Here's the projected payroll for the 2013 Miami Marlins. After a fire sale that began with trading star shortstop Hanley Ramirez and ended with trading star shortstop Jose Reyes (and everyone else), this isn't a rebuilding year. It's austerity straight from Christine Lagarde's desk.
Ricky Nolasco's getting paid for one more year (if they don't trade him first). But other than him, there's not a single player on the Marlins roster making an MLB average salary. Come opening day, the payroll will be $32.5 million. And this is a problem for the players union, considering the Marlins have received hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue sharing over the last decade.
The CBA mandates that "each club shall use its revenue sharing receipts in an effort to improve its performance on the field," and if it does not, the Commissioner has the power to impose penalties. And according to the Miami Herald, the MLBPA will push Bud Selig to come down hard on the Marlins if they don't raise their payroll.
"We don't have to wait until next October to pursue it," the [union] source said. If the Marlins don't raise payroll in 2013, former commissioner Fay Vincent expects "the commissioner and union will strongly encourage Loria to spend some money. They can make it very uncomfortable if he doesn't."
If it feels like we've been down this road before, it's because we have. The Marlins remain the only team ever sanctioned by baseball for pocketing its revenue sharing money instead of spending it on a team. Back in 2009 the Marlins had a payroll of just $37 million (more than they plan to spend in 2013!), and were claiming poverty at the same time they were raking in the cash. They were forced into an agreement with the union to raise that number to something less obviously evil. By 2010, they were up to $46 million.
A Marlins source tells the Herald that they don't expect Bud Selig to get involved this time. For one, they're not the only team with a low payroll—the Astros will have to spend just to crack $30 million. For another, Miami only expects to receive $10-$15 million in revenue sharing this season, less than half of what they're used to getting. And also, this:
They assert they lost $40 million last season and won't make much, if anything, this season, because they expect attendance and associated ballpark revenue to plummet.
That is...kind of screwed up. The Marlins are terrible and unattractive and unprofitable specifically because they decided to stop spending. And now their defense against being forced to field a competitive team is "we're terrible and unattractive and unprofitable." At least they got Floridians to pick up 80 percent of the tab on that expensive stadium that isn't drawing.