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Fish Gutted and Fried…And Then There Were Three
2005-12-15 12:23
by Mike Carminati

I took a look at the dismemberment of the Marlins (or is it filleting?) a couple of weeks ago and found that the team had cut their payroll by about $25M from $65M to $40M.

I also looked at the high turnover on the Red Sox going into their second season after winning the World Series. One of the comments on that post asked how the Marlins would compare if we were to extend the study to a third year.

Well, given that the Crazy Marlins have unloaded everything that was not tied—or more to the point every player who was tied down, to a contract—I thought it would be interesting to revisit the floundering fish.

As for the team turnover, the Marlins have just three players left from the 2003 championship team: Dontrelle Willis, Miguel Cabrera, and Nate Bump, all of whom were rookies in 2003. Since I wrote the first piece on Florida about three weeks ago they have traded away their starting second baseman for the past seven seasons Luis Castillo (who had been with the team since 1996), their veteran catcher Paul Lo Duca, and their center fielder Juan Pierre.

Miguel Cabrera is the only starting position player from this past season who is still with the team. In fact, of the ten players who had more than 134 at-bats for the team in 2005, he's the sole survivor. Willis and Jason Vargas are the only starting pitchers with at least 5 starts for the Marlins in 2005 to still call Florida their home. In the pen there is just one pitcher remaining who made at least 30 appearances in 2005 (Bump).

The Marlins have no players remaining from the 15 who made at least $1M in 2005. Their two young stars, Cabrera and Willis, could become trade bait after they go through arbitration and get what I would expect are very large salary increases. From an estimated $65M payroll in 2005, Florida has now pared $60,993,334 through trades and free agent departures. That is unbelievable. Until arbitration John Riedling with his $750 salary is the highest paid Marlin.

I wouldn't be surprised if they waived vets Ron Villone ($1,950,000 in 2005 with the M's and Marlins, paid by the M's) and Riedling. That would leave them with no player who made more than $378,500 in 2005 (Willis).

The minimum possible team payroll in 2006 would be $8M (i.e., league minimum, $320K, for all 25 players). I estimate that the Marlins 2006 salary (even with Riedling still in the fold and with the three holdovers from 2003 getting salary bumps through arbitration) being about $18M. If the Marlins complete their housekeeping, they could get below $18M.

This team has been thoroughly gutted with not so much as an "I say!" from commissioner Bud. And let's make no mistake here: this is an historic housecleaning. This is beyond anything that Connie Mack or Charlie O. Finley ever tried.

Here's an update to their team payroll by player:

Player2005 Salary2006 status2006 Salary
Mike Lowell$7,500,000 Traded to Red Sox
Al Leiter$7,000,000 No longer with team
Luis Castillo$5,166,667 Traded to Twins
Paul Lo Duca$4,666,667 Traded to Mets
Juan Encarnacion$4,435,000 Free Agent
Carlos Delgado$4,000,000 Traded to Mets
Juan Pierre$3,700,000 Traded To Cubs
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 Traded to Red Sox
Josh Beckett$2,400,000 Traded to Red Sox
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 ?$750,000
Matt Perisho$475,000 No longer with team
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$320,000
Matt Treanor$316,000 New C$320,000
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??$320,000
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
Sergio Mitre$0 $350,000
Total$65,433,834 $ 17,040,000

(Notes: Mordecai is based on 2004. Quantrill's 2005 contract was with the Yankees. Villone's 2005 salary was paid by the Mariners.)

Having only three players remaining from a championship team three years later is the lowest total ever, and I wouldn't be surprised if the Marlins got rid of any or all of the three post arbitration. Here are the worst records of player retention for a World Series winner, three years after a championship (Keep in mind that the average for a World Series champ is about 12 players retained three years later and that the highest was 20 retained by the '86 Mets and the '51 Yankees):
YrTeamNum PlayersPCTYr3 PCTDiff
1918Boston Red Sox4.595.487-.108
1974Oakland Athletics4.556.391-.164
1941New York Yankees5.656.539-.117
1997Florida Marlins5.568.491-.077
1944St. Louis Cardinals7.682.578-.104
1919Cincinnati Reds7.686.558-.127
1914Boston Braves7.614.471-.144
1990Cincinnati Reds7.562.451-.111
1915Boston Red Sox7.669.595-.074
1928New York Yankees8.656.614-.041
1913Philadelphia Athletics8.627.235-.392
1934St. Louis Cardinals8.621.526-.095
1925Pittsburgh Pirates8.621.559-.062
1942St. Louis Cardinals8.688.617-.071
2001Arizona Diamondbacks8.568.315-.253
1940Cincinnati Reds8.654.565-.089
1921New York Giants8.614.608-.007

The current Marlins are worse than the Charlie O. A's, the Harry Frazee Red Sox who begot a "curse", war-era championship teams—hey, the are even worse than the '97 version of the team reviled for buying a championship and then cutting bait. On average these teams' winning percentage decrease by 120 points, from .626 to .506.

I expect the Marlins to be much worse than that. 120 point worse than their 2003 record (91-71, .562) would be about 72 wins. I think that's high. This team could be among the worst ever even if they decide to keep Cabrera and Willis.

