The American League East just got even stronger, if you can believe that to be possible. The Toronto Blue Jays made themselves an instant force with one big blow, landing major talent from the Miami Marlins. The Jays are coming off just a 73 win season in 2012 and have already let manager John Farrell go to the Boston Red Sox. However, they have filled 2 gaps in their starting rotation and added a sparkplug shortstop in Jose Reyes. They have also received catcher John Buck, back for his second go-around with the club, and Emilio Bonifacio.
Let's start with the pitching. Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle are two guys that Toronto can immediately move to the front end of the rotation. Johnson has the talent to be a legitimate ace and he has shown that ability when he lead the league in ERA and ERA+ (2.30, 180) in 2010. The big question surrounding Johnson is his health and durability. He has only managed to throw 200+ innings once in his 8 year career. He is coming off a decent season in 2012 in which he had a 3.81 ERA and 104 ERA+ in 191.1 innings. The ability to be a 6+ WAR pitcher is there (2009 & 2010) for Johnson. The only question, once again, is his health and durability. However, durability is not a question for the other rotation piece Alex Anthopoulos picked up, crafty lefty Mark Buehrle. Buehrle returns to the American League after just one season in the senior circuit and is heading into his age 34 season. He has thrown at least 200 innings in a whopping 12 straight seasons, with his most serious injury being a day-to-day cut from opening a mayonnaise jar. He has been extremely consistent with his production as well. He has never had a season with an ERA over 5 and just one season with an ERA over 4.28, with his career mark at 3.82. He also has had just one season (4.99 ERA, 95 ERA+) with an ERA+ of under 100. He will however give up his share of base hits despite tossing 2 career no hitters, one of which being a perfect game. He averages 234 hits per season. His command is very good, walking an average of 5.4% of hitters compared to the league average of 8.6%. When it's all set and done, the Blue Jays should be very pleased with these two additions to their starting rotation.
Offensively, Toronto has added some nice pieces as well. They have added two elite base-stealers to go along with Rajai Davis (40 SBs in 3 of his last 4 seasons). Reyes is coming off a 40 stolen base season while Bonifacio is coming off a 30 steal season. There's no question that the Jays now have the ability to cause havoc on the base paths night in and night out. However, despite this speed and talent, there are some question marks. With Reyes, he has struggled to consistently stay on the field throughout his career. From 2009-2011 he played in 36, 133 and 126 games respectively. However he is coming off a 160 game season in 2012, which is a good sign for where his health stand heading into 2013. Reyes can swing the bat as well, with a career line of .291/.342/.440. He is also one season removed from winning a National League batting title with a .337 average. Reyes has great tools as well defensively with a rocket for an arm, however he has struggled to be consistent. He has committed at least 15 errors at shortstop the past three seasons and has a career defensive runs saved total of -18 runs while coming off his career worst defensive season (-17) in 2012. He has also had a negative UZR over the past four seasons, with his 2012 mark at -2.8. As for Bonifacio, the question is getting on base. He owns just a .329 OBP, which has hindered his stolen base opportunites in the past. He is coming off a tough year in which he played just 64 games and hit .258/.330/.316 with 30 steals in 33 attempts. The Blue Jays are hoping Emilio can return to his break-out season of 2011 that saw him hit .296/.360/.393 with 40 steals in 51 tries. The Blue Jays also were able to snag veteran and former all-star backstop, John Buck. Buck is a guy who can backup J.P. Arencibia or fill in at DH here and there if needed. He had the best season of his career back in 2010 with the Jays, finishing at .281/.314/.489 while hitting 20 long balls. However, he has declined the past two seasons and is coming off a campain in which he hit .192/.297/.347 and 12 home runs in 106 games played. Considering where the Blue Jays finished last year, their fan base should be very excited to see this trade occur. Any team who can add Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes, Emilio Bonifacio and John Buck all in one trade has definitely improved for the upcoming season. -Nick Rabasco
What a season it has been for the Miami Marlins. An offseason that provided a state-of-the-art, publicly funded stadium, brand new uniforms, a re-branding of the franchise, star player signings, and the most obnoxious structure in sports sent unprecedented excitement throughout a notoriously poor baseball community. Then, the regular season started. The Marlins went 8-14 in the first month and new manager Ozzie Guillen (hired to appeal to the Hispanic/Latino Miami population) outraged the entire city with his remarks regarding his admiration of Fidel Castro, which resulted in a five game suspension. The Marlins would continue to struggle and finished with a worse record (69-93) than in 2011, despite having a payroll $44 million more in 2012.
