MIAMI (CBSMiami) – If you play with fire, eventually you’re going to get burned. The city of Miami and Miami-Dade County danced with the devil and after one massive trade on Tuesday, have been left with a scorched earth that used to be the Miami Marlins.
Miami and Miami-Dade County were sold on the fact that Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria had turned over a new leaf and would invest serious money into the franchise. In return, the city and county forked over what will end up being roughly $2 billion in taxpayer money to build Marlins Park for Loria.
The Marlins went into the offseason of 2011 ready to spend big money on free agents. Loria put some of his money where his mouth was and signed several big name free agents to big contracts worth more than $100 million dollars combined.
Loria also hired vociferous manager Ozzie Guillen to take over the team after winning a World Series as a manager with the Chicago White Sox a few years ago.
The days of the Marlins being the laughing stock of baseball for its low payroll and even lower attendance seemed to be a distant memory. The 2012 season opened to much fanfare and fans kept coming even after a tough start in the month of April.
After torching the league in May, the wheels quickly came off for the Marlins thanks to injuries and overall poor play. Guillen had no way to right the ship and as the season went on, the team just got worse.
The first sign the Marlins were about to revert to their old ways of dumping salary at all costs came when the team in a matter of days traded Anibal Sanchez and Hanley Ramirez. Those trades foreshadowed the storm that was coming for the Marlins.
At the time, the Marlins’ Larry Beinfest said according to Sports Illustrated, “Yes we have our history [of fire sales], but that’s not what’s going on here. This was about the current mix wasn’t winning, so let’s try something else.”
The Marlins continued to decline in the waning months of the 2012 season. The team was so bad that at one point, tickets could be had on the secondary market for as little as $0.50 per ticket.
After the season, the team dumped its first high-priced 2011 offseason acquisition when it traded away closing pitcher Heath Bell, who had been signed at the behest of Loria. With Bell gone, the Marlins went quiet for a while, before Tuesday’s massive trade.
The deal, which is awaiting approval from Major League Commissioner Bud Selig, sent 2011 acquisitions shortstop Jose Reyes, pitcher Mark Buehrle, catcher John Buck, along with Emilio Bonifacio and pitcher Josh Johnson to the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Marlins received shortstop Yunel Escobar, who is most well-known for writing homophobic slurs in his eye-black during a 2012 game, along with Adeiny Hechavarria, Henderson Alvarez, Justin Nicolino, and center fielder Jacob Marisnick.
Once the trade is approved, the club will have a team salary of roughly $16 million excluding arbitration-eligible players, according to FoxSports.com. That total is roughly equal to what Reyes was set to make in 2014 alone.
And with the one move, any good will that Loria had built up in the previous year vanished with not only Marlins fans, but also his own team. Franchise player Giancarlo Stanton tweeted he was “pissed off” about the trade.
The Marlins future now looks murkier than ever, with a roster full of minor-league talent outside of Stanton and a few other players. That’s not good with the team is heading into free agency and hoping to get season-ticket holders to buy in again.
The move by Loria to trade the player could have a long-lasting impact on the team in free agency. The Marlins have long refused to include a no-trade clause in contracts. The move on Tuesday tells free agents to sign at their own risk because they may be gone in one season.
But the biggest loser in the entire mess is Miami baseball fans. The city has supported two World Series champions and when the right moves are made to improve the team, many turn out in force. But that may not happen for many years, depending on what else happens before the 2013 season.