Risky free-agent deals could pay off for Marlins

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MIAMI (AP) -- The biggest bill for the Miami Marlins' recent spending spree won't come due until 2015, thanks to a payment plan that those in baseball describe as unusual, creative and risky.

If the approach works, it could help transform the franchise into a financial success story and perennial contender. And if the plan fails, the Marlins could wind up in the same rut as before their move into a new ballpark, saddled with modest crowds and humble payrolls.

A lot depends on whether they win to keep fans coming.

Anticipating bigger crowds and higher revenue when their new ballpark opens in April, the historically thrifty Marlins went shopping for free agents this winter and spent like never before.