With the massive trade between the Toronto Blue Jays and Miami Marlins now awaiting physicals to be completed and league approval, much speculation has arisen over whether Commissioner Bud Selig will allow it to go through. While the odds are overwhelming in favor of the rubber stamp, it is still a question worth asking.
In the Marlins, we have a team backing out of a sudden “win now” philosophy under questionable pretenses. Ownwe Jeffrey Loria is obviously not the most highly thought of individual in many locations, and he can now add Miami to that list after his public lobbying for shared funding of Marlins Park.
In the Blue Jays, we have a team looking to capitalize on an unusually vulnerable AL East with plenty in the cupboard. Their ownership group ranks among the wealthiest in baseball and after a trying season both on and off the field, they have done well to not only change the public perception of the franchise, but immediately boost the name value of the roster.
So why the commotion?
The Blue Jays are free from fault here, putting together a reasonable baseball deal while spending within their means to improve their roster. The cause for suspicion falls squarely on Miami.
While the Marlins did acquire solid talent from the Blue Jays farm system in addition to three serviceable big league players, the team’s motives look incredibly questionable. Much of their funding for a brand new facility was contingent on a commitment to win immediately and fill the building. An unprecedented spending spree a year ago appeared to turn the tide in that direction. This week, the team has effectively undone all of that work.
The deal is unlikely to be vetoed. Not only is there no precedent for Selig to make that type of move, but from a purely baseball perspective there are many who would happily argue that the Marlins got fair value in the deal, if not even a little ahead. I, for one, disagree, but the issue as it has been drawn out in media circle, is not based around the trade at all, but rather the Marlins’ ties with the city of Miami.
If we’re examining this from a baseball operations perspective, an argument against such a massive salary swap is in an indirect argument for a salary cap or structured financial system. This type of framework would likely come with a salary floor and, in turn, ensure that teams couldn’t dump salary as Miami historically has. However, since there does not appear to be any interest in such a change in the financial structure of the major leagues, it would not make sense to nix the trade on this basis.
The key issue here is the series of promises made between the Marlins ownership group and Miami-Dade County which stand to alienate the Marlins fan base in the short term and potentially cripple the franchise. If the doomsday scenario plays out the way many project, the Marlins will be forced to relocate or contract from Major League Baseball and Miami will be left with a $634 million white elephant stadium. The city contributed $508 million of that.
Major League Baseball did play a role in this. MLB was active in the proceedings between Miami and the Marlins and suggested that baseball could no longer exist in the city if a new facility wasn’t delivered. What baseball officials didn’t expect, however, was they may have inadvertently killed it by pushing for the building altogether.
The issue here isn’t whether the Marlins needed a new park—by all accounts they did—but how they went about it. Not only has Loria raised the suspicions of fans, but many owners have questioned his practices with respect to revenue sharing and reporting accurate financial numbers for the team. Now, after he’s undone the promises he appeared to be following through on, the issue becomes whether he can be trusted by fans or baseball again.
The trade itself must be approved. If the dealmakers for the teams agreed to go ahead with this trade, the league has to respect it. If the consequences from the trade mean future provisions are put in place to keep similar trades from occurring, so be it. Alter the Collective Bargaining Agreement in the future. This trade itself should not be a platform for making sweeping changes across the board. It is an entirely valid swap within the framework of the major leagues.
What MLB can do, and do immediately, is begin holding its owners to a higher standard of conduct. Jose Reyes & Co. have nothing to do with the conduct of Loria or his executive group, they were merely pawns in the process. A year ago, Reyes, Heath Bell and other Marlins were talking about their franchise’s commitment to winning multiple World Series in Miami. Now we know the commitment didn’t extend very far beyond the dressing room.
If MLB wants to make a point with an investigation, it ought to start at the top. This trade is just a microcosm of how the Miami Marlins franchise has been allowed to operate. For professional baseball in Miami to succeed, the league needs an owner who wants to run it in an equally professional manner.