Liberty Media, the corporation which owns the Braves, is a publicly traded company. As a result, they’re one of two teams (the Blue Jays being the other) whose books are opened to the public. This morning, Liberty Media released 2022 financials. 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 figure, which the corporation attributed to increased ticket demand and additional retail 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 relative to last season. Its $71MM OIBDA was down from last year’s $104MM figure. The corporation reported an operating loss of $15MM after reporting $20MM in operating income during the prior season. However, those figures do not include revenue from the 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 revenues related to that project.
Regarding the related figures to the Braves franchise specifically, Liberty Media attributed the comparatively lower OIBDA and operating income to loftier revenue sharing expenses and a higher player payroll. Indeed, Atlanta’s Opening Day payroll checked in around a franchise-record $178MM in 2022 after sitting at approximately $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 fortune. The Braves, of course, won the championship in the former season and benefited from eight playoff home games. Their defeat in last year’s NL Division Series kept them to two postseason home contests. As a result, Liberty Media reported significantly lower fourth quarter revenues in 2022 than they had the prior season. Barring a repeat World Series run, the franchise’s playoff-related income always seemed likely to regress.
The Braves are coming off a very quiet offseason, at least from a free agent perspective. Atlanta acquired catcher Sean Murphy and promptly signed him to a six-year, $73MM extension. That was their only notable investment of the offseason. The club’s only other major league acquisitions were relievers Joe Jiménez and Lucas Luetge (combined $4.315MM in arbitration salaries), low-cost free agent deals for outfielder Jordan Luplow ($1.4MM) and reliever Nick Anderson ($875K if in the majors) and trades for pre-arbitration players like Eli White and Sam Hilliard.
Atlanta saw a top free agent depart for the second consecutive offseason, watching Dansby Swanson sign with the Cubs a year after Freddie Freeman went to the Dodgers. Despite the fairly quiet winter, they’re easily on track to again set a franchise high in player spending. The Braves will go into 2023 with a payroll in the $199MM range, as calculated by Roster Resource. Their projected luxury tax number sits a little under $240MM, which will 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 tenure.
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 kind of success signing key players to long-term deals shortly after their MLB debuts. Those kinds of pacts tend to be backloaded to roughly mirror how a player’s earnings would have progressed via arbitration. Not coincidentally, Atlanta already has upwards of $90MM on the books through the 2028 campaign.