Loria says bold moves were financial necessity

MIAMI -- Speaking publicly on Monday night for the first time since the season ended, Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria candidly discussed the large turnover of the club's roster since Opening Day 2012.

"Last year, we had a payroll of close to $100 million," said Loria, addressing selected media members in the Diamond Club at Marlins Park. "We lost tens of millions of dollars last year. We had to turn back the clock for the moment. Push the restart button and get these young players in here, and put them together and look at where we are in another year or so."

Before their inaugural season at Marlins Park, the Marlins projected selling 2.4 million tickets. The club had announced 2.2 million tickets sold, but team president David Samson said the actual number was closer to 1.4 million in the retractable-roof building that holds 37,000.

More revenue was anticipated, especially after the splashy free-agent signings of Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell and the hiring of marquee manager Ozzie Guillen. The multiyear contracts of the quartet added up to $201 million.

All four have since been traded or dismissed.

Instead of reaching the playoffs, as hoped, the Marlins went 69-93, marking their second straight last-place finish.

"We really thought it was a very small probability that the off-the-field results of last year would be what they were," Samson said. "We didn't even contemplate it in our worst-case scenario that our revenues would be what they were last year. We miscalculated what walkups would be. We were wrong."

The Marlins were anticipating about 17,000 season tickets sold a year ago, and actually had just above 12,000. Samson expects fewer than 5,000 season-ticket packages to be sold for 2013.

Under the Marlins' current local TV deal, Loria said the team cannot handle a payroll reaching $100 million again.

"It's going to be a function of the revenues that we have," Loria said. "We've built this ballpark because we thought there would be a number of fans coming here down the road. I understand that they are disappointed. That's a natural reaction.

"We are never going to get to $100 million. We don't have the TV contract to do that. We will one day, hopefully."

For the next few years, the Marlins plan on building around a young roster, which features some of the top prospects in the game. Christian Yelich and Jose Fernandez are emerging talents, but both are expected to start the season at Double-A Jacksonville.

Mike Redmond, a former Marlins catcher, has taken over as manager of the youthful squad.

Because 2012 didn't turn out as planned, the organization felt major changes were needed. Now, the club is looking for a fresh start, in hopes of building a contender with young talent.

Loria said he understands the reaction from the fans, and he hopes they give the revised roster a chance to prove itself.

"I'm sorry that we've built this amazing ballpark, and fans are feeling the way they do," he said. "But we did this for a reason. We weren't going anywhere. I think anybody who is a baseball guy, or a baseball person, will realize that after two years that we had to do something. We had to do something quickly, swiftly and bold. I'd like to turn the clock ahead two years from now and look back at what we did."