The Hot Stove League may be off to a tepid start this off-season, but the rumors are finally starting to pick up. No, it isn't the usual suspects (the Yankees and Red Sox) heating things up, instead, the hottest rumors all seem to be coming from the Marlins. Say whaaaaaaaaaaaaat?!?!?
Yes, that's right, the fancy new re-branded MIAMI Marlins are in on just about every big name free agent on the market. They've got their new name, their new big name manager, their new stadium, their new hideous uniforms and now they want some new big name players to turn this team into a real contender. Or at least that is what they want us all to think.
In what has been a relatively quiet off-season thus far, the Marlins are one of the few teams making news. They haven't actually done anything yet, but they sure seem to be kicking the tires on an awful lot of high-priced free agents, which is strange since the Marlins are a notoriously thrifty organization that seldom ever makes even moderately big free agent signings. Now though, they seem to want us to believe that they are ready to spend and spend big. Just look at everyone they have been linked to this off-season:
- MVP candidate Jose Reyes, who could command $20+ million per year over at least five years.
- The best player on earth, Albert Pujols, who might soon become the highest paid athlete on earth.
- MVP candidate Prince Fielder, a player represented by Scott Boras who is dead set on getting Fielder a bigger contract than the eight-year, $180 million deal he got Mark Teixeira.
- C.J. Wilson, the best starting pitcher on the free agent market.
- Carlos Beltran, who is coming off a nine figure contract and isn't likely to take too much of an annual salary paycut.
- Aramis Ramirez, the best available third baseman by far.
- Mark Buehrle, not a star pitcher, but his consistency makes him a mortal lock for at least $10 million per year.
- Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes, who is billing himself as the best player to ever come out of Cuba and thus expecting a lucrative big league contract.
And I am sure I am probably forgetting a few other free agents that the Fish are considering making a run at. Honestly, they are so active it is hard to keep track.
I want to be happy for the Marlins here. They are a franchise that has been run on the cheap for so long and they owe it to their fans to finally get serious about building a perennial contender. They have vowed to spend more money this off-season in order to do just that, but how far can they really take that promise?
Let's not forget, the Marlins haven't spend more than $60 million on payroll in any season this entire century. And that includes the year they won the World Series with a $45 million budget. Big budgets just isn't what owner Jeffrey Loria does. Heck, he once let his team operate on a $15 million budget, and that was just five years ago. With the kind of players they are showing interest in right now, you'd think that they were getting ready to spend Yankee-type money in 2012 as opposed to the $80-$90 million that most reports suggest.
That is still a pretty decent payroll, but is it going to allow them to make serious runs at any of these uber-expensive free agents? Sorry, not going to happen. It isn't like Miami is going from spending $30 million to $90 million, they actually had, by their standards, a lofty budget of about $57 million in 2011 and they already have just shy of $50 million in salary commitments for 2012 before factoring in any arbitration awards, which could push their payroll up to $60 million. That still gives them plenty of money to spend, possibly $35 million, but I just have a hard time believing they'll really do it.
What it really looks like the Marlins are doing is what they always do, playing the PR game. Don't forget, this is a franchise opening a big new expensive stadium that they had to dupe the city into paying for and they most certainly want to put some butts in the seats. According to their team president, the Marlins think they will draw at least 30,000 per game next season. That's pretty big talk from a team that has been in the bottom of league attendance since the beginning of time. And it is awfully convenient that the team has yet to bother with releasing figures on season ticket sales thus far, justifying their eyebrow-raising attendance projections.
Hmmm... it is almost like the team is just saying and doing things in order to generate interest in season tickets because they are worried about filling their new stadium, no?
Call me crazy, but if they were really serious about signing these big free agents, wouldn't they be playing things a little closer to the vest instead of making every single potential free agent meeting and visit known to the media well in advance? Wouldn't they be making a legit offer to their supposed top target Jose Reyes instead of a three-year deal that has no chance of being accepted (but at least they can tell their fans they made an offer)?
Methinks they dost protest too much. This isn't the 1990's though when the "if you build it, they will come" new stadium revenue model was guaranteed. Their new digs and its retractable roof should boost attendance since the weather won't be such a deterrent anymore, but it would be an awfully big gamble for the Marlins to forgo their cautious spending ways and start throwing money around like crazy until they know for sure that they are going to be seeing the increased revenues to cover their off-season expenditures.
Or maybe it is me who dost protest too much. All that I've seen from the Marlins in recent years is one bad decision after another. The way the dumped Joe Girardi. The way they've handled Logan Morrison. Their blatant disregard for their fans in their $15 million payroll year. It just leaves a bad taste in my mouth and a bunch of big talk about becoming serious off-season players isn't going to wash it away.
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