Prospective owners waiting for Major League Baseball to grant new franchises are preparing for sticker shock.

What will an expansion baseball team cost by the 1990s?

Try $60-$70 million.

In a decade when runaway inflation was brought to a screeching halt, the pricetag on a professional sports franchise has rocketed into the ozone.

Using the National Basketball Association's recent expansion as a barometer, here's an idea of what a potential baseball ownership group can expect to pay.

In 1987, six months before the NBA awarded four new franchises to Miami, Charlotte, Orlando and Minnesota, league sources braced the potential owners by throwing out the figure of $25 million. The actual price: $32.5 million.

Compare that with previous entry costs. The Dallas Mavericks, in 1981, paid $12 million to get in. New Orleans paid $6.15 million to join in 1974. In 1970, the franchise fee for Buffalo, Cleveland and Portland was $3.15 million.

In 17 years, value of a new franchise rose 10-fold.

A couple of years ago, Denver billionaire Marvin Davis figured an expansion baseball franchise would cost about $35 million to $40 million.

Then the NBA came along and charged $32.5 million in 1987, causing deep breaths throughout Major League Baseball. A baseball team undoubtedly will fetch considerably more.

The last time baseball expanded, on March 26, 1976, Toronto and Seattle forked over between $12-$15 million each. Figure that to quadruple for the next wave of expansion.

With Bob Horner a casualty for the rest of the season, the St. Louis Cardinals paid him $16,000 a game (60 games), or about $295,000 per homer (3), or approximately $30,000 per RBI (33).

With Gary Carter on his last legs, look for the New York Mets to come calling to San Diego for catching help during the off-season. The catching-rich Padres will deal either Benito Santiago, 1987 rookie of the year, or Sandy Alomar Jr., a .300 hitter at Class AAA Las Vegas. It could get interesting: Alomar's father, Sandy, is the Padres' third base coach.

The San Francisco Giants, in desperate need of front-line pitching, have been offered Eric Show by the Padres. But San Diego, burned in the deal for Chris Brown, wants third baseman Matt Williams, one of the Giants' hottest prospects. Giants general manager Al Rosen, a Williams fan, has rejected it.

The Tampa Bay Baseball Group is dead serious about buying the Texas Rangers. Unless Tampa lands an existing franchise, it appears likely it would lose the expansion race to St. Petersburg, which already has a stadium.