Last week, MLB approved the sale of the Houston Astros as well as some other policy changes. According to an article by the Associated Press, the Astros were sold for 750 million dollars. MLB executives, however, wanted the Astros to move from the NL Central to the AL West. By moving the Astros into the AL, both the NL and AL will have an equal number of teams (15). With 15 teams in each league, that means that interleague play will take place throughout the entire season and not during specific times in the season. Also, MLB is also expanding the playoffs by two additional teams (1 in each league).
What makes the Astros sale interesting is that MLB would not approve the sale unless the new owner agreed to move the team to the AL West Division. As a result, the new owner negotiated a 70 million dollar discount on the franchise sale price according to reports. Half of the 70 million dollars is being paid by MLB and the other half by the old team owner.
What makes a change to the AL worth 70 million dollars to the owner? Certainly, there may be some additional traveling involved as Houston will have to travel to Seattle. It is approximately 1900 miles to Seattle by air compared to 1150 to Pittsburgh, the furthest team from Houston in the NL Central. Houston will also have to travel to Oakland and Anaheim compared to Chicago, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, and St. Louis. By moving to the AL West, Houston will play the Texas Rangers, their geographic rival and new division rival, more times than just one series per year under interleague play. Playing the Rangers should provide the Astros with increase revenue for these games to help offset some travel cost. The question remains as to why changing leagues “costs” 70 million dollars.