Mar 9, 2013; Melbourne, FL, USA; Miami Marlins left fielder Christian Yelich (76) hits a one run single against the Washington Nationals during the top of the third inning of a spring training game at Space Coast Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
It is no secret that the Miami Marlins are all about saving money. This last offseason was proof that the Marlins have, and will continue to worship the bottom dollar at the expense of winning. That being said, Loria has claimed numerous times that he is interested in fielding a team that wins championships and is built for the long haul. In a market that struggles to draw fans, and a TV contract that is less than ideal, it can be difficult to afford big name stars at the price tag that they command. The most effective way for a team in the Marlins situation is to take a page from their neighbors from northern Florida.
The Tampa Bay Rays have similar difficulties when it comes to drawing crowds. The Rays routinely join the Marlins toward the bottom of the average attendance rankings each year yet, unlike the Marlins, they are often competitive and have finished with at least 90 wins in 4 of the last 5 years. The way that they have accomplished this is fairly easy to copy. They sign their free agents before they even begin to sniff free agency and that big payday that they are assured to get.
The Rays began this practice in 2008 when they
brainwashed convinced Evan Longoria to sign a 6 year contract for 17.5 million. This covered 3 of his arbitration years and even contained team options for 2014- 2016. For those of you keeping score, the Rays could have had one of the best players in the game for 8 years and a total of 44 million dollars. Most GM’s would be content to relax and pat themselves on the back after a contract like that, but not in Tampa. Last fall they gave Longoria an additional 6 year extension which will pay him 133.6 million over 10 years, starting with this season. That means one of the top hot corner infielders is going to make on average 13.3 million a year through the prime of his career, until age 37. To be sure, that is not chump change, but it is a bargain price that the Rays could afford. This was made possible with a savvy contract offer less than a week into Longoria’s big league career.
This example brings us to Christian Yelich. Seemingly all scouts love this kid. He posted a slash line of .313/.387/.499 in minor league ball and hit a otherworldy .364/.451/.818 during spring training this year. So far since receiving the call to the majors he has done nothing to disappoint. He showcases good speed to go with a good arm and can play all 3 outfield positions. He seems poised to emerge as one of the Marlins top players before this season is over. He is the type of player that you can build a team around.
So why wait?
Offer him a contract that he can’t refuse. The Marlins may not be able to secure him for quite the price that the Rays got, but he will definitely be discounted, and you can avoid the arbitration years. It is no secret that the Marlins created a lot of ill will amongst MLB players when they shipped some of their recently signed players to Canada. Giancarlo Stanton, for one, was jaded enough to lash out on Twitter. You know who isn’t jaded on Twitter? Christian Yelich. He is so excited to be playing in the Major Leagues that he just might jump at some money if offered. It might be difficult to get future stars to come to South Florida with Loria calling the shots, but if he is smart, He will do what he needs to do to sign Yelich to a long-term deal sooner rather than later, before the novelty of playing in the big leagues wears off and he comes demanding a whole lot more money on pay-day.