Marlins owner Loria defends offseason moves

JUPITER, Fla. — Several Miami Marlins headed to the clubhouse Tuesday morning by walking between a cluster of microphones, several video cameras and a group of reporters.
“Is Obama coming?” outfielder Bryan Petersen asked.
No. Media members were waiting for someone who actually had been more elusive than the president during the previous four months — Jeffrey Loria.
The Marlins owner had remained quiet during an offseason highlighted by the firing of manager Ozzie Guillen and a blockbuster trade with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Loria began discussing his team on Sunday when he published a full-page letter to the fans in several south Florida newspapers. The following night, he met with a group of local print reporters.
Then Tuesday morning, Loria stepped before the microphone and cameras outside the Marlins clubhouse. The press conference started about 30 minutes after the owner had arrived and lasted for approximately 15 minutes.
“It’s kind of hard to stop a runaway train,” Loria said in explaining why he hadn’t spoken publicly sooner. “The season ended and I decided it was time to decompress, and let all that was going to be said be said.”
Loria said he understood if fans were not happy about finishing last in 2012.
“I understand the disappointment,” he said. “I really do understand the disappointment — I’m disappointed, I didn’t enjoy last year. We had kind of a perfect storm. Everything collapsed right at the beginning.”
Loria defended his actions in both putting together a high-priced team, and then changing his approach.
“I fulfilled my promise in the new ballpark last year,” Loria said. “We had a hundred million dollar payroll and it didn’t work. So, what do you do — go back and lose more games?”
In a controversial November trade, the Marlins sent shortstop Jose Reyes, pitchers Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle, utility man Emilio Bonafacio and catcher John Buck to Toronto in return for several highly touted young players. 
Reyes said Loria reneged on a no-trade promise and had even advised him on buying a house in Miami just days before the trade with Toronto.
“I never encouraged him to buy a house,” Loria said. “I spoke to him when he was here and he was looking for a house and he was going to wait until the end of the season.”
Loria said he had no idea that a deal with the Jays was in the works when he invited Reyes to a dinner shortly before the trade.
“Three or four days later (Marlins president of baseball operations) Larry (Beinfest) called me with what he wanted to do,” Loria said. “I immediately called (Reyes’) agent. I said, ‘We’re going to be making a trade. I want you to call Jose and make sure he doesn’t buy a house.’ That’s the essence of it all.”
Prior to that deal, Miami shipped reliever Heath Bell to Arizona. Bell, Reyes and Buerhle had all signed lucrative free-agent contracts before last season. 
“You can’t win without good players in the organization,” Loria said. “We needed to do something to keep up the organization. It’s as simple as that.”
Miami already had two great prospects in pitcher Jose Fernandez and outfielder Christian Yelich. In the deal with Toronto, the Marlins received shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, right-hander Henderson Alvarez — two young talents — and highly rated outfield prospect Jake Marisnick. 
“We have some very exciting young players here and we need to bring them along and bring in, what you would call, stars while we develop our own stars or else we’re going to be a last-place team forever — and I don’t want to live with that,” Loria said.
The Marlins certainly upgraded their farm system during the winter with “16 or 17 terrific young players,” Loria said. “They’re going to be here very quickly. Some of them will be here this year.”
When told some fans had called the 2013 Marlins a minor league team, Loria fired back.
“It’s not a Triple-A ballclub,” he said. “It’s a ballclub with some pretty impressive players. I wouldn’t call (Placido) Polanco a Triple-A player. I wouldn’t call the new shortstop a Triple-A player. I wouldn’t call our second baseman (Donovan Solano) a Triple-A player. I certainly wouldn’t call (catcher) Rob Brantly that. These are exciting young players. 
“Giancarlo Stanton is not that. Juan Pierre, Mr. Energy, who sets the tone and standard for excellence — these are not Triple-A players.”
Loria held back from blaming his management team for the Marlins’ last-place finishes the past two seasons.
“I can’t hit, I can’t run, I can’t throw anymore,” he said, “but I’m responsible overall, so I guess the buck stops with me.
“We have a very bright future and I would like us to rally around that.”
Charlie McCarthy can be reached at or on Twitter @mccarthy_chas