Earlier this week, the Miami Marlins continued their team overhaul by parting ways with the unhappy Christian Yelich. Trading Yelich, a fan favorite, was bound to draw mixed reviews from fans; though the magnitude of the return is indisputable, headlined by top 20 prospect and South Florida native, Lewis Brinson.
I could provide a full-length lecture on why I think trading Yelich was necessary for the Marlins to avoid perpetual mediocrity. Put simply, however, the move reveals that the Marlins ownership is all-in on this rebuild.
Derek Jeter took over as the Marlins CEO in October and it feels like he’s made far more than four months worth of mistakes in his short tenure, mistakes that were largely optic-related rather than transactional.
Firing Jeff Conine, Andre Dawson, and Jack McKeon, then realizing the gravity of firing “Mr. Marlin” and in turn offering Conine a position he wouldn't accept for a quarter of the salary, that’s a mistake. Accidentally leaking “Project Wolverine,” Jeter’s carefully mapped out plan for investors projecting immense profits, and reportedly firing a scout while he was in the hospital receiving treatment for cancer, those are mistakes. Trading Giancarlo Stanton and his behemoth of a contract to the Yankees for what appeared as a limited return; that was not a mistake. Local and national writers seem reluctant to draw a line between the two, because why should they? Throwing fuel on the fire that is the frustrated Marlins fan base rallies the angry mob and earns clicks.
Why is firing Jeff Conine a mistake, but trading the reigning MVP not? Seems backwards, I know. What people have had the tendency to ignore with the Giancarlo Stanton trade is the complexity of the situation for the Marlins. The Marlins reached tentative agreements with the Giants and Cardinals for likely better returns than the Marlins received from the Yankees, and Stanton nixed the deals.
Stanton having a no trade clause essentially stripped the Marlins of any power in the situation. Stanton vetoing the trades to both the Cardinals and Giants made an already small number of teams willing and able to take on Stanton’s contract even smaller and backed the Marlins into a corner, compromising virtually any leverage the team had in trade talks. The Marlins surely asked the Yankees for more, but when a team is taking a on a majority of the largest contract in North American sports history, it is not surprising that it may be reluctant to give up more than an all-star second baseman and a top 100 prospect.
Of course, I will not deny the Marlins will be nothing short of awful next season, but that’s not to the current ownership’s fault. When considering the potential of a franchise there are three vital aspects to account for: the team’s MLB personnel, their farm system, and payroll flexibility. Sherman and Jeter purchased a team with a core of players that, while talented, had merely managed to continue a streak of not having a winning season in almost a decade. They purchased a team with a farm system that made a great case for being the worst in the MLB. They purchased a team with virtually no financial flexibility trying to swing a payroll over $100 million while practically ignoring annual debt.
Many have apparently forgotten that it was the Jeffrey Loria regime that dug the hole Jeter is trying to pull the Marlins out of. A Loria ownership that depleted the team’s farm system by trading several of its top prospects for rental players when the team was within five games of the second wild-card spot, handcuffed the team financially by giving out contracts to Wei-Yin Chen, Edison Volquez, Junichi Tazawa, mounting up to $120 million while all three players combined for a 0.5 fWAR contribution.
Can we really blame Jeter for wanted to tear down this mess? It is entirely too early to say that Jeter has made the right or wrong moves, though his motives can be seen beyond just financial gain. After the recent trades the Marlins farm system has ascended from 29th to 19th per Baseball America; potential trades J.T. Realmuto and Starlin Castro could push the Marlins farm system into the top half of the league for the first time since 2013 when the team called up Jose Fernandez, Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna for good.
It is easy to get upset when the players fans have grown to adore are traded for prospects: no matter how highly touted, you've probably never seen play. Especially given that in the past, the Marlins have little to show for trading many of it’s stars.
We owe Jeter and the new ownership an opportunity to turn things around. It is simply unfair to compare the moves being made to that of the preceding ownership. Jeter made his decision on the direction he wants the franchise to go and while I understand fans may be running out of patience, aggressive moves and change rather than being entrenched in mediocrity may ultimately offer a brighter future, in the end.