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Florida Marlins Payroll to Rise

October 16, 2002

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MIAMI (AP) _ Florida Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria has decided to increase the payroll next season, which will allow the team to keep most of its best players, general manager Larry Beinfest said Wednesday.

Beinfest declined to disclose the payroll target set by Loria but said it represented ``a very healthy increase″ over this season’s $41 million payroll, which was baseball’s third lowest.

The spending decision was unexpected in the wake of last season, when attendance continued to decline and new ownership claimed losses of $20 million. The team and its dwindling fan base had been braced for the Marlins’ biggest roster shakeup since the dismantling that followed their victory in the 1997 World Series.

Instead, Loria’s decision could allow the Marlins to keep their roster largely intact.

``Fortunately he made the decision to up the payroll,″ Beinfest said. ``It eases the pressure on having to move a number of the core players.″

Among those more likely to stay are All-Star second baseman Luis Castillo and All-Star third baseman Mike Lowell, team home run leader Derrek Lee and starting pitcher Brad Penny. All had been mentioned in trade speculation.

Some deals are still likely. Twelve Marlins are eligible for salary arbitration, and retaining them all would push the payroll to an estimated $53 million.

Beinfest has begun discussing potential deals with other teams and will attend the first two games of the World Series this weekend in San Francisco to talk trades. The Marlins’ needs include a left-handed hitter and more depth in the outfield and on the pitching staff.

The Marlins would like to trade catcher Charles Johnson or center fielder Preston Wilson, who have three years remaining on contracts that will pay them $25 million and $27.5 million, respectively. But declining productivity might make them difficult to swap, and Johnson has vowed to exercise a no-trade clause in his contract.

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