Sunday, December 4, 2011

Baseball Digest | Marlins, Reyes, and the SEC

The newly named Miami Marlins have a new stadium, a new uniform, are this close to a new shortstop, and are newly under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The former Florida Marlins have already been making a big splash this December with the signing of free agent closer Heath Bell to a three-year, $27 million contract as they prepare for life in their new ballpark. The Marlins made headlines this weekend for good and bad reasons as well. First the good, Miami and free agent shortstop Jose Reyes, one of the hottest commedities on the free agent market, agreed to a six-year, $106MM deal that is contingent on a physical. It's a huge deal for the Marlins, who already have an All-Star in Hanley Ramirez at the position ( Ramirez is likely to be asked to be moved to 3rd base according to Marlins beat writer Joe Capozzi, but what if he balks. Ramirez had difficulty with management and faced criticism last year for his work habits.).

But the Marlins may have some choppy waters ahead of them. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports that a long overdue investigation by the SEC into the Marlins' ability to get a new stadium is underway.
"The Security and Exchange Commission on Thursday launched guided warheads at the Marlins, requesting the team’s financial records, communications with MLB officials including commissioner Bud Selig, minutes of meetings with local government leaders and political campaign-contribution information, according to a report in the Miami Herald.

While the subpoenas issued by the SEC do not explicitly detail the purpose of the investigation, the feds’ motives are evident: They want to understand how, exactly, a group of county commissioners agreed to fund 80 percent of the Marlins new stadium, which cost more than $600 million, without ever seeing the team’s financial records – and whether bribes had anything to do with it."

One does have to wonder what took so long. Passan and others reported on wrong doing back in August when also revealed the Marlins' balance sheet.
"Miami-Dade County commissioners nevertheless voted 9-4 in favor of taking out loans that will cost the county $2.4 billion over 40 years to help build the stadium in Little Havana, about two miles west of the city. Critics across south Florida panned the deal, which gives the Marlins all stadium-related revenue and imbued the team with a new attitude entering this offseason."

A team that supposedly had financial problems is suddenly pouring out money, hand over fist. First came the 34-yr old Bell's $9MM per year deal and then the nearly $18MM per year for Reyes. And the Marlins aren't done either. Their are said to be ready to make a serious at Albert Pujols', to whom they reportedly made a nine-year offer to in November for somewhere between $200MM and $225MM. Whether they were serious or not, one Marlins' spokesman told reporters the team was hoping to leave the winter meetings with "...4 or 5 new players."

The question is will the SEC come down hard on the Marlins or simply give them a slap on the wrist. And maybe even more importantly, will the fans, who never came to Marlins' games in the old stadium, suddenly start attending them in the new digs. While owner Jeffrey Loria may suddenly field a contender, will fans/taxpayers get over being swindled and show up? It's a question that has no easy answer.

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