Albert Pujols standing at first base in a Marlins uniform on opening day? The possibility has the baseball world spinning out of control.
The Miami Marlins have suddenly become the New York Yankees. How crazy does that sound? Yet, it’s not too far-fetched of a notion. The staggering free agent spending spree the Fish have gone on has shocked many people, but I’ve got to be honest with you, I’m not that shocked.
On the surface, possibly committing up to 350 million dollars on 3 players is surprising for a franchise that has spent so little money in the last decade. Yet, if we all would have listened to Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria and team president David Samson over the last few years, we should have seen this coming.
Samson, especially, has talked about the team spending more money when a new revenue stream would come in from the new stadium. The Marlins had an awful lease at Sun Life Stadium and made little revenue from it. The new ballpark will bring in all kinds of money from concessions, parking and merchandise. Loria knows how important this time is for his organization. He has the opportunity to build a winner and become the talk of baseball. So far, they’ve accomplished the second part of that equation.
Are these moves risky? Of course! But the reality is the Marlins need star power because a new stadium will only get them so far. Miami has already signed all-star closer Heath Bell and batting champion Jose Reyes. Adding Pujols to the mix would make the franchise the biggest story in baseball. Loria may be a lot of things, but one thing he isn’t is stupid. He saw what signing “the Big 3” did for the Miami Heat. I’m not sure this is quite to that level, but the Marlins have created a buzz I’ve never seen in 13 years of covering this team.
From a baseball perspective, all these moves could turn out to be major busts. Bell saw his strikeout numbers decline last season and is 34 years old. Reyes is productive, but can’t seem to stay healthy. Meantime, Pujols will be 32 years old next season, and the proposed 10 year commitment would pay him over 20 million dollars a year into his 40’s. Still, what if it works? The Marlins could become an instant contender year-in and year-out. They could sell out the new ballpark and be a big part of the national TV schedule. Again, in a market where we seem to only follow winners, the Marlins needed to be bold in their moves.
Of course, many people will ask, “Where was this money over the years?” It’s a valid question for a team that has cried poor for such a long time. They also happened to get hundreds of millions of dollars from the city of Miami and Miami-Dade County. The team will counter this by saying they needed the help to build the stadium, and will now fill their end of the bargain by spending money to build a winner. That answer won’t satisfy everyone, but I can’t say it’s the wrong answer. Simply put, the Marlins are finally ready to put their money where their mouth is. Like the Heat, many outsiders will hope they choke on it. The Marlins will officially become the villains of baseball. I don’t know about you, but I think that sure beats being irrelevant.