Mega-deal makes Toronto Blue Jays instant contenders

Take that John Farrell.

Where’s your dream job now?

By consummating a blockbuster, 12-player trade with the Miami Marlins last night, the Toronto Blue Jays have transformed themselves into bona fide American League East contenders.

Rubbing salt into the wound for Farrell, who rather flippantly fled the Jays for his “dream job” in Beantown last month, is that according to Boston Globe reporter Nick Cafardo, the Red Sox were also in talks with the Marlins.

In case you haven’t heard, Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos has swung a deal (first reported by Foxsports.com) with the Marlins that will see starting pitchers Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle, shortstop Jose Reyes, catcher John Buck and utility player Emilio Bonifacio come to Toronto. Reports also indicate that the Marlins will include $4 million in the package.

In return, Toronto will dispatch shortstop Yunel Escobar, pitcher Henderson Alvarez, veteran catcher Jeff Mathis, promising Cuban infielder Adeiny Hechavarria, outfield prospect Jake Marisnick and pitching prospects Anthony Desclafani and Justin Nicolino to Miami.

Not only does this swap, which is pending approval from the commissioner’s office, increase the Jays’ payroll by approximately $45 million in 2013 – and by more than $165 million over the longer term – it should also catapult the club well above Farrell’s Red Sox in the American League East standings. It also delivers a clear message that Rogers, the Jays’ oft-criticized owners, are willing to open up their wallets to win a championship.

Following a disastrous, 89-loss, 2012 campaign, Anthopoulos made it his priority to improve the Jays’ starting rotation, but he couldn’t have fathomed that he’d be able to add two all-star calibre starters like Johnson and Buehrle in the same deal.

A two-time all-star, Johnson was sidelined for most of 2011 with right shoulder inflammation, but he returned to make 31 starts and record a respectable 3.81 ERA in 2012. Set to make $13.75 million in the final year of his contract in 2013, the six-foot-seven right-hander should be the Jays’ Opening Day starter in April.

And it would be difficult to find a more reliable arm than Buehrle. The 33-year-old lefty has won 13 games in each of his past four seasons and has hurled at least 200 innings in 12 consecutive campaigns. Prior to the 2012 season, he inked a four-year, $58-million pact with the Marlins, but the deal is backloaded, so he’ll be paid a digestible $11 million in 2013.

With Escobar and Hechavarria headed to Florida, Reyes, who secured a six-year, $106-million deal with the Marlins last December, becomes the Jays’ shortstop and leadoff hitter. The exciting 29-year-old won a batting title with the Mets in 2011 and adds speed and spunk to the top of a lineup that relied too heavily on all-or-nothing hitters in 2012. Reyes is also a four-time all-star that has racked up more than 30 stolen bases seven times in his 10-year big league career.

Buck enjoyed his sole all-star season with Toronto in 2010, but the six-foot-two, 230-pound catcher has struggled since inking a three-year, $18-million deal with the Marlins. He hit just .192 in 2012 and is heading into the final year of his contract.

A super utility player, Bonifacio suited up for just 64 games in 2012 due to a knee injury. But the speedy 27-year-old, who registered a .360 on-base percentage and swiped 40 bases in 152 games in 2011, should be healthy by the time spring training begins.

How Anthopoulos was able to acquire five solid big leaguers from the Marlins without surrendering catcher Travis d’Arnaud and pitchers Aaron Sanchez and Noah Syndergaard – three prospects many consider to be the most promising in the organization – is a testament to his negotiating savvy.

After playing with a homophobic slur written in his eye black during a game on September 15, Escobar, who also experienced an off year at the plate, fell out of favour in Toronto. Set to make $5 million in 2013, Escobar is the only player headed to Miami that will make a substantial salary.

Alvarez took a step back in his development this season. He posted a disappointing 9-14 record and a 4.85 ERA, and while he’s just 22, it’s alarming that a pitcher with a fastball that can reach the mid-to-high 90s could only strike out 79 batters in 187-1/3 innings.

Hechavarria made his big league debut to mixed reviews in 2012. In 41 contests, the 23-year-old Cuban proved he’s ready to man a middle infield position defensively, but he also lacked discipline at the plate.

A useful backup catcher, Mathis signed a two-year, $3-million extension with the Jays in August. He’s superior to Buck defensively, but inferior offensively.

Baseball America rates Marisnick and Nicolino as the Jays’ second- and fifth-best prospects respectively. A six-foot-four, 200-pound outfielder, the multi-tooled Marisnick hit just .233 in 55 games after being promoted to AA New Hampshire in 2012. But he’s only 21 and he still has a chance to evolve into a solid big leaguer.

Nicolino starred on the mound in Class-A Lansing alongside Sanchez and Syndergaard this season. The 20-year-old lefty notched 10 wins and a 2.46 ERA in 22 starts. But most scouts believe that he possesses the lowest ceiling of this Lansing trio.

Desclafani was another standout hurler in Class-A Lansing. The hard-throwing, 22-year-old righty won 11 games and posted a 3.37 ERA in 21 starts. Some talent evaluators, however, believe that his future is as a reliever.

This is a mega-deal that will define Anthopoulos’s tenure in Toronto. In the short-term, it’s a lopsided win for the Jays, and Anthopoulos should be applauded for putting himself in a position to capitalize on the Marlins’ fire sale.

The trade has strengthened the Jays’ rotation, made their offence more multi-dimensional and should make them serious contenders in 2013. It also sends a clear message to the club’s playoff starved fan base that its owners are willing to take on significant payroll and are serious about winning a championship.

This trade is also bound to make the club’s managerial post – vacated by Farrell in October – a “dream job” for some highly qualified candidates.

It also sends a message to Farrell that maybe he should’ve stayed in Toronto.

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4 thoughts on “Mega-deal makes Toronto Blue Jays instant contenders

  1. My sentiments exactly. Shall be interesting to see who comes knocking on AA’s door ASKING to manage the Jays next season.

    KNOW THIS: The Yankees are old, the Red Sox are done and there is no way Baltimore will win 93 games with a +7 run differential, again.

    Right now, it’s Tampa and Toronto in the AL East, and spring training can’t come soon enough!

  2. What a great trade. For 19 years we have been rebuilding to build a winner and it’s about time we try a different route. It doesn’t always work (ask NY Mets and Miami), but remember the Jays back in the early 90’s. They had the best and won! If Romero can turn it around the Jays starting 4 can match any starting 4 in MLB and if Bonefasco is healthy, we have 3-4 guys that can steal 30-40 bases (Reyes, Davis, Gose, Bonefasco)

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