The same thing happens every year. Starting pitchers, slightly past their prime, decide that it is the right time to cash in on their past performances. Despite the fact that they have logged many innings over the years already, the most high-profile players receive huge paydays as teams battle each other to make the biggest splash.
These deals almost never work out for the employer; look at Barry Zito's deal with the Giants a few years back. However, team's keep falling into the same trap, hoping that they'll strike gold. The Marlins have never been one of those teams, although they got their feet wet last winter.
The Fish wanted James Shields, but only for the right price. They were heavily involved, until the going rate became unreasonable for Jeffrey Loria. In the end, Shields signed with the Padres for four years and $75 million. In his first year with the team, he went 13-7 with a 3.91 ERA - hardly the stats of a staff ace. This less than impressive stat line may have been due to his age (33), or the fact that he has now pitched over 200 innings in nine straight seasons.
It is all too common to see tired arms like these in the free agent pool. This year's class includes David Price, 30, Johnny Cueto, 29, and Zack Greinke, 32. Greinke just opted out of a $71 million deal, so look for his free agent contract to exceed $100 million. This is way out of Miami's budget, but this might be a blessing in disguise.
Owner Jeffrey Loria isn't the keen on spending lots of his money, so risking a huge chunk of his fortune on a quickly-aging pitcher isn't on the top of his to-do list. This is a justified decision, and it is in the best interests of the organization. There are other, more cost-effective ways of improving this ballclub.
For instance, a trade between the Fish and the Indians, involving Marcell Ozuna, keeps popping up. If he has fallen out of favor with the team after his comments regarding his mid-season demotion to AAA, then such a trade might benefit all parties. Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco are two Cleveland pitchers who would improve the rotation significantly.
In short, the Marlins aren't going to pursue the top free agent arms this winter because of how much they'll cost. This isn't another case of the Marlins being cheap, though. They are being sensible by not engaging in the ridiculous money wars that occur at the end of every calendar year. Would Zack Greinke or David Price turn this team into a serious playoff contender? Yes. They wouldn't be worth the value of their salary a few years down the line, however.
If Miami can add quality, controllable pitching, then they will be well on their way to securing their first winning season since 2009. The Marlins can let the big boys throw their money around, and stick to their own game plan. It has worked in the past, and it can work again.