I have heard floated the idea that — from a pure baseball standpoint — this trade makes some sense for the Marlins. Wrong. Wrong twice.
First, no it does not. Discounting Buck as a throwaway in this deal, the Marlins have given away two solid starting pitchers in Johnson and Buehrle, and two top-of-the-order speed guys in Reyes and Bonifacio.
In exchange they have gotten an OK shortstop in Yunel Escobar and a bunch of question marks doing business as “prospects.” Escobar, by the way, is not nearly as good as Reyes. Escobar, in fact, is probably best known for having a gay slur in Spanish written onto his eye-black last season and having to apologize for it. Escobar, frankly, has a reputation for being lazy and sort of a Hanley-esque clubhouse problem.
Who got the better of this deal is mirrored in the changed betting odds in the wake of it. Blue Jays World Series odds have gone from 35-to-1 to 14-1. Marlins championships odds have gone from 40-1 to 100-1.
Second, even if this deal somehow did make sense from a baseball vantage, it is impossible to not see it first for what it is: a salary dump. Financial, not baseball. Of course the Marlins could now in turn pour all or much of that saved money back into the team by signing major free agents … but Marlins fans who trust that will happen should hold a meeting tonight at the Gullible Tavern, corner booth.
Loria and Samson need to understand that fans are not upset because the season just past was a major disappointment. Fans are upset because the wholesale reboot conveys a sense of mismanagement, of incompetence. Most of all, fans are upset by the notion that budget payrolls in a lavish new ballpark will mean the revenue stream goes disproportionately into Loria’s pocket, not into the team and by extension its customers.
That’s why baseball should watch carefully what the Marlins do from here.
Between the earlier Hanley Ramirez deal and this new one, there is $100 million to spend on free agents. The Marlins need starting pitching. Zack Greinke is out there. The Marlins need a center fielder. B.J. Upton is out there.
The point is there are ways to be younger and pray some of those prospects bloom in a big way but also be competitive now. There are ways to have a substantially inexpensive lineup but one festooned with big money smartly spent.
Samson had the chance Wednesday to assure distrustful fans that money saved in the latest fire sale would be put back into the team. He declined. In fact he suggested the opposite, saying, “If you win more games with players who happen to be younger [and less expensive], that’s good.”
“I’m not sure what range the payroll will end up,” Samson concluded. “The final number really isn’t relevant.”
Oh but it is. Here it is. With this owner it is. When your owner got a new stadium built on a promise of competitive payrolls, that final number really is relevant. Which is why MLB should be watching it carefully.
The Marlins must try to mend this broken trust, not deny it exists.
Let me put it in language that Loria, the art dealer, might understand. What’s going on is a desecration. This is somebody walking into The Louvre and knife-slashing a priceless Monet. This is taking a state-of-the-art new ballpark, gutting it, defiling it with graffiti and giving your customers every reason to stay away. This is treating the faith and trust of fans with something that is either contempt or disregard.
If Loria is going to renege on his promise of competitive payrolls he should sell this team to somebody who doesn’t just claim to love it but proves it with his actions.
He should get out of Miami under cover of darkness, so properly and perhaps irreversibly vilified is he now. And he should take Samson with him.
We can only wish.
The Marlins need help today, and anybody who thought the beautiful new stadium would be a panacea, a guarantee, grossly underestimated the ability of Loria and Samson to be who they are, and do what they do.