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For the Marlins, Is It Time to Pony Up?

    The Marlins might now have extra incentive to keep Dan Uggla next season, or offer Josh Johnson that four-year contract his agent has been demanding. The reason: a one-page joint statement released Tuesday in which the Marlins are being told, in effect, that they must comply with the Basic Agreement and channel the revenue sharing money the club receives each year toward player salaries.

    The Marlins say they've been complying all along, that they've done nothing wrong. And yet, isn't it strange that they've bowed, after "extensive discussions" with the union and the league, to an agreement that calls for their "continued compliance"? Tuesday's carefully worded announcement was, for lack of a better term, a public flogging. It was also a signal to the other suspected under-spenders -- are you listening in Pittsburgh? -- to abide by the rules. Pay up, or else. 

    What this means, I suspect, is that the Marlins will be required to spend more than the reported $40 million on next season's payroll. The carefully-worded agreement with the Marlins, union and league doesn't specify a figure, but it's fair to guess that it will be somewhere in the $40 million to $50 million range -- or at least something markedly greater than last year's major league-low $36 million figure. In other words, the union isn't about to let the team get away with a miniscule increase.

   And that could mean that Uggla, who stands to receive between $7 million and $8 million through salary arbitration, could end up staying just to satisy the Marlins' end of the agreement. Or that the Marlins will go out and spend at least a little something on free agents, something they haven't done in years. Or maybe the Marlins will open the vault on Johnson, giving him four years guaranteed.

   All we know for sure, at this point, is that they've been put on notice. The spotlight is on.