MIAMI - The Florida Marlins have sliced their payroll in half, and their star power by even more.
Within a four-hour span Thursday night, the Marlins completed two big deals in which they sent away four key players.
Slugger Carlos Delgado was traded to the New York Mets for first baseman Mike Jacobs and two minor leaguers. Then, ace Josh Beckett, third baseman Mike Lowell and reliever Guillermo Mota went to the Boston Red Sox for four prospects.
Both deals were reported and confirmed earlier in the week, but not consummated until Thanksgiving. The trades trimmed more than $27 million of the $60 million payroll the Marlins carried on Opening Day last season, opening a fiscally conscious era for a franchise with two World Series titles in the past nine years.
Some call it a fire sale, and it resembles what the Marlins did after winning the 1997 World Series. Virtually all of the talent - high-priced or otherwise - was sent away, and Florida won only 54 games in 1998.
But earlier this week, Marlins president David Samson denied that Florida is following the same path as the franchise did then, saying these trades and other potential moves will represent a "market correction" - a term general manager Larry Beinfest also used Thursday night after the deal with Boston was finalized.
"This is following through on the market correction and a lot of mixed emotions," Beinfest said. "It's a business, but we've had a lot of history with a lot of these guys. The recognition of what they've done is not going to be lost."
Florida's cost-cutting stems largely from frustration over the lack of financing for a new ballpark. The Marlins received permission from the commissioner's office to explore a move after the 2007 season because of the failure to get government support for a 38,000-seat stadium.
Florida will give the Mets $7 million to help cover the $48 million Delgado is owed over the next three seasons.
"One of our goals this off- season was to acquire a big bat for the middle of our lineup," Mets general manager Omar Minaya said. "Carlos Delgado certainly fits that description."
The Mets-Marlins deal needed approval by the commissioner's office because more than $1 million is changing hands.
In the deal with Boston, Florida got top shortstop prospect Hanley Ramirez, plus minor league pitchers Harvey Garcia, Anibal Sanchez and Jesus Delgado.
Delgado nearly joined the Mets last season before signing a $52 million, four-year deal with Florida.
Beckett, 25, is eligible for salary arbitration and expected to make between $4 to 5 million next season - but has been slowed by blister problems and late-season shoulder soreness. He can become a free agent after the 2007 season.
Lowell, 31, won a Gold Glove this year but his offense dropped off drastically and he is owed $9 million in '06 and '07.
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