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 have been opened to the public. This morning, Liberty Media released its 2022 financial statements. The full report is available courtesy of Investors Observer and chronicled by Doug Roberson of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
According to the report, Liberty Media collected a franchise record $588MM in Braves-related revenue last year. That’s a $20MM jump over 2021’s previous franchise record, which the company attributed to increased ticket demand and additional retail sales on the heels of Atlanta’s World Series championship.
The franchise’s operating income before debt and amortization (OIBDA), on the other hand, was down compared to last season. Its $71MM OIBDA was down from last year’s $104MM figure. The company reported an operating loss of $15 million after reporting $20 million in operating income during the previous season. However, these numbers do not includes revenue from Battery Atlanta, a mixed-use development complex adjacent to Truist Park and owned by Liberty Media. Liberty Media reported $28MM in additional net operating income and $53MM in total revenue related to that project.
Regarding the related numbers of the Braves franchise specifically, Liberty Media attributed the relatively lower OIBDA and operating income to higher revenue sharing expenses and a higher player salary. In fact, Atlanta’s Opening Day payroll checked in at around a franchise record $178MM in 2022 after sitting at roughly $131MM in 2021, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts.
However, another significant change for the organization between 2021 and ’22 was the club’s postseason fortunes. The Braves, of course, won the championship in the previous season and had the advantage of eight home games in the playoffs. Their defeat in last year’s NL Division Series kept them to two postseason home contests. As a result, Liberty Media reported significantly lower earnings in the fourth quarter of 2022 than they had last season. Barring a repeat World Series run, it always seemed likely that the franchise’s playoff-related revenue would decline.
The Braves are coming off a very quiet offseason, at least from a free agent perspective. Atlanta bought catcher Sean Murphy and immediately signed him to a six-year, $73MM extension. It was their only notable investment in the offseason. The club’s only other major league acquisitions were relievers Joe Jimenez and Lucas Luetge (combined $4.315MM in arbitration salary), reasonable outfielder free agent deals Jordan Luplow ($1.4MM) and relieves Nick Anderson ($875K if in the majors) and deals for pre-arbitration players who Eli White and Sam Hilliard.
Atlanta saw a top free agent depart for the second straight offseason, and watched Dansby Swanson signing with the Cubs a year later Freddie Freeman went to the Dodgers. Despite the rather quiet winter, they are easily on their way to setting a franchise high in player spending. The Braves will enter 2023 with a payroll in the $199MM range, as calculated by Roster Resource. Their projected luxury tax number is just under $240MM, which would exceed this year’s $233MM base threshold. The franchise looks set to pay the luxury tax for the first time in Liberty Media’s ownership.
That’s a reflection of the staggering number of contracts already on the books, many of them early-career extensions. No other organization has had the same success in signing key players to long-term deals so soon after their MLB debuts. Such pacts tend to be backloaded to reflect how a player’s earnings would have evolved via arbitration. Not coincidentally, Atlanta already has over $90 million on the books through the 2028 campaign.