Greg Cote

Jeter impatient for Marlins to win? It will take bold action, but here's what he can do

Targeting Baltimore’s Manny Machado in free agency after this season would be a bold way for Derek Jeter to prove his commitment to winning and to Marlins fans — and to spending to make it happen.
Targeting Baltimore’s Manny Machado in free agency after this season would be a bold way for Derek Jeter to prove his commitment to winning and to Marlins fans — and to spending to make it happen. Associated Press

It is amusing to hear Miami Marlins boss Derek Jeter note he is not a patient man, when patience is what he is asking of the team's fans, along with blind faith, of course. It is amusing to hear Jeter bemoan the Marlins' embarrassing attendance when his own fire sale-and-reboot business model is such a part of the root cause.

Jeter is preaching that rebuilding from the farm system up will produce sustainable winning. Someday. Maybe. The only guarantee in all this is that in the long meantime his and majority owner Bruce Sherman's profit margin will be robustly healthy while the youthful, bargain rosters grow up by degrees.

There are at least a half dozen other MLB teams tanking this season like Miami is, and they won't all be contending-good by early next decade. One or two might luck to find a superstar or two among their current prospects, but the hope of that must be augmented by a scary word that might find Jeter and Sherman recoiling like vampires foisted into sunlight.

The word is "spending."

The idea is that prospects alone are not enough. That you must accelerate and assure future winning by keeping valuable players and by strategically signing — yes, at great cost — select young veterans.

So I have two names for you, Mr. Jeter:

J.T. Realmuto and Manny Machado.

Realmuto is your just-turned-27-year-old catcher, the one you will be so tempted to trade before the July 31 deadline because there will be much interest and because you would save yet more money by swapping him for the crapshoot of a few more prospects.

Machado is the Orioles shortstop/third baseman who is likely about to be traded to a contending team as a few months' rental before becoming a free agent after the season.

So here is your to-do list, Marlins. And, yes, I do love spending other people's money. Even more, though, I love reminding this club's rookie ownership that it is obliged to spend enough to field competitive teams. That is a moral obligation. The concept was apparently lost on Jeffrey Loria, one reason the Fish haven't made the playoffs since 2003 and why the team's average attendance this year (10,603) is on pace to be the worst in MLB since 2004, the year that drove the Montreal Expos to Washington.

There is no quick fix to this, but there are ways to hasten the slow fix of waiting for prospects to grow and hoping they bloom. That's a huge dice roll, personified by Lewis Brinson, the "top prospect" obtained from Milwaukee in the Christian Yelich trade, a young man whose first 208 career plate appearances find him batting .153.

That's why teams need to need to be dynamic, and urgent. Those are the teams that grow the minor-league system and spend, not act as if one precludes the other.

So get busy, Marlins, and sign Realmuto to a long-term contract. He's locked up the next two seasons, but both are arbitration years, followed by free agency. Skip that. Lock him up. He is a premier player at a tough position to fill right. Build around this guy.

Then target Machado, who is 25 and already has three times been top-10 in league MVP voting. He has 105 homers during the past three seasons. He currently is batting .339 with an AL-leading 14 homers and 40 RBI. Cooperstown-aimed, he will be a major force the next 10 years. He is what the Marlins let get away in trading Miguel Cabrera 11 years ago.

Cabrera would welcome a return to Miami, according to former Marlins president-turned CBS Sports analyst David Samson. Forget that! He's at the end. For a comparable price you would get Machado just now coming into his prime.

Machado might command a long-term deal averaging at least $25 million per year.

You get what you pay for, Marlins. And Machado happens to be Hialeah born-and raised, Miami-Dade all the way. In fact some call him "Mr. Miami." Too perfect. He would be the ideal centerpiece for marketing efforts and appeal to the Hispanic demographic. He would be the big star this team now lacks. He would be proof the new-era Marlins are serious about winning, not just saving money. Fans would notice.

Why not Miami for Machado?

The only thing that makes the notion seem ridiculous is the idea of the Jeter group actually spending money, after a winter spent doing the opposite in trading Giancarlo Stanton, Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Dee Gordon for prospects.

The trades have made the Marlins thoroughly uninteresting, but they have stocked the farm system with some depth, especially in pitching and the outfield.

Time is coming for the next step.

Keep Realmuto. Then sign Machado.

It might only happen — it would only have a chance — ifJeter discovers a commitment to winning and to Marlins fans that is as great as his ardor for profit.

Related stories from Miami Herald

  Comments