So, the Miami Marlins fired president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest on Friday, and then two days later, the Marlins promoted Michael Hill to fill Beinfest's role while Dan Jennings was also promoted from vice president of player personnel to general manager, the job Hill previously held.
In other words, owner Jeffrey Loria changed the chefs in the kitchen, but the amount of cash he has to purchase quality ingredients for a winning recipe stayed the same.
Now that the Marlins have ended a season in which they lost 100 or more games for just the second time in franchise history, it's time to see how much money Loria has in his wallet to stop the organization from hemorrhaging on the field. After all, this is the fourth consecutive season the Marlins have lost more games than the previous season, as the chart below shows.
The worst part is, this trend has continued regardless of if Loria has been Uncle Scrooge or has made it rain like Adam "Pacman" Jones, such as the case during the 2011-12 offseason when he spent $191 million to sign Heath Bell, Mark Buehrle and Jose Reyes.
Unfortunately, it looks like Loria will be frugal again.
Before the season began, team president David Samson said, according to the Miami Herald, attendance needs to increase at least a third from last year for the Marlins to afford a mid-range payroll of $80 million in the coming seasons. That meant attendance had to go from 2,219,444 to 2,959,258 just for payroll to increase.
Instead, this year's attendance fell to 1,586,322, which is a drop-off of 28.5 percent. Moreover, the team's payroll was roughly $37 million, and that figure isn't expected to dramatically increase for next season, according to MLB.com.
With that intel, we could reasonably deduce how much money Loria has to spend to fill the roster.
Signed for 2014
|Greg Dobbs||$1.7 million|
|Jeff Mathis||$1.5 million|
|Jacob Turner||$1 million team option|
The Marlins only have three players signed for next season at a paltry $4.2 million.
In the case of Mathis and Turner, their contracts were based on what they had negotiated with their previous teams. As for Dobbs, he signed a $1.7 million extension for next season months ago, but it only became official Thursday, according to MLB.com. Oh, and here's the kicker: A source told the Sun-Sentinel that Loria negotiated the pact unbeknownst to his top baseball officials. Keep in mind Dobbs is a 35-year-old left-handed pinch-hitter who produced a .228/.303/.300 slash line this season.
Arbitration eligible for 2014
|Player||Arbitration status||2013 salary|
|Steve Cishek||Super 2||$505,000|
Baseballreference.com predict the Marlins to pay $18.9 million in arbitration to eight of the nine players (Hill excluded). Of the eight, Cishek and Stanton have the most intriguing cases.
Cishek qualifies as a Super 2 case because under the labor contract agreed to in November 2011, the top 22 percent of players by service time with at least two years but less than three are eligible for arbitration along with the 3-to-6 year players. The litmus test for how much Cishek can earn looks like former Washington Nationals closer Drew Storen.
Last season, Storen agreed to a 1-year, $2.5 million deal to avoid arbitration, according to MLB.com. In his first three years in the majors, Storen racked up 52 saves with a 2.96 ERA and 150 strikeouts in 161 innings over 164 games.
Meanwhile, in Cishek's first three-plus years, he has recorded 52 saves to go with his 11-9 record with a 2.48 ERA. Cishek also struck out 200 batters in 192 1/3 innings of work. Basically, the Marlins can pencil Cishek's salary for next season to as high as $3 million.
As for Stanton, the Miami Herald reports Stanton could see his pay jump to to between $6 million and $8 million. Despite a sub-par year in which he produced a slash line of .249/.365/.480, Stanton still hit 24 home runs and drove in 62 runs.
More importantly, though, the Marlins plan to build around Stanton, but it's unclear if they will be able to sign the slugger to a long-term contract.
"The big man is a big part of our future," Hill told MLB.com. "D.J. started to discuss some of the challenges that we face as we move forward. The pieces, as we have said, we feel some of them are here who will help us return to our glory and win a championship here. It is our job to surround those people with more talent. That's what we need to do. We need to get better, plain and simple. We need to get better. It's sort of interesting that the season is ending today, because we're just getting started. ... We need to focus on getting better and winning more games, and Giancarlo is going to be part of that."
However, when asked before the season finale if he would be open to signing a deal if the Marlins presented one, Stanton told the Palm Beach Post, “They haven’t come to me.”
The contract the Marlins are still paying off
When the Marlins dumped Bell in a three-team trade last offseason, the Marlins agreed to pay $8 million of what's remaining to send Bell packing, according to a team executive involved in the deal who spoke to USA TODAY Sports on condition of anonymity. Apparently, the $8 million was to be split equally for the 2013 and 2014 seasons.
This means in 2014, the Marlins are paying Bell $4 million to not pitch for them.
So far, the Marlins' payroll is expected to be $27.1 million. And we still haven't gotten to the players who make up the largest portion of the organization.
Under club control for 2014
With only 11 players potentially locked up for next season, the Marlins could fill the remaining 14 slots with minimum salaried players.
Of course, some of those players already have roster spots on the team. Those players probably include the likes of Jose Fernandez, Nathan Eovaldi, Christian Yelich, Ed Lucas, Henderson Alvarez, A.J. Ramos, Tom Koehler, Marcell Ozuna, Donovan Solano, Dan Jennings, Brad Hand, Arquimedes Caminero, Jake Marisnick, Rob Brantly and Adeiny Hechavarria. That's 15 names for as many as 14 slots.
If the Marlins were to fill every one of the 14 remaining slots with the aforementioned players, then it would cost them around $7 million altogether. According to Major League Baseball, the minimum salary of a Major League player for the 2013 season is $490,000.
What does it all mean?
Add it all up and it means the Marlins payroll will probably be no lower than $34.1 million next season, assuming the Marlins don't re-sign their five remaining free agents (outfielders Matt Diaz, Austin Kearns and Juan Pierre, third baseman Placido Polanco and relief pitcher Chad Qualls).
This also means the Marlins have at least $2.9 million to spend in free agency even if they sign just one player to a guaranteed contract.
The fact of the matter is that the Marlins should spend a little money upgrading the roster. While the Marlins could use a veteran starting pitcher to fill out its rotation, their farm system also has three talented left-handers (Andrew Heaney, Justin Nicolino and Adam Conley) waiting to be called up to the majors. What the Marlins really need are players who can spruce up an offense that finished last in the majors in runs scored, hits, doubles, home runs, total bases, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage).
Heck, the Marlins signed Polanco last offseason to a one-year deal worth $2.75 million, according to ESPN.com. All Polanco provided was a hideous slash line of .260/.315/.302 with one home run and 23 RBI in 118 games as a starter-turned-part time player.
It would also help if the Marlin signed free agents who can provide offense as an infielder. Three of the Marlins four best offensive players in 2013 were outfielders (Stanton, Yelich and Ozuna).
At the end of the day, though, regardless if Loria was willing to spend $2.9 million or $209 million, it takes two to tango. Seeing as how Loria was just named ESPN The Magazine's most dishonest owner in sports, is there any free agent who is willing to take Loria's money if he overpaid to sign him?
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