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Fish Fry
2005-11-23 10:53
by Mike Carminati

Ah, it's almost Thanksgiving, and I can already smell the intoxicating aroma of hot, oven-roasted…Marlin. Yes, Christmas is coming—the Marlins are getting lean (please put a penny in Jeffrey Loria's hat, and a Brad Penny will definitely not do).

If it weren't bad enough that the Marlins have had the gall to win two World Series without ever winning their division, after the post-championship buzz has worn off they regularly jettison every player on the team making more than the league minimum. At least this time (2003) they took their time in dismantling. I guess they were just waiting for Jack McKeon to expire. I, frankly, thought this team would content in 2005 and even at the end of the season, thought they had a decent shot to win the division next year. But now we will never know.

One day after dealing the erstwhile All-Star third baseman (Mike Lowell) and fifteen-game winner (Josh Beckett), Florida is set to send Carlos Delgado to the Mets, the team they stole him away from in the free agent market last year.

Rumors swirl that they are shopping Luis Castillo, Juan Pierre, Paul Lo Duca, and a partridge in a pear tree—basically everything and anything that isn't nailed down MUST GO!!! Just wait until talented youngsters like Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis get huge bumps up in salary due to arbitration—they both made under $380 K last year.

Yes, they are getting decent prospects in both deals—Mike Jacobs, 11 HRs and 1.085 in 100 ABs in 2005, and the high-touted shortstop Hanley Ramirez. But the original Boston deal had the Marlins sending cash to offset Lowell's $18/two-year price tag, and they are reportedly sending money in the Mets deal ($7 M to defray Delgado's $48 M price tag over the next three years).

They are reportedly trying to cut salary from an estimated $65 M last season to $40 M in 2006. As far as I can tell, they are well on their way.

I ran the numbers for their 2005 roster as well as how it currently stands and what could remain by the time the regular season rolls around:

Player2005 Salary2006 status2006 Increase?
Mike Lowell$7,500,000 Traded
Al Leiter$7,000,000 No longer with team
Luis Castillo$5,166,667 ?
Paul Lo Duca$4,666,667 ?
Juan Encarnacion$4,435,000 Free Agent
Carlos Delgado$4,000,000 Traded
Juan Pierre$3,700,000 ?
A.J. Burnett$3,650,000 Free Agent
Alex Gonzalez$3,400,000 Free Agent
Jeff Conine$3,000,000 Free Agent
Guillermo Mota$2,600,000 ?
Josh Beckett$2,400,000 Traded
Ismael Valdez$1,500,000 Free Agent
Todd Jones$1,100,000 Free Agent
Jim Mecir$1,100,000 Free Agent
Damion Easley$750,000 Free Agent
John Riedling$750,000
Matt Perisho$475,000
Lenny Harris$425,000 Free Agent
Brian Moehler$400,000 Free Agent
Dontrelle Willis$378,500 $5,000,000
Miguel Cabrera$370,000 $5,000,000
Nate Bump$360,000 $500,000
Chris Aguila$316,000 New OF
Matt Treanor$316,000 New C
Antonio Alfonseca$300,000 Free Agent, option declined
Mike Mordecai$425,000 Free Agent
Paul Quantrill$3,000,000 Free Agent
Jason Vargas?SP$320,000
Randy Messenger ?RP$320,000
Ron Villone $1,950,000 ?
Valerio de los Santos??
Scott Olsen?SP$320,000
Chris Resop?RP$320,000
Josh Johnson ?SP$320,000
Robert Andino?New SS?$320,000
Jeremy Hermida?New OF$320,000
Joe Dillon ?New 2B or UT?$320,000
Josh Willingham ?New C?$320,000
Josh Wilson ?New 2B?$320,000
Ryan Jorgensen ?New C?$320,000
Alfredo Amezaga$0 New 3B?$320,000
Mike Jacobs$0 New 1B or C$320,000
Hanley Ramirez$0 New SS?$320,000
Estimated$65,000,000 $40,000,000

Notes: Mordecai is based on 2004

Quantrill's 2005 contract was with the Yankees

Villone's 2005 salary was paid by the Mariners

I see everyone on the roster who made more than one million dollars in 2005 as a potential ex-Marlin. So far, the Marlins' hard work this offseason has netted them $44,385,000 in salary lost (either through trades or free agent losses, and not included the potential money sent to the Mets in the Delgado deal). If they divest themselves of the other millionaire players, I estimate that they can save an additional $16,133,334.

