Are the Marlins over extended?

Believe it or not Miami, there is another local professional sports team currently playing. Your Miami Marlins have been playing winning baseball for the majority of this season — apart from a recent skid. And, as Miami Heat fans know very well, losing causes some widespread panic. Some of this panic has been directed at Marlins management for giving out undeserved long-term contracts.

As an organization, the Marlins have long been reticent to dole out these long-term contracts. However, with the dawning of the “Marlins Park era,” their philosophy has shifted. This offseason, the Marlins and shortstop José Reyes agreed to a rich 6-year, $106 million contract. Reyes was coming off of a year with the New York Mets in which he led the National League in batting average and triples, and also put up the highest OPS of his career. Despite the fact that his stolen base total and his home runs have been on a steady decline, Reyes nonetheless continued to be a dominant force.

While Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria dug deep into his pocketbook to fork over an average annual value of $17.6 million to the then 28-year-old middle infielder, Reyes has proved why he is worthy of that contract.

Although his offensive output so far this year has been less than expected, his career trend would claim that this is nothing more than an aberration or a slow start. For more perspective on what Reyes has and will bring to this team, look no further than the possibility of Matt Dominguez as the Marlins’ everyday third baseman, which would have been a reality had it not been for the signing of Reyes.

While long-term contracts have plagued many an organization (see: Barry Zito, Vernon Wells and Mike Hampton), abstaining from these contracts would leave out the very real possibility of a positive outcome.

Although Marlins ace Josh Johnson has had his struggles this year, he looks to be rebounding to his usual form. When Johnson and the Marlins signed his four-year, $39 million contract extension, he was coming off of a 15-5 and 3.23 ERA season. In his first contract year, 2010, Johnson continued to improve. He finished the season 11-6, and had a National league-leading ERA of 2.30. His next season promised to be immensely successful, but it was cut short after only nine starts due to injury.

If one word can be assigned to another recent recipient of a Marlins long-term contract Mark Buehrle, that word would be “consistent.” From 2001-11, he has started more than 30 games and has had an ERA less than 5.00, and in some cases, much lower than 5.00. The Marlins rewarded him with a 4 year, $58 million contract. So far in 2012, this contract has paid off.

Although the Marlins have not had any long-term contracts that could be considered “major busts,” there have been some that have not lived up to their expectations. Hanley Ramirez’s six-year, $70 million contract has surely not been fulfilled. Likewise, while Ricky Nolasco has been decent, decent doesn’t equate to three years and $26.5 million.

In a similar fashion to how Florida Marlins fans called out for the extension of Miguel Cabrera, Miami Marlins fans are now calling for the extension of power-hitter extraordinaire Giancarlo Stanton. He has become very well-known for hitting home runs to distances previously thought unreachable.

Although he will not reach free agency until 2017, the best time to extend his contract would be right now. Wait any longer, and the potential cost to keep him a Marlin will skyrocket.

A fitting comparison to Stanton’s potential cost would be Colorado Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez. After three seasons in the MLB, Gonzalez was signed to a seven-year, $80 million contract. In addition, Gonzalez may have put up even more impressive statistics than Stanton has, so far. If the Marlins were to extend Stanton, his price may be even lower than $80 million. His contract would most likely be in the Hanley Ramirez range, a range that even the stingy Marlins management of years past was willing to enter.

Long term contracts can be risky, but without risk there is little to no chance for a positive outcome. Marlins management, don’t abstain from giving out long-term contracts; just be careful.

Preston Michelson is a junior at Palmer Trinity School where he is the public address announcer for all varsity sporting events. Contact him on Twitter at @PrestonMich or by email at <michelsonpr@gmail.com>.

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