The Marlins have been the most aggressive team in wooing free agency and they've been able to do that not only because the team is readying to open a new ballpark, but also because the new stadium was built with a sweetheart of a deal from the city of Miami that has cost the team relatively little. That deal, though, is now being investigated by the SEC -- not the one with Georgia and LSU, but the big one, the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission.
The Miami Herald reports the SEC has opened what it called a "wide-ranging investigation" into the Marlins' ballpark deal with the city of Miami and Miami-Dade County. The city and county have until Jan. 6 to "deliver everything from minutes of meetings between government leaders and Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria and Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, to records of Marlins finances dating back to 2007." The SEC also wants documents about stadium parking garages built by the city government.
The city and county are paying for nearly 80 percent of the $634 million stadium. The subpoenas focus, the report says, on the Marlins trying to determine the team's ability to pay for the financing of the stadium. Last year, the Marlins' financial records were leaked and they showed that the team had received the most money in Major League Baseball from its revenue-sharing system, while not investing it back into the team. The team said it was financial strapped and needed help from the city and county to build the stadium, which it ultimately received.
The subpoenas, the report says, say:
"We are trying to determine whether there have been any violations of federal securities laws. The investigation and the subpoena do not mean that we have concluded that Miami-Dade County or anyone else has broken the law."
The city is already under a two-year investigation by the SEC for bond dealings. The newspaper says that case has already cost the city $1.4 million.
The deal with the city for the stadium has been controversial from the start, leading to a court fight in 2009 to stop construction of the stadium and the recall of Miami mayor Carlos Alvarez, a proponent of the stadium.
The stadium is scheduled to be ready for opening day 2012, with the Marlins and Cardinals playing the first game of the season at the new stadium.
Marlins vice president PJ Loyello told the Palm Beach Post's Joe Capozzi that the probe would have "no affect whatsoever on our roster plans," when asked if the investigation could slow the team's pursuit of the top free agents on the market.
The Marlins released this statement on Saturday (via MLB.com):
Yes, we are aware of the investigation that the SEC is conducting on the issuance of the county's and city's stadium and parking bonds. Of course we will fully cooperate with the SEC's investigation as needed and assist in whatever way possible. Because this is an on-going matter, it is not appropriate to comment further.For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.