As the Winter Meetings kick off today, our brethren from South Florida own the baseball-world news cycle. Just two days after giving $27MM over three years to All Star closer Heath Bell, they have reportedly signed All Star shortstop Jose Reyes to a six-year $106MM deal.
That’s right, $133MM in talent to populate their brand-new ballyard with rumors that Albert Pujols may also join the fray.
What does it mean? Well, as Travis remembered, I am terrified because I worry that the Marlins are playing with the Rays’ political capital. There is simply no way the Marlins don’t become the litmus test for the Rays’ long-term future. And, based on the way they are going about it, I fear the Rays have been painted into a no-win situation.
If the Marlins pack the house this season, the Rays will be boxed in. Baseball will deduce that its product can only be succesful in this state with a new ballpark. But, I cannot see any way a local government is going to put up the cash to build a park. Especially not after learning that the Marlins are being investigated for bribery. Any politician that sticks his neck out for a new park will almost certainly be convicted of double-dealing in the Court of public opinion.
Moreover, even if the Marlins pack the Orange Bowl 2.0 every night, the Rays won’t be able to rely upon that as proof that they too would benefit from a new park. The Marlins have given any reluctant politician a perfect counteroffer. How will we know whether the park or Heath Bell/Jose Reyes/(Albert Pujols) that brought the fans? We won’t. So, the politicians will be able to tell the Rays to sign some big names with their money before the public commits its money.
Something about a chicken and egg jumps to mind.
Of course, all that analysis ignores the biggest fear. What if this flops? New park, new talent, new uniforms, new names. All the pasta in the pot is current stuck to the Marlins cupboard. So it better work. Because if it doesn’t, I don’t see any way the Rays will be able to recover.