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Cincinnati Reds links, 3/25/15: Forbes baseball valuations & the growing Venezuelan baseball crisis

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Wednesday links!

David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Forbes released their 2015 edition of The Business of Baseball today, and the Cincinnati Reds are estimated to be worth a cool $885 million, the 20th most valuable franchise in Major League Baseball.  That's roughly where I would've guessed, but what's staggering is the cumulative year over year increases in the values of each franchise.  Forbes estimated that the Reds increased in value some 48% in one year, which didn't even rank them among the top half of all teams in baseball.

This chart neatly sorts, and it's interesting to see where the Reds rank in each of the categories, specifically their 2014 Operating Income of just $2.2 million.  That was the smallest of the 25 franchises that actually operated with a profit, with each of the Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Blue Jays, Tigers, and Phillies operating at net losses for the year.  That means that 2014's record team payroll of $114 million ate up over half the team's $227 million in revenue, with some other $100.8 million in operating costs, write-downs, and debt servicing eating up the rest.  Tight margins, yes, but keep in mind that the Castellini's ownership group purchased the Reds for $270 million in early 2006.

Baseball really is dying, isn't it?

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The general political climate in Venezuela has been anything but steady and mundane for years, but the recent crash in oil prices has put increased pressures on the country's economic structure in debilitating ways.  Venezuela has long had a ripe baseball culture - the likes of Victor Martinez, Felix Hernandez, Carlos Gonzalez, Elvis Andrus, and Miguel Cabrera were just five of the 97 Venezuelan players to play in MLB in 2014 alone - but as Jorge L. Ortiz noted in USA Today, the successes they've had coupled with the rapid deterioration of Venezuela's everyday society has led to many relocating full-time to the United States.

Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos was abducted from his family's home when back in the country in 2011, and the family of Detroit Tigers pitcher Brayan Villareal narrowly escaped abduction just last year in the city of Valencia, and the decline in the country's economy doesn't appear to be curbing such crimes.  It's reached a point where teams are increasingly pulling investments in their Venezuelan academies - Ortiz notes that the Seattle Mariners' departure will leave just 4 teams still with one (Cubs, Phillies, Rays, and Tigers) and that's threatening the Venezuelan Winter League as well as the future development of the talented Venezuelan baseball youth.  To the best of my knowledge, the Reds haven't had a Venezuelan Summer League team since 2010, and there are no concrete efforts to re-establish one.

Currently, the Reds have Yorman Rodriguez and Eugenio Suarez on the 40-man roster, but after the recent release of Jose Mijares and their optioning to minor league camp, there are no Venezuelan natives in the Reds' big league camp at this time.  Of course, they've had Venezuelan natives Miguel Cairo, Cesar Izturis, and Dioner Navarro recently on the roster, and Big Red Machine cog Davey Concepcion is tied with Cabrera for the 2nd most All Star Game appearances by a Venezuelan native ever (behind Luis Aparicio's 13).  It's a shame that MLB seems to be losing its foothold in Venezuela given the enormous talent base there, and I can only hope things stabilize there soon before that pipeline dries completely up.

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Over at Reds.com, Mark Sheldon broke down the upgrades fans can expect to see at Great American Ball Park in 2015.  Looks pretty snazzy, eh?  I need to figure out which weekend to get back for a series there this Summer.

At The Enquirer, John Fay dabbles in the Joey Votto vs. Brandon Phillips "debate," too, laying out several solid pro-Votto points that most Red Reporters will give hearty thumbs-up to.

More positional power rankings from FanGraphs, this time the shortstops.

Finally, FOX Sports reporter wunderkind Bowtie McFunnypants caught up with former Reds draft pick and still-sorta-uber-prospect Yasmani Grandal about his new baseball life with the Dodgers, and it's a pretty solid read.  It's interesting to hear the different tone about Grandal's perceived cockiness and/or stubbornness as compared to the one about Todd Frazier I linked to in yesterday's Reposter.  Basically, it's cockiness until you kick ass on the big league level, at which point it's confidence.  Such is life, I suppose.  I still think Grandal breaks out in a big, big way this year, but you know this already.