Barry Jackson

Marlins negotiating purchase agreement with two groups, still expect sale; Marlins notes

Supporters of Presidential candidate Jeb Bush, watched the Republican debate in Iowa, during a debate watch party at The Globe Cafe in Coral Gables on Thurs., Jan. 28, 2016.
Supporters of Presidential candidate Jeb Bush, watched the Republican debate in Iowa, during a debate watch party at The Globe Cafe in Coral Gables on Thurs., Jan. 28, 2016.

A six-pack of Marlins notes on a Saturday:

• The Marlins are negotiating purchase agreements with groups led by both Jeb Bush and Tagg Romney, fully intending to strike a deal with one of those two groups in the coming weeks, an MLB source briefed on the situation said Saturday.

The Bush/Derek Jeter group is further along in completing a purchase agreement with the Marlins than the Romney group and Bush/Jeter remain a slight favorite, the source said. But the Romney group, which features former major-league pitchers Tom Glavine, Dave Stewart and others, remains in contention.

Both Bush and Romney have assured the Marlins and MLB that they have enough investors, and enough money from those investors, to meet the $1.3 billion asking price.

But neither has completed partnership agreements with those investors – written agreements that are required by MLB and must be approved by MLB - that would assure, beyond question, that those investors have fully committed to invest in those respective ownership groups.

Until that happens, there will be at some least questions about whether each group has the necessary funds, even though they have assured the Marlins that they do. Both groups reportedly continue to seek investors.

One associate of Bush who has been briefed on Bush’s pursuit of the Marlins said “Jeb has verbal commitments from enough people with enough money to do the deal” but not all of those commitments are in writing.

Both groups realistically need to raise between $800 million and $850 million in equity to buy the team, because the rest of the deal can be financed by debt.

A source confirmed that MLB is insisting the winning group has enough capital to operate the team after buying it. Multiple reports have said MLB wants each group to have an additional $200 million to operate the team.

The Romney bid was $25 million higher than Bush’s bid, but an MLB source downplayed that because other aspects of the deal could make their offers roughly equal.

Bush and Jeter have less than $100 million of their own personal wealth in their bid, according to an MLB source with direct knowledge.

But the MLB source briefed on the deal said the Marlins, as of Friday, remained optimistic they would get the $1.3 billion they’re seeking and that Bush or Romney would buy the team sometime this year.

Jeffrey Loria remains fully committed to selling the team, contrary to an out-of-town report suggesting he might want to hold onto it.

• We mentioned many months ago that someone previously involved in ownership of another team was trying to buy the Marlins. We were asked not to reveal the name at that time, but that person is Joe Molloy, who was the New York Yankees’ managing general partner during George Steinbrenner’s 1992 suspension.

Molloy has been working for months to put a group together but hasn’t yet submitted a bid.

Palm Beach-based billionaire Charles Dean Metropoulos, whose buyout firm controls Hostess Brands, also has been linked to Marlins interest but is not in the running for the team at this time. Gossip columnist Jose Lambiet, a Miami Herald contributor, writes here how Bush rebuffed Metropoulos’ overtures because Metropoulos wants to be managing partner and Bush wants to keep that power for himself.

• The Dolphins insist that contrary to a Wall Street Journal report, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross never made a $750 million bid, or any bid, for the Marlins. An MLB official in touch with the Marlins also said there was never a bid by Ross. And Ross has told me he has no interest in investing in the Marlins.

• Not only is the major-league team well below .500, but most of the Marlins’ top minor-league position player prospects are either struggling, injured or not close to the big leagues. Third baseman Brian Anderson, rated by as Miami’s No. 3 overall prospect and best position player prospect, is hitting .228 at Double A, though he does have 31 RBI. Outfielder Isael Soto (sixth among all prospects) is missing the season with a broken foot.

Outfielder Thomas Jones, rated seventh, was Miami’s third-round pick last season and hasn’t begun his season. Outfielder Stone Garrett (eighth) is hitting .183 in Class A Jupiter. Outfielder Austin Dean (13th) has missed most of the season with an injury.

The one highly-regarded position player prospect who’s thriving: Third baseman James Nelson, hitting .343 at low-level Class A Greensboro.

• After going 2-3 with a 7.53 ERA in seven appearances for the Marlins before his demotion, Adam Conley hasn’t had much better luck at Triple A New Orleans, where he’s 0-2 with a 5.93 ERA.

Conley has allowed 23 base-runners in 13 2/3 innings and hasn’t lasted more than five innings of any of three starts for New Orleans.

• Justin Bour has nine homers in his last 14 games entering Saturday’s Angels game. Per Elias, Bour is the third player this season to hit nine homers over 14 games; Eric Thames and Aaron Judge both hit 10 over 14 games.

Four other Marlins players have hit nine or more homers in 14 games in a season: Gary Sheffield in 1996, Charles Johnson in 2001, Dan Uggla in 2008, and Giancarlo Stanton in 2015 (10 HR in 14 games).