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Kelly: Bidding farewell to a fantastic Blue Jays team that could have been

It is a peculiarity of the failed, transformative 2012 trade between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Miami Marlins that the only people who thought it was a bad idea at the time were the three men in the middle of it.

Mark Buehrle threw a public fit. Josh Johnson spent so much time shrugging for the cameras, he eventually tore his arm apart. Jose Reyes tossed a couple of grenades over his shoulder at Marlins ownership, but he tried to play the change as positive.

Nearly two years on, Reyes is a little more reflective and a little less positive.

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"When it first happened, I wasn't happy," Reyes said Monday, shortly before the start of the season's final, funereal homestand. "I signed in Miami. I'm supposed to be there for six years. They traded me after one year … But you know [and here a weary shrug] I've put it behind me. I had an unbelievable experience the one year I spent in Miami. I'm happy here because I have a couple of friends from the Dominican Republic. I feel comfortable."

You don't want to read too much into that, but let's read a bunch into it.

On one hand, you have "an unbelievable experience." On the other, you have a place that's, like, okay because a couple of your pals are trapped there as well. This is the difference between adventure camp and sixth-period detention.

Looking back on it now, how's it all worked out in Toronto?

"So far, not so much good stuff has happened," Reyes said. "It's a little disappointing."

Let's try the same question for Buehrle, who was half-running to the preseries pitchers' meeting and didn't seem best pleased at the line of inquiry.

"I had no control. I had no say so in it. It's kind of, 'I'm here, I'm used to it.' This is all I know."

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Which is the sort of thing you'd say about a minimum-security prison two years into a three-year bid.

Do you think you can win in Toronto?

Buehrle, a charmingly irascible speak-to-truth-to-power type who's more charming when he's not standing six inches away, eyeballing you like he's trying to figure out which precise part of your neck to grab so as to best facilitate popping your head off, stopped and narrowed his eyes.

"I think we can. But I thought that the last two years, and I was wrong."

Okay then.

Maybe Reyes is a little more hopeful.

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"Every year, you have to go to spring training expecting to win," Reyes said, repeating the mantra of teams that expect to lose. "We know we need some pieces … we know that. I don't control that. I just do my job."

Well, that's … well … yeah … let's move on.

It's been a long, frequently disappointing season – the second in a row. Nobody's talking in the clubhouse any more. There is no particular mood at all, good or bad. Everyone's just trying to get to the end.

Nonetheless, Reyes and Buehrle were the guys who were supposed to herald a new Golden Age for this ball club. They're beginning to sound like Vladimir and Estragon, only less excited about the future.

Buehrle won't care much. He's got one year left on his deal. At 35, he's aging in reverse. He's baseball's Doctor Who. When the time comes, Buehrle will pack his bags, get used to things somewhere else and pitch until he's 50.

Reyes feels his professional mortality. He's stuck here for a while. He's much antsier: "It's about winning. I'm 31 years old. I'm not getting any younger."

God, don't remind us.

Reyes's salary jumps to $22-million (U.S.) next season. He'll make $66-million over the next three years. He's still a much-better-than-average leadoff man and shortstop when he's healthy.

Hands up everyone who thinks he's going to be healthy.

Of course, the Jays could just eat that money and spend around him.

Hands up everyone who thinks they're going to spend around him.

Sigh. How did we get here from there?

Buehrle, Reyes, et al. began their tenure as the great reimagining of this franchise. The trade was confirmed in the late evening of November 13, 2012. The hours before that, as the names began to swirl online, may have been the most hopeful in the past two decades of Toronto sports history.

Part of that was what seemed like getting something (11 combined all-star appearances) for nothing (prospects and cast-offs).

Part of it was the delicious feeling of putting one over on someone, which never happens around here.

Part of it was surprise at the source of this sudden aspiration – the excessively cautious cheapskates at Rogers.

Most of it was the sense that someone in this city was turning a corner for good. Not coming off the road at a slight angle, hitting the curb and then plowing into a retaining wall. But actually moving in an entirely new and possibly even sustainable direction.

For two years, we were able to live in hope with the squad that was born through that Marlins deal.

"The best teams get there in the end," manager John Gibbons said Monday. He says that a lot. By that measure, this iteration of the Jays wasn't anywhere close to what we'd imagined.

Who knows what they'll be next year, but there are two options: very similar, and therefore doomed; or very different, and therefore having moved on.

That makes this week the chance to say goodbye to the team that came out of what, at the time, seemed like it could be the biggest trade in Blue Jays' history.

It was a great idea, and well worth the risk.

It failed abysmally, as risks often do.

The only mistake would be using this transactional face-plant as an excuse not to try the same thing again.

A slight addendum: Perhaps the next time, we might first ask everyone involved if they're keen on the idea.

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