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Marlins new owners plan to slash payroll to $90M. What that could mean for the team

Derek Jeter warned of “unpopular decisions” ahead when he bought the Marlins. Slashing payroll could be the first.

According to a Major League Baseball source, Jeter and fellow owner Bruce Sherman proposed cutting the team’s 2018 payroll to around $90 million — down from last season’s franchise-record $115 million — as part of the operating plan they submitted to league owners during the approval process.

The decision could spell the end of Giancarlo Stanton’s days crushing home runs in a Marlins uniform. Stanton is scheduled to make $25 million next season. By trading Stanton, who led the majors with 59 home runs, new ownership could shed the $295 million owned to him over the remainder of his contract.

Stanton isn’t the only expensive player who could be impacted by a payroll reduction. Outfielders Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich, second baseman Dee Gordon, and a host of others due raises could be dealt as the new owners look to rebuild.

If the current roster was left unchanged, next year’s payroll would approach $140 million, meaning ownership would need to eliminate about $50 million to get to the $90 million target figure they presented to owners. The owners could always choose to exceed or fall below $90 million.

An opening day payroll of $90 million would have ranked 26th of 30 teams in the majors last season, ahead of only the Oakland A’s ($82 million), San Diego Padres ($71 million), Tampa Bay Rays ($70 million) and Milwaukee Brewers ($63 million).

Neither Jeter nor Sherman have said publicly how much they intend to spend on next year’s team. But, at their introductory press conference last week, Jeter hinted of lean years ahead as he tries to rebuild an organization that hasn’t enjoyed a winning season since 2009.

“Moving forward, there’s going to be, at times, unpopular decisions we make on behalf of the organization,” Jeter said. “But, just understand that every decision we make is for the betterment of this organization.”

Sherman, Jeter and the team’s other investors inherit a team that suffers from low attendance and the least-lucrative local television contract in the majors, one that doesn’t expire until after the 2020 season. But some of their financial constraints will be partly offset by the $50 million windfall each team is expected to receive as part of Disney’s $1.58 billion purchase of BAMTech, the video-streaming service of Major League Baseball.

Though that one-time cash infusion might help Marlins owners avoid the financial losses experienced by former owner Jeffrey Loria — the team lost $50 million last season, sources have said — it’s not enough to maintain or increase roster payroll if the new group hopes to at least break even.

Jeter and Co. are further challenged by a Marlins roster containing several top-dollar players who will be difficult, if not impossible, to trade. Most notable of those are pitchers Wei-Yin Chen, who is expected to exercise a player option that will require the Marlins to pay him $60 million over the next three seasons, and Edinson Volquez, who underwent Tommy John surgery in August and is doubtful to pitch in 2018. The Marlins will have to pay him $13 million.

Marlins payroll obligations for 2018:

Giancarlo Stanton — $25 million

Martin Prado — $13.5 million

Edinson Volquez — $13 million

Dee Gordon — $10.8 million

Wei-Yin Chen — $10 million (plus $8 million bonus due June 30)

Brad Ziegler — $9 million

Junichi Tazawa — $7 million

Christian Yelich — $7 million

Salary Arbitration Projections*

Marcell Ozuna — $10.9 million

Dan Straily — $4.6 million

J.T. Realmuto — $4.2 million

Justin Bour — $3.5 million

Derek Dietrich — $3.2 million

Miguel Rojas — $1.1 million

*Projections by MLBtraderumors.com

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