Consider that the current crew of position players has just 851 games of major-league experience. Miguel Cabrera with two and one half years under his belt is by far the most experienced player. He's the only one who has played in at least 162 games, the equivalent of a major-league season and his career total (405) is nearly half the team total (851). They have just eight players with more than 20 games of major-experience. Do I smell a lineup? Here's the rundown:

PlayerCareer G
Miguel Cabrera405
Alfredo Amezaga 127
Chris Aguila94
Matt Treanor87
Mike Jacobs30
Josh Willingham28
Joe Dillon27
Jeremy Hermida23
Robert Andino17
Josh Wilson 11
Hanley Ramirez 2
Reggie Abercrombie 0
Jason Stokes0
Eric Reed 0
Dan Uggla0

Baseball has not seen as inexperienced a team as this since foundation of the rival Union Association in 1884. There are 54 teams in baseball history with less than 851 games of experience for its position players. None are from after 1884. On average they have a .396 winning percentage, which translates into a 64-98 record in a 162-game schedule. Here are the least experienced:

PlayerLgYrCareer GWLPCT
Milwaukee BrewersUA18841384.667
St. Paul ApostlesUA18841526.250
Middletown MansfieldsNA187230519.208
St. Louis Red StockingsNA187536415.211
Washington NationalsNA187248011.000
Baltimore MarylandsNA18735406.000
Brooklyn AtlanticsNA187274928.243
Brooklyn EckfordsNA187288326.103
Altoona Mountain CityUA1884111619.240
Washington NationalsAA18841331251.190

All 13 career games for the 1884 Brewers were contributed by catcher Cal Broughton, and all of those came in the previous season.

Here are the teams with the least experience for their position players since the inception of the AL and the start of the "modern" era. None are within 1100 games of the Marlins. This includes teams from short-lived third leagues, from the starts of the AL, and during wars, and the '06 Marlins will destroy them all:

PlayerLgYrCareer GWLPCT
Kansas City PackersFL191420496784.444
Cincinnati RedsNL190721356687.431
Boston BravesNL194422136589.422
Boston DovesNL1910222653100.346
St. Louis TerriersFL191423736289.411
Detroit TigersAL190123917461.548
Minnesota TwinsAL198324257092.432
Indianapolis HoosiersFL191424448865.575
Cincinnati RedsNL190924557776.503
Florida MarlinsNL199924916498.395
Milwaukee BrewersAL190125134889.350
Brooklyn SuperbasNL1905253348104.316
St. Louis BrownsAL194825555994.386
Chicago CubsNL192326088371.539
St. Louis CardinalsNL1908264449105.318
Boston Red SoxAL190927238863.583
Philadelphia AthleticsAL1936275953100.346
Montreal ExposNL199327839468.580
Brooklyn DodgersNL191228245895.379
St. Louis CardinalsNL190228285678.418
Total 13221708.436

Looking at just the teams from the last fifty years, it gets worse. Note that the closest team has about 1600 games more of experience or about 200% more:

PlayerLgYrCareer GWLPCT
Minnesota TwinsAL198324257092.432
Florida MarlinsNL199924916498.395
Montreal ExposNL199327839468.580
San Diego PadresNL1969287352110.321
Kansas City RoyalsAL196932056993.426
San Diego PadresNL197032996399.389
St. Louis BrownsAL195033015896.377
Chicago White SoxAL199934767586.466
Pittsburgh PiratesNL195535796094.390
Pittsburgh PiratesNL199835976993.426
Montreal ExposNL199836606597.401
Minnesota TwinsAL200037346993.426
Montreal ExposNL199438547440.649
Kansas City AthleticsAL196238797290.444
Minnesota TwinsAL200139308577.525
Minnesota TwinsAL1982397460102.370
Kansas City AthleticsAL196740106299.385
Kansas City RoyalsAL199640737586.466
Montreal ExposNL199640988874.543
Oakland AthleticsAL1979416054108.333
Total 13781795.434

What we are witnessing here is something that's never even been conceived before. It's the near total dismantling of a major-league team. Some of the teams on the list above are very inexperienced but that is because of a young, talented players being given a chance. Usually those players get a short trial to prove themselves and a team makes the plunge.

That's not the case here. The Marlins were a veteran club that was supposed to compete in 2005. They failed to mount a serious postseason challenge. They did not start dismantling and rebuilding during the season. The team remained essentially intact until the postseason, and then…boom!

One has to wonder with the owners being allowed to contract after this season without the players say-so, what the end game is here. Of course, the Marlins are looking for—and apparently not getting—a new stadium. They have also threatened to leave, and may be cutting payroll to became more attractive, at least financially.

Whatever the cause, I think we have an opportunity to witness something that will make the '62 Mets and the 2003 Tigers seem like amateurs (or is that professionals?). We're talking neo-Cleveland Spiders here. If this team does not lose 100 games, I will be shocked. If they don't break the Mets' "record" of 120, it'll be a crime. Boy, Joe Girardi is really going to miss his cushy Yankee job, if not his cushy Yankee players, by season's end.

2005-12-15 12:59:28
1.   Cliff Corcoran
If Mota is being shopped, it's the Red Sox who are doing it, because he was included in the Beckett-Lowell trade.
2005-12-15 13:35:13
2.   Mike Carminati
Oops, did I miss that one from the old table. Let me fix it.
2005-12-15 13:36:58
3.   ChuckM
Wow. Been paying casual attention to baseball this offseason (probably since the Yanks have been laying low on the Hot Stove), didn't realize the carnage was that bad in Florida. Just a shame.
2005-12-15 14:22:51
4.   Erik Siegrist
They re-signed Moehler too, so there are actually three 2005 Marlins starting pitchers back in the fold.
2005-12-16 00:06:00
5.   das411
Wow, thanks for the analysis Mike, I had no idea the gutting was quite this complete. I mean even after 1997 they held on to Cliff Floyd, Castillo, Alfonseca, and Livan...this is just incredible.

With the CBA set to expire after next season, is it time for the C-word to be tossed around again?

2005-12-16 05:55:32
6.   markh
Just watch -- I give it until August before Seligula starts tossing the C-word around. The main purpose of which, I assume, will be to frighten the cities of the 3-4 teams hinted at into building them new stadiums. Either that or they really do mean to murder 2 teams, in order to free up 2 cities for future municipal blackmail schemes.

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