Plan to pay for and sustain long-term success

MIAMI — Different times, different slogan. In the end, the Marlins ultimately hope to achieve the same objective.

A catch phrase the front office is repeatedly using now is “sustained success.” The mission is to retain their solid young core, and build upon it by spending smartly. The hope is the results on the field will do the talking, and the organization will be stocked with talent to remain playoff competitive for years to come. The structure of Giancarlo Stanton’s record-setting 13-year, $325 million contract gives flexibility to field a contender with a modest payroll.

The approach now is completely different than 2012, when the Marlins pronounced they were “all in.” Then, they were rebranding in their colorful new retractable-roof ballpark. They spent freely, hired an outspoken manager in Ozzie Guillen, and assembled a number of pricy free agents, led by Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell. The payroll rocketed from $57 million in 2011 to $101 million in ’12.

The mix didn’t work, and by the July 31 no-waiver Trade Deadline, big parts were traded off. The rest of the dismantling occurred after the disastrous, last-place season.

Breaking the team up created a negative backlash, that in some circles, exists today.

Still, that hasn’t changed the direction or the objective of the restructured front office. President of baseball operations Michael Hill, general manager Dan Jennings and manager Mike Redmond continue to shape the new direction. They are looking for the right pieces, at the right price.

Getting Stanton to buy in was the biggest move imaginable for a franchise looking to demonstrate good faith, as well as show the skeptical South Florida market and the industry Miami means business.

Based on their past, many wonder what’s the catch? Stanton’s contract is backloaded, and includes an opt-out clause after six years, or 2020. So the assumption is the slugger will be traded at some point in the next five years, despite the fact the deal includes the only no-trade clause in club history.

How is the math going to work to make Miami more than just a one-man team? Generally, teams with one player commanding 20 or more percent of overall payroll tend to not work.

Here’s what’s different now than in 2012.

First, the payroll plan. Unlike 2012, when the figure topped $100 million for the only time in club history, the projection for 2015 is a payroll around $65 million. Stanton, who will make $6.5 million, will command 10 percent of that figure.

What about after 2015?

The franchise’s objective is to gradually build up, pretty much in step with the structure of Stanton’s contract.

In 2016, Stanton will make $9 million. The overall payroll likely will be in the $80 million range. Obviously, the exact figure is a year away. But if the number jumps to $80 million, Stanton will take up about 11 percent of the total number.

Stanton’s salary boosts to $14.5 million. So the payroll would have to to jump to at least $100 million to keep him under 15 percent.

The really big money in the contract will kick in 2018, when Stanton’s base salary rises to $25 million.

By that point, the payroll will have to be over $125 million to make years four, five and six work, before he could consider opting out.

The Marlins clearly are looking at a window of winning big over the next five years. The hope is success on the field, plus featuring an elite talent like Stanton, builds excitement, and boosts attendance. The club is hoping to allow Marlins Park become the revenue producer it was intended to be. That means more stadium-generated revenues — attendance, concessions, parking, etc.

If a naming rights partner is found, that would mean additional dollars.

A key issue may become a revised local TV contract. The Marlins deal with Fox Sports Florida runs through 2020. Perhaps by 2018, a new deal could be in place.

These team generated revenue streams are separate from national streams that all teams share. So, the Marlins are in position to afford Stanton while remaining competitive.

How it all plays out will be an interesting storyline to follow. The plan is clearly a process, with the objective to create some payroll stability, while breaking away from their all or nothing past.

— Joe Frisaro

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