Marlins Make Small-Markets Look Bad
[picapp align="right" wrap="true" link="term=marlins+owner&iid=4477574" src="/c/0/4/4/PicImg_Nationals_vs_Marlins_21fa.JPG?adImageId=8964559&imageId=4477574" width="234" height="351" /]Lost in all the Mark McGwire hoopla over the past couple days was the news that MLB and the player's union more or less came out and told the Florida Marlins to stop being so cheap. The Marlins have had the league's lowest payroll in three of the past four seasons, and owner Jeff Loria has shown an aversion to paying players once they hit arbitration. Even with a new stadium opening within a couple years, the team continues to play poor.
From the Marlins' perspective, it's hard to argue with success -- they've managed to win two World Series titles in their short existence, always seem to get great value in their trades, and last year finished in second place in the NL East to the eventual NL champion Phillies. They'll happily take the money from the league's revenue sharing system, but have shown they're capable of winning without actually using that money -- thanks in large part to a great general manager and minor league system.
That's where the rest of the league has a problem with the Marlins. They abuse the system, pleading poverty when they play in a bigger market than teams like the Brewers, Reds, and Royals, among others. Those teams have at least tried to use their revenue sharing money to improve their on-field performance with free agent signings and contract extensions. The Marlins, while being consistently more competitive than those teams, have seemingly refused to use that money. The Brewers, playing in the league's smallest market, spent more than twice as much money as the Marlins did last year. While the Brewers are an example of what small-market teams should do -- dabble in free agency, lock up a couple key players, and develop minor league talent -- organizations like the Marlins are the reason why large-market teams hate paying out revenue sharing dollars.
The timing of this compromise -- the club is promising the spend more leading up to the opening of their new stadium -- is a little curious. Dan Uggla, due for a big raise in arbitration, has been on the trading block for awhile. When the team's extension talks with ace Josh Johnson fell through in the early stages, there was immediately talk of him being moved, too. This deal with the player's union likely means both players will stay -- at least for the short term -- and both players will likely get paid. But will the Marlins finally become players in free agency? Or will they just sign a bunch of average players they don't really need to short-term deals to boost their payroll?
Regardless, the Marlins (and to a lesser extent, the Pirates) need to change their ways and actually try to field competitive teams. That means spending money to keep guys in town. That means not alienating your fanbase by acting as a farm team for teams in bigger cities. If they don't change, teams in smaller markets will continue to be looked down upon, and a salary floor will continue to be more likely than a salary cap.