On Wednesday, Tom Verducci published a feature on Sports Illustrated centered around Marlins part owner Derek Jeter. Jeter has been a lightning rod for criticism since he and Bruce Sherman purchased the Marlins from Jeffrey Loria. Along with trading away Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, Christian Yelich, and Dee Gordon, Jeter has had a hand in giving Jack McKeon, Jeff Conine, and Andre Dawson the pink slip. Jeter was also involved in the firing of a scout who was receiving treatment for colon cancer.
Verducci mentions the myriad controversies but they are quickly brushed aside with a Jeter quote, usually condescending in nature. For example, Verducci wonders if the Marlins might have been competitive had the club kept Stanton et. al. instead of trading them, and went out and signed free agent starters Jake Arrieta and Yu Darvish. Jeter said, “When we were at the town hall, one of the fans said, ‘All you needed to do was sign to pitchers.’ I said, ‘Okay, who are those two pitchers?’ He couldn’t answer. You could have added two pitchers to this team and they still wouldn’t have won.” Verducci suggests Arrieta and Darvish, to which Jeter responds, “No. They still wouldn’t have won. So you just dig a bigger hole, and eventually you have to get out of it. That’s a lot of work.”
Eno Sarris of FanGraphs countered Jeter’s claim quite well:
Sarris added to his response, “Even if you’re being more conservative and just give them 14 or 15 wins, they’re above .500.” Presently, FanGraphs projects the Marlins to put up the second-worst record in baseball at 68-94, just ahead of the 65-97 White Sox.
The NL East doesn’t seem like it be highly competitive. FanGraphs projects the Nationals at 91-71, the Mets at 81-81, the Braves at 75-87, and the Phillies at 74-88. With 57 games scheduled against intradivision opponents projected to be .500 or worse, the Marlins would’ve been legitimate Wild Card contenders at minimum if the club had signed a pair of free agent pitchers. And they need not be Arrieta and Darvish specifically; Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn would have sufficed as well.
As Verducci notes, Jeter and Sherman assumed $400 million in debt in acquiring the Marlins. Winning games is incidental to keeping the organization in the black, especially in this case. Jeter’s Marlins are the prime example of what’s wrong in baseball right now and why the free agent market was completely stagnant between the end of the World Series and now, just a few days away from pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training.
There are a lot of other mystifying quotes from Jeter in Verducci’s column, but his claim that the Marlins wouldn’t have been competitive with the likes of Arrieta and Darvish really sticks out. Jeter’s squeaky clean image has certainly taken a hit in the last few months, that’s for sure.