Charlie Finley, the Oakland A’s colorful and equally controversial owner during the 1970s, once tried to sell off three of his top players to Boston and New York for $3.5 million — a large sum in those days.
Commissioner Bowie Kuhn nixed the deal, invoking the “best interest of baseball” clause that gave him the authority to intercede. In the aftermath of the Marlins’ latest fire sale, there are some who wish current MLB commissioner Bud Selig would follow suit and nullify the team’s 12-player swap with the Blue Jays.
Don’t count on it.
“I do think that the commissioner is always concerned when there’s an appearance of a fire sale, or of an owner giving up,” said sports economist Andrew Zimbalist. “But I don’t think this is a battle that Selig would choose to fight.”
Zimbalist, who authored the book In the Best Interests of Baseball: The Revolutionary Reign of Bud Selig, said he doubts the commissioner would use his power to block the trade because of the precedent it might set.
“My guess is that the commissioner, although he will have some concerns, will say it’s up to the team owner to make that decision,” Zimbalist said.
And indications are that Selig will likely do just that and approve the biggest trade, at least in terms of the total number of players involved, in Marlins history.
The Marlins agreed to trade Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Emilio Bonifacio and John Buck to the Toronto Blue Jays for seven players, most of them young and inexpensive prospects. In the process, the Miami freed itself of more than $160 million in future salary obligations for the five players.
Completion of the deal hinges on player physicals and Selig’s blessing.
Fans are outraged, but they aren’t the only ones. Sources said that some Marlins players — both those who were traded and those left behind — are upset, as well. Stripped of frontline talent, It could be years before the Marlins are regarded as contenders.
When asked for an explanation behind the franchise’s latest sell-off, which comes after just one season in the team’s new ballpark, team owner Jeffrey Loria told a CBSsports.com reporter at the owners’ meetings in Chicago: “We finished in last place. Figure it out.”
“We have to get better,” Loria said. “We can’t finish in last place. We finished in last place. That’s unacceptable. We have to take a new course.”
Said Marlins president David Samson of the roster upheaval on his weekly show on 790 The Ticket with Dan LeBatard: “I think people should feel betrayed by the fact we’re losing so much. And I would think they wouldn’t want us to stand pat and keep losing. We’ve already gone 10 years without making the playoffs, which is too much.”
The Marlins have gutted the roster, shredding what was a franchise-record $95 million team to start the 2012 season and reducing it to a shadow of its former self. Payroll commitments to non-arbitration players for the upcoming season now totals just less than $30 million, and the final payroll figure could come in under $50 million.
And the purge might not be complete. While the Marlins intend to keep slugger Giancarlo Stanton, who is under team control through 2016, they are open to dealing Ricky Nolasco and Logan Morrison. Nolasco is due to make $11.5 million next season.