There’s been a seismic shift in Marlins leadership, as Derek Jeter announced today that he is leaving the organization and will no longer serve as an executive or a shareholder with the club. Jeter’s statement reads as follows:
“Today I am announcing that the Miami Marlins and I are officially ending our relationship and I will no longer serve as CEO nor as a shareholder in the Club. We had a vision five years ago to turn the Marlins franchise around, and as CEO, I have been proud to put my name and reputation on the line to make our plan a reality. Through hard work, trust and accountability, we transformed every aspect of the franchise, reshaping the workforce, and developing a long-term strategic plan for success.
That said, the vision for the future of the franchise is different than the one I signed up to lead. Now is the right time for me to step aside as a new season begins.
My family and I would like to thank our incredible staff, Marlins fans, Marlins players and the greater Miami community for welcoming us with open arms and making us feel at home. The organization is stronger today than it was five years ago, and I am thankful and grateful to have been a part of this team.”
Marlins chairman and principal owner Bruce Sherman issued his own statement on the severing of the relationship:
“The Miami Marlins and Derek Jeter announced today that they have agreed to officially end their relationship. The Marlins thank Derek for his many contributions and wish him luck in his future endeavors.
We have a deep bench of talent that will oversee both the business and baseball decisions while we work to identify a new CEO to lead our franchise. The ownership group is committed to keep investing in the future of the franchise — and we are determined to build a team that will return to the postseason and excite Marlins fans and the local community.”
Sherman and Jeter partnered as prospective buyers for the Marlins back in 2017 and eventually outbid multiple other groups to purchase the franchise from now-former owner Jeffrey Loria at a reported price of $1.2 billion. The bulk of that investment came from Sherman, though Jeter was said to have invested $25MM into the organization himself. Jeter later disputed that number, calling his stake a fair bit larger. Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci reported in February of 2018 that it was closer to $38MM in total.
The early stages of the Jeter and Sherman regime were historic for the Marlins, as the front office (then headed up by president of baseball operations Mike Hill) embarked on a dramatic reshaping of the roster and farm system that saw the Marlins’ former core of stars shipped out of town. While the return for eventual NL MVP Christian Yelich has been widely panned, that sell-off also saw the Marlins acquire Sandy Alcantara and Zac Gallen (among others) for Marcell Ozuna. Gallen was later traded to the D-backs for current second baseman Jazz Chisholm. The Giancarlo Stanton/Yankees trade also occurred that same winter, and a year later the Marlins traded J.T. Realmuto to the Phillies in a deal headlined by Sixto Sanchez.
The Marlins parted ways with Hill following the 2020 season, and Jeter played a significant role in bringing Kim Ng aboard as the sport’s first ever female general manager. The team’s first full offseason under Ng was relatively quiet, but she and the Marlins have been aggressive thus far in the 2021-22 offseason, signing Avisail Garcia (four years, $53MM), acquiring both Jacob Stallings and Joey Wendle, and signing both Alcantara (five years, $56MM) and shortstop/clubhouse leader Miguel Rojas (two years, $10MM) to contract extensions.
Even with that sequence of transactions, however, the Marlins are only projected to carry a $68.9MM payroll, per Jason Martinez of Roster Resource. They’re still expected to pursue an additional bat when the offseason lockout and accompanying transaction freeze are lifted, but it’s safe to say the Fish will remain near the bottom of the league in terms of overall payroll. It’s not clear whether Jeter’s departure is at all tied to the team’s payroll expectations moving forward, but it seems clear that a rift of some degree formed between Jeter and Sherman.
Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that Jeter’s contract was set to expire later this year but was not immediately on the cusp of ending. Presumably, any potential talks about a new contract would’ve included discussions about the long-term vision for the organization, and it seems (based on Jeter’s own words) that he and Sherman no longer aligned.
Whether the reasons for Jeter’s departure eventually become clear or not, he’ll leave a lasting stamp on the organization. The handling of some early personnel changes (e.g. the Marlins’ dismissal of advisors Jeff Conine, Andre Dawson and Jack McKeon) was not without controversy, and the Marlins drew plenty of criticism after the Sherman/Jeter group immediately slashed payroll with the trades of Yelich, Stanton, Ozuna and Dee Gordon.
Five years later, however, it’s hard to argue that the Marlins aren’t in a better position. The position-player core of this roster isn’t as strong, but the Marlins now boast one of MLB’s best farm systems and perhaps the deepest collection of pitching any team has to offer. The long-term payroll has more flexibility — whether or not it’s used is another question — and the Marlins are more generally seen as a team on the rise. That surely isn’t due to Jeter alone, but beyond his hiring of Ng, Jeter also played a large role in bringing VP of scouting/player development Gary Denbo and assistant general manager Dan Greenlee over from the Yankees. Greenlee has helped to build out an analytics department that is lacking, and while Denbo has at times been a source of controversy himself, the improved farm system is a testament to his own work.
Time will tell whether additional departures are imminent, and it’s not clear what might be next for Jeter. The Hall of Famer made no indication that he plans to step away from baseball entirely, though, so it’s certainly plausible he’ll eventually take on a new challenge with another club.
Craig Mish of SportsGrid first reported the news shortly before Jeter issued his statement (Twitter link).