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No. 24 Marlins: MLB's cheapest franchise still resides in Florida

Jeff Passan
Yahoo Sports

Editor's note: Yahoo Sports will rank every team in Major League Baseball from 30th to 1st before spring training begins in mid-February. Our series continues with the Miami Marlins.

2013 record: 62-100
Finish: Fifth place, NL East
2013 final payroll: $42.3 million (29th of 30)
Estimated 2014 opening day payroll: $42 million (30th of 30)
Yahoo! Sports offseason rank: 24th
Marlins in six words: Team president missed 2013 for "Survivor"

OFFSEASON ACTION

Do not let the Marlins' busy offseason fool you. Two years after their winter spending spree, they're back where they were destined to go: the bottom of the payroll ranks in Major League Baseball. For all of the promises Jeffrey Loria and David Samson made, this one – this out-and-out lie about spending once the taxpayers built them a stadium – was the most egregious of all.

Never have they even tried to explain the flip-flop, first because they don't give one whit of a damn what their fans or anyone else thinks, and second because they've always had a solid baseball-operations core in place, one able enough to perhaps fashion a winning team with the laughable money they're given.

Gone is GM Larry Beinfest, tired of bending to the dictator and his little friend, and in is Dan Jennings, whose offseason moves have, at very least, filled a couple holes. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who Red Sox teammates admired like mad for gritting out October with a bad back – and who, they fear, may have trouble shaking those back issues – took $21 million to head home. Rafael Furcal, coming off Tommy John surgery, is a great low-risk signing at $3 million. Garrett Jones takes over at first base for less than $4 million a year and should bring some much-needed pop. And Casey McGehee got a little more than $1 million to return from Japan to a place that in the world of baseball is even more foreign.

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Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria. (AP)

The Marlins are so naked about getting rid of players when they begin to get even a little expensive, they should be brought up on public-indecency charges. When they non-tendered Ryan Webb, half of baseball jumped to sign him the next day. Logan Morrison, once a linchpin, needed to reach arbitration before he was paroled. Justin Ruggiano, who Samson a year earlier pushed for an All-Star slot based on all of 96 plate appearances, went to the Cubs for a backup outfielder, Brian Bogusevic.

Until Loria sells the team and rids baseball of his poisonous presence, there will be a cognitive dissonance with the Marlins, wondering how good baseball men like Mike Berger and Jeff McAvoy can join the team's front office knowing that ultimately their work will be at risk of corruption by an owner who fancies himself some sort of a baseball mind because he owns a team. Whatever progress they make in an offseason can be undone just as soon, and there is a helplessness that is unmatched anywhere across the game.

REALITY CHECK

Deep down, the Marlins recognize that Giancarlo Stanton is like Red, waiting for that day he can go meet Andy in Zihuatanejo, only Andy is any owner not named Jeffrey Loria and Zihuantanejo is any team aside from the Loria-owned Marlins. That's one of the great shames of the Loria ownership: If he weren't in charge of the Marlins, Stanton would be in Miami for a long, long time.

Instead, this should be the year the Marlins deal him. As disappointing as that will be to Marlins fans beaten down by the broken promises and disappearance of homegrown players, it is the right baseball move, especially with free agency three years off. Certainly Stanton would fetch a huge return if he's traded following the 2014 season, and same goes if the Marlins hold onto him through 2015. Now, though? Now they can ask for Jurickson Profar and Jorge Alfaro from the Rangers, Gregory Polanco and Tyler Glasnow from the Pirates, or any combination of young, pre-arbitration players not named Mike Trout from any other team, and not be laughed out of the room.

Considering the others who today surround Stanton in the Marlins' clubhouse, it's not as though the major league cupboard will be barren, either. Jose Fernandez may be the best right-handed pitcher in the National League. Henderson Alvarez showed what he can do with his season-ending, walk-off no-hitter. Scouts love – love – right-hander Nate Eovaldi's stuff, and if he can find a changeup to neutralize left-handed hitters, he's a potential top-of-the-rotation force. Add in Jacob Turner, fast-moving former first-round lefty Andrew Heaney and the advanced Justin Nicolino, one of the main pieces in the 2012 Toronto dump, and the Marlins' rotation could eventually go pitcher for pitcher with the deep staffs of NL East rivals Washington, Atlanta and New York.

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Jose Fernandez was the 2013 NL Rookie of the Year. (AP)

The bats are the bigger question. Left fielder Christian Yelich should win a batting title someday, Adeiny Hechavarria is the long-term solution at shortstop, Saltalamacchia stabilizes Miami behind the plate, back willing, and last year's first-round pick, Colin Moran, will be good for half the decade at third base before they trade him.

To win – to really win – they need Marcell Ozuna and Jake Marisnick to stabilize a post-Stanton outfield, and for those who do return in the Stanton deal to fill those position-playing spots. It will be a big bat to lose, and that's the pain in the Marlins' existence, one that for serious, long-term contention must change.

No more of this Mickey Mouse nonsense from up top. If the Marlins want their players to take them seriously, perhaps the team president shouldn't be absconding from his duties during the season to participate in "Survivor" – or maybe he should have waited for the season where they actually marooned the players and left them there for more than a month.

Marlins players these days come into a clubhouse that instantaneously inures them to the realities of Loria and Samson. They are cheap. They are petty. They are vindictive. They play favorites. They make decisions even though they don't know what the hell they're talking about. When that feeling gets planted in an impressionable young player's mind, it grows, it festers and it pervades. And until it's gone, the Marlins, even these intriguing Marlins, are bound to be the same old disappointment.

SAVIOR

If Bud Selig is serious enough about his retirement that he's headed on a 30-city farewell tour, the people of Miami owe him a nice vegetable shower for saddling them with Loria and Samson. Maybe, just maybe, the new commissioner, whoever it is, will take a different approach with the Marlins, resolving not to stomach their lies and holding them accountable for spending the money given to them through a revenue-sharing program that promises to send even more their way following the next collective bargaining agreement.

HAIKU

Marlins fans during
Loria-Samson reign are
The real survivors

Previous teams
No. 25 Brewers
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No. 27 Mets
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