Executives bullish on the Braves

Investors in Braves owner Liberty Media got a bullish scouting report on their baseball team at a meeting Thursday in New York.

“Our goal is to win the World Series,” Braves chairman and CEO Terry McGuirk told the group. “That’s what we set out to do every year. We’ve never felt like we were more on a glide slope to get there.”

The Braves’ “two main initiatives” in recent years, McGuirk said, have been to rebuild their minor-league system and to build their new stadium and adjacent mixed-use development. He said both initiatives have been successful, noting the farm system is ranked No. 1 in baseball by some analysts, and SunTrust Park will open “on time and on budget” for the start of next season.

Liberty Media’s chief financial officer, Mark Carleton, also spoke bullishly about the Braves, going through a series of numbers to reach the conclusion that it’s “not unreasonable” to value the franchise at about $1.5 billion.

“Today, the market cap(italization of Braves publicly traded stock) is about $700 million less than that on an apples-to-apples basis,” Carleton said, suggesting potential investment upside.

“We think the Braves are really in a strong position to grow long-term value,” Carleton said. “We think the team, the ballpark and the mixed-use are all really well-positioned.”

Liberty Media has reported in securities filings that SunTrust Park will cost $672 million, plus another $50 million for equipment and related costs. In Thursday’s presentation, streamed on the company’s website, Carleton showed the total of $722 million coming from $392 million in public funding and $330 million in debt taken on by the Braves.

He said the Braves expect the new stadium to generate significant revenue growth, an unspecified portion of which will go into increasing the payroll.

“History tells us that there’s a 15 to 25 percent increase in revenues as you move into a new ballpark,” Carleton said. “Some of that will flow through to the bottom line, and some of it will prudently go into our on-the-field talent.”

Liberty Media views Braves management as “one of the best in the business,” Carleton said, likening it to the Cardinals’ and Giants’ front offices.

“To win in baseball, you’ve got to have a balance of young kids, kids you develop, as well as experienced players and free agents that you sign,” Carleton said. “That balance is key to success. You saw it in the World Series this year with the combination. Our management team (with the Braves) is really top-notch at that and gets it.”

McGuirk detailed the Braves’ rebuilding project, which led to back-to-back records of 67-95 and 68-93 the past two seasons.

“In 2014, we looked at our minor-league system and were not happy,” McGuirk said. “We had a bottom-10 minor-league system and said this is not sustainable, not something that is going to work long-term for us.”

Speaking of the farm system’s improvement since then, McGuirk said: “It took the Mets and Kansas City and Houston and the Chicago Cubs five years to do what we have just done in two years.”

“We have a lot of pitching coming, wave after wave,” he said.

The Braves finished last in the National League East this year, but were 37-35 after the All-Star break and won 20 of their final 30 games.

“We are so jacked up for the beginning of ’17,” McGuirk said.