The Miami Marlins' winter spending spree has gone from surprising to bizarre. The Miami Herald reported Tuesday that the team has agreed to terms with Juan Carlos Oviedo, avoiding salary arbitration in a deal that will pay him $6 million in 2012.
But there's a catch. Oviedo had been playing under the assumed name of Leo Nunez, leaving the team in late September to turn himself in to authorities in the Dominican Republic.
Oviedo's legal status is still uncertain, and under his deal with the Marlins, he will not earn a single dollar if he does not pitch in 2012. His salary will be prorated based on the time he spends on the Marlins roster.
The team placed Oviedo on the restricted list in September, freeing up his spot on the roster for someone who could actually play. In November, President of Baseball Operations Larry Beinfest said he was optimistic that Oviedo's legal status could be straightened out in time for the 2012 season.
Regardless of Oviedo's legal status, the Marlins' move is quite puzzling. The team signed former Padres closer Heath Bell to a three-year contract in December, which had seemed to spell the end of Oviedo's tenure in Miami.
The Marlins now have two closers on their roster, who will be paid a combined $15 million in 2012. The team also has two more relief pitchers, Edward Mujica and Steve Cishek, who could close if either Oviedo or Bell cannot pitch.
The Marlins may start pulling in serious revenue thanks to their new stadium opening in April, but even if the team could legally print its own money, is it really wise to spend up to $15 million on two closers?
The Marlins reportedly want to lock up slugging outfielder Mike Stanton to a long-term deal, now they have $6 million less to spend on him. Ditto for starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez, who is also arbitration eligible and could garner a hefty salary bump if the Marlins do not agree to terms with him before tonight's arbitration deadline.
The team could still try to trade Oviedo, but what team would want a $6 million relief pitcher who may not be able to play in 2012?
The Marlins front office has earned a reputation for making surprising moves that turn out to be shrewd in the long run, but this signing is beyond bizarre. Owner Jeffrey Loria is now spending money like it is going out of style, and on players who may not actually make his team perform any better or sell more tickets.