Marlins' and Rays' Embarrassing Selloffs Show MLB Can't Survive in Florida

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistFebruary 23, 2018

MIAMI, FL - OCTOBER 01: Giancarlo Stanton #27 of the Miami Marlins during the game against the Atlanta Braves at Marlins Park on October 1, 2017 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Miami Marlins via Getty Images)
Rob Foldy/Miami Marlins/Getty Images

That sound you hear? It's big league baseball exiting the southeastern United States with gale force.

Oh, sure, the Sunshine State is technically home to two MLB franchises. The Miami Marlins and Tampa Bay Rays will play "meaningful" games in 2018.

For all intents and purposes, however, Florida's teams are dead in the water. They've spent the winter jettisoning their assets and engaging in embarrassing selloffs that have set them up for irrelevance. 

It's ugly. It's going to get uglier.

The Marlins have made an indelible mark on an otherwise slow-developing offseason by trading their entire 2017 outfield. They shipped Giancarlo Stanton to the New York Yankees, Marcell Ozuna to the St. Louis Cardinals and Christian Yelich to the Milwaukee Brewers.

Add their trade of second baseman Dee Gordon to the Seattle Mariners, and the Fish tossed 19.5 fWAR overboard under their cost-cutting new ownership group fronted by Derek Jeter.

Erstwhile owner Jeffrey Loria was a polarizing figure in South Beach. The new guard is on track to be equally divisive.

"We now know that Jeter will be just as unpopular as Loria, though fiscally smarter, and that he doesn't care what you think," opined Greg Cote of the Miami Herald.

MIAMI, FL - OCTOBER 03:  Miami Marlins CEO Derek Jeter speak with members of the media at Marlins Park on October 3, 2017 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The situation in Tampa Bay is equally bleak. The Rays traded third baseman Evan Longoria to the San Francisco Giants. They gave outfielder Steven Souza Jr. to the Arizona Diamondbacks in a three-team swap. They dealt right-hander Jake Odorizzi to the Minnesota Twins. 

On Friday, Tampa Bay sent outfielder Corey Dickerson to the Pittsburgh Pirates, per the club's official Twitter feed.

None of those trades were as seismic as the Stanton swap. It's impossible to match a deal for the reigning National League MVP and his 59 home runs.

Longoria was a Rays franchise icon, however, and Souza, Odorizzi and Dickerson were essential ancillary pieces.

The sum of these deals have moved the Marlins and Rays from fringe postseason hopefuls to guaranteed basement dwellers bound for 100-plus losses.

Yes, both teams netted some interesting prospects. But nothing they got back sets them up for guaranteed success. After the Stanton, Ozuna and Gordon trades but before the Yelich deal, Bleacher Report's Joel Reuter ranked the Marlins' farm system 26th in the game. 

The Rays fared better, checking in at No. 8. Both franchises, though, are hamstrung by thin budgets.

The Marlins rank 24th in MLB in payroll and the Rays 27th, per Spotrac. Neither club is going to pay what it takes to build and sustain a winner.

Which begs the question: Why do we have Florida teams at all?

The Marlins have won two championships, in 1997 and 2003. They opened a gaudy, publicly funded stadium in 2012. Still, Miami ranked 28th in attendance in 2017, per ESPN.com. Subtract Stanton's fence-clearing exploits and add a cast of relative unknowns, and the indifferent coughs should echo through Marlins Park.

The Rays, meanwhile, checked in 30th (aka dead last) in attendance. They play their home games at Tropicana Field, arguably the ugliest yard in MLB. They haven't finished over .500 since 2013.

Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

If they continue their sell-off and let go of popular right-hander Chris Archer, they could be forced to pay fans to show up. That's barely hyperbole.

Rebuilding isn't always a bad thing. The Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros recently swallowed a period of painful losing in exchange for a Commissioner's Trophy.

The situation in Florida is different. These aren't franchises with a plan, asking their fans to endure the sting of tanking now for glory later. 

The Marlins and Rays are acting in bad faith, gutting their rosters with no realistic assurance they'll do and spend what it takes to compete later.

"It's terrible," Gordon said of Miami's machinations, per Tim Healey of the Sun Sentinel. "It's almost—I'm not even going to say almost. It's embarrassing. It's embarrassing. I don't want to bash anyone, but what's happened is not good."

Want to get really angry? Check out this math, courtesy of George Diaz of the Orlando Sentinel:

"[Thanks] to the magic of revenue sharing, bad teams with apathetic ownership can make it rain on their investments. A year ago, the Rays invested only $70 million in payroll while taking in $205 million in revenue. The Marlins spent $114 [million] in payroll off a revenue haul of $206 million in revenue.

That sucker in the mirror is you, and the players left behind."

Maybe it's time to admit big league baseball in Florida was a failed experiment. Maybe it's time to contract back to 28 teams.

That's an extreme suggestion. These are extreme times, baseball-wise, in the Sunshine State.

If you're a ticket-buying fan in Tampa Bay or Miami, now is the time to be mad. And, concurrently, to stay home.

      

All statistics and payroll information courtesy of Baseball Reference unless otherwise noted.

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