How does that affect their bottom line. Their estimated 2006 payroll for the players they currently have on their roster is in the mid-thirty million range ($36,028,834). If they are able to completely clean house—maybe they can even sell Joe Rudi to the Red Sox—, they will have a salary in the $20 M range ($19,895,500) depending on the league-minimum salaries they will need to expend to replace the jettisoned, higher-priced players. That would be almost ten million less than the lowest payroll in 2005, that of the lowly Devil Rays ($29,679,067 according to

Of course, none of this is happening in a vacuum. The Marlins have announced that due to their usurial stadium deal and the metro area's disinclination to supply them with a new park—Ah, poor Jeffrey Loria!—they will be looking to relocate the franchise.

But as Jayson Stark points out, where???

He theorizes Las Vegas since it is THE up-and-coming area. But baseball hates up-and-coming areas. They afford moving into new, untried markets until lawsuits or congressional threats to revoke their antitrust "exemption" force them to begrudgingly go (e.g., Seattle, Colorado, Miami, Tampa Bay and then you have the whole slew of Sixties expansion teams that were added merely to deflate a rival third league, the Continental League).

Then there's contraction. At the end of the 2006, as was negotiated in the last CBA wranglings, the owners will not need to get the players say-so in order to contract. The two Florida teams look like ideal candidates. Oddly, the Brewers moved to the NL to accommodate having the D-Rays in the AL so that the NL wouldn't have a monopoly on the valuable state.

My bet that is that the Marlins are not moving nor are they being contracted out of existence. Given that baseball has expanded into almost all of the viable markets, the can no longer exact from their municipalities the concessions that were available prior to the last two rounds of expansion (how many teams almost moved to Tampa-St. Pete before the D-Rays existed anyway?). Taking the DC off the market really hurt, too, but the owners will get their due in resale value.

So what is a monopoly to do? Make up idle threats that they seem to be able to back up. Contraction? Sound good. Leaving for Las Vegas? Didn't work for Nic Cage, but what the hey?

I think this just the first step in the next merry-go-round of ownership changes. The last round landed John Henry in Boston and Loria in Florida, sniggering at the losses of his minority owners in Montreal. Could the next round find the estimable Mr. Loria in DC or some other preferable market?

It's all speculation, but hey, that's what the offseason is for. Meanwhile this just in: Paul Lo Duca traded for a bucket of ice! More to come.

2005-11-23 12:20:20
1.   joejoejoe
I wish Congress would revoke the antitrust exemption of baseball instead of butting into nonsense like steroids which has effectively zero public health consequences. It's healthier to have freedom of movement based on market forces and not back room dealing. The Expos/Marlins/Red Sox ownership shuffle was a disgrace. And Peter Angelos holding up MLB for money to allow the Nationals in DC is ridiculous. If there was any justice the Marlins would move not to Vegas or Portland, but to Brooklyn. New York could easily support another team. If small markets don't like it, go see your local minor league team.

The Marlins aren't just cutting payroll, they are cutting ties to the Miami area. If the anti-trust exemption was lifted they could move someplace WITH Delgado and Beckett instead of gutting their team in order to sell it and move as a pseudo expansion team in 2007.

2005-11-23 20:19:49
2.   cooperjude
I don't recall the hue and cry about the Red Sox finally breaking the curse as a wild card team. If that wasn't sufficiently galling to the punditry, then the Marlins doing it twice shouldn't be, either.

As for your roster, I think all of the "?'s" are gone, with Castillo being the least likely to depart. Out of the free agents, the only ones I could see coming back are Moehler, Conine, Valdes, and the exceedingly valuable Lenny Harris. The rest are "YOUR FLORIDA MARLINS!!!"

It's a dark day for sports here in the worst sports "metropolis" in America [that would be South Florida, as if I really need to convince anyone of that fact]. The Huizenga sell-off was nothing but revenge against the So. Fla. govt.; we didn't deserve that one. This one, we deserve. The Marlins bent over backwards to put together another title contender in an effort to become the most successful professional sports franchise in South Florida history [they're tied with the Sacred Sea Cows], only to have the fans keep them there and apathetically screw them into financial purgatory. Not only do we deserve it, we've earned it.

2005-11-23 20:20:41
3.   cooperjude
Oh, and one more thing: if the bucket of ice can pitch middle relief, we'll take him.

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