MIAMI — The Miami Marlins are taking strong steps towards rebuilding their oft-troubled franchise.
After winning the World Series in 1997 and 2003 (with two completely different sets of players) the Marlins have toiled in mediocrity the last eight seasons. The team has also been last in the National League in attendance every year since 2006, averaging less than 19,000 fans per game each season while being stuck playing in a decrepit, cavernous stadium built for football.
Now, with a new, $515-million stadium set to open in 2012, a re-branding in uniforms and name (the Florida Marlins are now the Miami Marlins), and the hiring of controversial former White Sox Manager Ozzie Guillen, the team seems prepared to increase their payroll a significant amount after ranking 24th out of 30 in 2011.
According to multiple reports, the Marlins have made offers to Dominican superstars Jose Reyes and Albert Pujols. If the Marlins were to sign the reigning NL Batting Champion and one of the greatest right-handed hitters of all time the marketability (Miami has around 100,00 Dominican residents) of the team would increase to the point that regular sell outs would be expected.
The amount of the offers is currently unknown–initial reports of a 6-year, $90 million contract for Reyes and a 9-year, $225-million contract for Pujols are now thought to be exaggerated– but the Marlins are certainly able to spend much more than past seasons. “With our payroll going up, we have a chance to put together a team at a payroll level we don’t currently have,” team president David Samson told ESPN’s Rumblings. “And that could involve anything — trades, free agents or a combination of both.”
Earlier this week, Reyes visited and toured the Marlins’ new ballpark. Pujols has been the National League Most Valuable Player three times and has hit 30 home runs in 11 straight seasons.
If the Marlins expect to compete in the stacked NL East year-after-year they need to make a seismic move; Owner Jeffrey Loria’s credibility has been on thin ice since he owned the Expos, he needs to use the momentum from the new ballpark and sign players the caliber of Reyes and Pujols to create the type of buzz that surrounds the Big Three at American Airlines Arena.
If they don’t make any major signings, and we get the same old Marlins, fans and media will believe that it was all a show to grab headlines.