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Written by Jim Mancari (Contact & Archive) on November 24, 2011
Usually when the Winter Meetings come around, the Florida Marlins are fielding trade offers for their star players and rarely thinking about signing any top free-agent talent. However, the Miami Marlins are a completely different animal, at least in the early going of this offseason.
The new-look Marlins have made headlines for more than their new uniforms and a new stadium expected to increase revenue. Built on the site of the Orange Bowl, the retractable roof, state-of-the-art structure cost $515 million.
So with this large debt looming and the fact that the team rarely has a payroll over $50-60 million annually, where are they getting all this money to sign free agents?
The team hopes to appeal to the heavy Latin American population in the Miami area. This, however, will only be accomplished if the Marlins can field a competitive team.
With the expected revenue increase, the team is positioned to experience a $50 million jump in payroll, bringing the total payroll into the neighborhood of $100 million per year. The Marlins currently only have $45.2 million locked up for 2012.
The team reportedly offered All-Star shortstop Jose Reyes a six-year deal worth just under $90 million. However, that figure was trumped by the Marlins' offer of nine years, $225 million to premier free agent Albert Pujols.
Miami has also had conversations with Mark Buehrle, C.J. Wilson, Roy Oswalt and Ryan Madson and is expected to explore the trade market for James Shields and Gio Gonzalez.
When looking at the team's current roster, the makings of high-quality ball club are there. Mike Stanton is on the verge of greatness, while Gaby Sanchez, Hanley Ramirez and Logan Morrison are all talented players. If Josh Johnson can stay healthy, he's a bona fide ace paired with Ricky Nolasco and Anibal Sanchez.
So imagine if the Marlins could lure Reyes and Buerhle. Pujols still might be out of the team's price range, even with the lucrative deal the team offered.
The Marlins have surprised the baseball world with how quickly they reached out to big-name free agents this offseason. As of now though, the only major acquisition has been that of manager Ozzie Guillen.
Granted, it's still early, but already the Marlins' skeptics have surfaced. Reaching out to these free agents may just be a ploy to show fans that the team is trying to get better in order to increase ticket sales.
However, would fans purchase their tickets on the "thought" of the team improving or wait until the team actually signs some talent?
It's been an up-and-down ride for Marlins fans so far. The team isn't considered second-class anymore, but until they actually put pen to paper, they're still the lowly Marlins.
Miami is going through an experimental period right now. If the experiment succeeds, expect some exciting baseball from South Beach this season. But if it fails, there might be a whole lot of empty seats in the new ballpark.
Then who's going to pay for it?