Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Miami Marlins and Lucrative Spending

I preemptively answered this question asked by my sister's boyfriend regarding the Miami Marlins on Monday:
Hey Ryan,
I wanted to get your thoughts on the Marlin's new acquisitions in Jose Reyes and Heath Bell.

Hi Neil,
I think Reyes will be a good pick as long as he stays healthy and Hanley Ramirez actually agrees to shift to third. Bell is still one of the better closers, but he's on the decline. Their offense/defense looks good now, but pitching is still a major question mark. Who knows how much cash they have left now, if any.

They must still have a wad left in the wallet as they apparently raised their offer to Pujols. Why him and not Mark Buehrle, Edwin Jackson, or C.J. Wilson is beyond me.

I normally do not cover the Marlins, but I wanted to make an educated response when I was asked about their latest developments. This normally would not be an issue, but I was frustrated when I could not locate a blog or similar resource which projected the Miami Marlins 2012 payroll. Pirates Prospects has spoiled me, which led me to crunch the numbers on my own using Cot's Baseball Contracts and arbitration estimates from MLBTR's Offseason Outlook.

The list isn't perfect, but cut me some slack since this isn't one of my dedicated teams. This estimate initially showed $84 million allotted to their roster next season, then the Marlins just had to sign Buehrle to a 4 year, $58 million contract. This tentatively increases my projection to nearly $99 million unless his contract is This increases my projection to slightly over $90 million after discovering via MLBTR that his contract is back loaded like Reyes.

Of course this does not include the 10 year, $220 million offer to Albert Pujols that would have averaged $24 million per season, though it reportedly fell through before the Buehrle signing. Regardless of what was previously said, it does mean they have spent $191 million on three players in one week. It doesn't stop there. Apparently the Marlins still have an active offer out for Wilson and are now pursuing Prince Fielder.

What is going on in Miami? Check out their payroll over the past few years from Steve the Ump.

Marlins Payroll vs. Other MLB Teams, 2000-2011

The Marlins have consistently been a Major League Baseball team with a below average payroll. They have never crossed the seasonal average, though came relatively close in 2005 with $60MM only to begin the following season at a mere $15MM. That was the lowest payroll for a MLB team since 2000.

When will it end? At this rate the sky's the limit. $100MM? $120MM? $200MM?
Given Jeffrey Loria's sudden emulation of the late George Steinbrenner, I would not be terribly surprised.

Where did they suddenly get this money? Possible revenue share hoarding.

I am not going to question where this money came from, but I do wonder if they have the right people managing their finances. If this is actually money they had (wrongly) saved from revenue sharing or accumulated from other means, then so be it. If this is money they anticipate to generate in the future from the new stadium and new free agents, then that is a dreadful thought. When the new stadium fails to attract new fans, then there will be massive budget cuts. Perhaps this is why the Marlins refuses to offer anyone a no trade clause in their contracts.

It's possibly an escape plan from future financial emergencies, but let's hope the Marlins do not need to resort to using it.

Update #1: Wilson signed with the Angels and the Marlins are not interested in Fielder. Will the spending stop?

Update #2: Buehrle's contract is back loaded like Reyes, which reduces their 2012 payroll projection to ~$90MM.

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