MIAMI -- The Miami Marlins' latest payroll purge received final approval Monday from the commissioner's office, and as the team's top baseball executive began to discuss the deal during a conference call, a bad connection generated waves of reverberating noise that filled the phone line.
Nearly a week after the Marlins swung their widely ridiculed trade with Toronto, negative feedback keeps coming.
Commissioner Bud Selig approved the blockbuster deal, however, even though it made Marlins fans irate and made the team a nationwide punch line. The trade sends All-Star shortstop Jose Reyes to the Blue Jays along with pitchers Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson, catcher John Buck and outfielder Emilio Bonifacio for seven players, none of whom has a big-money contract.
Miami received infielders Yunel Escobar and Adeiny Hechavarria, pitchers Henderson Alvarez, Anthony DeSclafani and Justin Nicolino, catcher Jeff Mathis and outfielder Jake Marisnick. By swinging the deal only months after the Marlins moved into a new stadium built with taxpayer money, they pared from their books $154 million in payroll, which does not account for cash they agreed to send the Blue Jays.
Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said he understood why fans were mad, and confirmed the trade was necessary because owner Jeffrey Loria wanted to pare payroll. Beinfest also conceded the deal will make it harder for the team to recruit free agents in the future.
But Selig decided not to block it.
"This transaction, involving established major leaguers and highly regarded young players and prospects, represents the exercise of plausible baseball judgment on the part of both clubs (and) does not violate any express rule of Major League Baseball and does not otherwise warrant the exercise of any of my powers to prevent its completion," Selig said in a statement. "It is, of course, up to the clubs involved to make the case to their respective fans that this transaction makes sense and enhances the competitive position of each, now or in the future."
The players traded by the Marlins have combined guaranteed salaries of $163.75 million through 2018, including $96 million due Reyes.
"I understand the pause the fans have with the instability in our roster at a time when we were hoping to be very stable in the new stadium," Beinfest said. "It's not a lot of fun."
By contrast, the trade stamps the Blue Jays as contenders in the AL East. They haven't reached the playoffs since winning their second consecutive World Series in 1993.
Miami also finalized a deal with outfielder Juan Pierre, who agreed to a $1.6 million, one-year contract. That leaves the Marlins with an estimated opening-day payroll of $36 million for active players, which would be their lowest since 2008. In the latest figures, Oakland had the lowest payroll in the majors this year at $59.5 million.
While Beinfest said the Marlins acquired championship-caliber talent, fans believe owner Jeffrey Loria's goal was to increase his profits in the new ballpark rather than put increased revenue into the roster.
"We did receive a payroll range from ownership that we needed to achieve," Beinfest said. "With this transaction, we have achieved that payroll range."
The Marlins flopped as big spenders. They began the year with a franchise-record payroll of $112 million, then went 69-93, their worst record since 1999.
After sinking to last place by midseason, the Marlins traded former NL batting champion Hanley Ramirez, second baseman Omar Infante, right-hander Anibal Sanchez and closer Heath Bell. Reyes, Buehrle and Bell signed multiyear deals as newcomers a year ago during an unprecedented Marlins spending spree, and Beinfest acknowledged other free agents might be now reluctant to sign with Miami.
"It'll be a factor," he said. "I don't think we're happy about this at all. I understand there may be some disdain in the marketplace. We won't know until we get into those negotiations with free agents. It's definitely not great for the club, and we're going to have to deal with it."
Miami's biggest remaining star, slugger Giancarlo Stanton, has been among those expressing anger about the trade. Beinfest said he hadn't talked with Stanton about the deal.
"I know this is an emotional time," Beinfest said. "I'm sure it has been tough for him. Our feeling was to maybe let the dust settle a little bit and then talk to Giancarlo. I hear the frustration. It's not unexpected. This has been a tough go, but we think it's best for us moving forward."
Players' union head Michael Weiner withheld comment, saying he was awaiting more input from Major League Baseball.
In January 2009, the union reached an agreement with MLB and the Marlins covering 2010-12 which Weiner said was a "response to our concerns that revenue sharing proceeds have not been used as required. As part of the deal, Weiner said the team planned to "use such proceeds to increase player payroll annually as they move toward the opening of their new ballpark."
Selig said he was sensitive to how Marlins fans reacted to the trade.
"Baseball is a social institution with important social responsibilities, and I fully understand that the Miami community has done its part to put the Marlins into a position to succeed with beautiful new Marlins Park," Selig said. "Going forward, I will continue to monitor this situation with the expectation that the Marlins will take into account the sentiments of their fans, who deserve the best efforts and considered judgment of their club. I have received assurances from the ownership of the Marlins that they share these beliefs and are fully committed to build a long-term winning team that their fans can be proud of."