Greg Cote

On brink of blockbuster summer for South Florida sports, Marlins’ future adds intrigue

It’s easy to say Marlins new owners should blow up the roster and start over, but it wouldn’t be easy - or smart - to do.
It’s easy to say Marlins new owners should blow up the roster and start over, but it wouldn’t be easy - or smart - to do.

South Florida has never had a bigger sports summer than the one created the night of July 9, 2010, when Miami held its breath as a basketball player announced, “I’m gonna take my talents to South Beach.”

That likely won’t be topped as a singular moment, but, for variety and breadth of magnitude, the summer almost upon us could be transcendent.

Co-headlining our blockbusters: Miami hosting its first MLB All-Star Game on July 11, and Real Madrid and Barcelona — soccer’s El Clasico — filling Hard Rock Stadium on July 29.

The opening act will include wrestling’s WWE Summer Slam on June 9 and the Heat’s foray into NBA free agency commencing on July 1. Then, for an encore: football as the Dolphins and Hurricanes open training camps.

That’ll be two-plus months as jammed and exciting as we’ve seen.

But something else is going to happen this summer, something unscheduled and wrought with mystery.

Somebody is going to buy the Miami Marlins, and what happens from there, nobody knows.

Jeffrey Loria selling to either the Jeb Bush/Derek Jeter group or one fronted by Tagg Romney and Tom Glavine is very likely to be decided by summer, so the transfer of power might be ratified at the next MLB owners meeting in August.

But … then what?

Marlins president David Samson talks about the discussions regarding the potential sale of the franchise before Tuesday's home opener against the Braves.

Predictable as South Florida humidity, the lemmings have been out ever since the Marlins’ season sank with that 1-8 homestand that led to a cascade of 20 losses in 25 games.

Fox Sports baseball writer Ken Rosenthal started it under the headline, “The Marlins need to tear down, even under a new owner.” Others have aped that. Like the unnamed MLB scout who described the Marlins’ situation thusly to the Miami Herald’s Clark Spencer: “They’re in crash-and-burn mode. My recommendation to the next owner would be to go in and blow it up.”

Yes. Tear it down! Blow it up!

So easy to suggest. So very, very difficult to do smartly.

Start with Giancarlo Stanton, the slugger who could hit 40 home runs and still be overpaid with that flabbergasting $325 million contract. The heavily backloaded deal was structured brilliantly by Loria, almost as if he realized he’d be gone and that the contract would become some other owner’s headache as the mega-dollars kicked in.

Stanton has a no-trade clause. He could opt out after the 2020 season, but why!? That would mean forfeiting a guaranteed $218 million over eight years.

So Miami can trade him, sure, except no fiscally responsible team will take on that contract. The Marlins would have to absorb a huge amount of it just to unload him. So paying $25 million a year to keep him may prove smarter than paying a sizable chunk of that for him to play elsewhere.

Lefty bust Wei-Yin Chen, aging and injured Martin Prado and declining Dee Gordon together are owed almost $140 million over the next three seasons. All are guys it would be smart to be rid of, but nobody will take on those contracts.

Miami Marlins coach Don Mattingly gives his thoughts about Derek Jeter, who is reportedly interested in buying the Marlins, being a MLB franchise owner before the Marlins game Wednesday, April 5, 2017, in Washington.

It’s easy to shout “tear it down/blow it up/start over,” but the new owners will arrive painted into a corner by the Loria regime, which agreed to too many bad contracts while also plundering the club’s minor-league system to the point Baseball America’s preseason rankings called Miami’s farm the most barren in MLB.

The dire straits are why Loria’s asking price of $1.8 billion already has fallen by about 22 percent and may yet head further south.

The Marlins outlook, though, is not all doomsday, the picture being painted by the reboot/start-over crowd.

Outfielder Christian Yelich and catcher J.T. Realmuto are ascending young players with favorable contracts, guys to build around. First baseman Justin Bour is cheap, good and getting better. Outfielder Marcell Ozuna will be a big bat here at least two seasons after this one.

Stanton? Miami will have one of the game’s top power bats for years to come, albeit at great cost. But, if he wants out badly enough (say that Dodgers uniform is calling), it isn’t impossible to think he might rework his Marlins deal to make Miami’s cash obligation less in order to get the trade he wanted.

Pitching would be Miami’s problem even if ace Jose Fernandez had not tragically died. The Fish are two quality starting pitchers from competing. The trouble is they have no quality prospects to offer in a trade. And the guys with trade value (Stanton, Yelich, et al) either don’t have movable contracts or are players Miami wants to keep.

The 2017 All-Star Game will be played at Marlins Park on July 11, 2017.

The easiest solution? Hope the new owners come in prepared to do what many new owners do: spend.

Why wouldn’t a group willing and able to produce more than $1 billion for a team be ready to invest, say, $150 million on a payroll to make it a good team? That kind of commitment would allow Miami to keep Stanton and also cast for a quality starter or two such as pending free agent Yu Darvish.

Easy to say blow it up and start over, but that’s as silly as it is difficult. Miami has too many rising young players to build around. Besides, few fans more than Marlins fans are sick, with good cause, of fire sales and reboots.

In any case, it’s going to be an interesting summer in South Florida.

The MLB All-Star Game and El Clasico will have us cheering.

Marlins fans can only hope the ownership change and what happens next will have them doing the same.

Hall of Fame baseball player Tany Peréz speaks to the Miami Herald after being announced as an ambassador for the MLB All-Star game in Miami.

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