As details emerge about the $225-million, 13-year contract outfielder Giancarlo Stanton signed with the Miami Marlins I feel even more uncomfortable about the deal.
At first I was concerned about how one of the most poorly-supported teams in the major leagues could afford to pay the richest contract in American sports history. But the breakdown makes it fairly obvious that the Marlins are counting on not paying the vast majority of the deal.
The contract is severely back-loaded with less than a third of the total dollars, $107 million, guaranteed before an opt out clause kicks in.
Miami's reputation for low payrolls, frequent fire sales and the situation with the club's television contract makes me extremely suspicious about this deal.
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According to Business Insider, the Marlins have the worst television contract in the major leagues with an annual income of only $13-18 million thanks to the fact that the team is last in MLB television ratings with only about 29,000 people watching their televised games. But... that TV contract is up in 2020. Any guesses when Stanton's opt out kicks in? If you guessed after the 2020 season, you'd be correct.
So it seems that the Marlins are counting on the massive buzz from the Stanton signing -- perhaps coupled with some shorter term deals for a supporting cast -- to bump up Miami's lousy television ratings and massively increase their television revenue in their next contract.
But then what happens? After the TV deal is inked, probably some time in the next two or three years, do the Marlins go back to their infuriatingly frugal ways and slash the payroll to the bare walls?
If so, they'll have taken all of Stanton's prime years for significantly less than the St. Louis Cardinals paid Matt Holliday in his current contract. The slugger will be 31 when he can opt out and be faced with the dilemma of playing on a last place team the rest of his career or going out on the market while he's young enough to get another long term deal.
Recent history shows that Stanton could likely find a new deal for at least as much as the remainder of his Marlins contract. So he'll opt out and a team like the Los Angeles Dodgers, the New York Yankees or the Anaheim Angels will offer Stanton a $200-$250 million contract. The Marlins will save more than $200 million and spend the next 10-20 years raking in TV cash no matter how bad they are.
The only way they'll get stuck is if Stanton suddenly falls apart and decides that he doesn't have too much pride to hit .225 while collecting $32 million a year. But what are the odds that would happen without a major injury that would likely allow the Marlins to collect an insurance settlement to soften the blow?
This contract could be the shadiest thing to happen in the majors since the Marlins fleeced South Florida taxpayers to build them a stadium -- and then sold off their roster's best players to slash the payroll from $101 million in 2012 to $48 million last year.