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The Miami Marlins are not following the rebuilding plan followed by the Astros.
The Miami Marlins are not following the rebuilding plan followed by the Astros.
Photo by Jack Gorman

The Astros Had to Rebuild. The Marlins are Just Broke

The sale of the Miami Marlins to a ownership group featuring former New York Yankee great Derek Jeter was approved by MLB on September 27, 2017. Jeter is the front man of the group. The guy who meets the media, is the focus for the fans, and is the baseball guy of the group.

The Marlins are an interesting franchise. The team has won the World Series twice, and it has undergone a massive rebuild after both titles. Owner Jeffrey Loria was thought by many to have destroyed baseball in Montreal, and many thought he tried to destroy baseball in Miami. He constantly traded stars, berated managers, and he conned the people of Florida into one of the worst stadium scams in the history of stadium scams.

The 2017 version of the Marlins finished with a 77-85 record behind manager Don Mattingly. It was an interesting team, featuring the most talented, most exciting player in baseball — outfielder and 2017 NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton. Outfielders Christian Yelich and Marcel Ozuna and second baseman Dee Gordon were also top class talents. It could perhaps be argued that the team underperformed its talent, but the people of Miami could be excused for thinking that, behind a new ownership group run by a legend like Jeter, that a team able to compete for the playoffs was right around the corner.

Instead the people of Miami are once again witnessing the trading away of stars and a massive rebound. Giancarlo Stanton was traded to the Yankees in an incredibly lopsided deal favoring the Yankees Gordon and Ozuna were also traded. Young catcher J.T. Realmuto has requested to be traded, and Yelich is on the trade market.

There could be an argument made that the Marlins are attempting to do what the Astros did and do a complete rebuild that stocks the team with lots and lots of young talent. But the Astros never had players like Stanton to trade, and the return for players like Hunter Pence was never as bad as what the Marlins have gotten back. The Astros undertook the rebuild because Drayton McLane had let the team rot. The stars were aging and the minors were bereft of talent. The Marlins might not have the worlds’s best farm system, but there’s no argument that the talent level of the Marlins roster was far superior to the talent level of the Astros team purchased by Jim Crane.

Reports have surfaced in Miami that the Jeter ownership group purchased the Marlins with the plan to slash payroll, and that MLB knew of this in advance yet still approved the sale. It’s also been reported that the ownership group was severely underfunded and that MLB still approved the deal, knowing as a result that the underfunded club would have to severely cut payroll to meet expenses and to pay off debt. (This was part of a contentious ESPN Radio interview between MLB commissioner Rob Manfred and host Dan La Betard)

The Astros did not expend a lot of money on player salaries after Crane purchased the team. The decision was made that the team could not continue to follow the route that had been paved by McLane. The team would not spend wildly on free agency. It would not depend on aging veterans. The decision was made to be bad instead of mediocre because being mediocre meant wasting money on veterans who would be gone in a year or two. That money was better spend loading up the farm system and signing up talent. The players would all come up to the majors around the same time, the team would be good, and it would win titles. It was a risk, but when a team is void of talent from the low minors to the big club, risks have to be taken.

Who knows what happens if Crane would have purchased a team with Stanton and Gordon and Ozuna. But he has shown that he will spend money, and he has shown that if there are available vets who will help the team win, then the Astros will go get those players.

We do know what is happening in Miami. It is not what happened with the Astros, and any comparisons to what the Astros did should be summarily dismissed. The Astros had a plan to get better. The Marlins have a plan to slash costs and pay off debts.

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