Florida Marlins Trade Starters To Toronto Blue Jays

The Florida Marlins have dumped much of their starting line-up, engineering a huge trade with the Toronto Blue Jays. The players include high-priced free agents the team pursued for its inaugural season in its new stadium.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Well, the World Series was just a few weeks ago. But already we have a major development for the next baseball season. The Florida Marlins have traded away much of their starting lineup. Got rid of them, traded them in a single deal to the Toronto Blue Jays.

NPR sports correspondent Mike Pesca has been following the story. He's on the line. Mike, good morning

MIKE PESCA, BYLINE: Hello.

INSKEEP: Okay, why do this?

PESCA: They did this to dump salary. The Miami Marlins just christened a new ballpark. They had been claiming for years and years: look, we know we don't draw well; look, we know we don't pay well, but we're going to build this new ballpark. And when I say they built it, the taxpayers of Miami and Miami/Dade County really built it. Those taxpayers are on the hook for about $2.4 billion over 40 years.

And it turns out the Marlins were terrible last year. It was the first year they had a very expensive payroll of $100 million. And rather than stick out the experiment and say, well, let's continue to try to win - 'cause they were pretty bad team - they just traded every one of value. They established themselves as a team that's not going to really, really contend next year. But, like they always have in their history, they'll be making money.

INSKEEP: Well, you know, 69 in '93, if I'm not mistaken - you could probably do that for a lot less than the payroll they had.

PESCA: That's true. But I think that's what they're aiming for this year, is that 69-win plateau. You know, this is - this has been called by sportswriters, and I think pretty accurately, everything from, you know, an execrable deal to a limicolous deal - and I like that word because it means living in mud, and it contrasts with...

INSKEEP: Limicolous. OK, go on, go on. I'm just writing this down.

PESCA: Please do.

INSKEEP: OK.

PESCA: L-I-M-I-C-O-L-O-U.S, I believe. And it contrasts with those Marlin colors of teal and sherbet and, you know, My Little Pony-esque red. And the reason that they've been so excoriated is it's a bit of a betrayal to the Miami market. I mean it does not go so far - I would not say it's too far to call it a bit of a bait and switch. All right, maybe it's because the Marlins that I thought of that term.

But they promised the people of Miami, once we get this stadium, we're going to contend. And that clearly is not the case. Though I will say this. If you want to talk about it just in terms of economics, it's a pretty smart deal. And if you want to talk about it just in terms of baseball, they looked at their '69-win record that you cited and they said we're probably not going to win this year, let's just have a fire sale.

Which, by the way, is exactly what they've done in the past in their winning seasons. And whenever they have winning seasons, they happened to win the World Series, they're a bit of a lucky team in that regard. But if I were a Miami Marlin fan, I would be saying, you know, what kind of bill of goods has this ownership sold me?

INSKEEP: But wait a minute. Wait a minute. Because, you know, I've heard of some of the people they're trading away - assuming this trade gets final approval - Jose Reyes, people like that, All-Stars. I mean really good players. I hadn't heard of any of the prospects, but they're described here by the Associated Press as top prospects. And people by now have seen the movie or read the book "Moneyball."

I mean is it possible that the prospects could come through for them, maybe not next season, but in a couple of seasons?

PESCA: The prospects are described as nice and one of the players are getting back, Yunel Escobar, is certainly a good player. But Josh Johnson is an ace and none of those pitchers are going to be as good - as Josh Johnson is being traded away. And Jose Reyes is an excellent player. And this is a deal about money.

But again, these are the rules of baseball. The Marlins for years got money as part of a money-sharing agreement with the MLB as a poor team, put that money in their pockets. They said one day we'll have a stadium. The stadium was built. They tried, maybe for a year. And now they turn around and it turns out the Toronto Blue Jays will be the new contending team in the American League East, although they have the Red Sox, the Yankees, the Orioles and the Rays, all good teams in the East to contend with.

INSKEEP: Mike, thanks very much.

PESCA: You're welcome.

INSKEEP: NPR's Mike Pesca.

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