Barry Jackson

Former Marlins president opens up about Stanton, near trade of Jose Fernandez and more

Part 1 of a 2-part series

In two interviews in recent days, former Miami Marlins president David Samson revealed the Marlins planned to sell the team to Jorge Mas last summer if he had been able to come up with the agreed-to financing, nearly traded Jose Fernandez less than a year before his death and accused another team of medical fraud.

Samson, now able to speak candidly after his Marlins contract expired on Oct. 31, addressed myriad topics in conversations with the Miami Herald last week and an interview on the local hour of Dan Le Batard’s ESPN Radio show on 790 The Ticket on Wednesday morning.

Among the highlights:

Samson told us that after Jorge Mas bid $1.2 billion for the team last summer, that he informed Mas he would be sold the team if he could reach that figure, even if the other bidding groups bid the same.

“We chose Mas to sell the team to,” Samson said. “We thought he was going to get the team at $1.2 billion.”

Why? Because Samson said the Marlins preferred selling to a local owner if all things were equal because as a local owner, Mas “would have been what the Marlins never had. Local ownership would have been better for the team.”

But ultimately, Mas did not reach the $1.2 billion figure, Samson said. “Mas and Derek Jeter and Bruce Sherman had the same bid but Mas wasn’t able to finance the bid,” Samson said.

Mas, by email Wednesday, said Samson’s comments are accurate.

“I was told by both he and Jeffrey Loria that if I met/matched price I would get team over other bidders,” Mas said. “I understood $1.2 [billion] was number to get team. Decided we couldn’t get to number and make it work with what we had planned to invest in team ...

Everything happens for a reason ... MLS project is going to be great for our city ... unbelievable support and passion for soccer.”

Mas is now involved in ownership of Miami’s new MLS team.

Samson said Sherman and Jeter got the team only because they offered the most money, disputing any thought that owner Jeffrey Loria wanted Jeter to get the team.

“Jeffrey had absolutely no preference during the process,” Samson said. “He left me alone to complete the process and get the best deal possible. There was a time where I thought Jorge was going to get the team, but at the end of the day, the timing wasn’t right for him.”

He said the Marlins nearly traded Jose Fernandez to Arizona before the 2016 season, less than a year before he died in a boating accident, because he had turned down an extension that winter and ownership had no confidence he would sign with the Marlins when he became a free agent after the 2018 season.

He said the Marlins’ 2015 contract offer to Fernandez topped $30 million, the largest ever for a pre-arbitration pitcher. Samson couldn’t recall the exact terms.

The proposed 5-for-1 trade with Arizona would have sent pitcher Patrick Corbin, third baseman Brandon Drury and center fielder AJ Pollock, among others, to the Marlins.

“Arizona turned it down,” Samson told me. “We thought it was going to happen but we never had any agreement.”

Samson told me that during the sales process — which Samson handled on behalf of owner Loria — Jeter implied Samson would be retained as president but Samson always doubted Jeter would do that.

“I was led to believe I would be retained but it was not relevant in the process,” Samson said. “There were direct conversations about me staying, but I knew he was doing it to curry favor to think it would help him get the team. I assured him being the highest bidder was the only thing that would help him get the team.”

He said he learned he wasn’t being retained when he got a text alert telling him that the media [including Le Batard and then the Herald] were reporting he wouldn’t be retained. He said he called Sherman or Jeter immediately, and Jeter eventually called back and confirmed that he would not be retained without giving him a reason.

He told Le Batard on Wednesday that the craziest thing Jeter told him during the sales process “was how excited he was to work with me.”

The new owners had to pay Samson for a year after dismissing him, per terms of his contract with Loria. That contract ended on Halloween.

Samson said it didn’t bother him when Jeter, before the sale closed, asked him to inform Andre Dawson, Tony Perez, Jeff Conine and Jack McKeon that they would not be retained as Marlins special assistants.

“I thought it was a mistake; I still think it’s a mistake to turn your back [on those four] for the sole reason they were associated with me,” Samson told me. “To make an obvious and blatant effort to distance yourself from an owner and while doing that distancing yourself from four people who will always be a part of Marlins history seems like a silly mistake. And then they tried to cure it by making such an insulting offer for them, which all of them declined.”

