SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN
The last time the Marlins went on a spending spree and flopped --- just like they’re doing this season --- owner Jeffrey Loria pressed the “reset button” and slashed payroll from $101 million in 2012 to $50 million and $45 million the next two seasons.
So might Loria again shed salary to dramatically reduce the Marlins’ $81 million payroll, of which $12.5 million is being covered by the Dodgers?
Marlins president David Samson insisted that’s not going to happen again.
“No,” Samson said adamantly. “These are our players and they need to play better. And we need to win more games.”
So any talk of again hitting the reset button? “No. Absolutely not,” Samson said. Nor apparently is Loria so fed up that’s he ready to give up and sell, despite receiving occasional overtures.
Let’s be clear: If the Marlins remain well below .500 (they're 10 under after winning two in a row against the Mets), there should be roster changes and there assuredly will be. But what Loria absolutely cannot do is drastically reduce payroll for the next two years as he did after the 2012 debacle.
Even if the Marlins become sellers this summer and take cheaper players back in trades, they simply must re-invest that money next offseason and maintain a payroll at least in this current range, preferably higher heading into 2016. Not re-allocating money saved in trades would be a punch to the gut of Marlins fans and their best players.
Frankly, there’s less the Marlins can do now to shed big contracts than they did in 2012, when Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle all had trade value.
Injured Michael Morse (two years, $16 million), injured Mat Latos (one year, $9.4 million) and Steve Cishek (one year, $6.5 million) don’t have much trade value the way they’re playing, though that would change if Latos and Cishek return to form.
The Marlins aren’t trading Christian Yelich, who had a big hit today and is finally coming out of his slump; he’s due just $1 million next season in the second year of seven-year, $49 million deal. Marcell Ozuna is very cheap for another two years.
Dee Gordon and Adeiny Hechavarria obviously aren’t going anywhere, though Hechavarria will become more expensive this offseason.
A few players who could attract interest if the Marlins become sellers: Martin Prado (the Yankees are paying $3 million of his $11 million salary both this year and next); Dan Haren (the Dodgers are paying his $10 million, which the Marlins have allocated to pay Latos) and Mike Dunn (signed for 2015 and 2016 at a combined $5.8 million). But dealing Prado would leave a gaping hole at third base.
And here’s another problem: The Marlins’ farm system is bereft of offensive prospects above Single A. Their top four position player prospects, according to Baseball America, are a long way away: second baseman Avery Romero (.279, 15 RBI at Class A Jupiter), outfielder Isael Soto (.125 at low-level Class A Greensboro and now out with a torn meniscus), third baseman/second baseman Brian Anderson (.235, 21 RBI at Jupiter) and outfielder Austin Dean (.280, 25 RBI at Jupiter).
There’s greater depth among pitching prospects, including Tyler Kolek (last year’s No. 2 overall pick has been uneven at Greensboro: 3-2, 4.73 ERA); lefty Justin Nicolino (“chance to be a back-end starter,” a scout for an American League team said); Jose Urena (was hit hard Tuesday in his Marlins season debut; “his secondary stuff is not very good; probably projects as a reliever,” the scout said); Kendrys Flores (3-3, 2.06 ERA in Double A Jacksonville; acquired from San Francisco in the Casey McGehee trade); and 2013 second-rounder Trevor Williams (1-6, 5.40 in Jacksonville).
Asked if Loria is dispirited, Samson said: “We all share the frustration. None of us ever believed this team would ever be 10 under .500. But it’s never too late. It’s still early enough in the season to turn it around.”
### If Dwyane Wade surprisingly leaves Miami, where would he go?
Two associates mentioned the Lakers as a possibility (he has a good relationship with Kobe Bryant) and another referenced Dallas. For what it’s worth, the Knicks have oodles of cap space and Carmelo Anthony reportedly attended Wade’s wedding.
