The manager and several members of the starting lineup spent much of the season in the minor leagues. The pitching staff is filled with rookies and journeymen. And the team is on track to lose 100 games for the first time in more than 75 years.

Nonetheless, the New York Yankees remain one of the most valuable franchises in sports, worth upwards of $250 million, by some reckonings. And the banishment of principal owner George M. Steinbrenner III could make the baseball team even more valuable, experts say -- while simultaneously enriching Steinbrenner and his family.

That, in turn, could help Steinbrenner prop up the other half of his business empire: American Ship Building Co., which has been losing money for almost four years and has been kept afloat only through infusions of cash from Steinbrenner, who owns 23.4 percent of the Tampa-based shipyard.

If nothing else, Steinbrenner will have more time to tend to his troubled shipbuilding business, in the wake of Major League Baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent's ruling Monday that the boss of the Yankees must step down as general partner of the team and reduce his ownership position to below its current 55 percent level.

Experts on sports franchise financing speculated yesterday that Steinbrenner is likely to simply transfer a stake in the team to his son, Hank, 33, who was nominated yesterday to replace his father as general partner, pending approval by Vincent and the other baseball owners.

Such a move would mean that Steinbrenner -- who purchased the Yankees for $10.8 million 17 years ago -- will not have to sell any of his stock in the team, which he owns with 18 limited partners. Instead, the Steinbrenner family would continue to hold a majority share of the team.

That's likely to be a disappointment to the potential buyers who began circling the Yankees as the legal problems caused by Steinbrenner's association with gambler Howard Spira grew.

Those interested parties -- reportedly including the State of New York and a soft-drink bottler -- would have needed deep pockets to purchase the team had it become available: Steinbrenner has claimed to have turned down offers of more than $200 million for the Yankees.

Even given Steinbrenner's penchant for hyperbole, analysts say such a price tag is not unrealistic. Estimates of the Yankees' worth begin at about $100 million and go past $250 million, a level that dwarfs the $75 million paid recently for the San Diego Padres.

The range of estimates of a sale price for the Yankees reflects the inexact science of baseball team evaluation, which is complicated by myriad ways of accounting for team costs and expenses, Major League Baseball's policy of keeping its books closed to outsiders, and the intangible ego and prestige value of owning a major league team.

"One of the great wonders of this world is, what's a baseball team worth, and it's even worse when you get to the New York Yankees," said Larry Greenberg, a Minneapolis-based sports financing consultant. He said the value of the Yankees is enhanced by the club's location in the nation's best broadcast market and its tradition as the team of Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle.

"The Yankees are a flagship franchise," said Bruce Bingham, a specialist in sports team appraisals at KPMG Peat Marwick Main, a New York accounting firm.

"Any time you have a franchise in a sport whose popularity is growing annually and there is clear evidence of that growing popularity in terms of attendance, ticket prices, fan appeal, {and} player professional appeal, you've got literally a hot ticket when it comes to franchise evaluation," Bingham said. "The Yankees would probably need an awful lot of zeros to put a value on."

One of the Yankees' most valuable assets is the team's mammoth local cable television contract, worth $500 million over 12 years -- far more than any other team gets for local television rights. In addition, the storied Yankees name and logo make it easier for the club to attract top value for advertising and other income-producing ventures.

Many people in baseball believe that Steinbrenner, by constantly churning through managers and players -- gutting the team's farm system and otherwise creating an aura of turmoil around the team -- has greatly damaged the Yankees both on the field and with fans, many of whom have avoided supporting the team in recent years out of frustration with the owner's shenanigans.

Thus, a change in control might increase its popularity and overall value.

"It's an extraordinarily valuable property, especially in the hands of somebody else," said Roger Noll, a professor at Stanford University who specializes in the economics of professional sports. "You put a competently run team in there and it's an unbelievably profitable venture."

But that upwards potential could be sapped, experts say, if the team remains in the Steinbrenner family.

"You're going to end up with a lot of the same junk that's going on," said Phil Clements, a sports-business expert at the accounting firm Coopers & Lybrand. "I think that detracts from the value."

Still, the experts say, the Yankees remain a solidly profitable business, and that is likely to benefit Steinbrenner's other interests.

While many observers believe that profits from American Ship Building funded the Yankees' expensive forays into free agency in the early years of Steinbrenner's ownership of the team, the situation has now reversed, and income from the team is helping Steinbrenner finance the shipyard.

Earlier this year, according to documents on file at the Securities and Exchange Commission, Steinbrenner loaned AmShip $1.5 million in exchange for company stock worth $1.69 a share. That already looks like a good deal: AmShip stock closed yesterday at $2.50 a share, up 12 1/2 cents.

AmShip is suffering along with the rest of the U.S. shipbuilding industry from too much capacity and not enough orders. But Steinbrenner appears to be hoping that he can keep the company alive long enough to cash in on the collapse of many of its competitors and a revival of the country's shipbuilding business.

Should Steinbrenner decide that the demands of keeping AmShip afloat outweigh the frustrations of not being able to run the New York Yankees, he has at least one alternative: The State of New York. Gov. Mario Cuomo has said the state would be interested in buying the Yankees if Steinbrenner wants to sell -- although baseball officials probably would not allow the transaction -- and state officials reiterated their interest yesterday.

Money, apparently, would be no object.

"We could basically do this, even if the purchase price on the team was something in the $200-million range," said Larry Joseph, a spokesman for the state's economic development commission. "You don't look at a profit and loss statement on a team like the Yankees. A team like the Yankees is a very valuable property no matter how you look at it."