In 2006, Marlins fans will put there hope in . . . Mitchell Friedman? Rick Vaughn? Willie Hayes? Who do we have coaching? Lou Brown? Joe Girardi? Tell me it’s Brown and not Girardi.
In all likelihood, the Marlins will be the worst team in baseball next year. Jeffrey Loria, easily the sleaziest franchise owner in all of sports, has made a joke of this baseball team. He seriously must have been watching Major League
. Loria wants to move the team to Las Vegas, where he would have a stadium publicly financed for him and the value of his team will literally increase tenfold. That’s just not fair. Just like in Major League
, Loria will alienate his fans so much and field such a garbage team that there will be no choice but to move out of Miami. In the past, Loria always threatened the move to blackmail the city of Miami into financing a new stadium for him. Now that all of Florida is knee-deep in hurricane problems, there is no longer a chance for a publicly financed ballpark. So, Loria has turned to Plan B -- getting the hell out of Miami. The Marlins will probably have attendance in the low 2,000’s for every game, no joke. They are done in Miami.
No matter what, though, Loria is going to earn a nice profit this year. The lowest possible salary a team can pay is $7.9 million because the league minimum is $316,000 per player. The Marlins’s payroll will probably be around $9,000,000. Ha ha ha, right? No. I wasn’t joking. The Marlins seriously have gotten rid of their 17 highest paid players. Seventeen! They have two good players remaining from the roster last year, Donte Willis and Miggy Cabrera; neither is eligible for arbitration. The Marlins payroll will be about ¼ of the next lowest-paid team in the league. Regardless of how many fans the Marlins bring in, Loria is going to be raking in the dough. The Marlins have a television contract that alone is worth $9 million a year. Any other revenues the team earns can go to other operating costs. Even with 1,000 fans per game, the Marlins can probably pay the stadium expenses and most of the front office expenses. That leaves every penny of revenue sharing money to go into Loria’s pockets. MLB owners agreed to share revenues to increase the competitive balance in baseball. Owners are supposed to invest the $20+ million they get every year into the baseball team. Loria is pocketing that money. I’m not sure if there is anything in MLB’s Collective Bargaining Agreement that eliminates any revenue sharing if a team does not spend a certain amount of money. If there isn’t, Loria is absolutely pirating money. What a dick, huh?
Even if the team doesn’t move to Vegas, Loria is going to earn a nice profit from whatever reduced price he originally bought the team for. The Marlins can move to Oregon, and he’d have a nice publicly financed ballpark and a growing fanbase. MLB’s collective bargaining agreement expires after the 2006 season. At the expiration, contraction again becomes a possibility. But, even if the Marlins are contracted, the league will have to pay Loria the market value of his team. I hope that no cities bite on the publicly financed ballpark and Loria is stuck in Miami. I hope the league does not save him with contraction. Then, I hope the owners and players agree, as they should, to a minimum league salary. I know the players would want that.
The Pitching: Getting back to the baseball side of things, the Marlins rotation in 2006 will be Willis, Brian Moehler, Jason Vargas, and two out of about 15 available young pitchers. We do not know what to expect from any of these guys. There is a lot of potential, but none of these guys are proven. Expect some growing pains, especially if Willis is traded before he becomes arbitration eligible in 2007. At this point, I wouldn’t rule that possibility out.
To say that the Marlins bullpen is inexperienced would be like saying NBA Jam is just an acceptable video game. The Marlins bullpen is beyond inexperienced. With Nate Bump uncertain for 2006, Randy Messenger may be the most experienced reliever on the Marlins, with 37 career innings at the Show. Travis Bowyer, with his 9 career innings, will likely be the team’s closer.
The Lineup: Miguel Cabrera and 7 rookie or second-year players will make up the Marlins lineup. They are going to be hurting an awful lot to score runs. This has to be the worst offense in baseball.
Jeffrey Loria, Larry Beinfest and Co. traded about a dozen legitimate MLB players for prospects. As you would expect, they got some young talent. I agree with the theory then when you are rebuilding, you should go all the way and not do what the Royals and Pirates continually do, i.e. bring in Doug Mientkiewicz and Sean Casey, respectively. However, there is no question that Loria is just dumping salary for the sake of dumping salary. There is no way the Marlins got good enough returns on most of the trades they made. They got good players, but they could have bargained better and gotten much more in a market like this.
