Phillies Twitter spent Saturday afternoon discussing an organizational meeting that may not have actually happened.
Rob Maadi of The Associated Press spoke to “a person familiar with the Philadelphia Phillies’ finances,” who told him that the Phillies actually lost $145 million during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.
Bill Madden of The New York Daily News reported earlier in the day that Phillies managing partner John Middleton told the team’s baseball operations department that the team lost $2 billion in 2020, which would likely preclude them from being able to re-sign J.T. Realmuto or pursue any other major free agents.
The original wording in the story said that “Middleton told his baseball people that the club lost nearly $2 billion this year and is not in position to re-sign Realmuto or any other big-ticket free agents.” However, a correction has been issued, saying that “A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the Phillies had a $2 billion deficit in the 2020 season.”
Maadi tweets that not only did Middleton not state that the Phillies lost $2 billion in 2020 – a claim that, as noted above, has been retracted – but there weren’t even organizational meetings on such a topic last week.
It doesn’t appear that damage control is being done for a claim that Middleton did legitimately make, thinking it would never get out to the public. It seems that the record is being corrected to say that he altogether didn’t make that type of claim. That makes sense, considering Forbes valued the entire organization at $2 billion in April, so it’s hard to fathom losing that same amount in one year, even if it wasn’t a fruitful financial one.
The $145 million figure that Maadi is reporting checks out in a way that the $2 billion mark didn’t. Kaleel Weatherly and Ryan Sharrow of Philadelphia Business Journal used the Phillies annual team marketing report last month to estimate that the Phillies lost $186.1 million in 2020. That’s still a disastrous year financially, but it’s nowhere near $2 billion, an amount that would put the organization in financial ruin.
Don’t get it twisted, a $145 million loss has still led the organization to make difficult financial decisions this winter. The team slashed more than 15% of their full-time workforce in recent days. Phillies officials have changed their public tone on J.T. Realmuto’s future with the team since the start of COVID-19, with Middleton saying in October that retaining the All-Star catcher is a priority, but also adding that the pandemic makes it unclear how much the organization will be able to spend in 2021. The team didn’t extend a one-year/$18.9 million qualifying offer to shortstop Didi Gregorius after a strong 2020 season, probably because they feared he would accept the pact. Now, they won’t receive any draft compensation if the fan-favorite leaves in free agency.
Even if the organization isn’t trying to suggest that they lost an unbelievable amount of money in 2020, many of their actions in recent months leave you to believe that they may not spend in a way this offseason that will allow them to legitimately compete in a crowded National League East. And ultimately, the fanbase isn’t particularly interested in the exact amount of money the team lost in 2020. What concerns Phillies fans is that the peaks of Bryce Harper, Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler, among others, may ultimately be wasted.
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