Wassup with the Marlins?

The signing of Carlos Delgado to a 4-year $52 million contract has raised some eyebrows. According to this article in the Miami Herald, with last year’s $52 million payroll, the Marlins lost $20 million. They are requesting $60 million in public funds to help construct a new stadium because their current stadium, so they say, cannot produce the revenue needed to compete. They’ve also looked at leaving sunny Miami for Sin City and, possibly, Portland, Or. (who said there aren’t enough cities big enough to host 30 MLB teams?). So what do the Marlins do in the offseason? They add $13 million in payroll (so far) for 2005. Andrew Zimbalist thinks Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria is acting “in a peculiar way”:

”Jeffrey Loria is behaving in a peculiar way,” Andrew Zimbalist, a sports economist, baseball author and professor at Smith College in Massachusetts, said of the Marlins owner. ”What one would like to think is [Delgado] creates a cache around the franchise to get over the top on a stadium deal or excite [the mayors] in Las Vegas or Portland, Oregon” for possible relocation of the team.

Dan Le Batard of the Miami Herald has some questions. He wonders where the money came from.

Carlos Delgado will be worth the money if he is expected to generate sufficient revenue to cover his salary. Is this happening? There are indications in this ESPN.com article that season ticket sales for the Marlins already have gotten a nice boost:

Florida is mostly interested in Delgado producing runs the way he did with Toronto, where he hit at least 30 homers each of the past eight seasons. He’s the kind of hitter the Marlins have long coveted — a left-handed slugger capable of altering the balance of power in the NL East. He’s also a box-office draw who boosted season-ticket sales at least fivefold this week.

I assume this doesn’t mean they had only sold 1 so far and have now sold 6.

Even if he doesn’t generate sufficient revenues, his signing may provide a short-term boost to lobbying efforts to lock down some public financing for a new stadium, as Zimbalist noted above. Delgado’s signing has excited his new teammates and some Marlin fans. That same sort of excitation can work with public officials too.

But tempering the excitation will be questions regarding how if the Marlins can’t generate revenue, why are they adding salary?

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Author: Phil Miller

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