Thank you all for the advice! I hope this doesn't boil anyone's blood, but I believe I've decided on just getting a battenkill. I am unlikely to "regularly" fish in SW and am not sure that the upper priced stuff is really necessary for my mostly FW fishing. It looks like a good reel for FW, and I've read enough about people doing occasional (and even regular) use in SW for "lighter" stuff (i.e. not huge Tarpon) without problems.
I've also heard that the battenkill, being Orvis, is pretty much a "send it back and they'll pretty much fix it no questions asked" type of thing.
If I get more into SW fishing I'll just invest in a higher-end reel that will last a lifetime.
With any of the reels, I'll take your advice about cleaning, rinsing and peeling the line off after each trip. That seems like a good idea.