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Miami Marlins Actions With Free Agents Continue to Show Betrayal

Two prominent pieces of news came out in recent days regarding the Miami Marlins and their actions that shed light on their treatment of free agent signings Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle.

News came out that the Miami Marlins broke verbal commitments with free agents Mark Buehrle and Jose Reyes, trading them after promising their tenure with the Fish.
News came out that the Miami Marlins broke verbal commitments with free agents Mark Buehrle and Jose Reyes, trading them after promising their tenure with the Fish.
Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

The Miami Marlins made their mega-trade of Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, and others in an attempt to cut salary and replenish a broken farm system for the team's future. While on the baseball end, the trade did seem like something of an intelligent move for an organization that was lacking in future talent and was saddled with long-term deals, it appeared to most observers as an act of betrayal and a breaking of trust by a seedy organization only looking to profit, regardless of the opinions of the fan base.

Yesterday, Brendan O'Toole of the SB Nation Boston Red Sox blog Over the Monster made this point about the Marlins while comparing the relatively light response to the very similar midseason move by the Sox to dump the majority of their long-term salary commitments onto the Los Angeles Dodgers. The difference between the Red Sox and the Marlins, according to O'Toole? Credibility built up over a series of years.

The Red Sox and their ownership were immediately praised throughout baseball for their skill in escaping such onerous contracts, and their savvy in committing to a homegrown youth movement. The Marlins and their ownership were immediately pilloried for an unprincipled salary dump. How could two such similar trades produce such completely divergent reactions? One reason, of course, is that the Marlins acquired Jeff Mathis in their trade, and any team that trades anything for Jeff Mathis deserves at least some mockery. What it truly comes down to, however, is credibility. Red Sox ownership has it, and Marlins ownership doesn't.

Imagine you have two friends. At a dinner party, each friend tells you that they've decided to quit their job and open a brewpub. The first friend has been a lawyer for ten years and has a fine home with a reasonable mortgage. The second friend has bounced from job to job for the last five years, and currently rents a one-bedroom. Are you going to react to their respective decisions the same way? They've both done the same thing, certainly. But knowing what you do about them, you'll assume that the first friend is taking a calculated risk and hoping it works out, and the second friend is making another foolish decision that he'll abandon in six months.

There is absolute truth in this statement. The Miami Marlins, under the ownership of Jeffrey Loria, have run the organization in a fashion that bred mistrust of the team. John Henry, former Marlins owner and one of the beneficiaries of the deal that got Loria in Miami, has more or less run the Red Sox with the intent to win and please the fan base, which has led to profits for the organization. While Henry has run the Sox in what seems like a respectable fashion, Loria has run the Marlins in exactly the sort of way that would elicit the negative response that came from last week's move.

You can see why this ownership group elicits that sort of response when two pieces of news came out as the Marlins / Toronto Blue Jays trade became official. First, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reports that the Marlins, while staunchly retaining their "no no-trade clause" policy, made verbal commitments to free agent signings Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle about retaining them in the years to come.

The Marlins do not award no-trade clauses, but club officials, while recruiting Reyes and Buerhle as free agents last offseason, assured both players that they would not be moved, sources said.

Buehrle knew the Marlins’ history of dumping high-priced players, and it concerned him, according to a friend. Team president David Samson, however, told both Buehrle and his wife, Jamie, that the team was committed to a long-term vision, sources said.


A source close to Reyes, asked if the shortstop also received verbal assurances from the Marlins that he would not be traded, responded, "The answer is yes. A vehement yes."

If this news is true, and there is no reason to believe otherwise, it just goes to show how mischievous and untrustworthy the franchise's lead heads are in running the organization. Sure, these contracts came with what sounds like, at best, verbal agreements which are not binding. But the Marlins put their brand out there to two major free agents in 2012 and promised them that their future would be secure with the team for the long haul. Free agents like Buehrle, who have families and want to settle in one location when moving, want the security that is supposed to come with a long-term deal, or at least as much security as they can get. The Marlins supposedly gave the Buehrle family and Jose Reyes their word that the team would retain them, and while no one would blame the Marlins for trading them years down the line, the team's word looks awfully bad when that trade occurs the very next season. In that respect, once again the Marlins have gone back on their promises, this time to players. How can the team possibly expect to attract free agents with the way they treat the ones they have?

Also, the irony of the salary dump trade is that the Marlins accomplished this move in the offseason directly following their three-year observation period under Major League Baseball. If you will recall, Major League Baseball and the Player's Union jointly slapped the Marlins' hands when the team continued to spend too little while continuing to make big gains via revenue sharing. This occurred at the end of the 2009 season and it led to a three-year observation period that began in 2010 and, oddly enough, ended after the 2012 season. With the agreement ending after last season, the Marlins were free to manage their finances without the watchful eye around them, and ironically that led to the team dumping the majority of its salary commitments.

That, of course, could have been awful timing, but the problem with the Marlins is that the resume as a whole leads to suspicion of the organization. The team has a history of these sorts of actions. They have been investigated for mismanaging the team in favor of pocketing revenue sharing. They have a policy on no-trade clauses and have now apparently gone back on verbal commitments to free agent signings. When something with this sort of "unfortunate" timing happens with the Marlins, it is very difficult to suspect anything other than foul play from the ownership. In some cases, what you see is what you get.