Writer's Note: For a less subjective, more objective analysis of this trade, please check out this other article. It's also written by me, and has a more measured take.
For Marlins fans, the date 11/13/12 will live in infamy.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Marlins traded almost every good player left on their already-gutted major league roster for a host of young players. Some of the players coming back are major leaguers, some are minor leaguers, but there's no transcendent talent coming in as a result of the deal. Beyond that, there's a host of other issues that crop up as a result of this trade. I'll outline them below
The Talent Gap
The 2013 Miami Marlins are going to be the worst team in baseball, and it's not even going to be close. As it stands today, the team has a $25 million dollar payroll, which is about a quarter of what the team's payroll was last season. It will be the lowest payroll in the majors by an enormous margin. Small-market teams like the Athletics and Rays will pay twice as much money as the Marlins to field very competitive teams. Large market teams like the Yankees and Red Sox will pay up to eight times as much.
My objective analysis tells me that the team will be the worst in the majors, and it won't be too close, in 2013. Given how terrible the Houston Astros were in 2012 -- AND that the 'Stros moving to the tougher AL West -- that's saying something.
Beyond the simple fact that the team is not paying to employ good baseball players (though value isn't always tied to money, the correlation is there in many instances), the team did not earn back an A or A- prospect or major league regular as a result of this trade. Usually, when a team sacrifices so much talent, they get back a very, very good prospect. I'm not even talking about a Mike Trout or a Bryce Harper here. I'm talking about a Travis D'Arnaud. The prospects that the Jays gave up as part of this deal probably don't fall in their top-four prospects. They may not fall under their top-five. I'd rather have gotten D'Arnaud, or Aaron Sanchez or Noah Syndegaard than any of the seven other players the Marlins got in this deal.
It appears that the real desire in this deal was to drop the heavily-backloaded contracts of a few talented players, rather than get anything of excellent substance in return for these stars. If, for example, the Marlins removed Reyes and Buehrle from this trade, and the Blue Jays removed Jake Marisnick (a solid but unexceptional outfield prospect coming to Miami) and Yunel Escobar, you'd have a trade of bits and pieces from Toronto (and Justin Nicolino) for Josh Johnson, John Buck, and Emilio Bonifacio. This would be a baseball trade that might make sense for both teams. And I'd even bet both teams would accept this trade, in a vacuum, based on the players and the team's needs.
But the Marlins were willing to dump the bloated contracts that they just gave out to Reyes and Buehrle, and it didn't appear very important what they got in return. The team should have either kept good players on the team, in an attempt to field a *somewhat* competitive franchise, eaten some of these players' salaries in an attempt to get better players in return, or demanded a more substantive return anyways. These new Marlins are not good enough to replace the outgoing players, and the team will not use the money to sign new talent.
The Giancarlo Stanton Issue
One initial expected piece of fallout should be that the Marlins' best player before and after the trade, Giancarlo Stanton, cannot be expected to sign a long-term extension with the club. Michael Jong at FishStripes advocated the team doing this as part of a three-pronged approach to the 2013 offseason, and I heartily agreed with the sentiment. Unfortunately ...
Alright, I'm pissed off!!! Plain & Simple— Giancarlo Stanton (@Giancarlo818) November 13, 2012
This is not a good sign. This is not a player motivated to sign a team-friendly extension with the only team he has ever played for.
This is a player who is a transcendent offensive talent and very good defensive outfielder. And within five years, he will be a New York Yankee or Los Angeles Dodger.
Now, granted, there's a good chance that good Giancarlo was going to play for a different ballclub in 2017 anyways, but it may have been avoidable before. Now, it's a pretty safe bet. In fact, with Stanton's disappointment -- and the fact that he could hardly be a more valuable commodity on the free market -- the Marlins may even be best served dealing him now for several prospects. I hate the idea of trading a one-of-a-kind player at the age of 22.
The Miami-Dade County Issue
As you may have heard, the Marlins moved into a new stadium for 2012, complete with a team name re-branding and new uniforms. The Marlins didn't foot the whole bill for the new stadium, they actually got $400+ million in public financing for their stadium. For years, we'd heard that the Marlins could not afford to field a competitive team in Miami without a new stadium.
Well, now the team has their new stadium, one that has been funded by the Florida taxpayers. And it appears as if Jeffrey Loria and David Samson still cannot afford to field a competitive team. I think we can safely associate this run of cost-cutting with a very unethical way to make money off of Miami-Dade County at the taxpayers' expense. If the team was continuing to spend money on the team, one could (uneasily) understand the deal: get out of big, backloaded contracts in order to spend the money more wisely going forward.
Unfortunately, this does not seem to be what will happen. Chances are, the Miami Marlins ownership will pocket the money and go home, leaving a team of Triple-A players and minimum-salary vets to chase 40 wins. And the Miami-Dade County will pay several billion dollars for this to happen in their backyard.
This is a trade that emphasizes that Jeffrey Loria is a good business-person, and a horrible steward for an MLB franchise. The Marlins have essentially tanked three seasons (2013, 2014 and 2015) worth of games, lost all their good players and alienated the one remaining star, all in an attempt to make the management of the team richer. At least, that's how it appears at this point. I can't help but feel incredibly sorry for the die-hard Marlins fans, if any still exist after this debacle.
Maybe in the future, Christian Yelich will become the next Jim Thome or Willie Mays. Maybe the team will see some of the moderate-risk prospects turn into legitimate stars. But even if that happens, the team's management cannot be trusted to manage the roster, and the fans' expectations in a way that will make the team compelling to watch. The plan of breaking a team down in order to build it back up is actually pretty smart and admirable. In a vacuum, I'd even recommend it. But the way that this trade was pulled off gives people the impression that Loria and the Marlins have no intention of building the team back up. And, unfortunately, the city of Miami and the fans of the Marlins are going to pay for it.