Johnson signing linked to new stadium
New revenue from facility expected to increase payroll
This is part of an MLB.com/Marlins.com exclusive series with team president David Samson chronicling the progress and developments of the new retractable-roof stadium that is scheduled to open in 2012. Throughout the series, which will run weekly in the offseason, fans are encouraged to e-mail David at D.Samson@Marlins.com with their thoughts.
MIAMI -- It wasn't by accident that the Marlins announced the signing of ace pitcher Josh Johnson at the site of the team's new ballpark on Thursday.
Johnson is viewed as the building block of the rotation, while the new stadium is the foundation for Major League Baseball to remain in South Florida for decades.
Now signed to a four-year, $39 million contract through 2013, Johnson becomes the frontrunner to throw out the first pitch when the Marlins move into their retractable-roof stadium in the Little Havana section of Miami in 2012.
Signing Johnson also is symbolic of the fact that, with the security of their own building, the Marlins are now in better position to lock up their star players long-term.
Granted, the team projects to rank near the bottom of the National League in player salaries in 2010. But that should change over the next few seasons. When the new ballpark opens, the team's payroll projects to be at least in the middle of the pack with the rest of the National League.
Since Jeffrey Loria assumed ownership in 2002, the Marlins have managed to have remarkable success on the playing field with a miniscule budget. The 2003 team, of course, won the World Series. And the club has enjoyed back-to-back winning seasons, finishing second to the Phillies in the NL East last year.
"Everything we've tried to do over the years is: one, win the World Series, and, two, we've tried to make sure that South Florida has Major League Baseball forever," Marlins president David Samson said. "We have won one World Series, and we made sure that baseball will always be here [by securing the ballpark]. Now, we're ready to even more solidify the legacy of the Marlins.
"What I mean by that is, all the community initiatives we do, now we're doing more. The desire and the work ethic we had to get the ballpark deal completed, we now work three times as hard on the ballpark. Our attention to detail is incredible. Every fan-comfort concern is addressed. Every parking problem is addressed. Everybody's food requests are granted. We simply want to be the best."
Construction on the 37,000-seat stadium is about 20 percent done, and the project remains on time and on budget.
Samson did note that if there are significant cost over-runs, the team is responsible for them. So if they are incurred, it could impact the payroll. As of now, that hasn't been an issue.
Every stage of construction can be followed via the new ballpark webcam on www.marlins.com.
"Every ballpark meeting we have, every construction meeting we have, the main theme is: 'What decision do we make today that will help our fans enjoy their ballpark experience even more?' " Samson said.
Loria's insistence on finalizing Johnson's contract is a big reason why the deal got done. While the 6-foot-7 right-hander has inked a four-year deal, Loria hasn't ruled out working out an extension when this current contract is close to expiring.
Samson says the commitment the Marlins are making to field a winning squad now also is being made on the ballpark.
"What we do with construction is what we do with the team," Samson said. "What can we do to win more games, and more World Series? The signing of Josh Johnson is just another example of the commitment of the Marlins and Jeffrey Loria.
"I put this whole signing on Jeffrey's shoulders, because he knows what he wants, and he went after it. I think Josh can be the anchor of a World Series-winning staff."
Since the signings of Johnson and other core players like Dan Uggla and Jorge Cantu, the Marlins have received a boost in interest from fans seeking ticket information for the upcoming season.
"Obviously, our TV ratings are great," Samson said. "Our radio ratings are great. We want more people to come to the ballpark, because the players like playing in front of more fans, and having more fans in the ballpark helps our business."
Those purchasing season tickets now will have preferential treatment for seats in the new ballpark.
"We know 2012 is going to be successful [attendance-wise]. But we want fans to come to the park now," Samson said. "By not coming in now, it really hurts your chances of getting the perfect [season-ticket] seats you want in 2012."
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.