World Series: Why Houston Astros owners received $70M discount to buy the team

Years before the Houston Astros became a perennial World Series contender, the prospect of their move to the American League was considered such a downside that current owner Jim Crane received a $70 million discount on the franchise’s purchase price.

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The Astros spent their entire five-decade history in the National League until 2011, when Houston-area businessman Jim Crane led a group of investors to purchase the team for a reported price of $680 million. At the time, the MLB commissioner’s office wanted to realign to two leagues of 15 teams each, with five teams each in six divisions, in order to pursue a new playoff wild card format.

The proposed move was unpopular with Astros fans and considered a potential detriment to the franchise’s television ratings and business prospects. To sweeten the deal, the previous Astros ownership and MLB officials collaborated to reduce Crane’s purchase price by $70 million, with each side covering $35 million.

“We understand that Houston has been a National League city for [50] seasons, and there’s some resistance about moving. We also understand there could be some damage [to the franchise], and that’s what these negotiations were about. We wanted to be fair,” an MLB official told the Houston Chronicle at the time.

The Astros’ $680 million price tag – or $610 million after the discount – ranked second in MLB history at the time and included the team’s stake in its regional sports network. The franchise now has a $1.8 billion valuation, according to Forbes.

At the time of the sale in 2011, the Astros were six years removed from their most recent postseason appearance and had floundered in the National League West division’s cellar. The team’s prospects have turned around in recent years through improved scouting and analytics, the development of several home-grown stars and acquisition of key veterans such as starting pitcher Justin Verlander.

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The Astros advanced to their second World Series in three seasons last weekend, defeating the New York Yankees in six games in the American League Championship Series. Star second baseman Jose Altuve capped off a thrilling Game 6 victory with a walk-off home run off Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman.

Houston will face the Washington Nationals in the 2019 World Series.