This offseason’s news about the Marlins has reasonably been focused on the steady hum of Giancarlo Stanton trade gossip. Today’s Dee Gordon deal, though, temporarily stole back a bit of the spotlight. The push to move Stanton is but one piece of a larger salary-shedding effort that includes the Gordon trade, and that salary-shedding effort is but one revolution on the wretched merry-go-round of this franchise.
When Derek Jeter and friends took office as the team’s new owners this fall, they announced their plans to cut $50 million from the 2018 payroll before the start of the season. Trading Stanton, whose salary next year will be $25 million, only covers part of that. Sending Gordon to Seattle for prospects frees up another $10.8 million. (Martín Prado, owed $13.5 million next year, is said to be on the trading block next.) This isn’t a matter of simply peeling off one heavy contract inked by old management, or of looking down the line to rearrange some future costs, but of cutting to the bone deeply and quickly.
And it’s something that the Marlins have done again and again. The team just just celebrated its 25th anniversary this year, but they’ve looped through the cycle of burn-and-build more frequently and more intensely than anyone else in recent history. They’ve passed through the hands of one hated owner to another to what might now be another. They were ripped down after the 1997 World Series title, the roster stripped so ruthlessly that the 1998 team lost 108 games; they were ripped down after the 2003 World Series title, with the 2005 winter politely and hollowly deemed an offseason for “market correction” by management; they were ripped down in 2012, because Jeffrey Loria wanted it so. Now, they’ll be dismantled again, insofar as that’s possible for a team that’s had a losing record for eight straight seasons.
The Marlins haven’t been successful in recent years, but they’ve been close enough that they could at least somewhat reasonably hope to be successful soon. Two years ago, this was a team with José Fernández and Giancarlo Stanton as its cornerstones, with Dee Gordon and Christian Yelich playing key roles, too. The death of Fernández was altogether something else—a human tragedy that feels tacky and cynical to discuss in baseball terms—but so much of the rest has been destroyed in the year since.
That hope from two years ago is gone; the window for success has shrunk and moved backwards to be propped open by prospects. The names are all different, from ownership to management to the roster, but the Marlins have been here before.