The Miami Marlins have decided to play a dangerous game this offseason, one that could affect their longterm future.
It was not long ago — six years to be exact — that the Marlins committed to winning. First, they opened a new ballpark, Marlins Park. Then in a trade with the Chicago White Sox, Miami acquired their new manager, Ozzie Guillen. Finally, general manager Michael Hill spent $191 million to acquire three of the offseason’s top free agents — Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, and Heath Bell.
But excitement surrounding Marlins baseball would not last long. A sellout crowd of 36,601 fans watched their team play in its new ballpark for the first time on April 4, 2012. But by seasons end, the Marlins finished 69-93 and 18th in attendance, averaging only 27,400 per home game.
After one disappointing season, the Marlins softened their commitment to winning. Then, after a 100-loss season in 2013, the Marlins completely gutted their roster. The excitement that then-owner Jeffery Loria and team president David Samson had built was all but gone.
Fast forward to the beginning of this offseason. Loria and Samson departed, and new owner Derek Jeter represented a chance for the fans to believe that he would put an end to “the way things have always been done.”
Maybe Jeter would find a creative way to navigate the Marlins’ financial mess. Maybe Jeter would build a team around Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, and Marcell Ozuna by instructing the front office to acquire starters and relievers.
“Enough is enough.” “No more fire sales.”
At least that is the message fans hoped Jeter would send. Instead, he did the exact opposite. He traded Stanton to the New York Yankees and Ozuna to the St. Louis Cardinals. This team has decided to “rebuild” again with no apparent direction.
Now that Miami intends to rebuild, Yelich and catcher J.T. Realmuto want out.
The 26-year-old Yelich is unhappy with the moves made by the front office but wants to give the organization a chance to explain their plan, according to a report by Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.
Meanwhile, Realmuto has requested to be traded, according to multiple reports.
Yelich and Realmuto have every right to want to play elsewhere and it is clear they want to win and are not interested in going through another rebuild. But Hill expressed his displeasure towards Yelich and Realmuto for making their desires public.
Michael Hill of the #Marlins just issued this statement in response to an inquiry on Yelich and Realmuto. It reinforces the notion that the two players have zero leverage beyond being unhappy with the teardown in Miami. pic.twitter.com/VDfCYZJB3C
— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) December 18, 2017
Hill has basically hamstrung both Yelich and Realmuto.
The Marlins have control over Yelich until 2021 and Realmuto until 2020. Miami probably wants to build around them, but it is obvious that Yelich and Realmuto are not happy. Instead of trying to work with both players, Hill’s statement will only make an already tense situation even worse.
The Marlins could get a lot in return for both Realmuto and Yelich and start the process of building a sustainable winner. Instead, the front office started a war of words with its two best remaining players and hurt their reputation around the league.
The games that Miami is playing will only hurt their chances to attract free agents. Scott Boras said the Marlins have turned into a pawn shop under Jeter. The decision to trade Stanton makes sense for a lot of reasons, but the way they handled it certainly supports Boras’ point.
The Miami Herald reported that the organization told Stanton, the face of the franchise and the only reason many fans came to games, that he would have to accept a trade or play for team with nobody on it.
At this point, trading Yelich and Realmuto is the best thing the Marlins can do. Leaving them out to dry is a dangerous game that will only hurt the team’s reputation further.