Did Derek Jeter leave the Marlins because of Nick Castellanos?

Mar 23, 2022; Clearwater, Florida, USA; Philadelphia Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski gives outfielder Nick Castellanos (8) his new jersey before the start of the game against the Toronto Blue Jays during spring training at BayCare Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 23, 2022; Clearwater, Florida, USA; Philadelphia Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski gives outfielder Nick Castellanos (8) his new jersey before the start of the game against the Toronto Blue Jays during spring training at BayCare Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports /
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Nick Castellanos says he thought he’d sign with the Marlins, not the Phillies

Nick Castellanos made Philadelphia Phillies history this spring when he became the first player they ever exceeded the luxury tax threshold to sign.

He’s here on a 5-year, $100M deal, and has already endeared himself to the fanbase in so many ways, including hitting mammoth home runs, praising and guiding his younger teammates Bryson Stott and Mickey Moniak, and having his family sage their new home, which happens to be former 76ers’ notable Ben Simmons’ old house.

But according to Castellanos, if a formal rival executive had had his way a few months back, he’d be wearing a different NL East uniform for the foreseeable future. On Thursday, several media members at the Phillies/Marlins series opener reported that Castellanos said he originally thought he was going to land with the Marlins before Derek Jeter cut ties with the franchise in February:

"“Up until [Derek Jeter] and the Marlins parted ways, I really thought I was going to be a Marlin.”"

Philadelphia Phillies slugger Nick Castellanos might be the reason Derek Jeter left the Miami Marlins

So, is Castellanos the reason Jeter left the Marlins?

Let’s connect some dots, because this feels like something that sounds like an insane stretch but is rooted in actual merit.

Jeter shocked the baseball world when he announced that he was leaving the Marlins, barely two weeks before the MLB lockout ended. At the time, he said that he and the club had shared a vision five years ago, but that their visions no longer aligned:

"“The vision for the future of the franchise is different than the one I signed up to lead.”"

Reading between the lines on this one was easy. Jeter wanted to build a contending team, the Marlins didn’t want to spend.

And less than a month later, Castellanos was a Phillie.

The Marlins were actually a postseason team, albeit briefly, in the shortened 2020 season, and could have built on that spark over the last two offseasons. Instead, they’ve continued to keep their payrolls low, and are coming off a 95-loss 2021 campaign. It’s not hard to see why Jeter, who won five World Series with the powerhouse Yankees of the 90s, became fed up with the Marlins’ decision not to spend to contend.

That the Phillies exceeded the luxury tax (CBT) to sign Castellanos only highlights how ridiculous it was of the Marlins not to. The Phillies are one of six teams over the CBT this season; the Marlins have the sixth-lowest luxury tax commitment in the league. Their $108.5M payroll left them over $121M in spending space before hitting the $230M threshold, more than enough room to match the Phillies’ offer to Castellanos. Instead, they let him go to their division rival, who gladly handed him a huge contract, knowing they’d pay a penalty for doing so.

Remember this, Phillies fans, next time you complain about them missing out on a free agent you wanted.

MLB insider Craig Mish, who has impeccable insight into the Marlins, says Castellanos was never going to happen, which essentially confirms that he was simply a symptom of the larger problem with the Marlins and several other clubs around the league. They feel no pressure to build contending teams, because they make plenty of money already, without spending too much. And as long as MLB doesn’t implement penalties for their most spendthrift teams the way they have for their most extreme spenders, the Marlins and their cheap counterparts will continue down this path.

While it’s likely that Jeter was already frustrated with the Marlins long before his departure, the timing aligns with the hypothesis. Castellanos probably isn’t the only reason Jeter is no longer presiding over loanDepot Park, but it sounds like he could have been the straw that broke the Captain’s back.

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