It's clear 2012 was a season to forget for the Marlins, which prompted this major transaction. The two big major league players heading to South Beach are Yunel Escobar and Henderson Alvarez. Escobar, seemingly the model of inconsistency, suffered a horrendous offensive campaign with a 75 OPS+ and whose attitude resulted in a suspension following writing a homophobic slur on his eyeblack. Escobar has flashed his potential before (4+ WAR in 2009, 2011) but with his current makeup issues, one has to wonder if he'll ever return to that level of production. Alvarez, basically a replacement level starter in 2012 (.1 WAR) faced a steep decline from his solid rookie season. His superb K/BB rate in 2011 of 5.00 decreased dramatically to just 1.46 as he saw he BB rate increase and K rate decline. Not necessarily a good sign going forward for any pitcher. At this point, he should just be an innings eater for the Fish.
Among the minor leaguers the Marlins are receiving include highly-touted outfielder Jake Marisnick, infielder Adeiny Hechavarria, and lefty Justin Nicolino. According to Baseball America, Marisnick is the team's second best prospect with claims of five tool potential. Although he only hit .249/.321/.399 this year, he has plus speed that he utilizes well in center field. He does have some swing n' miss in his game (100 K's), but his strength should at least allow him to have average power if the average does not come along. Hechavarria is among the best defensive shortstops in the minors, and is adept to making both the routine and flashy plays thanks to his cannon for an arm. His hitting ability remains suspect as his triple-A numbers were inflated by playing in hitter friendly Las Vegas and had just a .645 OPS in the majors. As for Nicolino, he profiles a decent mid to back end of the rotation option for the Fish in the near future. He is the classic soft tossing lefty that hits his spots on a routine basis (a la Jamie Moyer) and pitched very well (2.46 ERA, 1.5 BB/9, 8.6 K/9) in high A Lansing.
However, arguably the biggest prize of all for the Marlins is their newfound financial freedom, saving $160+ million in commitments over the next several seasons. This money could be used to reinvest in the free agent market (something I highly doubt in respect to last year's signings being a complete flop, but still possible) or could be used to lock up talent to long term deals such as 23 year old Giancarlo Stanton (158 OPS+, 5.4 WAR, and league leading .608 SLG). Even that could be in question given Stanton's immediate reaction following the trade, possibly discouraging him from staying in Miami long term. Now normally, trades that dumps unreasonable contracts and are able acquire cheap, young, talent is usually a clear win. Yet, it is not that cut and dry, given the circumstances surrounding the Marlins spending spree last year and the current state of their fan base. After the dismantling of World Series Championship teams and alienation of the baseball community on numerous occasions, 2012 was supposed to be a redemption for past mistakes and failures by ownership. This move only underscores previously ingrained thoughts that the current management group will not allow this team to be successful. Loria's clear ineptitude toward running a franchise has become flat out embarrassing and his continued mistakes have become laughable (unless you are a Marlins fan, my condolences). Don't get me wrong, I completely agree that if mistakes are made and the opportunity arises to wipe that slate clean, take advantage of it. Yet, it seems unlikely that Loria and the front office will reinvest that money into the on-field product given their previous history. At some point, for Marlins fans and just baseball fans alike, this act is getting old. -Aidan Flynn
Winners: Blue Jays: Toronto was able to add an all-star caliber shortstop, and two very solid pitching options that can fortify an injured riddled rotation in 2013. One concern going forward is the health of both the acquired players and the team in general, but on paper the Jays look to be major contenders for the American League East Division Championship.
Losers: Miami Marlins: Miami was able to hit the reset button, but have basically forfeited the 2013 season and the next several years in general. Lack of trust to reinvest money into the on-field product will have long-term repercussions on baseball in Miami. Do not be surprised if owner Jeffrey Loria is forced to sell the team in the near future. The alienation of the fans and its lack of desire to stay competitive makes this trade a loss for the Fish.