On Tuesday night, Miami Marlins CEO Derek Jeter addressed his fans’ concerns directly in the town hall meeting that took over Twitter. From the left field plaza at Marlins Park, he insisted the franchise has a clear strategy with its recent high-profile trades, and asked fans to be patient.
The Marlins have faced severe criticism from fans after trading three of their star players. Two weeks ago, they dealt Dee Gordon to the Seattle Mariners for 2015 second-round pick Nick Neidert, their 7th-ranked prospect Chris Torres, and right-handed pitcher Robert Dugger. Last Monday, they traded Giancarlo Stanton to the New York Yankees for second baseman Starlin Castro, right-hander Jorge Guzman and infielder Jose Devers. Then just days later, Jeter’s front office sent Marcell Ozuna to the St. Louis Cardinals for four prospects: right-handed pitcher Sandy Alcantara, outfielder Magneuris Sierra, right-hander Zac Gallen and left-hander Daniel Castano.
When Jeter fielded questions, the season ticket holders in attendance didn’t hesitate to express their displeasure about the recent payroll-reducing trades of stars for minor leaguers. But Jeter reiterated that his goal is to create a cache of young, talented players to build the foundation for sustainable success. And defended the quality of the prospects that were obtained.
“We did get good players from every deal that we made going back to [last season],” he said. “There are players you don’t know their names yet but you will know.”
The motivation for the deals was simply a matter of money. Since Jeter took the helm of the franchise in September, his first order of business has been to shrink the payroll. Miami was currently sitting at $115 million in salary commitments, but Jeter wanted to drop that number to as low as $55 million in 2018, so unloading Stanton’s (10 years, $295 million remaining) was highly expected. But his decision to also trade Ozuna and Gordon put the organization in potentially one of the cruelest rebuilding modes in years.
This roster might not have a single prospect in Baseball America’s top 100 list next season. But Jeter said the trades were necessary because the organization has been losing a heavy amount of money while the team struggled on the field. He pointed out that the team hasn’t experienced a winning record since 2009 and haven’t made playoffs since 2003. Yet, Jeter said he expects his 2018 roster to be competitive, and added “You’re going to grow to admire the players we have coming.”
“I can’t sit here and say trust me,” said Jeter, who answered questions for nearly 90 minutes. “You don’t know me. You earn trust over time. I know how organizations are sustainable over time. I know you have been through a lot. I can’t relate to it. It’s going to be a tough road. It’s going to take time and effort.”
The Marlins are reportedly targeting a 2018 payroll of about $90 million, and the moves this offseason have brought them in range of that. Then after hearing versions of the same complaint four times, an emotional woman demanded to understand why the Marlins cut ties with her favorite players.
A fan stepped up to the microphone and started crying about Ichiro and Stanton being gone. I've seen it all tonight.— Aram Leighton (@AramLeighton8) December 20, 2017
“You can’t throw money at a problem and continue to dig a bigger hole,” Jeter said, while praising her obvious passion. “To not have any depth in the organization, even if you were to win, you would have to build again at some point. Throwing money at a problem is not the answer.”
“It’s easy to say, ‘Go get more pitching and you’re going to win.’ There are no guarantees by grabbing pitching you are going to win. The only way to be sustainable over time is to build up the minor league system. That is our focus...I don’t expect you to be happy.”
And of course, Marlins Man—the guy that sits behind home plate, a season ticket holder since 1993—had something to say. This appeared to be his first face-to-face interaction with Jeter:
He continued with a lengthy speech. Much of it was self-serving, but he also brought a stack of papers with him, and cited information from it to hammer home a basic argument:
Marlins Man still hasn’t renewed his usual ticket package, so Jeter attempted to reach a compromise.
“I’ll let you throw out the first pitch with a 10-year [ticket] plan,” he said. “I’m sure we’ll talk later.”