The usually stingy Miami Marlins are throwing around some dollar bills this offseason. They gave Giancarlo Stanton a mountain constructed from $1000 bills and K'NEX, but they gave Stanton the option of moving away from the mountain after six years in 2020. Of the $325 million being paid to him, only $107 million comes before the opt out. Stanton also has a full no-trade clause. Nevertheless, the Marlins can get out of this contract in six years, which gives them the opportunity to recoup some K'NEX.
Now, the Marlins have guaranteed something more like a hill with lovely grass to Christian Yelich. A seven-year contract for $51 million, which includes a small buyout of a club option at the end of the contract, is what Yelich now has. However, while Yelich is guaranteed that money, it's not guaranteed who will be paying him the money. Apparently, Yelich does not have the full no-trade clause that Stanton has.
So, the Marlins now have two young players who appear to be ascending into franchise cornerstone status locked into probably favorable rates over the next six or seven years. It's rumored that they're trying to lock up Marcell Ozuna as well, but he's a Boras client. If Boras can get the mountain instead of the hill, he will. Jose Fernandez is another young franchise cornerstone the Marlins allegedly tried to sign to an extension.
Lots of people have lots of hot sports take opinions on the Marlins and their owner, Jeffrey Loria. It is the repeated fire sales that have me skeptical that either player just signed to extensions will retain their seafood status into their 30s. However, given the Marlins' situation, I rather admire their strategy here. Take a look at their contractual commitments over the next several years*.
*Taken straight from Cot's Contracts
Stanton and now Yelich are the only fellows who have actual numbers beyond 2016. The Marlins have so much payroll flexibility that they can guarantee gobs of money to their young players while still maintaining their "a fire sale is just around the corner!" mentality by including opt-outs, trade clauses, and the like. They've retained a cheap core for the next six or seven years, and they can abandon that core before it becomes expensive.
At this point, I'd like to note that Stanton's opt out is a player opt out, so technically the Marlins could be on the hook for The Lonely Mountain's treasure after 2020. However, if they want Stanton to opt out, they'll make it happen by jettisoning all the good players during Stanton's "walk year." Yelich would be included in that group of players. If Yelich develops as expected, he would fetch a nice return on the trade market.
So the Marlins will build their core and flesh out the pieces for the next couple years. They have the flexibility to do it. However, if this core doesn't work out, they can easily get out from under it. Thus, admiration. From a distance. With reluctance.
I'd also like to point out something on the side that I'm finding quite hilarious. Between Martin Prado, Dee Gordon, and Dan Haren, the Marlins are being paid $15.5 million by other teams to have players on their team. Prado is projected for 2.5 FanGraphs wins above replacement (fWAR) next season (ZiPS/Steamer average). Gordon is projected for 1.3 fWAR (same average). Haren is projected for 1.6 fWAR after waffling about retirement. In total, the Marlins acquired 5.4 projected fWAR and $15.5M in exchange for Nathan Eovaldi, parts, and some prospects. The Marlins are paying $-2.9M per projected fWAR here. Without considering what they gave up, that's the best value ever. Of course, it doesn't make sense not to value what they gave up, but it fits into their plans. They're not on the hook for anything long term.
The Marlins have the new market inefficiency*: being paid by other teams to take their players. Profit.
*I'm sorry for subjecting you to that term. I'm tired of reading it, too.
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