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Saturday, May 18, 2024

A’s and Marlins Share (Bad) Traits, but Only One Is Waving the White Flag

  • Just one-fifth of the way into the season, team officials declare they are ‘unlikely’ to make the playoffs.
  • The forthcoming free agency of Luis Arraez played a role in the timing of the trade.
Robert Edwards-USA TODAY Sports

Marlins fans are all too familiar with fire sales of the team’s rosters, a regular occurrence for the franchise for the past quarter-century, and one spanning multiple ownership groups.

But now, those deconstructions are seemingly happening earlier and earlier in a season. 

Just a week into May and nearly three months before MLB’s July 30 trade deadline, the Marlins parted with two-time batting champion Luis Arraez, arguably the team’s most marketable player, in a trade with the Padres. Miami sent Arraez and about $7.9 million in cash considerations to San Diego, leaving the Padres responsible for only a prorated share of the $740,000 MLB minimum salary, for four prospects. 

The Marlins reached the playoffs last year, raising hopes of a different era emerging under owner Bruce Sherman. But instead, a familiar pattern of roster gutting is happening again as the Marlins went into Monday’s game at the Dodgers with a 10–26 record, second worst in the National League. 

“We are unlikely to make the playoffs this year,” said Marlins president of baseball operations Peter Bendix.

In a pure statistical sense, Bendix indeed is probably correct, as FanGraphs gives Miami just a 0.5% chance of reaching the postseason. But barely one-fifth of the way into the 2024 season, it’s still a tough pill to swallow for a fan base who’s already taken many hits over the years. 

Bendix said, “The difficulty of a trade like this is magnified when it happens so early in the season.”

While the A’s are dead last in MLB in attendance—and with reason given the team’s impending move to Sacramento and Las Vegas—the Marlins are 29th at 12,598 per game, down 3% from a year ago. Tickets for Miami’s home game Friday against Philadelphia, the first back since the trade, can be purchased on official MLB partner platform SeatGeek for as little as $5. Tickets to other home games later this month can be had for as little as $2.

The Marlins also continue to spend well under what their market size and home stadium would suggest. Despite playing in the No. 18 U.S. media market and having a 15-year home ballpark largely built with public funds, the club’s 2024 payroll is 28th at just under $100 million. 

The A’s, meanwhile, have won eight of their last 10 games—including a weekend series win over the Marlins—to rise to third place in the AL West. 

More Timing Considerations

Former Marlins president David Samson, who presided over prior fire sales for the club, was supportive of the club on his podcast, Nothing Personal with David Samson. And he argued moving Arraez now allowed the team to maximize its trade leverage with the Padres given the player won’t be a free agent until after the 2025 season. Arraez is again eligible for arbitration after this season, but the Padres still have nearly two years of control of the 27-year-old. 

“If you know you’re going to take Arraez off your team and you know you’re not going to sign him [long-term], the question is when you get the most value for him,” Samson said. “The decision is not between May 3rd and July 30th. It’s between December 3rd and then May through July.”

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