Despite a pandemic-shortened season in which no fans attended games in 2020, the Royals franchise actually went up in value to $1.06 billion according to this year’s annual MLB valuation estimates from Forbes. That represents a 3.4 percent increase from the $1.025 billion estimate from a year ago. An ownership group led by John Sherman purchased the club for $1 billion in the fall of 2019.
Despite collective losses of $1.8 billion last year, Forbes estimates 29 of the 30 clubs increased value, the only exception being the Tampa Bay Rays, despite winning the American League pennant last year. This is reflected a continued demand for ownership stakes, with Steve Cohen purchasing the Mets for $2.42 billion last year, and the Fenway Sports Group buying an 11 percent stake of the Red Sox that would peg the value of that franchise at $3.4 billion.
The rise in value despite recent financial losses is due to enormous new national television deals that kick in for 2022. Collectively, ESPN, Fox, and TBS will pay MLB teams $1.8 billion annually beginning next year, a 19 percent increase over the old deals. Forbes points out that MLB still has inventory it could sell off, particularly weekday games it could sell exclusively to streaming services like YouTube, Facebook, or Amazon, which recently inked a $1 billion deal with the NFL for the exclusive rights to Thursday Night Football.
Despite the rise in value, the Royals are still the third-least valuable franchise in baseball, ahead of only the Rays and Marlins. Forbes estimates the Marlins are worth $990 million, the lowest in baseball, and less than the $1.2 billion they were sold for in 2017, likely due to the debt saddling the franchise. The Yankees are the most valuable club, worth an estimated $5.25 billion, followed by the Dodgers, Red Sox, Cubs, and Giants.
The Royals fielded a team with an $89 million payroll on Opening Day this year, close to what they were scheduled to pay before the season was shortened last year. They recently signed a new television deal with Sinclair Broadcasting Group, which owns Bally Sports Kansas City, that will pay the team between $48-52 million per season, about double what they were receiving under their old deal.