So Wade will have options if he wants to have options. Wade’s preference is to stay if Miami makes him a “priority” financially, as one friend termed it.
### If Wade and the Heat compromise, a salary in the $15 million range in both 2016-17 and 2017-18 would be the logical end point. That would be less than what Wade wants but more than the Heat wants to give him those seasons, according to an associate briefed on the discussions. As of late this week, the sides weren't at all close in finding a middle ground.
But even if the Heat could get Wade and Hassan Whiteside starting at $15 million each in 2016-17 --- and Whiteside could end up commanding more than that --- the Heat (with Chris Bosh and Goran Dragic) still couldn’t afford the top free agent small forwards in 2016 such as Kevin Durant or Kawhi Leonard and Draymond Green, neither of whom would be available if they re-sign as restricted free agents before that.
And even if they trade Josh McRoberts in that scenario, Miami still probably couldn’t even afford the next tier of 2016 free agent small forwards, such as Chandler Parsons (player option), Nic Batum, Jeff Green and restricted free agent Harrison Barnes because their market value will increase as the cap skyrockets. (Danilo Galinari and Wilson Chandler are among other small forwards set for free agency in 2016, should the Heat move on from Luol Deng.)
Bottom line: Regardless of what Miami pays Wade, the odds are against the Heat being able to make a real significant move in 2016 free agency if Bosh, Dragic and Whiteside are all earning big money.
In determining what to pay Wade, the variable Miami can't predict is whether Whiteside will do enough next season to earn something close to a max contract. Remember: the Heat is not permitted to sign Whiteside until July 2016 and must save the cap space to fit Whiteside under the $89 million without surpassing it to sign him.
### The Dolphins, who are obviously shaky at guard, inquired in recent days about guard Chris Chester, who started the past four seasons for the Redskins before being cut last week. But Miami wasn't as aggressive as Atlanta, which signed him on Saturday.
The Dolphins, for now, continue to hope that a combination of Billy Turner, Dallas Thomas and Jamil Douglas can fill two starting spots. If they prove incapable, the Dolphins could turn to Jason Fox, J.D. Walton, Jeff Linkenbach, Jacques McClendon or another veteran in August or early September.
### Something encouraging about new Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi: Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon (San Diego's first-round pick) and Ajayi were the only two college running backs who caused opposing defensive players to miss more than 60 tackles last season, ESPN's KC Joyner told us. No other back had more than 50.
### Interesting career move: Former Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman took a job as a high school coach at Nauset Regional in Massachusetts. Good for him.
### There’s at least one coach skeptical about UM snagging oral commitments from 30 players (21 for 2016, five for 2017, four for 2018), which is by far the most in the Atlantic Coast Conference. By comparison, FSU has 17 over the next three seasons, including 14 in the upcoming class.
"There's an unnamed ACC team that's got this recruiting class full, another one almost full and half of the other one full, too," California coach Sonny Dykes, who didn’t mention Miami by name, told ESPN.
"Do they really think they're going to sign those guys? I mean, that's done as a signal: ‘We're ahead of the game, we know what we're doing, we're really cool,' and so there's a lot more going on behind the scenes than trying to find the best football players."
Though UM’s 2016 class is well-regarded, Dykes offers this caution: “If you look at Texas, they were done with [the next year's] recruiting class… by the second week of February… and a lot of those guys didn't pan out.”
### Plantation American Heritage coach and former UM player Mike Rumph told WQAM in February that he met with Al Golden to express his concerns that UM coaches need to make themselves more visible at local schools, like he says Southeastern Conference coaches do.
And now? “It has been a 100 percent change,” Rumph told me Friday. “They are connecting with guys on Twitter, being around a lot more.”
He said receivers coach Kevin Beard, defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio and defensive line coach Randy Melvin have all come by his school this spring.
And on Sunday, UM hosts a seven-on-seven tournament involving 48 local high schools. The on-campus tournament begins at 10 a.m., runs all day and is open to the public.