The Marlins certainly are not saddled with any contract liabilities for overpriced players, as no one likely will make seven figures this next season. In three or four years, the Marlins could have a very cheap, very good young team. It will all depend on how the prospects turn out, whether the Marlins even exist, and, if they do exist, where they are playing.
Farm System: Because I still consider Jeremy Hermida eligible for prospect status, I’d say the Marlins are one of the three or four most elite farm systems in baseball. When you add 11 prospects in a month, you’re going to have a very deep system. The questions now are: (1) how many of these players will make it?; and (2) how many have true star potential? They will certainly get a lot of chances to prove themselves at the major league level. Here is the cream of the crop:
1) Jeremy Hermida: 21 OF. In my mind, Hermida is the best outfield prospect in baseball. This is just my opinion. Here’s why I think he is so good: First of all, he is major league ready at age 21. In 41 AB for the Marlins last year, he posted a 1.017 OPS. He has routinely hit in the .290’s in the minors and been young at every stop. His power numbers have steadily progressed at each level, culminating with a solid .518 slugging percentage in pitcher-friendly AA ball last year. He is athletic and apparently smart, having stolen 69 bases successfully in his career while only being caught 10 times. But, it is Hermida’s plate discipline that makes him an elite prospect. Get ready for this . . . Last year, in 386 AA at-bats, he took 111 walks. 111 walks! He had a .457 OBP! He obviously takes pitches, as he had 89 strikeouts to go along with the walks. But, that is an average amount of strikeouts for a patient power hitter. So, there is very little not to like about Hermida. Hermida will start in right field this year.
2) Yusmeiro Petit: 21 RHP. Petit was the prize of the Carlos Delgado trade. Though not a hard-thrower, Petit has excelled at every stop in the minors. He was very young at every stop and compiled a ridiculous 429/75 K/BB ratio and 2.76 ERA in 346 innings.
3) Scott Olsen: 21 LHP. Olsen made it all the way to the majors last year, following several impressive years in the minors. Cumulatively, he posted a 3.11 ERA, over a strikeout per inning, almost a 3/1 K/BB ration, and an absolutely miniscule 0.43 HR/9 in almost 400 minor league innings. He was young in every league he played and is left-handed. What is not to like? . . . Well, besides being a pitcher. Olsen will be a Marlins starter in 2006.
4) Josh Willingham: 26 C. Willingham spent too much time in A-ball before getting promoted. As a result, he is very old to be a prospect. However, because of his incredible plate discipline, power, and the fact that he can catch, Willingham is a very good prospect. In the last two years in the minors, which he split between AA and AAA, Willingham batted .300, with 138 walks, 141 strikeouts, and 43 home runs in about 550 at-bats. Half of those numbers were put up in a hitter’s park, but still. That is very impressive for a catcher, even if he is 26. Willingham will be the Marlins starting catcher in 2006.
5) Anibal Sanchez: RHP. Sanchez came to the Marlins in the Josh Beckett/Mike Lowell dump. Like the other pitchers, he struck out more than a batter an inning while showing good control. He could use another full years in the minors, but he probably won’t get it.
6) Hanley Ramirez: 22 SS. Ramirez is in a lot of people’s top-25 prospects. I just do not get it. He hasn’t shown power or a good ability to draw walks, he doesn’t hit for a very high average, and he is at least a year away from being ready for the majors, a year he too will not get. Everything he did in the minors screams of adequacy and not much more. I’m either missing something about him, or he was an over-hyped prospect from an over-hyped team.
7) Ricky Nolasco: 23 RHP. Nolasco came from the Cubs in the Juan Pierre deal. He is your typical good pitching prospect. He is just about major league ready and posted a strikeout per inning and about a 3/1 K/BB ratio.
8) Travis Bowyer: 24 RHP. Bowyer will likely be the Marlins closer in 2006. He actually is major league ready, and has posted some very good strikeout rates in the minors. Control could be an issue in his first year or two, but expect him to be a good bullpen arm.
The Marlins really have a lot of talent in the minors. They probably have about 20 of the top 250 prospects in baseball, and probably 4 or 5 in the top 100. There could be several breakouts in 2006 from players like Grant Psomas, Aaron Thompson, Renyel Pinto, Dan Uggla. Gaby Hernandez, and Chris Volstad. There is a lot of danger of players being rushed though obviously (circa Brewers of the 90’s).
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