ORLANDO, Fla. — If there’s one thing Derek Jeter picked up during his Cooperstown-worthy career in New York, it’s handling an army of reporters, a skill that served him well as the new Marlins CEO was surrounded on all sides Wednesday by a suffocating media throng at the owners meetings.
What the former Yankees captain didn’t learn from the Steinbrenners, however, is the execution of a cost-slashing fire sale, and specifically how to spin the concept of trading a team’s best player, as Jeter was forced to do when repeatedly asked about the future of Giancarlo Stanton. Jeter’s ownership group paid $1.2 billion for the Marlins — despite the franchise’s reported $400-million debt — and now he’s stuck in the uncomfortable position of trying to come up with solutions for a problem that might be unfixable.
The biggest issue, for many reasons, is what to do with Stanton, the Marlins’ 6-6 rightfielder, who is owed another $295 million over the next 10 years. Jeter basically admitted Miami’s payroll needs to be drastically reduced from last Opening Day’s $115 million and trading Stanton would give him a huge head start toward that goal, despite the terrible optics of dumping a 28-year-old slugger coming off a 59-homer season.
For all of Jeter’s talk about wanting to put the best players on the field, he balked when asked if that meant Stanton would be out there for the Marlins in 2018.
“I don’t know,” Jeter said. “Right now, he’s on our team. I mean, look, everyone’s having these conversations. Giancarlo had a tremendous season. He has a full no-trade clause. I think a lot of this started when he came out and expressed publicly that he didn’t want to be part of a rebuild and I think that’s when all of these rumors started floating around. I can’t tell the future, but Giancarlo has a full no-trade clause.”
Jeter did acknowledge that other teams already have been asking about the availability of Miami’s players, but Stanton is the top prize, with the Cardinals and Giants reportedly the two clubs most interested. As it stands now, Stanton — who is due $25 million this coming season — makes up more than 25 percent of the Marlins’ total payroll, which seems to be an inequity that can’t exist for a rebuilding club.
“There are some financial things we have to get in order,” Jeter said. “That’s the bottom line. It’s an organization that’s been losing money for quite some time, so we have to turn that around. How we do that? It’s not clear. I mean, yeah, I think it’s easy to point the finger at (Stanton) because he makes the most money. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the move that’s going to be made.”
Obviously, this is all new and unfamiliar territory for Jeter, who played through two decades of unmatched prosperity in the Bronx. As a 14-time All-Star who went from one long-term contract to the next, earning over $265 million from the Yankees, Jeter never had to sweat the financial concerns of a baseball team.
As Jeter himself pointed out, the Marlins’ last trip to the playoffs was 2003 — the year they beat the Yankees in the World Series — and they haven’t had a winning record since 2009. Still, Jeter wouldn’t concede that gutting the Marlins, in order to build it back up, meant they had to endure more losing in the process. He even used the Yankees as an example.
“Everyone said they were rebuilding this year, and they were a game from the World Series,” Jeter said. “I don’t ever go into a season saying that you think this or that’s going to happen. Sorry. I don’t go into anything saying we’re going to lose. I don’t have that approach.”