Alex Anthopoulos was in lockdown on Wednesday, dodging rhetorical bouquets and candy-grams from admirers while a 12-player trade with the Miami Marlins worked its way from doctors offices to commissioner’s office to club offices.
It should have been an easy trade to read: Anthopoulos and the Toronto Blue Jays going all-in in the short term; the Marlins sacrificing everything for a better 2015. Or 2016. But it’s never that easy with the Marlins, given the chattering class’s animus toward owner Jeffrey Loria and the promises he made to the citizens of Miami when they built a new ballpark.
That’s them over there; the people with the word SUCKER on their foreheads. The fact is, if the Houston Astros, Kansas City Royals or anybody else does this, it’s a damned shame but not as big a deal. But the game went to bed Wednesday night wondering what the fallout will be; hearing cries of ‘this ain’t right’ from many quarters.
The agent for Josh Johnson, who along with Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes, Emilio Bonifacio and $8-million cash are expected join the Blue Jays when the deal is done, suggested that Anthopoulos, the Blue Jays general manager, might not be finished; that one of the players acquired – maybe his own client – might be flipped to another team.
That would seem to be counterintuitive, even though there is a very real chance that Johnson will explore free-agency after the season and Anthopoulos might be able to parlay Johnson into a younger, more controllable major-league pitching asset or use Johnson to form a multiplayer deal. Anthopoulos’s holdover starters, Brandon Morrow and Ricky Romero, would not bring as much in return.
It’s pure speculation, but Johnson’s agent, Matt Sosnick, is well-regarded within the industry and it is a reflection of how shocked baseball was at the level of financial commitment absorbed by the Blue Jays. It is also a reflection of market reality, because after Zack Greinke, the free-agent pitching market is thin and shockingly overvalued. Johnson is a monster pitcher; he’s also a monster asset. Given the choice, what would you do if you were a GM told you’d just come up short in the the Greinke sweepstakes? Cut a cheque for $90-million over six years to Anibel Sanchez? Or call Double-A?
The beauty of this transaction for the Blue Jays is it makes his team better automatically at a time when the usual American League East powers are fighting advancing age, at least one arm-shredding manager (okay, that’s a cheap shot) and, in the case of the Tampa Bay Rays, the reality that money is slowly closing their window of opportunity.
It also makes Anthopoulos a player in whatever comes next, even if he refuses to get involved in free agency – and all of this before the really silly money is splashed around in free agency, without yielding the Blue Jays’ top pitching prospect, Noah Syndergaard, or either top position player prospect, catcher Travis D’Arnaud or outfielder Anthony Gose.
If you believe in the promise of prospects, then this is an entirely defensible trade by the Marlins, an organization with two World Series rings since the Blue Jays last made the playoffs and an enviable track record of guessing right on young players. They’re also managed by a guy (Mike Redmond) who spent the past two seasons managing in the Blue Jays’ minor-league system and gaining first-hand intelligence about the prospects the team is acquiring.
Friends, it’s not our worry that Jeffrey Loria can’t make that argument, given the stunning turnaround of intentions, coupled with the skepticism surrounding his use of revenue-sharing money.
I’d rather just take the players and run, and hope that the reaction to the trade as a grand slam by Anthopoulos isn’t simply because of the unpopularity of the opposing pitcher.