They might not be able to get away with trading Giancarlo Stanton for a bag of baseballs.
But even if the Marlins are in the process of selling the franchise they’ll still be able to make low-level trades, waiver claims and most bread-and-butter transactions while Jeffrey Loria remains owner.
“It’s business as usual,” said one baseball official familiar with the process.
The Marlins have an agreement in principle to sell the franchise for $1.3 billion to a group that includes Jeb Bush and Derek Jeter, sources told the Miami Herald on Tuesday.
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The sale of the team is pending approval from Major League Baseball, requires additional details still to be ironed out and could take months to finalize. The Bush-Jeter team is still looking for investors.
As long as Loria remains in charge, the Marlins can continue to operate as they would normally, but only up to a point. If they’re in contention at the Aug. 1 trade deadline, they’ll still be able to make deals to help the club down the stretch.
But sources said that any trades, signings or contract extensions involving significant sums of money — once a prospective buyer is in place — would require approval from the commissioner’s office. And the buyer would also be consulted.
Contract extension discussions, like the one at the end of the last season when the Marlins and third baseman Martin Prado agreed to a three-year deal for $40 million, would likely not take place during a pending sale.
“They’re not going to be able to do any major contracts or any major signings without at least consulting that group,” said the baseball executive, who spoke only under the condition he not be identified. “You keep the would-be buyer informed of any major changes, anything monetary. You’re obviously going to have oversights in the commissioner’s office.”
The Marlins have had two previous ownership transfers. But both were finalized during the offseason: the first when Wayne Huizenga sold the Marlins to John Henry in November 1998 and the second when Loria bought them from Henry in February 2002.
With the 2002 sale looming, the 2001 Winter Meetings in Boston for the Marlins were especially quiet. They made one minor trade (Jesus Sanchez for Nate Teut) but did little else as they waited for completion of the ownership transfer.
“A lot of these things have to be down the road before any of these types of restrictions apply,” the source said. “Otherwise, they’re going to do whatever they can to win.”
It’s easy to understand why the Marlins tried trading for Phillies pitcher Jeremy Hellickson last season.
The soft-throwing right-hander gave them as much trouble as any pitcher they faced.
“He gives us a lot of trouble,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said.
“He’s kind of different than most guys. The one thing with that changeup he has, he’s able to locate. He can pitch backwards. He’s not going to give into you. We’ve had a lot of looks at him.”
Hellickson, who went 3-1 with a 2.01 ERA in six starts against the Marlins last season, will face them for the first time this season when he takes the mound for Philadelphia to close out the series on Thursday afternoon.
“Hopefully our guys have grown up,” Mattingly said. “It’ll be interesting to see if we make some adjustments with him, that’s for sure.”
▪ Minor-league pitching prospect Dillon Peters is expected to miss eight to 12 weeks with a fractured left thumb. The left-hander sustained the injury last week with Double A Jacksonville.
▪ Thursday: Marlins RHP Edinson Volquez (0-2, 4.82 ERA) at Philadelphia Phillies RHP Hellickson (3-0, 1.88), 1:05 p.m., Citizens Bank Park.
▪ Friday: Marlins LHP Adam Conley (1-1, 3.00) vs. Pittsburgh Pirates RHP Jameson Taillon (1-0, 2.13), 7:10 p.m., Marlins Park.