The Marlins could have contended for a World Series title had they not traded Giancarlo Stanton and others, and instead added a couple of quality pitchers, the head of the players’ union said Friday.
“Depending on who they signed, they [starting pitching reinforcements] could have gotten them over the hump to be the last team standing,” said Tony Clark, executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association.
Clark, a former player who is making his annual rounds at Major League spring training camps, spoke to reporters following a closed-door meeting with Marlins players to address concerns about the slow free agent market, as well as other issues.
The union has filed a grievance against the Marlins, Pittsburgh Pirates, Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland A’s over concerns that those teams are not spending enough of their revenue sharing money as outlined in the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
By trading Stanton, Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna, and second baseman Dee Gordon, the Marlins’ are lowering payroll from last year’s franchise-record figure of about $115 million to a projected figure of about $95 million to open the coming season.
A source said the Marlins receive more revenue sharing money than any team in the majors, a figure believed to be about $60 million.
“When a team has a roster of quality major-league players, and that roster has demonstrated a level of competitive acumen among all 30 teams and then that roster is dramatically changed ... that can be a detriment to the industry as a whole,” Clark said in reference to the Marlins.
The Marlins finished 77-85 last year, haven’t had a winning season since 2009 and haven’t reached the postseason since 2003. Only the Seattle Mariners have gone longer since their last playoff appearance.
Under new owners Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter, the Marlins traded many of their top players, including Stanton — the reigning National League MVP — in exchange for mostly minor-league prospects as part of a rebuilding plan.
Had the Marlins kept last year’s roster without adding anyone else, payroll would have been about $140 million, another franchise record. In a hypothetical, if the Marlins had signed starting pitchers Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood, as the Cubs did this offseason, payroll would have reached about $180 million — making the Marlins one of the top five or six highest-spending expensive teams in the majors based on last season’s team payroll figures.
And the Marlins’ farm system, which ranked as one of the worst in baseball, would have been left to wither with few top prospects.
The Marlins ranked 28th in attendance last season and have the worst local television deal of any big-league team.
Still, the union has concerns that the Marlins aren’t spending enough of the revenue sharing money they receive from the league.
“I won’t specifically offer you anything with regards to the grievance other than to confirm that it happened,” Clark said. “I will simply offer that there are obligations in the CBA that relate to revenue sharing.”
The Marlins are among an increasing number of teams that are in the process of rebuilding, which concerns the union. Teams point to the past two World Series winners — the Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs — as teams that rose to the top following successful rebuilds.
The Astros, in particular, went from a payroll of $102 million in 2009 to a $26 payroll in 2013 during their rebuild, one in which they recorded three consecutive seasons of 100 losses or more.
But Clark said those rebuilds were different.
“To the extent that there were teams that went through difficult stretches without tearing down their team to do it, those were two teams that did,” Clark said. “That’s a little different conversation than how or where we find some of the other teams [such as the Marlins] that are now part of the conversation.”
The Marlins on Friday reduced their spring roster to 52 players by optioning five players and assigning nine others to the minors.
Pitcher James Needy and catcher Austin Nola were optioned to Triple A New Orleans. Pitchers Merandy Gonzalez, Pablo Lopez and Miguel Del Paza were optioned to Double A Jacksonville.
Reassigned to minor-league camp were pitchers Tyler Cloyd, Zac Gallen, Trevor Richards, Nick Neidert and Ben Meyer, catcher Rodrigo Vigil, infielders Johnny Giavotella and Jonathan Rodriguez, and outfielder Monte Harrison.
▪ Catcher J.T. Realmuto was scratched from Friday’s lineup with a bruised left knee. He said he expects to play Saturday.