Capitals

Marlins salary dump to Toronto finalized

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Marlins salary dump to Toronto finalized

MIAMI (AP) 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 $146.5 million in payroll. That's their net savings after agreeing to send $8.5 million to the Blue Jays as part of the trade.

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 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.

``We've finished in last place the past two years, and that is unacceptable,'' Loria said in a statement. ``It's incumbent on us to make the changes necessary to make us a winner again. It may not happen overnight. But with the players we acquired in the second half of last season, coupled with the infusion of players we are acquiring now, we will be returning to Marlins baseball: high energy and hungry.''

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.''

NOTES: Pierre would earn a $25,000 bonus if he's an All-Star, $25,000 each for winning a Gold Glove or Silver Slugger, $50,000 if he's an LCS MVP, $100,000 if he's the World Series MVP and $100,000 if he's the league MVP.

---

AP Sports Writer Ronald Blum in New York contributed to this report.

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4 keys for the Caps to win Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final

4 keys for the Caps to win Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final

It all starts Monday!

The Vegas Golden Knights will host the Washington Capitals in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final as both teams look to take early control of the series.

Can the Caps steal one on the road to start? Here are four keys to winning Game 1.

Win the first period

The Golden Knights have not played a game since May 20. While rest can benefit a team at this time of the year, there is such a thing as too much rest and over a week would certainly qualify. If there is absolutely any rust in Vegas’ game to start, the Caps need to take advantage.

T-Mobile Arena and the Vegas crowd have already built a reputation in year one. The atmosphere is going to be electric, but the Caps can combat that with a good start to the game and by scoring first.

Vegas is 10-1 when scoring first this postseason. If they are able to come in and get on the board right off the bat in the first period after seven full days between games, that does not bode well for the Caps’ chances.

Don’t allow Marc-Andre Fleury to pick up where he left off

Fleury is having a postseason for the ages, but it’s hard to believe momentum is simply going to carry over to a new series after such a lengthy break. Players are not simply going to pick up where they left off and play as if there’s no rust to shake off. The need to get to Fleury as early as possible.

What that means is getting traffic in front of the net, making him move, contesting rebounds, making him feel uncomfortable as much as possible and generating quality offensive chances.

The Caps can do is starting flinging pucks at the net and giving him easy saves. Getting 12 shots in the first period would be great, but not if they are all perimeter shots for easy saves that help bring Fleury's confidence back to where it was in the Western Conference Final.

Limit the turnovers

Turnovers are blood in the water for Vegas. The high-effort, high-speed style of play of the Golden Knights has caught several players off guard at points this postseason. No one can afford to be casual with the puck at any point in this game because Vegas has a knack for turning those turnovers into goals.

Winning Game 1 on the road will be hard enough without giving the Golden Knights at any help.

Shut down the top line

Only three players have reached double digits in points for the Golden Knights in the playoffs: Jonathan Marchessault (18), Reilly Smith (16) and William Karlsson (13). What do these three have in common? They all play on Vegas’ top line. To compare, the Caps have seven players in double digits.

Much has been made of Vegas’ offensive depth and their ability to roll four lines, but the play of Fleury in net has really masked how much this team relies on its top line for offense. The Caps need to get Dmitry Orlov and Matt Niskanen on the ice against them and focus on shutting them down. Force the Golden Knights to win with their other three lines and see if they can.

MORE CAPITALS PLAYOFF NEWS:

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Need to Know: Redskins will have a lot of starter stability in 2018

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Need to Know: Redskins will have a lot of starter stability in 2018

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, May 28, 15 days before the Washington Redskins start minicamp.  

Note: I am vacationing in the Outer Banks this week. In this space I’ll be presenting some of the most popular posts of the last few months. I hope you enjoy these “best of” presentations and I’ll see you folks when I get back. 

Stability at the top of the depth chart

This post was originally published on March 23 Note that this was prior to the draft.

A Redskins defense that ranked 27thin total defense and was dead last against the run is likely to return nine or 10 of the players who were the primary starters in 2017. The Washington defense, which was 16thoverall and 27thrunning the ball, will certainly return seven starters and could have eight the same as last year. 

I’m sure that this will alarm many Redskins fans, but it shouldn’t. Before getting into that, let’s look at the changes. 

On defense, the nine starters who are assured of returning are DE Stacy McGee, DL Jonathan Allen, OLB Preston Smith, OLB Ryan Kerrigan, ILB Zach Brown, ILB Mason Foster, CB Josh Norman, S Montae Nicholson, and S D.J. Swearinger. 

As of right now, a tenth returning starter has to be penciled in at nose tackle. Yes, if the season started today it would be Ziggy Hood at nose tackle again. More on that in a minute.

The only starting spot that is certain to turn over is the cornerback opposite Norman. Even though Bashaud Breeland’s contract agreement with the Panthers fell through due to a failed physical he is much more likely to lad on another NFL team than he is to return to the Redskins. 

It is impossible to think that the Redskins will not do something to address the nose tackle position, whether it’s in the draft or in free agency. Then again, it’s impossible to believe they have run the 3-4 defense since 2010 without coming up with a long-term solution at the nose. (Udate: Of course, they did this in the draft when they took Daron Payne and Tim Settle).

On offense, the seven starters certain to return are WR Josh Doctson, WR Jamison Crowder, OT Trent Williams, C Chase Roullier, RG Brandon Scherff, RT Morgan Moses, and TE Jordan Reed. RB Samaje Perine could be an eighth returning starter depending on if the Redskins take a running back early in the draft. 

The new starters will be QB Alex Smith, WR Paul Richardson, and someone at left guard. 

Having between 16 and 18 returning starters from a team that went 7-9 in 2017 may not be enough turnover for some fans. That’s not a completely unreasonable point of view. However, there is a such thing has having too much churn in your starting lineup and some stability for the Redskins may be a good thing this year. 

They had five new starters on defense last year and a new defensive coordinator. They also had a new coordinator on offense along with two new wide receivers and, by midseason, changes in the starters at running back and center. This is not counting all of the on-the-fly changes that had to be made due to injuries. 

Continuing to make changes in the starting lineup is not always a recipe for success. Sometimes you just need to pick a group of players and, to the extent that you can in the free agency-salary cap world of the NFL, stick with them. Sure, you have to address weakness like nose tackle and possibly running back and fill holes created by free agency departures. However, it is often better to give a player time to acclimate to a system and, especially with a rookie, time to learn the fine points of the game.

Tearing things down and starting over again after a mediocre season is a recipe for, well, more mediocre seasons. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler