4:17pm: The Royals have issued a press release confirming the agreement.
11:31pm: Royals owner David Glass has agreed to sell the team to Kansas City businessman John Sherman for a sum of one billion dollars, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports (via Twitter). Sherman, currently the vice chairman of the division-rival Indians, will divest himself from the Cleveland organization once the agreement is ratified by the other 29 ownership groups in November. Talks of a potential sale were first reported by Ken Rosenthal and Jayson Stark of The Athletic earlier this week.
Nightengale tweeted yesterday that the sale of the Royals was motivated by health reasons for Glass, 83. The former CEO of Wal-Mart, Glass purchased the Royals for the sum of $96MM back in 2000. He was responsible for appointing Dayton Moore as the club’s general manager — a decision that resulted in a lengthy rebuild but ultimately culminated in consecutive World Series appearances, including the team’s drought-breaking World Series win over the Mets in 2015.
Sherman, 64, purchased a minority stake in the Indians back in 2016 and has since upped his share of the club. As Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer explored last year, Sherman was a Royals season-ticket holder at the time who’d made a fortune in starting natural gas and energy companies (LPG Services Group, Inergy L.P.) and selling them to larger entities. Indians majority owner Paul Dolan referred to Sherman as his “partner” in that interview with Pluto, underscoring his prominence in that ownership group. Suffice it to say, today’s reported agreement has ramifications for both organization — the specifics of which remain to be seen.
The Royals, under Glass and Moore, have been in the midst of a rebuild over the past couple of seasons. The organizational hope has been that by targeting near-MLB-ready players in trades and prioritizing college players (pitchers, specifically) in the past couple of drafts, that retooling can progress at a considerably more rapid pace than Kansas City’s prior rebuilding effort. The Royals have cut payroll by nearly $50MM in that time and figure to see further dollars stripped from the books this season with Alex Gordon’s four-year, $72MM contract coming off the ledger.
As with any ownership change, the effects could be far-reaching. Recent examples of team sales highlight but a fraction of the possibilities. The Padres, for instance, hired new front-office leadership (headed by GM A.J. Preller) and embarked on an aggressive, win-at-all-costs approach in the first season that the group led by Ron Fowler and Peter Seidler took over the club. When that boom or bust approach fell well short, the Friars embarked on a lengthy rebuilding effort that has yet to reach its terminus.
More recently, Jeffrey Loria sold the Marlins to a group led by billionaire Bruce Sherman and future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter. While Sherman and Jeter added some new front office personnel — most notably, longtime Yankees exec Gary Denbo — their group also retained president of baseball operations Michael Hill and manager Don Mattingly. A long-term approach headlined by the trades of Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna was nevertheless put into motion in the Sherman/Jeter group’s first season in place.
What the sale of the club remains for the Royals, of course, can’t be immediately known. Moore is not only among the game’s longest tenured baseball operations leaders, he’s also widely respected by colleagues and peers alike. His contract reportedly runs through the 2020 season. Manager Ned Yost, meanwhile, is signed only through season’s end. There’s been plenty of speculation about the 65-year-old Yost’s future, particularly in the wake of a near-fatal accident last offseason in which he shattered his pelvis upon falling out of a deer stand while hunting. The general belief has been that Yost is in excellent standing with the organization, but the skipper himself has previously hinted that he may not manage beyond his current contractual agreement.
Payroll mandates and the corresponding roster-construction implications for both the Royals and the Indians that stem from the ownership change will play crucial roles in steering both organizations’ immediate futures.