Florida Marlins owner Jeffery Loria announced the signing of shortstop Hanley Ramirez to $70 million, six-year contract extension against the backdrop of the decaying Orange Bowl, where the Marlins plan on building a new stadium.
And, while there are still legal hurdles to clear, the Marlins see the new stadium as a reason to invest in the future. As reported by The AP:
"Today we're taking not one, but two giant steps forward," Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria said. "The first is that by standing here on this very site we reaffirmed the vision of our city and county leaders to guarantee Major League Baseball stays here in South Florida ... and we have one of the greatest young players ever to wear a Marlins uniform."
The Marlins currently have the lowest player payroll in MLB at $20 million. That is $5 million less than what the team is reportedly pulling through revenue-sharing. Asked if the new stadium is why the Marlins were able to sign Ramirez, others in the front office agreed.
"I think [the stadium] is definitely a big part of it," Marlins general manager Larry Beinfest said. "We've had a lot of good young players here. Whether it's Derrek Lee or Dontrelle Willis, several players were probably worthy of multiyear consideration. But there wasn't a stadium on the horizon. Now there is."
Ramirez, is making $439,000 this season. With the contract extension he will receive $5.5 million next year, $7 million in 2010, $11 million in 2011, $15 million in 2012, $15.5 million in 2013 and $16 million in 2014.
The Marlins have been known for signing key players in advance of a new stadium, although the Ramirez deal is one without strings attached. In 2003, the Marlins signed Mike Lowell to a four-year, $32 million deal that was tied directly to approval for stadium funding. At the time, the deal was structured if a new stadium was not approved, the contract became a one-year guarantee with a player option, leaving the decision to remain with the club up to Lowell.
In October of 2004, Lowell and the Marlins amended the contract to guarantee the final three years of his contract.
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