Liberty Media, the company that owns the Braves, is a publicly traded company. As a result, they are one of two teams (the Blue Jays being the other) whose books are open to the public. This morning, Liberty Media released its 2022 financial statements. The full report is available courtesy of Investors Observer and reported by Doug Roberson of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
According to the report, Liberty Media collected a franchise-record $588 million in Braves-related revenue last year. That’s a $20 million jump from the previous franchise record of 2021, which the company attributed to increased ticket demand and additional retail sales on the heels of the World Series championship in ‘Atlanta.
The franchise’s operating profit before debt and amortization (OIBDA), on the other hand, is down compared to last season. Its OIBDA of $71 million was down from last year’s figure of $104 million. The company reported an operating loss of $15 million after reporting an operating profit of $20 million the previous season. However, these numbers do not include revenue from Battery Atlanta, a mixed-use development complex adjacent to Truist Park and owned by Liberty Media. Liberty Media reported $28 million in additional net operating income and $53 million in total revenue related to this project.
Regarding the numbers related to the Braves franchise in particular, Liberty Media attributed the relatively lower OIBDA and operating profit to higher revenue-sharing expenses and higher player payrolls. Indeed, Atlanta’s opening day payrolls settled around a franchise record of $178 million in 2022 after hitting around $131 million in 2021, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts.
However, another significant change for the organization between 2021 and 22 has been the club’s fortunes in the playoffs. The Braves, of course, won the championship the previous season and enjoyed eight home playoff games. Their loss in the NL Division Series last year held them to two home games in the playoffs. As a result, Liberty Media reported significantly lower fourth quarter 2022 revenue than the prior season. Barring a repeat of the World Series, the franchise’s playoff-related revenue still looked likely to regress.
The Braves are coming off a very quiet offseason, at least from a free agent perspective. Atlanta acquired the catcher Sean Murphy and quickly signed him to a six-year, $73 million extension. It was their only notable investment of the offseason. The club’s only other major league acquisitions were relievers Joe Jimenez And Lucas Lütge (combined $4.315 million in refereeing salaries), low-cost free agent deals for outfielder Jordan Luplow ($1.4 million) and reliever Nick Anderson ($875,000 if in the majors) and trades for pre-arbitration players like White Eli And Sam Hilliard.
Atlanta saw a top free agent leave for the second straight offseason, watching Dansby Swanson sign with the Cubs a year later Freddie Freeman went to the Dodgers. Despite the fairly calm winter, they are easily on track to establish a high franchise again in terms of player spending. The Braves will enter 2023 with a payroll of approximately $199 million, as calculated by Roster Resource. Their projected luxury tax number sits just under $240 million, which will exceed this year’s base threshold of $233 million. The franchise looks set to pay the luxury tax for the first time in Liberty Media’s ownership tenure.
This reflects the impressive number of contracts already in place, many of which are early career extensions. No other organization has had the same kind of success signing long-term deals with key players soon after their MLB debut. These types of pacts tend to be delayed to roughly mirror a player’s earning progression via arbitration. It’s no coincidence that Atlanta already has more than $90 million on the books through the 2028 campaign.