Free money and you get to do THIS all year!

As one might expect, the Miami Marlins’ ongoing efforts to bring their 2013 payroll as close to “zero” as possible is not going over well in the greater baseball community. The Marlins fans will voice their collective displeasure via deafening silence at Marlins Park this year.

The Major League Baseball Players Association — the membership of which might exceed the total number of Marlins season ticket holders — is equally disconcerted by the Marlins decision to eschew paying anybody much of anything. It isn’t as though the Marlins just closed up shop after trading away Josh Johnson, Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle this fall. They signed a few free agents, inking Juan Pierre to a one-year, $1.6 mil deal and Placido Polanco to another one-year deal, this one worth $2.75 million. That’s not nothing!

But the union is not happy, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. While the union is unlikely to follow-up with a grievance, their displeasure is well known. This isn’t the first time the Marlins and the MLBPA have gone down this road.

It was just two years ago that the league forced the Marlins to up their payroll, at the behest of the union. The league mandated a three year increase in payroll, with which the Marlins obliged. They might not be as willing to bow to union pressure this time around.

After a season in which, according to Jackson, the Marlins posted an operating loss of $40 million and headed into a year in which they will receive a reduced amount of revenue sharing, the Marlins “privately believe” they won’t be asked to increase their spending.

The shared revenue is the greatest lever the union can pull. Free money from the league must be used to “improve the product” on the field. That never stopped the Pittsburgh Pirates from straight up pissing it away, but still.

The Marlins current payroll situation is, in a word, hilarious. The highest paid player is Ricky Nolasco. The next highest? The aforementioned Polanco and Adeiny Hechavarria – he of 137 career plate appearances. When the Jays brought Hechavarria out of Cuba, they gave him a four-year Major League contract, a deal which expires at the end of the season. Meaning the Marlins acquired a player who makes nearly $3MM this year and then goes right back to pre-arb servitude at the end of the season.

The Marlins will not be a good team, no matter what they do on the free agent market. They do have many holes which could be briefly patched by a dip into the free agency pool.

  • Michael Bourn – The Marlins are set to go into the season with Justin Ruggiano as their everyday center fielder. They acquired Jake Marisnick from the Blue Jays, though he will likely start the season at Double-A. How about Michael Bourn in Miami? If his asking price goes into freefall mode, the clever Marlins would surely dive in to pick him up with an eye towards turning him into more assets down the road. Likelihood? LOL nil.
  • Kyle Lohse – The Marlins rotation, such as it is, features most of their trade bounty over the last year or so. Nathan Eovaldi, Justin Turner, Henderson Alvarez, all stand to get 30+ starts this year. Wade Leblanc is also in the mix with Nolasco but this team would certainly benefit from a better than terrible pitcher in their rotation. Like Bourn, could Lohse see his value drop so far as to make the Marlins players? Likelihood? Slight. Let’s say…15%.
  • Brian Wilson – Because every 60 win team needs a closer? In the interests of protecting his value, pitching in a vast ballpark as he attempts coming back from Tommy John surgery. On the other hand, Brian Wilson isn’t looking at much of a pay day so he might not move the MLBPA’s needle as required. Likelihood? Slightly more than “slight.” 23%.
  • Casey Kotchman – Veteran presence yet he’s only 30! Defense first 1B with no power to speak of! He’s perfect! Likelihood? Good! 33%
  • Kelly Johnson – He’s utterly useless so he’s therefore perfect! Well, he can still draw a walk and run into a fastball. Again, a veteran who can help teach the young Marlins who to…win? Likelihood? Better than good. 45%
  • Chone Figgins – A jack of all trades who, freed up his previous contract pressure, might thrive by picking up at bats all around the diamond. A Florida native coming back to his home state at 35 to rekindle his career. Likelihood? Low. Figgins is terrible.

In reality, the Marlins might throw a little cash towards a relief pitcher or two, or perhaps they will heed the pleading call of Bobby Abreu and Freddy Garcia – both of whom want to play in Miami because who wouldn’t?

Might as well get these kicks in now because, once the Marlins cohort of young talent comes of age around Giancarlo Stanton, they will be winning again and making teams who actually try to win year-in and year-out feel mighty stupid indeed.