JULY 10: Hill’s contract was actually most recently extended about two years ago, Jon Heyman of Fan Rag tweets. At that point, two years were added to his existing deal (making five in total) to take him through 2020.
JULY 5, 10:21pm: With Miami’s ownership situation up in the air, commissioner Rob Manfred has said that the team would need to consult with the league before a potential fire sale, tweets Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald.
8:13pm: Owner Jeffrey Loria is set to sell the Marlins, but he won’t leave without first taking care of his most trusted employees. That list includes president of baseball operations Michael Hill, whom Loria recently awarded a five-year, $10MM-plus extension, reports Bob Nightengale of USA Today. There are also other Marlins executives with five-year agreements in place, Nightengale adds.
The Marlins are likely to sell for upward of $1.1 billion, so buying out front office employees’ contracts shouldn’t be a no-go for the team’s next ownership group if it’s so inclined. For now, the Hill-led franchise is ready to orchestrate a fire sale, per Nightengale, who writes that all of Miami’s players on multiyear contracts are available. At 37-45, the Marlins are well out of postseason contention and on their way to extending their playoff drought to 15 years. They haven’t finished over .500 in a season since 2009, when Hill was in his third season as their general manager. He took over as their president in 2013.
While Miami hasn’t fared well on the field, its off-field situation has also been disastrous. The Marlins are projected to lose $62MM this year, according to investors who have seen their books. They’re also approximately $500MM in debt, relays Nightengale, who notes that they have a major league-high $488MM in salary commitments. Moreover, they carry baseball’s lowest attendance rate and its least valuable television contract ($20MM per year through 2020). Those problems won’t be Loria’s for much longer, though.
“There are a lot of moving parts to this sale, no doubt, but it’s happening,’’ said Marlins president David Samson. “The timetable is the same. But it will be sold. It’s in the process right now.’’
In order to reduce the Marlins’ debt and make the franchise more appealing to buyers, Hill will work to jettison some of the team’s high-priced talent by the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. Right fielder Giancarlo Stanton, owed $295MM through 2028 (if he doesn’t opt out after 2020), easily possesses Miami’s most onerous contract. The 27-year-old has the right to block a trade to any team, which could be problematic if the Marlins do find a taker, but FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reported Saturday that a Stanton deal isn’t as far-fetched as it may seem.
Aside from Stanton, the club’s big-money multiyear commitments include left-hander Wei-Yin Chen, outfielder Christian Yelich, third baseman Martin Prado, second baseman Dee Gordon, right-hander Edinson Volquez, and relievers Brad Ziegler and Junichi Tazawa.
After the season, Chen will be able to opt out of the five-year, $80MM deal he signed with the Marlins before the 2016 campaign. That’s not going to happen, though, and nor is dumping Chen’s salary via trade. In his year-plus with the Marlins, Chen has underperformed and dealt with elbow injuries, the latest of which has kept him off the mound since May 1. The Marlins could also have a hard time moving Ziegler and Tazawa, both of whom have flopped in the first season of their two-year contracts. The 37-year-old Ziegler is on a $7MM salary this season and will rake in another $9MM in 2018. Tazawa, 31, is making $5MM now and due another $7MM in 2018.
Meanwhile, Prado (in the first season of a three-year, $40MM contract), Gordon (in Year 2 of a five-year, $50.5MM pact) and Volquez (in the first season of a two-year, $22MM accord) are realistic trade candidates, though Yelich is the one Marlin on a multiyear contract who could actually bring back a major return. By his standards, the 25-year-old is having a down campaign (.275/.356/.397 in 349 plate appearances), but he’s still a valuable commodity and has been a four-WAR player in two of his three full seasons. He comes with a highly appealing contract and plenty of team control, having inked a seven-year, $49.57MM deal that began in 2015. The pact also carries a $15MM club option or a $1.25MM buyout for 2022.
Elsewhere on the Marlins’ roster, they have several arbitration-eligible players they could cut ties with in the coming weeks. Those include outfielder Marcell Ozuna, who, like Yelich, would net a return that would help the Marlins significantly improve their bottom-of-the-barrel farm system. The big-hitting Ozuna, 26, is collecting $3.5MM this season and is scheduled to make two more trips through arbitration. Controllable and reasonably priced through 2018, relievers AJ Ramos ($6.55MM) and David Phelps ($4.6MM) are also among Marlins who should have some trade value.