DALLAS - A year ago LeBron James made his decision.
Soon Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh followed to the Miami Heat.
Now, Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, set to open next season with a new stadium in Little Havana where the Orange Bowl used to sit, is trying to make a similar-sized splash in south Florida.
Closer Heath Bell, a free-agent sign (a three-year $27 million deal) from the San Diego Padres, was introduced at the 110th winter meetings on Monday.
New York Mets free-agent shortstop Jose Reyes is in on-deck circle (a six years, $102 million package).
And could Albert Pujols be next?
Dan Lozano, who represents the St. Louis Cardinals’ free-agent slugger, met with the Marlins Monday.
The Marlins also have offers out to free-agent lefties C.J. Wilson of the Texas Rangers and Mark Buerhle of the Chicago White Sox.
Is there something wrong with this picture when players are leaving New York and maybe Chicago for Miami, which had a team payroll of $56.9 million this season and finished dead last in the National League, averaging 18,942 fans per game (1.47 million total for the season)?
“We hope to draw 2.8 million,” Loria told reporters. “What are the free agents concerned about when we talk to them? Winning.
“The shortstop, which a lot has been written about, is a very exciting young player.”
Reyes is exciting with his four all-star selections, acrobatic fielding and 99 triples and 370 steals in his first nine seasons with the Mets.
But he was not on the field often enough for the cash-strapped Mets. Reyes played 295 games out of a possible 486 the previous three seasons.
And now the Marlins may have another guest — this one uninvited — to their party.
The Securities and Exchange Commission issued subpoenas relating to the $634 million stadium deal the Marlins have with the City of Miami and Miami-Dade County, according to the Miami Herald.
More than three-quarters of the cost of the 37,000-seat stadium is paid by taxpayers, with the SEC looking to see if there have been any violations of federal securities laws.
The Marlins have always been a unique franchise:
They won the World Series in 1997, in their fifth year of existence. Then they dismantled the team with GM Dave Dombrowski running the fire sale and lost 108 games the next season.
They won the Series again in 2003 and had to trade Josh Beckett, after 2005, and Miguel Cabrera after the 2007 because they couldn’t afford to keep them.
Outside of their first season in 1993, the Marlins have drawn more than two million fans only once — 2.36 million in 2003.
“We did what we had to in the past, spent to our revenues,” Marlins president Larry Beinfest told reporters. “Our whole office is energized. It’s time for this organization to play October baseball.”
Beinfest was asked where he expected his $56 million payroll from a year ago would be next season? Would it double?
“We’re here to talk about Heath Bell, I’m not going to get into that,” Beinfest said.
With Reyes soon on board, manager Ozzie Guillen will move Hanley Ramirez from short to third base and try to keep the natural shortstop happy.
Closer Bell, who broke in with the Mets, is an even more confident, power arm with those defenders behind him.
“He’s a tremendous shortstop,” said Bell. “With Hanley at third, Jose at short I can let every ball be hit to that side of the infield and I’ll be OK.”
The Marlins have no problem cooking up recipes for instant success.
It’s staying power over the long haul that they’ve struggled with.