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    HomeSportEven if the A’s actually spend in Sacramento, which players are taking...

    Even if the A’s actually spend in Sacramento, which players are taking their money?

    The OakSacVegas A’s keep promising to build toward a “top-tier payroll” over the next several years, which raises some obvious questions:

    Should anyone trust owner John Fisher to spend? (Of course not, but more on that shortly.)

    Will free agents join the A’s for their interim stay in Sacramento, which will span from 2025 through at least 2027? (Sure! But only if they lack better options.)

    In January, team president Dave Kaval said, “We’re budgeting numbers we think are in the higher side of the league” once they get to Las Vegas. On Monday, he reaffirmed the A’s intent to spend. “We plan to grow our payroll ahead of our move to Las Vegas, and once we are in our new ballpark, we plan to have a top-tier payroll,” Kaval said in a statement to The Athletic.

    A person briefed on the A’s plans in January said the team intended to carry payrolls in the $130 million to $150 range during the ramp-up period before they relocate to Las Vegas, then $170 million-plus once they move into their new fixed-roof stadium. Kaval declined to confirm those numbers at the time.

    Granted, any serious analysis of how Fisher intends to more than double the team’s current $61 million payroll is probably so much wasted breath. Some players, though, say Sacramento’s miniature Triple-A palace likely will be preferable to the mammoth and decrepit Oakland Coliseum. So, just for fun, let’s start filling out the OakSacVegas roster!

    Chicago Cubs center fielder Cody Bellinger, who can opt out of his contract after this season, was one of several players who professed limited knowledge of the A’s situation. Asked if he would consider joining Fisher’s vagabonds, Bellinger laughed and offered a conditional response based upon the lighting at Sacramento’s Sutter Health Park, which Kaval has said could be upgraded.

    “If the lights are good,” Bellinger said. “Gimme good lights.”

    Toronto Blue Jays infielder Justin Turner, a 16-year veteran who also is a potential free agent, viewed the Sacramento experience as a potential upgrade over the one in Oakland. But he, too, is not quite hearing the A’s siren call.

    “They might play in front of more people. It might feel like a better baseball atmosphere,” Turner said. “Would it be on my top-10 list? Absolutely not. But, I mean, who’s to say it’s not going to be a better situation?”

    Turner has a point. The capacity at Sutter Health Park is 14,014 including fixed seats, lawn seating and standing room. The A’s average home attendance the past three seasons was 8,660, 9,849 and 10,276. This season, through seven games, it’s 6,438. When the team was more competitive, the numbers were higher.

    “The clubhouse can’t be worse. The visiting clubhouse can’t be worse. The attendance can’t be worse,” Turner said. “And even if the attendance is small, in a smaller venue, it’s not going to look as egregious as it does in the Coliseum, which is massive.”


    The announced attendance was 4,118 for a game between the Guardians and Athletics on Sunday, March 31. (Jeff Chiu / Associated Press)

    Still, the clubhouses at Sutter Health Park are in the outfield, not underneath the stands with easy access to the dugouts, the way they are in every major-league park. Perhaps a tour of the facility, courtesy of A’s first baseman Ryan Noda, is in order. Noda, who played games in Sacramento as a minor leaguer, rattled off a list of potential problems to the San Jose Mercury News.

    “Concerns? The field, the locker rooms, the dugouts, the surface — making sure all the safety protocols and everything is up to par. That field needs a lot of work, a lot of money put into it in order for it to be a big-league place.”

    Even Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Rhys Hoskins, a native of Sacramento, has his doubts. Hoskins loves his hometown and believes residents will rally behind any team that plays in the city, even temporarily. But if he opts out at the end of the season, don’t expect him to call his agent, Scott Boras, and demand to wear the green and gold.

    “I would certainly consider it because the idea of playing at home has always been enticing,” Hoskins said, “but the lack of big-league facilities and the product that that organization is putting out there is not something I’d want to be a part of.”

    But wait, Rhys, the ramp-up is imminent! Or so the A’s say.

    In reality, Fisher’s history tells us he is unlikely to engage in deficit spending and invest in the team anything more than he is taking in, if that. Until the A’s get to Vegas — if they get to Vegas, if they draw in Vegas, if, if, if — a significant payroll increase seems rather far-fetched.

    It’s not as if their revenues in Sacramento are going to explode.

    As part of the move, the A’s revised their local TV deal with NBC Sports California. The Athletic’s Evan Drellich previously reported that the team is expected to receive a significant portion of its local rights fee, which was roughly $70 million annually.

    Still, the number will be less.

    Game-day revenue could be more, but not by a whole lot considering Sutter Health Park’s small capacity. And maybe not by much at all once the novelty wears off. The good people of Sacramento, accustomed to paying Triple-A ticket prices, might not be enthused paying major-league prices for a short-term, substandard major-league product.

    Fisher will get his usual share of central baseball revenue — Sportico estimated the gross number from national media deals, sponsorships and merchandise to be more than $100 million. He also will receive an increased sum in revenue sharing, good for around $60 million, as the team completes its four-year phase-in and gets back to a 100 percent share. But even if Fisher decides to sink some of that additional money into his roster, how the heck would he rocket his payroll to say, the $130 million to $150 million range in Sacramento, then $170 million once he gets to Vegas?

    By overpaying free agents? Taking on bad contracts? Going nuts with extensions? None of those options would make a whole lot of sense for a franchise that once took great pride in its efficiency. Besides, the notion of the A’s emerging as a serious player for any top free agent — from Juan Soto to Alex Bregman, Corbin Burnes to Max Fried — is borderline absurd. And even lesser free agents will have 29 other teams to choose from.

    “Moneyball” the sequel, if anyone is interested in writing it, should be a doozy.

    Can’t see the A’s spending. Can’t see players taking their money. For the 1,036th time, can’t see how this is going to work.

    The Athletic’s Andy McCullough contributed to this story.

    You can buy tickets to every MLB game here

    (Photo of Sutter Health Park in Sacramento on April 4: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

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