In a deal no one saw coming — and one that everyone should have seen given the Miami Marlins’ history — Miami has agreed to send Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, John Buck and Emilio Bonifacioto the Toronto Blue Jays in a 12-player mega-swap that not only sheds more than $175 million, but also has far reaching future implications for both franchises.
Immediately, this trade thrusts the Blue Jays into contention in the already loaded AL East. And it allows the Blue Jays to acquire several above-average or better players without having to overpay them to move north of the border. Needless to say, this type of gamble with its hefty price tag could end the career of GM Alex Anthopoulos rather quickly if it turns sour.
Reyes, 29, still has several prime years left in his career, but his recent history of injury-marred seasons — 2012 was the first year he topped more than 134 games since 2008 — forces Toronto to assume some of the long term risks the Marlins gambled on just last season.
He’s still owed $96 million (including the $4 million buyout) through the end of 2017. Assuming he averages 4.5 wins for the next three years, followed by two four-win seasons, Reyes should be worth just under $125 million. And as long as he doesn’t lose too many games to injury during that time, the Blue Jays should come out ahead with his contract.
Buehrle’s no longer a number two, but more of a solid three or four. His K-rate spiked last season in his first and only in the in NL and should regress back to somewhere in the high 4.00s next season. He has three years and $48 million left and should come close to equaling, if not slightly exceeding, that much in term of his on field production. Durability does have value.
Johnson, who turns 29 in January, rebounded nicely after missing most of 2011 due to shoulder inflammation, though he did show some signs of regression. His strikeout rate — 7.76 K.9 — was his lowest since 2006, and his walk rate — 3.06 BB/9 — the highest since 2007.
He’s only signed for 2013, so the risk is minimal at this point. And at the very worst, assuming that he’s healthy, he should not have a problem matching his four-win season next year.
Buck, who is owed $6 million in 2013, is coming off of the worst season of his career, hitting just .192/.297/.347 in 398 plate appearances. He’s a fringe everyday player at this point, but draws a decent amount of walks — 11.1% since 2011 — and hits for enough to power to be a useful bat off the bench.
Bonifacio, much to his credit, has developed into a solid everyday player, though he may be better suited for a super-utility role. He’ll likely start the year at second for the Jays and could serve as a decent number two or nine hitter who’s willing to take a walk.
Going the other way are Yunel Escobar, Adeiny Hechavarria, Henderson Alvarez, Justin Nicolino, Anthony DeSclafani and Jake Marisnick.
Escobar ‘s showed flashes of being an All-Star-type performer in the past, but he’s sandwiched a solid 2011 showing with two disappointing seasons. Toronto was gnawing at the bit to deal the starting shortstop — homophobic slurs will do that to a player — and is still young enough, 30, to have two or three solid seasons.
Hechavarria is a plus-defender at short, but his bat likely won’t develop into anything close to league average. Historically, he’s shown below-average plate discipline in the minors, which doesn’t bode well for his offensive success at the big league level. At best, he’s maybe a 2.5-win player.
Alvarez posted the lowest K-rate, 3.80 K/9, in baseball. He’s still young enough (22), generates a lot of groundballs (57% in 2012) and has shown better strikeout numbers in the minors. And like Buerhle, he should see an uptick just moving to the NL. He could develop into a decent number four or just as easily end up in the bullpen, and it’s all going to come down to the Ks.
Nicolo is a young left-hander that shown a fairly advanced feel for pitching. In 124.1 innings in A-ball this season, he averaged nearly one punch out per inning while walking just 21. He’s got front-of-the-rotation-type potential. But he definitely has to get past the injury nexus. And don’t be surprised if Miami pushes him to Double-A early in 2013.
DeSclafini was the Jays’ sixth round pick in 2011 out of the University of Florida. He’s a solidly built right-hander who was bit old, 22, for A-ball. He showed solid command, which isn’t a surprise given his polished collegiate background, but his lack of strikeouts, 6.7 K/9, is already a concern. He’s a lower mid-level prospect at best.
I wrote about Marisnick way back in February as a prospect to watch, writing that his peak could be a “solid .290/.340/.460 hitter.”
He held his own in High-A this year (.263/.349/.451 and his total production was 27% better than the league average), but struggled quite a bit in a 55-game stint in Double-A (.233/.286/.336). He’s still young, 21, and needs another repeat at Double-A. But the tools — solid eye, good pop, and speed — are there. I’m still a believer.
In the end,the Blue Jays gave up two solid prospects — Nicolo and Marisnick — but acquired enough help, both short and long term, to help them contend in the tough AL East without taking on any unreasonable contracts. And don’t underestimate how difficult it’s been historically for Toronto to sign premier free agents either.
As for the Marlins, well, this could be far more reaching than a lot of people may think. Sure, they shed a ton of payroll. But after signing Reyes, Buerhle, Heath Bell and manager Ozzie Guillen last season and subsequently dealing them. Why the hell would a free agent — or even a younger player — want to sign with this team, this ownership?
Update: I just saw Jeff Mathis was included in the deal. He’s an all-glove, no bat backstop. This year he hit .218/.249/.393, and according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, it was the best offensive season of his career, despite being 30% below the league average.
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