The Miami Herald is publishing a five-part series on the Marlins’ new front office’s plans for the team, and per today’s introductory piece, the essence of CEO Derek Jeter’s strategy is something like this: Make big payroll cuts by trading away the team’s most popular players, increase gate revenue by selling more tickets, ???, profit.
The Herald obtained two versions of the plan that Jeter circulated to potential investors before buying the team this fall. Dubbed Project Wolverine, supposedly in reference to Jeter’s home state of Michigan, the documents outline a planned cash-flow profit of nearly $70 million for 2018 that’s supposed to come from a combination of increased ticket revenue, more corporate sponsorship money, a sizable boost from a renegotiated television deal, and the drastic payroll cuts that have already begun with the trades of players like Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, and Dee Gordon.
The idea, basically, is for the team to strip its on-field product down to the bone while expecting everyone else—fans, companies, Fox Sports Florida—to find more reasons to invest more money in the Marlins.
Perhaps the most baffling part of the puzzle is the planned increase in ticket revenue. Corporate deals and television contracts have many moving parts and lots of people to appease and a big-picture timeline. Even with the Marlins’ presently weak roster and frustrated fanbase, there’s not necessarily anything to stop a company from signing a long-term deal for stadium naming rights. And while it’s hard to imagine that the team will be able to more than double their current television deal—as the plan projects they will, despite the fact that there doesn’t seem to be anyone interested in challenging Fox Sports Florida as a second bidder—it makes plenty of sense that they’d be able to snag a contract that’s more lucrative than the worst-in-baseball one they’ve been working with for the past several years.
But ticket revenue is more direct, more personal. After making $30 million there last season, the Marlins plan to top $37 million this year, followed by $40.6 million in 2019 and $45.8 million in 2020. The previously mentioned multilayered concerns of corporate dealings aren’t really a factor here. The only question anyone has to ask themselves on any given night is whether he wants to pay to support the Marlins; it’s hard to imagine how more fans would possibly be able to find a reason to say yes now.
Plan sounds great otherwise, though!