For better or worse, the 2013 Toronto Blue Jays are apparently going to look quite a bit like the 2012 Miami Marlins.
Toronto and Miami are working on a blockbuster trade that would send Josh Johnson, Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle north of the border, as first reported by Jon Morosi and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
Proving quite prescient, Morosi suggested that the deal would grow larger when first reporting that Johnson could be heading to Toronto. In the minutes following the initial report on Tuesday afternoon, Rosenthal continued to confirm other Marlins players and Blue Jays players involved in the deal. When the dust cleared, the widely reported deal would send Johnson, Reyes, Buehrle to the Rogers Centre along with catcher John Buck and utility player Emilio Bonifacio. In return, the Marlins would receive pitchers Henderson Alvarez, Anthony DeSclafani and Justin Nicolino, shortstops Adeiny Hechavarria and Yunel Escobar and outfielder Jake Marisnick. Escobar and Alvarez are the only players that will bring any sort of MLB track record to Miami. Escobar, far and away the most accomplished player reportedly bound for Florida, also will bring plenty of baggage, having been suspended during the 2012 season for displaying a homophobic slur in his eye black during a game.
Although Buster Olney of ESPN described the blockbuster deal as "done" on Twitter, neither team immediately confirmed or commented on the reports. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports also tweeted "the blockbuster is agreed to." Speaking on condition of anonymity, a person described as "familiar with the deal" confirmed to The Associated Press that Reyes, Johnson and Buerhle had been dealt.
It seems that almost every player (and manager) who figured prominently in the Marlins' dismal 69-93 2012 campaign (and had a lucrative contract) has been sent packing. The Marlins shipped Hanley Ramirez to the Los Angeles Dodgers during the season and Heath Bell to the Houston Astros during the playoffs.
By possibly picking up All-Star players like Reyes, Johnson and Buehrle, the Jays seem to be the primary beneficiary of the latest Marlins fire sale. The Blue Jays would likely be consummating such a deal in order to make a play for the AL East while the Boston Red Sox are down and the New York Yankees are coming off a turbulent flameout in the postseason. The incoming players in the discussed deal represent a decisive short-term upgrade for Toronto.
The likely motivation for the Marlins is far more cynical. One year after opening a new stadium largely financed by public money and luring a bevy of high-profile free agents, the Marlins have dismantled the roster. Given the talents of the players reportedly coming back as compared to those leaving South Beach, this deal with Toronto seems to be a straightforward salary dump.
As surprise at the scope of the deal transformed into outrage at Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria on Twitter, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wondered if MLB Commissioner Bud Selig would be tempted to step in and nix the deal citing the "best interest clause" of the Major League Agreement, a document ratified in 1921 that created the role of the Commissioner.
Citing the same clause, Matthew Pouliot of HardballTalk called for Selig to go a step further and force Loria out of baseball.
It’s in the best interests of the game that he exit for good," wrote Pouliot after this blockbuster trade was reported. "Commissioner Bud Selig should step in and apply as much pressure as he legally can in order to get Loria to sell."
As noted by Pouliot and others, Loria presided over the dismantling and moving of the Montreal Expos. Even his fellow owners in Montreal accused him of being "engaged in a scheme that had as its object the destruction of baseball in Montreal" in court documents from a 2002 lawsuit.
Barring a series of acquisitions using the money freed up by this reported trade (Josh Hamilton?), the future of the Marlins does not look promising on or off the field. Given the team's struggles with attendance when the roster was stocked with stars in 2012, the ballpark in Little Havana figures to be empty next season if nothing changes. Writing for ESPN The Magazine about the bold moves the Marlins made during the 2011 offseason, Chris Jones predicted all that briefly glittered in Miami would not last.
"You're about to witness the Montreal scenario play itself out again, only on a far grander, even more heartbreaking scale," Jones wrote before Reyes even played his first game in Miami.
With his prediction perhaps proven true, Jones' convictions regarding Loria were stronger than ever.
Along with Jones, Marlins fans and the people of Miami whose tax dollars helped finance the franchise's gaudy ballpark, outfielder Giancarlo Stanton was also not happy about the news.
Of the six players featured on the cover of the Marlins' 2012 media guide, Stanton is the last remaining with the club. Not surprisingly, Jays slugger Jose Bautista felt differently about the reported deal.
Although the Marlins have a history of dramatic breakdown-buildup cycles in their history, Jerry Crasnick of ESPN believes this dismantling of the roster is not the same.
"The damage to the Marlins' "brand" is impossible to calculate. The franchise boldly ripped it up and started fresh after world championships in 1997 and 2003, but things are different this time around," wrote Crasnick in response to the trade reports. "Fans can tolerate slashing and burning if it's done with a dose of conviction or a long-range plan -- or better yet, on the heels of a parade."
Could this deal be part of some long-term vision that Loria and the Marlins have yet to share with fans? Could the Marlins succeed without the high-priced players who loaded down last season with such high expectations? Will the Blue Jays necessarily succeed with the players who were a part of such a terrible 2012 season in Miami?
What do you think of the trade?