The Marlins have taken a blowtorch to their roster once again.
Only seven months after christening their swanky, new $515 million ballpark with a marquee manager and the most expensive roster of players in the history of the franchise, the Marlins dumped payroll Tuesday by trading Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Emilio Bonifacio and John Buck to the Toronto Blue Jays in a 12-player swap, according to sources.
In return, the Marlins will receive seven players — three of whom are minor-leaguers — and approximately $160million in salary relief.
So much for the Marlins’ grandiose “all in” strategy of 11 months ago when they signed a handful of top-dollar free agents in a gambit that flopped.
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Not only did the Marlins finish a distant last, but attracted the fewest fans at any new major-league ballpark opening in the past 20 years.
As a result, the Marlins have taken a wrecking ball to the roster and coaching staff, firing manager Ozzie Guillen and turning their $95 million roster into rubble.
Since the deal is pending physical exams and requires the approval of the commissioner’s office, the Marlins did not return phone calls or messages seeking comment. An official announcement could come in a day or two.
But one of the team’s few remaining frontline players, Giancarlo Stanton, expressed his surprise and disappointment in a Tweet: “Alright, I’m pissed off!!! Plain & Simple.”
Stanton immediately changed his profile picture on Twitter, swapping his Marlins uniform for a solid black shirt.
If history is a guide, a fan base already disenchanted by fire sales in 1998 and 2005 is highly unlikely to embrace the latest dismantling, one in which the Marlins are receiving a pair of Cuban infielders in shortstop Yunel Escobar and Adeiny Hechavarria, a backup catcher in Jeff Mathis, a rookie hurler in Henderson Alvarez, two minor-league pitchers — Justin Nicolino and Anthony DeSclafani — and minor-league outfielder Jake Marisnick.
Some fans reacted immediately with outrage on blogs and on Twitter.
“This is a complete disgrace,” commented “Marlin Fan” on The Miami Herald’s Fish Bytes blog.
“Fish fans, I think it is time for boycotts and protests,” chimed in “Camera Mike.”
After the trade, the Marlins will have salary commitments of barely more than $19 million for the upcoming season, $11.5 million of that amount belongs to pitcher Ricky Nolasco. Escobar is owed $5 million next season.
The Marlins not only purged the roster of a significant amount of money in terms of future salary obligations, but completely rid the team of last winter’s free agent haul. Failed closer Heath Bell was dealt last month while Reyes and Buehrle were sent packing in Tuesday’s trade.
The contracts the Marlins gave to Reyes and Buehrle were heavily backloaded and due to escalate within two years. Reyes is scheduled to make $10 million but $22 million in each of the remaining four years of the deal. Buehrle is due to make $11 million in 2013, $18 million in 2014 and $19 million in 2015.
What remains bears little resemblance to the Opening Day roster that was escorted onto the field by Brazilian dancers in April at the team’s expensive, new ballpark, one largely paid for with taxpayer dollars. The Marlins’ entire four-man infield from April has now been traded. Gone, too, are three-fifths of the starting rotation, the closer, and a starting catcher and outfielder.
Once it became apparent in mid-summer that the Marlins would not contend, they began chiseling away players in July at the trade deadline, dealing Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez, among others.
Dissatisfied with Guillen’s performance in the first year of a four-year contract, the Marlins fired him a few weeks after the conclusion of the season and replaced him with rookie manager Mike Redmond.
One component that will remain unchanged: owner Jeffrey Loria. Speculation was rampant that the latest deal might signal Loria’s intention to sale the franchise. But two sources said Loria, who has owned the team since 2002, remains committed and has no interest in selling the club.