For those who believe Derek Jeter’s purchase of the Marlins will be a great panacea, here’s one warning:
His group doesn’t appear equipped to spend lavishly on payroll.
In fact, a potential investor who was specifically briefed by the Bruce Sherman/Jeter group this summer said they spoke of a payroll being pulled back from $115 million to potentially as low as $55 million (if Giancarlo Stanton is traded) or $80 million to $85 million if Stanton is retained at $25 million next season.
Whether those numbers have changed since the investor was briefed is unclear, because those conversations happened before the Marlins surged back into wild card contention in recent weeks.
That contacted investor said the Sherman/Jeter group has concluded that this market, at this time, simply cannot afford a high payroll, considering the team is on pace to lose more than $50 million this season.
Even if the new owners keep Stanton, just getting to $85 million would necessitate some painful payroll slashing of veterans such as Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, Martin Prado and/or Dee Gordon, considering the Marlins won’t be able to find takers for injured Edinson Volquez (due $13 million next season) or Wei Yin Chen (due $10 million).
Several factors complicating things:
• That contacted investor said the Jeter group disclosed that Jeter’s plan – at least as of earlier this summer – was to pay himself $5 million a year to recoup his $25 million investment and also get a company credit card to cover expenses from his home in Tampa to Miami.
• That investor said Marlins front office salaries are among the highest in baseball, including $4.7 million annually for president David Samson, who is not being retained by the new group but must be paid that salary in 2018.
• The investor said stadium revenues, including concessions, are surprisingly low and there’s no indication that Fox will renegotiate the Marlins’ lowest-in-baseball TV contract before it expires after 2020.
• The investor said though Sherman’s net worth is more than $1 billion – contrary to reports - Sherman and his group do not have an abundance of liquid capital to afford an enormous payroll and that Sherman/Jeter told investors that they do not want to have to call the investors for cash calls to cover losses.
Sherman is paying $400 million of the $1.2 billion purchase price, according to an investor contacted by the Sherman group.
Jeter wants to run baseball operations and his lack of experience, and public comments in the past that he doesn’t love watching baseball (according to the New York Post and several other outlets), are certainly pause for concern, despite his sterling reputation and exceptional playing career.
Stanton’s epic season, and the Marlins’ August surge, have created a quandary that the new owners didn’t expect. When it looked like this team would go nowhere, they assumed slashing salary and rebuilding would be understood by the fan base.
Now, some fans will be alienated if Sherman and Jeter deal Stanton, who is due between $25 million and $32 million each of the next 10 years. The Marlins believe they have found at least one team willing to trade for him and pick up a large chunk of his salary.
Stanton had hit 26 home runs in his past 47 games and smacking 26 in the 86 previous games.
“I personally would never have signed that kind of contract for any individual player in this marketplace,” former Mets general manager and Sirius XM host Steve Phillips told me during All-Star week in Miami. “It's not a judgment of him. I would love to have him on my team. I don't know how a small market team survives with that kind of a contract to one player. If I'm a new ownership group, I would move him. I don't know how you rebuild with Stanton here and under contract.
“It comes down to can you find a way to put a pitching staff together. I think you can find pitching. I wouldn't completely disassemble and retool because I would rather start from a position of really good position players and add pitching than have pitching and figure out what to do with position players. They are going to have to go out and invest in starting pitching or get lucky with a trade or two and get some starters that can fit in.”
• As we reported Friday, Jeter has interest in New York Yankees vice president of player development Gary Denbo for a high-level front office position, according to two sources. Denbo is believed to have interest, but it’s also possible the Yankees could keep him or another team could lure him.