Marlins president David Samson said Monday that pitcher Jose Fernandez rejected a multiyear contract offer in the months before he returned from Tommy John surgery last July and that he does not appear interested in being presented with another offer at this point.
Fernandez, who won’t be eligible for free agency until after the 2018 season, has been one of baseball’s best pitchers when healthy, with a 22-9 record and 2.40 earned-run average in his career, over parts of three seasons. Fernandez, who is arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter, was 6-1 with a 2.92 ERA in 11 starts after returning from the major elbow surgery this past July.
“He was offered what we thought was a very fair, tremendous amount of money,” Samson said. “I don’t believe he had any interest in having another offer [this winter], but we always will talk. He is ours for three years at a minimum. Building around Jose and [Giancarlo] Stanton is two smart things to do, but it takes two people to sign a contract.”
Samson said conversations on a Fernandez contract broke down over money, not years.
“He is a bulldog competitor; he goes out and never thinks about money …,” Samson said. “He is someone who you would want starting in the World Series.”
Though Samson did not say this, some Marlins people believe agent Scott Boras, who represents Fernandez, does not want his clients signing long-term deals before they get to free agency. Boras disputed that in a conversation earlier this summer.
“In Jose’s career, it’s a bit premature [to sign a multiyear deal] because he’s still young and has only been doing it for a couple years,” Boras said four months ago. “I’ve had many players go to free agency and re-sign with their existing teams. I’ve had other players that have pursued other avenues. I don’t make the decisions whether they do or don’t. … Miami is a great place for Jose and his family. It’s really a nice union.”
It’s questionable whether the Marlins ultimately can afford both Fernandez and Stanton, who just completed the first year of a 13-year, $325 million contract, as opposed to one or the other.
Boras doesn’t see why not: “With TV rights and the general fund contribution and everything — every club, before they sell a ticket, they’re making $120 million. There’s a lot of revenue in this game to pay a lot of players and keep players at home.”
Samson said the Marlins need pitching but do not intend to pursue the highest-priced arms in free agency.
“We will not be going after David Price. We will not be going after Zack Greinke,” Samson said. “That’s unequivocal. We don’t want to play in that space. In my experience, those free agent contracts don’t work and I would never have [owner] Jeffrey [Loria] spend his money that way and incur more losses for a contract like that that don’t work. Long-term position player contracts work. I just don’t think long-term pitching contracts work.”
Michael Hill, the Marlins’ president of baseball operations, said Loria has not indicated what the 2016 payroll will be.
▪ Samson said pitcher Henderson Alvarez, coming off shoulder surgery, will not be ready for the start of the regular season and said it will be a “very” difficult decision about whether to tender him a contract offer by the early December deadline. “Guaranteed he’s not in the starting rotation to start the season,” Samson said.
Alvarez was 12-7 in 2014 but just 0-4 in four starts this past season.
▪ Samson said the Marlins are a couple of weeks from determining dimensions for Marlins Park. “There’s a very high likelihood there will be a change of some sort,” he said. “Part of the fences will move [in] is my guess. We may lower the fences, [too].”
▪ In offering perspective on the Marlins’ recent history, Samson cited the Kansas City Royals, who had a winning record only once in 18 years between 1995 and 2012 before making the World Series last year and winning it this year.
“Look at Kansas City,” he said. “How many years did they spend in misery? There was a lot of losing there for a lot of years, and then it was time for them to win. It’s time for us to win.”