is far from complete. The final price might not be $1.6 billion. But the talks are real, and the group trying to buy the team includes Josh Kushner, the younger brother of Jared Kushner, son-in-law of president Donald Trump, according to the New York Times.

(Neither Jared Kushner, a top White House advisor, or his father Charles, who spent over a year in prison for illegal campaign donations, tax evasion and witness tampering, is part of the effort, the Times said.)

Whatever happens, Loria is going to win. If the Kushner group fails to complete the purchase or gain baseball’s approval, the owner will find some other eager investor willing to meet some outrageous price.

Annual revenues are one thing, and the owners are doing just fine in that regard. But the real money is in skyrocketing franchise values — a deal by Nintendo to sell most of the ownership of the Mariners to a group of minority owners last April placed the value of the team and its majority share in a regional sports network at $1.4 billion.

Steve Mitchell/Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Are the Marlins, less than a year later, worth more than the combined value of the Mariners and their RSN? Seems doubtful – Forbes valued the team at $675 million in March 2016 – but that’s a question for keener business minds than mine.

The Marlins in 2012 moved into a new $639 million ballpark funded mostly by Miami-Dade County. They are likely to land a new local television contract before their current agreement with FOX Sports expires in 2020.

Oh, it’s good to be an owner.

Granted, it’s also good to be a player, but the most recent collective-bargaining agreement, with its modest increases in luxury-tax thresholds, already seems to be stifling salary growth.

The sale of the Marlins for $1.6 billion, or even a lesser but significant sum, would only reinforce to the players that they should be getting more, setting the stage for labor friction in the future.

That’s a story for another day — a day when Loria will be on a beach somewhere, rejoicing over his investment for the ages, counting his money.

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