Small group of fans takes aim at Marlins after Arraez trade

MIAMI -- As a sparse crowd headed into loanDepot Park to watch the Marlins face the Phillies on Friday evening, a handful of disgruntled Miami fans remained on the outskirts of the ballpark, yelling passionately in hopes their message would be heard.

The small demonstration of no more than 10 people was organized to convey discontent with the direction of the franchise. There were signs and posters, including one demanding that owner Bruce Sherman sell the team.

"We are only a few here, but the majority of fans are disgusted," said Luis De Armas, a decades-long Marlins fan and the organizer of Friday's protest. "We want to continue coming to the games but not when it remains a losing club. All because of an owner who promised us one thing and did something else."

The Marlins are a season removed from a postseason berth but have the worst record in the National League. They got off to the worst start in their 33-year history by going 0-9, becoming the first major league club to ever begin a season with that many losses the year after a playoff appearance. And they just traded one of the best hitters in baseball in Luis Arraez.

Arraez, a two-time batting champion, was dealt to the San Diego Padres for four prospects last week. He finished eighth in NL MVP voting last year after setting career highs in average (.354), hits (203), home runs (10) and RBIs (69). He also hit for his first career cycle on April 11 last year at Philadelphia.

The trade happened before a game against the Oakland on May 3. Arraez was pulled from Miami's lineup just before the first pitch and could be seen embracing Marlins coaches and teammates before heading off the field, still in uniform.

President of baseball operations Peter Bendix said the team got an offer "that we felt like we couldn't walk past for the long-term benefit of the organization" but declined to call it the start of a rebuild for the Marlins, who are 10-30.

"I'm not gonna put any terminology on it," Bendix said. "I think it's consistent with the message that I've had since my time taking over the organization and baseball operations, which is that we have one eye on the future and one on the present."

Arraez, who was traded by the Minnesota Twins to Miami for Pablo López in January 2023, had previously voiced his desire to remain with the Marlins long term but was never offered a deal. He went to arbitration twice, and the Marlins won both cases.

"We have a lot of different conversations about how to handle a roster and how to handle a player like Luis," Bendix said. "We never got to the point of having those conversations formally. ... We knew that this was going to be a series of difficult decisions to get us to where we wanted to go."

For many longtime fans, it was a painful reminder of how things have gone for nearly a decade.

When the current ownership group headed by Sherman took control of the club after the 2017 season, management immediately traded reigning NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Dee Strange-Gordon for prospects. Star catcher J.T. Realmuto was dealt the following year.

With the exception of 2022 NL Cy Young Award winner Sandy Alcantara, the returns have not worked out for Miami. Pitcher Sixto Sanchez, considered the centerpiece of the Realmuto trade, remains on the roster but is now a reliever and spot starter after missing the past three seasons because of arm injuries.

Before the current owners took over, Marlins fans already had a long history watching star players depart. It began with the dismantling of the 1997 World Series-winning club the following season. The core of the Marlins' second world championship team in 2003 also was traded in subsequent years.

Rafael Benitez, a season-ticket holder since Miami's inaugural 1993 season, nodded in agreement Friday as De Armas ripped up Marlins tickets.

"They make all these trades and we still have one of the worst farm systems in the major leagues. The scouting is awful," Benitez said. "You never make trades in early May. That tells you everything."