As expected, Bud Selig put his stamp of approval on the Marlins' blockbuster trade with Toronto on Monday, though he took the unusual step of issuing a statement in which he said he sympathized with fans in South Florida and will continue to monitor the franchise.
But the big revelation came when Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said that, with the trade, the team is now within its payroll range for 2013. If that's the case, the Marlins could have the lowest payroll in the majors and the lowest for any Marlins team since either 2009 ($36.8 million) or '10 ($47 million), depending on the final figure and how it's calculated.
At present, the Marlins have salary commitments to seven players for $24 million, $11.5 million of which belongs to Ricky Nolasco. Throw in another $1 mil for arbitration-eligible reliever Ryan Webb and $9 million or thereabouts to round out the rest of the roster, and the total comes to $34 million. In order to pad that number, the team is bound to count the $4 million they're sending to Arizona in the Heath Bell trade and the $8 million that's going to Toronto in the latest deal.
So much for a major premise in the Marlins' argument for building the new ballpark, which was that the team promised to increase payroll once it had its own, retractable-roof facility. One year into the new joint and that premise has gone poof.
"We did receive a payroll range from ownership that we needed to achieve and with this transaction, we have achieved that payroll range...and are prepared to move forward," Beinfest said.
Asked for an explanation why the payroll decrease (from last season's $95 million figure ) was so pronounced, Beinfest said he's "not intimate with the numbers, why we have to be there" and also tried to make the case that success isn't tied strictly to higher payrolls.
"This isn't about payroll," Beinfest said. "We've been through the payroll thing a million times, going all the way back to 2002, all the way back to (Antonio) Alfonseca and (Matt) Clement, where payroll was shedded and we just flat out got better. And I'm hopeful that's what happens this time. We won a World Series with a lower-third payroll. We won a bunch of years ranking in the lower third of payrolls."
It's been reported that the Marlins lost $40 million last year, in part due to attendence that fell well below what one source told me were "worst-case scenario" projections. But teams are about to rake in even more revenue-sharing money thanks to a more lucrative television rights agreement that was recently worked out by MLB. And the Marlins did just move into their very own ballpark, the one they absolutely had to have in order to enjoy higher payrolls, right?
-- Beinfest acknowledged that it could be difficult in the future for the Marlins to sign free agents in the aftermath of trading Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell only one season after those three players signed long-term deals. "I think it'll be a factor," Beinfest said. "It's definitely not great for the club and we're going to have to deal with it." But Beinfest said he does not want the see the team break from policy and start giving no-trade protection to players. "It's not going to be my recommendation that we change our view of no-trade clauses," he said.
-- Beinfest said Juan Pierre, who was signed Monday, would lead off and play left. Beinfest also indicated a desire for finding a power bat to insert in the lineup. At the moment, Beinfest said the team is looking at Justin Ruggiano, Gorkys Hernandez and Bryan Petersen as the leading candidates to play center.
-- Beinfest said he has not spoken to disgruntled outfielder Giancarlo Stanton since the trade. Stanton has voiced his displeasure with the deal. Said Beinfest: "I'm sure it's been tough for him. I hear it. I hear the frustration. I think it's not unexpected. It's an emotional time for everybody. I've had conversations with Jeffrey (Loria) that have been emotional on both sides. This has been a tough go." Beinfest said he would probably try to speak with Stanton eventually. "Our feeling was to maybe let the dust settle a little bit and maybe some of the emotion go away, and we can get to Giancarlo and talk about getting to spring training and some of his new teammates."
-- Of the $191 million in contracts the Marlins awarded (to much fanfare) to Reyes, Buehrle and Bell, only $38 million of it will end up coming out of their own pocket. Arizona and Toronto are now on the hook for the rest.