What a difference a trade makes.
All the goodwill Major League Baseball's Miami Marlins earned by amassing a star-studded $118.1 million roster on the way to opening their new 37,000-seat stadium in time for the 2012 season melted away like an ice cube in the Florida sun this week after the team moved to dump much of its remaining payroll in a blockbuster 12-player deal with the Toronto Blue Jays.
The proposed transaction is, in essence, yet another asset sale by a franchise known through much of its history for counting pennies. That stinginess was supposedly abandoned amid the team's effort to flee the drab football stadium north of downtown Miami that used to be its home for the $634 million ballpark in Little Havana it moved into this past spring.
But the newly free-spending Marlins proved to be a bust, and the sell-off began even before they ended the season in last place. Now, by trying to ship Emilio Bonifacio, Josh Johnson, Jose Reyes, and Mark Buehrle to Toronto in exchange for a package of prospects, the team has made itself a subject of scorn within MLB circles, attracted additional scrutiny from league commissioner Bud Selig, and infuriated a shrinking fan base accustomed to franchise fire sales.
The Marlinsand, specifically, the circumstances under which the public picked up 80 percent of the cost of the new stadium via the sale of $405 million in municipal bondsapparently also remain a focus of a broader SEC investigation into Miami's municipal finances.
As part of the inquirywhich began several years ago and is being led by SEC senior counsel Andre Zamorano and Drew Panahthe agency sent letters to Miami and Miami-Dade County officials last December requesting financial records, meeting minutes, and communications with representatives of the team dn MLB, according to a copy of one of the letters obtained by The Wall Street Journal.
"We are trying to determine whether there have been any violations of federal securities laws," Panahi wrote in a letter to Miami city attorney Julie Bru.
Bru, Panahi, Zamorano, Marlins general counsel Derek Jackson, and Ivan Harristhe former assistant regional director of enforcement in the SEC's Miami office and current Morgan, Lewis & Bockius partner representing the city in connection with the agency's investigationdid not immediately respond to requests for comment about the status of the probe into the bond sales used to finance the construction of Marlins Park.
Over the summer, SEC investigators did recommend that civil actions be brought against the city of Miami related to the broader inquiry into its handling of financial disclosures for the sale of municipal bonds, according to sibling publication the Daily Business Review.
Repaying the bonds used to fund a new stadium for the Marlins will cost Miami-Dade County taxpayers an estimated $2.4 billion in combined principal and interest over the next 40 yearsa tab Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria persuaded government officials to pick up by claiming the franchise couldn't afford to build a ballpark to replace its substandard facility on its own and might have to move to another city such as San Antonio.