This has basically nothing to do with the Tigers – though we’ll get to potential implications at the end – but from what we hear there is a massive, massive trade brewing between the Florida Marlins and the Toronto Blue Jays. Since you know – presumably – a little something about the Florida Marlins, you have probably assumed “FIRE SALE” in flaming capital letters, and you’re right.
Looks like the Marlins are trading away former and future Cy Young candidate Josh Johnson and shortstop Jose Reyes. But wait, that’s not all! The Blue Jays are also getting lefty Mark Buehrle. And today, for a limited time only, the package comes with catcher John Buck and Emilio Bonifacio! That’s 20 percent of the team and $40.75 million in 2013 salary, even if we don’t include Bonifacio’s arbitration cash.
The Blue Jays are getting a few major leaguers in shortstop Yunel Escobar. starter Henderson Alvarez and catcher Jeff Mathis (two guys that won’t be missed with the pieces that the Blue Jays are adding). 3 of the Blue Jays top 10 prospects (according to Baseball America as of a week ago) are heading to Miami: #2 Jake Marisnick, #5 Justin Nicolino and #8 Adeiny Hechevarria as well as second-tier prospect Anthony DeSclafani.
You don’t need to research all those prospects and try to carefully weight and analyze what’s going on here: this trade looks an awful lot like the one between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Boston Red Sox – a sort of single trade I can’t remember seeing before, a fire sale in one. For LA and now Toronto, the effect is sort of like buying somebody else’s character in World of Warcraft – an immediate entry into the upper echelon for someone who has decided that they’re sick of waiting. It might work – at the major league level this is an upgrade at all five of those positions for the Blue Jays – but there is always going to be a reason that somebody is willing or even eager to sell (other than simply not wanting to win). There are some guys in this deal being paid more than their worth for several more years and Buehrle and Reyes also have contracts that rapidly ramp up from here on out.
I have a passing interest in seeing whether this works out for the Blue Jays (and Dodgers) and what becomes of the Marlins (and Red Sox) but for the most part I’m interested in the signals that it sends. First – the Marlins are going back to square one and back to their old penny pinching ways. Second – the Blue Jays have basically filled all of their needs at once and added a good $35 million in payroll this season alone. I think any suggestion that the Blue Jays were going to be major players in any free agent competition will be muted. This also really does vault Toronto into at least serious competition for the AL East or a Wild Card spot. That does not directly affect Detroit – the AL Central remains bad enough that whoever wins it in 2013 will probably need fewer wins than the second Wild Card. What it may do is put extra pressure on the other teams in the AL East to improve their rosters this offseason. Now, I don’t know if Boston is even going to try to compete in 2013 – we’ll see. But, Tampa Bay might figure they have to spend at least a little on an outfielder. The Yankees might decide to push off their goal of luxury tax avoidance until for at least another year. And Baltimore, a team that was already expected to be active, might become this year’s Angels. It may not get more difficult for the Tigers to make the playoffs – but it might get more difficult for them to make roster additions on favorable terms.