TODAY: A Marlins source disputes the idea that Jeter left the organization over a change in future spending plans, The Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson reports. There were several other “issues” between Jeter and majority owner Bruce Sherman, including Sherman’s displeasure at low attendance for home games. Sherman had decided against extending Jeter’s contract and thus the parting between the two sides “was more…Sherman’s decision than Jeter’s,” even if it was portrayed as a mutual decision since “Sherman had told an associate it would be difficult for him to publicly fire Jeter.”
FEBRUARY 28: Derek Jeter’s abrupt departure from the Marlins organization earlier this morning stunned the baseball world. Jeter’s citing of a “vision for the future of the franchise is different than the one I signed up to lead” prompted plenty of speculation about the team’s spending moving forward, and Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that a change in spending plans indeed served as a tipping point for Jeter (Twitter link). Sherman suggests that Jeter believed there to be as much as $15MM to spend on the 2022 roster after the lockout, but that outlook “evaporated” over the course of the lockout.
MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports that the Marlins were in serious talks with Miami native Nick Castellanos about a homecoming prior to the lockout. The Athletic’s C. Trent Rosecrans tweets that he’d consistently heard the Marlins were the favorites to sign Castellanos. Those two reports, paired with Sherman’s report, seem to suggest that such a signing is no longer feasible for the Fish. (As an aside, many expect Castellanos to command more than $15MM annually, although the Marlins could have theoretically backloaded a deal to accommodate ownership’s 2022 budget.)
SportsGrid’s Craig Mish tweets that the Marlins are still expected to add to the roster after the lockout, but it seems that perhaps principal owner Bruce Sherman’s vision for the scope of those (and other) forthcoming additions has changed. Discord between Jeter and Sherman has been brewing for a good while longer than just these past couple of months, however, per ESPN’s Buster Olney (Twitter link), who tweets that there was a “growing divide” dating back to last spring. The mounting differences between Jeter and Sherman, Olney adds, were a key reason that Jeter’s ownership stake in the team did not grow as it had been expected to.
Whether there’d been friction between Jeter and Sherman prior to early 2021 isn’t clear, but if that’s where the pair’s visions began to diverge, there’d be a pretty logical explanation for it. Shortly after Sherman and Jeter’s group purchased the Marlins, the Miami Herald obtained a copy of the team’s pitch to prospective investors, including future spending plans. Some payroll reductions were always in the offing, as evidenced by the quick dismantling of an All-Star outfield (Christian Yelich, Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna), but those moves were made with the intention of ramping payroll back up down the line.
The Marlins’ Opening Day payroll in 2018 sat just under $100MM, but that number dipped to $72MM in 2019 and was again at that $73MM level in 2020 (prior to prorating salaries) before dropping to $56MM in 2021. The revenue losses from that pandemic-impacted 2020 season changed the direction of many organizations (e.g. Reds, Guardians, D-backs), and it’s certainly feasible that Sherman’s own willingness to spend was impacted as well.
To be clear, the Marlins have spent this offseason. Avisail Garcia’s four-year, $53.5MM deal is one of the largest free-agent contracts they’ve ever handed out, and the team doled out extensions to both Sandy Alcantara and Miguel Rojas while also acquiring Joey Wendle and Jacob Stallings. That said, Miami’s projected payroll for the forthcoming season is still under $70MM, and if ownership sought to curtail available resources for the 2022, as Sherman reports, it’s possible future seasons would also be impacted.
As ESPN’s Marly Rivera reminds (Twitter link), Jeter spoke favorably about his former organization’s front office, noting that the Yankees are always on the hunt to improve. “I’ve said it before, the Steinbrenner family, from the Boss to Hal, they’re always trying to get better, get better, get better, and they don’t hesitate to make big moves,” Jeter said at the time. Yankee fans may disagree in light of the team’s quiet pre-lockout period, but Jeter’s general tenor this past July does not sound like one that would align with a sudden tightening of the purse strings.
Across social media, players have taken Jeter’s departure as what they perceive as another example of the issues they’re fighting for in labor talks with the league. Astros catcher Jason Castro, one of the eight members on the MLBPA’s executive subcommittee, tweeted a “Re2pect” message to Jeter and used the hashtag “#CompetitiveIntegrity” as well. As ESPN’s Alden Goznalez writes, players perceive a disconnect between ownership pushing for the status quo in revenue sharing, the luxury tax, etc. in the name of competitive balance and Jeter departing largely because of questions regarding the rest of ownership’s “financial commitment to the roster.”
Marlins shortstop Miguel Rojas, the team’s clubhouse leader and unofficial captain, spoke to Jomboy’s Chris Rose today in the wake of Jeter’s sudden departure (Instagram video). “Derek Jeter was looking to win — looking to win this year,” said Rojas. “We all know that in order to be able to win, you need to put a better product on the field, which is what they were doing before the lockout started.”
Rojas praised the team for extending Alcantara but noted that last season, there were virtually no players other than himself on multi-year deals. (Reliever Anthony Bass was also on a small two-year contract.) Extending Rojas and signing Garcia were undoubtedly well-received among the players on the roster, but Rojas expressed questions, doubt and general sadness in speaking with Rose.
“I don’t know about the money situation,” Rojas said after being asked about the Post report that changes in payroll expectation led to Jeter’s departure. “I don’t know about promises of a better payroll or anything like that. I just heard something that they said — that this is the time to take the next step. It’s our time to take the next step in this ’build’ that they promised. … It was time to make the move to get not just a better team, but better quality up and down the organization. I don’t know what happened.
“…At the end of the day, I have a lot of questions. There’s some things that have to be communicated after this thing’s over, because we as the players, we want to be respected and informed what’s going on. I know not everything is going to be shared with the players, but at the end of the day, you at least want to know where you’re going.”