Just the other day, I was speaking to someone about how I was convinced the Blue Jays were going to stand pat this offseason. Despite the fact that the club clearly had gaping holes in their roster, my cynical side thought the Blue Jays were going to do anything but make a splash.
Clearly, I was very wrong.
The initial reaction to the trade was one of complete and utter shock.
I’m not speaking in hyperboles here, this transaction affects the entire
landscape of the Toronto Blue Jays. It has huge repercussions at both
the Major League and Minor League level.
It may not have been the largest trade in the terms of players involved, but it certainly was one of the biggest in terms of the calibre of players the Toronto Blue Jays received in return from the Miami Marlins.
Let’s just sit back and think about this for a second … the Blue Jays acquired four All-Stars in one fell swoop from the Marlins. Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Josh Joshnon are all fantastic players. And when healthy, Emilio Bonifacio is a serviceable infielder/outfielder. John Buck is really just there as salary relief.
Upgrading the rotation: Johnson and Buehrle
Straight out of the gate, I really like this trade for the Blue Jays. They immediately upgrade the rotation with two solid starting pitchers in Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson, and they also upgrade significantly at the shortstop position with Jose Reyes.
Not that Buehrle and Johnson are coming to Toronto on the cheap at $11 million and $13.7 million next season respectively, but I think a proponent of this deal really must have hinged on the price of free agent starting pitching.
Odds are that Zack Greinke, Edwin Jackson and Anibal Sanchez were all asking for well above that amount on a multi-year deal. Not to mention the Blue Jays would undoubtedly have to overpay to convince any of those guys to come to Toronto.
So it seems like the trade route was the only viable avenue for the Blue Jays to use to upgrade their starting rotation this offseason without going completely insane with dollars and duration of contracts.
Jose Reyes: the new shortstop
With Jose Reyes, the Blue Jays truly have that dynamic player and a very rare talent. A solid defender, a great hitter and a threat on the basepaths. Not to mention, a prototypical leadoff hitter the Blue Jays have been in need of for a very long time.
I was very surprised to learn this, but @eggshmeg pointed out to me that Jose Reyes is actually a year younger than Yunel Escobar. So the Blue Jays really do upgrade in every way imaginable at the shortstop position.
Here is the caveat of the entire trade for me though; the 2015-2017 years on Jose Reyes’ contract. In 2015, Reyes’ salary will jump to $22 million per year. He’ll only be 34 years old at the end of the contract, but with his history of leg injuries, hopefully Reyes doesn’t turn into yet another albatross contract like Vernon Wells did.
Not to mention, if the Blue Jays are going to be footing Jose Reyes’ salary at $22 million come 2015, wouldn’t it be paramount to spend a little more and upgrade the field to real grass? If they’re going to spend that much, why not spend a little more and protect your asset?
Buck and Bonifacio
I keep forgetting that John Buck was included in the trade, but he is merely salary relief on the part of the Marlins. And with the glut of catchers on the roster, Buck could be as good as gone by Opening Day anyway.
Emilio Bonifacio might not take the starting second baseman’s job away from Maicer Izturis, but Bonifacio is a welcome upgrade on the bench that can not only field multiple positions, but he also has some speed as well.
Bonifacio really is the wild card in this entire trade. He’s under team control through 2014, and when healthy is a legitimate threat on the basepaths. Ideally, I think Emilio Bonifacio and Maicer Izturis could combine for a platoon at second base, or maybe even split time with Rajai Davis in left field.
The fact that Emilio Bonifacio is a switch hitter and can field multiple positions really gives the Blue Jays some much-needed flexibility in the lineup.
Parting with prospects
Of course, in order to get something, you have give something up … and the Blue Jays gave up some good players in this trade. Toronto sent three of their Top 10 prospects over to Miami, in addition to Yunel Escobar, Henderson Alvarez and Jeff Mathis.
Those guys basically get cancelled out with the acquisition of another SS, C and two SP’s, but it’s those prospects that could really come back to bite the Blue Jays. However, that’s the cost of doing business.
Often times the most highly-touted prospects don’t pan out, and sometimes they do come exactly as advertised. But at the end of the day, they’re still prospects … and they won’t be Major League ready for 2-3 years. The players the Blue Jays received from the Miami Marlins are all established Major Leaguers and are ready to make an impact on the roster right now.
And with the wealth of depth in the minors, the Blue Jays could actually afford to part with some of their best prospects. They didn’t have to part with their number one prospect in Travis d’Arnaud, and they still have two of the Lansing Three.
What this trade really means
After a disastrous 2012 season, something drastic needed to be done to improve the roster, and Alex Anthopoulos answered with a very bold move. The Toronto Blue Jays sent a very clear message that they are here to contend.
No one can say for certain whether this blockbuster trade has the potential to be a game-changer like the Fernandez/McGriff for Alomar/Carter was, but with the calibre of players involved, it certainly has the gravity to do just that … to change the game.
The past few seasons, it seems like this regime has been heavily focused on drafting and developing young players. Now that the club is starting to see some of the fruits of their labour, I feel like the Blue Jays shifted gears and placed an emphasis back on the big league squad with this trade.
For the longest time, I just wanted the Blue Jays to do something. Not necessarily just for the sake of it, but at least to give the appearance like they were making an effort to improve the team.
It felt like this team was in a perpetual state of building and rebuilding ever since Alex Anthopoulos took over the helm as General Manager. But in one fell sweep, AA immediately fast forwarded the timeline on contention for the Blue Jays.
And so here we are at a crossroads in the franchise of this team – the Blue Jays could either stand pat and do nothing, or they could take a leap of faith and make a really big move. Although doing the latter may blow up in their face, I respect that the Blue Jays are finally going for it.
Instead of looking ahead into the future and wondering what tomorrow will bring, welcome to today.