It’s interesting at this juncture of the baseball season to revisit the comments made by Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria on the 12-player trade that sent all-star shortstop Jose Reyes and pitchers Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle to the Toronto Blue Jays last November.
Roasted in South Florida for yanking down payroll to less than $40-million (U.S.) from nearly $100-million in the same year as a publicly funded stadium had opened, Loria initially defended the deal as a means of restocking a depleted minor-league system with top-rated prospects.
“I’d like to turn the clock ahead two years from now, and look back at what we did, because we [only] had three or four prospects in our system,” Loria told reporters during spring training in February (the transcript published by the Miami Herald). “We didn’t break up the 1927 Yankees. We broke up a losing ballclub that was going nowhere for two straight years. …You don’t win in this business, and you aren’t successful as a baseball club, unless you have an organization of young players that you can call upon. We didn’t have that.”
It was supposed to take several years to properly evaluate the trade, due to the youth sent Miami’s way, but the verdict may come sooner than later. While both clubs reside in last place in their respective divisions, they have played at the same pace since June 1, the Marlins (43-70) going 29-29, the Blue Jays (53-61) going 30-29.
The Marlins see upside, with room to grow payroll, while the Blue Jays could be handcuffed by large contracts. Buehrle, Reyes and R.A. Dickey (acquired from the New York Mets) will earn a combined $46-million next season; the Marlins’ total payroll this season is $37.2-million.
The trade also brought infielder/outfielder Emilio Bonifacio and catcher John Buck to Toronto, in exchange for shortstop Yunel Escobar, pitchers Henderson Alvarez, Justin Nicolino and Anthony DeSclafani, catcher Jeff Mathis, outfielder Jake Marisnick and shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria.
The Marlins flipped Escobar to the Tampa Bay Rays, while Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos included Buck in a package with two of the club’s best prospects (pitcher Noah Syndergaard and catcher Travis d’Arnaud) to obtain Dickey and catchers Mike Nickeas and Josh Thole from the Mets last December.
Syndergaard, 20, a 6-foot-6, 240-pound Texan taken 38th overall in the 2010 draft, earned a promotion to Double-A this summer, and had won his first five starts, fashioning a 1.98 ERA with 49 strikeouts in 41 innings.
Excluding the veteran Mathis, here’s a progress report on the younger players the Marlins received from the Blue Jays:
Henderson Alvarez, 23, sidelined until early July with a shoulder strain, held opponents to five runs in his past four outings, working at least six innings each time out and stringing together 18 scoreless innings. Marlins GM Michael Hill described Alvarez’s potential in an interview this spring as “front of the rotation.”
The Venezuelan right-hander is 2-1 with a 2.80 ERA in seven starts. Last year in the Blue Jays rotation, he went 9-14 with a 4.85 ERA in 31 starts. Only Buehrle and Dickey are on track to make 30 starts in this year’s rotation.
Jake Marisnick, 22, a 2009 third-rounder, had a breakout season at Double-A, hitting .294 with a .502 slugging percentage, while stealing 11 bases in 67 games. He has speed, range and power potential.
The Marlins promoted Marisnick and outfielder Christian Yelich on the same day in late July, to assess their talent at the big-league level. Marisnick is playing centre field, batting .192 with a homer in 15 games.
Adeiny Hechavarria, a 24-year-old Cuban, lacks plate discipline and is hitting .241 with a .276 on-base percentage (about 20 points better than Bonifacio). He’s considered a plus-defender with range and a strong arm, fielding at a .982 fielding percentage (98 games, seven errors). The question is, will he hit?
Justin Nicolino, a 21-year-old lefty picked in 2010’s second round, formed part of a trio of high-ceiling pitchers in Toronto’s system (with Syndergaard and Aaron Sanchez). With an average fastball and strong changeup, he earned an unexpectedly quick promotion to Double-A, where he’s 2-2 with a 6.05 ERA.
Anthony DeSclafani, a 23-year-old, 6-foot-2 right-hander from the sixth round of the 2011 draft, also made the jump to Double-A, where he’s 3-3 with a 3.99 ERA in nine starts. Seen as a dark horse in the trade, he throws a mid-90s fastball and needs to develop his off-speed repertoire.