The Miami Marlins cut a lot of payroll in their fire sale trade this past offseason, sending away the short-term salaries of Josh Johnson, Emilio Bonifacio, and John Buck along with the hefty contracts of Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle. The move immediately brought memories of past fire sales to Marlins fans and outside observers alike. For Fish fans, this is a terrible but all-too-familiar feeling.
Consider the MLB Players' Association alongside the number of parties who find this move by the Marlins reminiscent. Like they did before the 2010 season, the Players' Association are expected to pursue actions against the Marlins to commissioner Bud Selig if the team continues to maintain a low payroll. This is according to an unnamed Players' Association member interviewed by Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald.
An MLB Players Association source said if owner Jeffrey Loria doesn’t increase their payroll in the coming months, they plan to pursue the issue with commissioner Bud Selig.
"We don’t have to wait until next October to pursue it," the source said. If the Marlins don’t raise payroll in 2013, former commissioner Fay Vincent expects "the commissioner and union will strongly encourage Loria to spend some money. They can make it very uncomfortable if he doesn’t."
Raise your hand if this refrain sounds familiar. Before the 2010 season, the Marlins were publicly reprimanded by the league in conjunction with the Players' Association with regards to their payroll situation, and the team was placed on a probationary period of three years in which they were required to raise payroll. The Marlins indeed raised payroll fairly organically, beginning by sealing the deal on a four-year extension for Josh Johnson and continuing with the occasional smart signing of players like Javier Vazquez. That led to the 2012 offseason and the spending spree that followed.
Of course, the fact that the Fish wiped away all of that payroll in one fell swoop seems highly suspicious to both the league office and the Players' Association. Recall that Bud Selig took a little longer than expected to review the Marlins / Toronto Blue Jays trade, eventually deciding that there were enough positives that the deal did not warrant any nixing. The fact that the deal required such consideration from "outside evaluators" implies that there were already suspected payroll tinkering issues with the Marlins.
Now the players' union may also get involved with another potential reprimand of the Fish. But will the Marlins listen, especially if what they assert regarding their finances is correct?
But the Marlins privately believe MLB won’t force them to increase payroll during 2013 or before 2014 for a couple of reasons: They assert they lost $40 million last season and won’t make much, if anything, this season, because they expect attendance and associated ballpark revenue to plummet. MLB and the players union are given the Marlins’ books.
This is an interesting figure for the Fish because, if it is true, there is no doubt the Marlins will not be asked to raise payroll, at least not until a little while after 2013. If the Fish did indeed lose $40 million last year, MLB will have little recourse to force them to spend more this season, especially since they will not receive significant revenue sharing dollars thanks to their high payroll from 2012.
But immediately following 2013, you have to expect that the Marlins will once again be receiving significant funds from revenue sharing. The team's expected $32.5 million payroll ($45 million with the salary sent to Toronto and Arizona) should easily be the lowest in baseball and thus earn them a greater revenue sharing check before 2014. Even if Marlins fans do not show up significantly, as they did in the old stadium days, the Fish will still take all of the revenue from the stadium's activities during those 81 home games. It will be just like the situation from the old stadium, except the Marlins will be earning every penny from the park.
So even if the Fish are not reprimanded this season, you can expect that the Marlins will be chastised starting next year if payroll remains diminished. Looking at the roster, you can expect it to stay fairly low, as only Giancarlo Stanton and Logan Morrison are expected to make significant money as first-year arbitration players. With both players being obvious trade candidates, it is possible the team can bottom out its salary in 2014, and that should get some attention from the folks higher up in the baseball hierarchy.