On Le Batard’s show Wednesday, Samson said new ownership then “tried to get him all back at 25 grand [per year]. It’s embarrassing.”

He said Jeter wanted to be the team’s control person “but that was not a deal that was going to happen. Control people need to put up more money” than Jeter, who according to documents, contributed $38 million of the $1.1 billion cost to buy the team.

“That’s what Jeb Bush wanted; that’s why Jeb and Derek Jeter broke up,” Samson said.

Samson said he told Jeter “that I would not submit a bid for approval by the ownership of the other 29 teams — with Derek as control person and the reason was I did not have the votes.”

On Le Batard’s show, Samson cracked: “I am very thankful that Bruce Sherman enjoys Derek Jeter so much” because the sale wouldn’t have happened without Sherman’s money.

Samson joked that Sherman paid the money “to have ability to get [Jeter’s] cell number.”

He said to both Le Batard and me that the San Diego Padres kept two medical files on players — a legitimate one and a fake one.

“It’s not an allegation; it’s a fact,” Samson said.

Padres spokesman Craig Hughner, issued this response Wednesday evening: “The comments made this morning by a former club official were inaccurate and wholly inappropriate. Over two years ago, a situation unrelated to the Marlins was settled and discipline was issued following a thorough investigation by MLB. We have moved on fully in accordance with the guidelines, and we have no desire to respond further.”

The Marlins acquired Colin Rea in a multi-player trade with the Padres in the summer of 2016 but returned him to San Diego and restructured the trade after he sustained an elbow injury in his first start. The Padres hadn’t disclosed key medical information about his elbow.

“The Padres lied,” Samson said. “They had an entire medical file on a player and didn’t disclose it. Two sets of medical records is what they had. [Padres general manager] A.J. Preller shouldn’t be allowed in the game. It’s beyond comprehension that he’s still working. They did it to the Red Sox. There are a lot of things you mess with, but you don’t mess with that.”

Major League Baseball suspended Preller late in 2016 for his failure to disclose medical information in a trade with the Padres but he didn’t receive additional discipline for the Marlins trade.

Samson said he once thought he might have a physical altercation with Giancarlo Stanton in the clubhouse.

“He accused me of purposely trying to put a team in danger by putting them on a plane which was not worthy of flight and I thought

Stanton and I would have had a physical altercation, which would have been funny because he’s three times my size,” Samson told Le Batard.

Samson told Stanton he was flying on the plane too and “I told him I value my life way more than I value yours. Right now, shut up, put your uniform on and try to win a God damn game.”

He said he and Stanton have a good relationship and Loria did not know he would sell the team when they gave him his 13 year, $325 million deal in November 2014.

“That contract is not an overpay by any stretch when you look at what players are making,” Samson told Le Batard. “We gave him an out after six years and by doing that, we were able to pay him less the first six years. Our goal was to make him an offer he couldn’t refuse. He didn’t want to be a Marlin. But we made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.”

Samson offered several colorful comments on some former Marlins.

“Heath Bell made AJ Burnett look like a great guy, and think about how hard that is,” Samson said. “Jeffrey said, hey, we’re signing Heath Bell. When you sign a free agent who says they don’t need to meet with you first, it says you overpaid. We offered the third year and $7 million a year. He said of course I’ll take it because I stink.”

Samson said in Milwaukee, he once “caught” then-Marlins pitcher Ricky Nolasco “eating pizza in 3 in the morning the night before a start. He tried to run away, like a five year old away from his father. I’m like, ‘Ricky, go to bed.’ He got shellacked by the Brewers the next day. You have four nights to go out and you get hammered the night before you’re pitching? You run away like I’m not going to see you?”

Samson, who was the Marlins president for 16 years after serving in the same role for two years with the Montreal Expos, is now active on Twitter (@DavidPSamson) and works as a baseball analyst for CBS Sports HQ.

The Marlins declined to comment on any of Samson’s remarks.

Coming Thursday: Samson discusses what he likes and doesn’t like about the new ownership group’s approach, the home run sculpture and various other issues.

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