SBJ/September 14 - 20, 1998/No Topic Name

Marlins may be ready to rally

The Florida Marlins appear to be steadying themselves.

They've nearly got an owner, and they're keeping the general manager who built them.

Banking on assertions that Boca Raton commodities trader John Henry will purchase the team, Marlins general manager Dave Dombrowski last week agreed to a five-year contract to remain with the club. Sources put Dombrowski's salary at $1 million a year under the new contract, which would make him the highest-paid general manager in baseball.

"It's a comforting feeling, a sense of having some closure,'' said Dombrowski, who has been the Marlins' general manager since their birth. "When you're going through what this franchise has gone through, you're living in a state of flux. We're finally in a position where it appears we've achieved some stability."

Dombrowski's decision likely will produce a domino effect within the Marlins management. None of the Marlins front-office staff — which includes Frank Wren, John Boles and Gary Hughes — was under contract beyond October.

"Before you can extend people's contracts, you have to be able to answer some questions for them,'' said Dombrowski, who made the final round of the Los Angeles Dodgers' general manager search. "They're going to ask who their boss is going to be. They're going to want to know who the GM is going to be. They're going to want to know what type of money we're going to have to work with.

"Now, we can answer those questions."

Dombrowski spent five hours with Henry on the latter's yacht last week and came away confident that Henry will provide the resources for the Marlins to build back toward competitiveness.

The Marlins likely will more than double their payroll into the $20 million to $30 million range, signing a handful of free agents to complement the bushel of young players they obtained in the last year. Payroll probably would not increase beyond that until a new stadium was secured, Dombrowski said.

"We're talking about a growth period now," Dombrowski said. "We're not looking at large free-agent expenditures but with where we are as an organization now."

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