Jeter Tries to Revive the Marlins: an Impossible Dream
Derek Jeter, executive Marlins part owner, observes a pre-season training on Wednesday, February 14, 2018, in Jupiter, Florida, (AP Photo / Jeff Roberson)

Derek Jeter had no need to get into the company of refloating a baseball franchise that has been running for 14 years without qualifying for the playoffs, asphyxiated by debt and has been last in the National League in 12 of the last 13 seasons.

The Yankees’s ex-captain could have been enjoying the honey of his retirement, spending more time with his wife Hannah and their newborn daughter, Bella.


But Jeter had the ambition to enter as the owner of a Major League Club, and here he is in charge of the anarchic Miami Marlins.

It’s worth clarifying, Jeter is not the main owner. That’s the businessman Bruce Sherman, owner of a fortune he amassed after founding a group of investments, and which was responsible for putting the largest share in financing the purchase of the Marlins to Jeffrey Loria last fall, at a cost of 1,200 million dollars.

Once in charge, Jeter undertook a method that has been repeated and very detested in Miami: the salary purge.

Out of an expense that would have reached $140 million had they kept intact last year’s roster, the current payroll is only $82 million.

The result is that a calamitous 2018 season is presaged. His starting rotation is perhaps the worst of all baseball and, without the home run champion Giancarlo Stanton ($25 million salary), Marcell Ozuna ($9 million) and Christian Yelich ($7 million), Marlins will not be able to score many races. All three combined for a .913 OPS, the highest in the majors for a trio of outfielders last season. They also gave away second baseman Dee Gordon—$10.5 million.

Do not rule out other changes. Catcher J.T. Realmuto asked to be traded. Moving him and infielders Starlin Castro and Martín Prado could also save more.

So losing 100 games or more is very likely, but the solution for a better future has always been starting from scratch. Maybe what Jeter is looking for is a chimera, the one that a baseball team thrives in Miami.

The critics

The criticism towards Jeter have been many, unusual situation for someone only enjoyed success as a shortstop in New York and that in 2020 should enter the Hall of Fame on his first attempt.

In addition to the trades and purges, Jeter was criticized for dismissing special advisors to the club, such as Tony Pérez and Jack McKeon, the team’s skipper who in 2003 won the second championship in the franchise history. They also kicked a scout when he was hospitalized and receiving treatment for colon cancer and the employee who donned the mascot costume for years.

“Contrary to popular belief, we are receiving a warm welcome from the people and corporations that have approached us and told us that they want to be part of this project. People understand that some changes were needed here, “Jeter defended.

The prospects

The transfer of Stanton to the Yankees more than anything was to get rid of his huge salary for 2018, but criticism rained because the Marlins did not receive quality prospects. Much better were the trades of Ozuna to San Luis, obtaining pitcher Sandy Alcántara, and Yelich to Milwaukee in exchanged for outfielders Lewis Brinson and Monte Harrison and infielder Isan Díaz. They are part of an important infusion to rebuild one of the weakest minor league farms in baseball.

Now what?

Despite all the staff changes, manager Don Mattingly expressed his enthusiasm about the possibilities for next season.

“They probably think I’m crazy, but I’m very excited about what they’re going through,” Mattingly said, heading for his third season in charge.

Mattingly has even had to answer questions from Marlins’ rivals.

Bryce Harper offered his thoughts on the state of the National League East, including the Miami Marlins, who may not resemble a major league franchise again until 2020 at the earliest.

“I was very shocked that they were going to let go of [Christian] Yelich, [Marcell] Ozuna and [Giancarlo] Stanton because that’s one of the best outfields in the game,” the Nationals outfielder said of the Marlins’ various payroll-cutting moves, when asked if he was surprised Stanton wound up with the New York Yankees. “So, very shocked about that. You can’t say enough about what Stanton did last year, what Ozuna did last year, and what Yelich has done the last couple years. So, I thought they were a great team. I thought they just had to add a couple more pitchers and they would’ve been pretty dang good.”

Mattingly didn’t appreciate Harper’s comments about his team’s personnel decisions under its new ownership group led by Derek Jeter. “Take care of your business and we’ll take care of ours,” Mattingly told reporters on February from Jupiter.

The truth is that this team is a puzzle. They could be like the Houston Astros that linked three consecutive seasons of 100 setbacks between 2011-13. But suddenly all the turmoil led to a championship, as happened in Houston last year, and Jeter ends up being vindicated.

Jeter Tries to Revive the Marlins: an Impossible Dream?