Yesterday, Jose Reyes signed a 6 year-$106 million deal, with the Miami Marlins, good for the largest free-agent contract in Marlins history. This move comes less than a week after all-star closer Heath Bell signed a 3 year-$27 million contract to come to South Beach. Also, the rumor is that the Marlins are the most likely destination outside of St. Louis for Sr. Albert Pujols. The Marlins had a team payroll in 2011 that was just over $57 million. Their two new stars will make around $27 million next season, or almost half of their entire 2011 payroll. The team already has $50 million locked into six players coming into 2012, which would mean they are already up to a payroll of $77 million, with only 8 players under contract. So where have these new big-spending Marlins come from?
In 2008, the Marlins’ payroll was baseball’s lowest at just over $25 million. This payroll was $21 million less than baseball’s second lowest payroll, the Oakland A’s’ who went with $46 million worth of players that season. Each season since 2008, the Marlins’ payroll has increased, with players such as Josh Johnson, Hanley Ramirez, and Ricky Nolasco receiving higher annual salaries. Over the last three seasons, the Marlins’ payroll has increased on average by 32.4%. If this trend continued, an estimated 2012 payroll for Miami would be around $77 million. Yet, as stated earlier, the Marlins have already spent $77 million on 8 players. Using this arbitration prediction model, and assuming the rest of the players under club control, receive major league minimum salaries, then the Miami Marlins payroll would be in the ballpark (no pun intended), of somewhere between 95-100 million dollars. This is an incredible increase in money spent, by a team who has always been considered a small-market club. The Marlins ownership/front office believe that the combination of their building of a new stadium, name change, and logo change will be enough to push them into the big-market to compete with the likes of the Phillies and Braves in the National League East.
The youthful core the Marlins already have in place (Mike Stanton, Ramirez, Johnson, Gaby Sanchez.. etc.), coupled with the addition of Bell and Reyes, make the Marlins an instant contender. Also, Miami is still in the market for Pujols; as well as, a left-handed starter. The three top starters on the Marlins’ roster are all right handed (Johnson, Nolasco, and Anibal Sanchez), and Miami has made a move for lefty Wade Leblanc, but his career WAR of -0.3 and xFIP of 4.55, is most likely not the answer. A signing of Mark Buehrle or CJ Wilson would add another $12-20 million to their existing $95-100 million payroll. With the Braves most likely working with a team worth between $85-100 million and the Phillies at least over $150 million, and the Mets cutting tons of payroll, incredibly the Miami Marlins will in all likelihood have the second highest payroll in the N.L. East, possibly the entire National League, in 2012.
The 2012 version of the Marlins will be so far removed from 2008 team that made $21 million less than any other ball club. Let’s just hope the flare of an infield that includes Jose Reyes and Hanley Ramirez, is enough to put enough fans in the seats to justify a jump from bottom five spender in the National League (and lowest spender in their division), to top five spender in just one season. The Miami Heat’s moves to bring in the big three in basketball has shown that making big free agent moves can stir up serious fan excitement in the Miami area, and the Marlins are doing everything they can to duplicate this success. It will be interesting to see if the Marlins have more up their sleeves, if they will succeed, and if not will they have another one of their infamous firesales of talent to cut payroll.