Heading into the offseason, the Marlins had 17 arbitration-eligible players. The notoriously cheap Fish wasted no time in starting to deal them, and have already shipped out Kevin Gregg, Josh Willingham, Mike Jacobs, and Scott Olsen.
We’ve gotten used to watching Florida bring ‘em up (it will be Cameron Maybin this year) and ship ‘em out, World Series victories or no. For years, they’ve claimed they can’t afford to keep their young stars until they’re allowed to build a new stadium. But recently, there was a major breakthrough on that front, as a judge ended the lawsuit blocking them from breaking ground. (Of course, there might well be an appeal by the time I post this, but for now the issue is resolved.)
Does this mean that the Marlins will now, maybe, finally start keeping some of their good players around long enough to reach a critical mass and add to their ’97 and ’03 World Series wins? Aside from beefing up their pitching a bit (an incentive-laden deal for Carl Pavano is a mutually beneficial idea), they shouldn’t need to do too much to contend; down on the farm, they have a healthy stockpile of young talent to supplement the young stars currently on their major league roster, and the front office has made it clear that they don’t expect the team’s offense to produce at the rate it did last year, and so will focus this winter on improving their pitching, defense, and speed. I can’t argue with that.
And yet….and yet.
One reason the Marlins have been agitating for a new stadium is that they have the worst attendance in baseball (they share the Miami Dolphins’ stadium). But is it unreasonable to suggest that part of the problem is that the fans get no chance to become attached to their players? Whether or not they’re arb-eligible, the Marlins are almost always willing to deal, and always willing to listen. The turnstile approach may lead to low payrolls and the odd World Series ring, but it doesn’t necessarily win the hearts and minds of fans.
I have never accepted the proposition that money is as tight in Florida as the front office claims — MLB these days is flush with cash, and the small-market teams do benefit from revenue sharing and luxury taxes. Florida has been very good at evaluating young talent, and with a little more effort on the part of the FO — and by signing some of their best young players to long-term deals before they hit arbitration — they should be contenders or spoilers in the NL East almost every year. New stadium or no.