In what is called Project Wolverine, a nod to Jeter’s native Michigan, the Marlins executive attempted to prove to potential investors that the franchise will turn a major league profit immediately.
According to the Miami Herald, decreased payroll coupled with increased revenue from ticket sales, corporate sponsorships and a revamped local TV deal, as well as a one-time payout of $50 million that each MLB franchise will receive this season, will carry the moribund franchise to profitability. The one-time payment is the result of MLB’s $1.58 billion sale of its controlling stake in digital media company BAMtech to Disney.
The newspaper said it was given a copy of the confidential document’s August iteration by two investors who were approached by Jeter’s ownership group.
The apparent first phase of Project Wolverine is already underway, as the Marlins have shed $36 million off their 2018 payroll thanks to trades that sent All-Stars Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna and Dee Gordon to the New York Yankees, St. Louis Cardinals and Seattle Mariners, respectively. While those moves have helped the Marlins’ bottom line, they have eroded whatever public trust existed between the team’s fan base and its new leadership.
“I can’t sit here and say trust me,” Jeter told fans during a contentious town hall meeting in December. “You don’t know me. You earn trust over time. I know how organizations are sustainable over time. I know you have been through a lot. I can’t relate to it. It’s going to be a tough road. It’s going to take time and effort.”
The Miami Herald contends that the increased revenue outlined in the August version of Project Wolverine’s report may be hard to come by, as a bump in ticket sales might be difficult for a team that jettisoned much of its name-brand talent this offseason. Additionally, Jeter’s circulated plan foresaw a new $44.8 million payment from its local TV deal. Citing sources, the newspaper said that amount of growth may be overly ambitious as there appears to be little impetus for Fox, which currently owns the Marlins’ local TV rights, to renegotiate a deal that runs through 2020.
Fox’s regional sports networks are in the process of being sold to ESPN.
Since entering MLB as an expansion franchise in 1993, the Marlins have been to the postseason only twice, yet won the World Series in each of those years. The team’s last postseason appearance came in 2003 and the Marlins have not had a winning season since 2009.
“We are going to invest in building this organization the right way so we can, year in and year out, be able to compete,” Jeter said in December, adding, “We are trying to fix something that is broken.”