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Don’t bury Derek Jeter yet: CEO’s ambitious plan for the Marlins might just be crazy enough to work

Unpopular? Of course, but at least new ownership has chosen a direction for the franchise.

Al Diaz/Miami Herald/TNS via Getty Images

When Derek Jeter and his fellow investors officially took ownership of the Miami Marlins, they wasted no time informing the world of their cost-cutting strategy. Jeter wouldn’t tolerate a franchise losing tons of dollars, all while failing to make the postseason even once in the past 14 years.

He decided to press the reset button. The Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson explains why that’s not necessarily a bad thing in the final installment of his “Project Wolverine” series.

Purging impact players from the major league roster also allowed Jeter to cleanse future payroll commitments. Trades of Giancarlo Stanton, Dee Gordon and Marcell Ozuna earlier this offseason took more than $300 million of guaranteed money off the books.

Marlins will miss Stanton’s power, but not his contract.
Photo by Rob Foldy/Miami Marlins via Getty Images

One prospective investor in the Marlins wasn’t in favor of that strategy. “Can’t happen. This is entertainment. Fans come to see players they identify with, not Triple-A players,” he told Jackson. Especially because the team doesn’t have a single top-100 prospect to show for losing so much established talent, according to MLB Pipeline. Fans were understandably pissed because they don’t take the financial savings into consideration.

Still, they have every right to doubt Jeter and his plan. Why not enter the 2018 season with most of the 2017 roster intact, at least to test whether game attendance and sponsorship revenue could support an expensive product? Thereafter, the front office could have trimmed costs before the July trade deadline if it proved unsustainable.

After opting instead for the unpopular teardown, Jeter is almost assured a profitable 2018 thanks mainly to the $50 million payment his team—and every team—will receive from MLB’s sale of digital media company BAMTech to Disney.

However, the long-term outlook remains very murky. With the rebuilding process underway, some people don’t see a bright future.

Now with that being said, there’s one scenario where it all pans out. The organization has the potential of combining its internal options into a formidable starting rotation that recent Marlins rosters were lacking. Let’s assume former first-round draft pick Braxton Garrett comes back strong from Tommy John Surgery. By 2020, they could have Dillon Peters, Trevor Rogers and newly acquired right-handers Sandy Alcantara and Zac Gallen complementing Garrett on the major league staff (just to name a few possibilities).

And the bullpen is full of strong arms. Strikeout artist Kyle Barraclough will remain under club control through 2021. Jackson also received input from multiple scouts who believe Jorge Guzman (centerpiece of the Stanton trade package) “could be a quality closer if he’s shifted to the bullpen.”

The position player side is more unpredictable, but the savings from so much homegrown pitching would make it easier to surround Christian Yelich, Magneuris Sierra and Brian Anderson with a reputable supporting cast. And don’t discount the young middle infielders Miami has added this offseason, says vice president of scouting and player development Gary Denbo. That group includes prospects Christopher Torres and Jose Devers.

“So there is a scenario where this model could work, both on the field and off,” Jackson concludes. “But the two seem intertwined; on-field success should lead to higher revenue potential.”

The Marlins will need these unknown commodities to produce and excite in order to persuade fans, sponsors, regional sports networks and individual investors to figuratively and literally “buy in” to the rebuild.