The Miami Marlins have now signed their third premier free agent in Mark Buehrle. Along with inking Jose Reyes and Heath Bell, the Marlins have committed 191 million dollars to new free agents.
This raises an important question:
How in the world do the Marlins intend to pay for all these guys?
Consider the Marlins’ payroll the last 12 years:
- 2011: $ 57,695,000
- 2010: $ 47,429,719
- 2009: $ 36,834,000
- 2008: $ 21,811,500
- 2007: $ 30,507,000
- 2006: $ 14,998,500
- 2005: $ 60,408,834
- 2004: $ 42,143,042
- 2003: $ 45,050,000
- 2002: $ 41,979,917
- 2001: $ 35,762,500
- 2000: $ 19,900,000
For 2012, the Marlins payroll is already projected to be 80-85 million. But even that is a bit misleading, as Jose Reyes’ deal is heavily backloaded. His deal breakdowns by year as follows:
- 2012: 10 mill
- 2013: 10 mill
- 2014: 16 mill
- 2015: 22 mill
- 2016: 22 mill
- 2017: 22 mill
- 2018: 22 mill option or 4 mill buyout
Given the many signings for a team who historically has never given out too many large deals, and given the backloaded nature of Reyes’ deal, it seems clear that the Marlins are expecting massive revenue increase in the upcoming years. This belief probably derives largely from the new stadium that the Marlins are opening in 2012.
But, the history of sports in Florida has shown that Florida residents (for a whole host of reasons) do not tend to offer much financial support for their professional sports teams, even when they are winning.
The Rays' struggles with attendance and fan support are widely recognized, and the Rays have been a great team for three years.
Furthermore, even when the Marlins won it all in 2003, they averaged less than 20,000 fans per game. The following year? More of the same.
So, the Marlins are expecting massive revenue growth, but it seems unlikely to occur. Sounds like a repeat of 1996-1997, when, even after winning the World Series, the Marlins could not keep their team together.
If anyone believes that there is good reason to expect massive revenue growth, I would love to hear it. Because as it stands now, I am not sure where that growth will come from, other than the vague hope that Miami fans (particularly Latin American ones) will start coming out in droves.
Yet, there is little in Marlin history (or even Florida sports history in general) to support this hope.