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On Second Thought: The Marlins/Blue Jays Mega-Trade

After a couple of years where the Toronto Blue Jays were lauded for the moves made by general manager Alex Anthopolous, the biggest feather in his cap came in November of 2012. That was when the Blue Jays, who were supposedly on the cusp of finally making some noise in the AL East, decided to throw their usual salary caution to the wind in a 12-player deal with the Miami Marlins. In one fell swoop, the Blue Jays added five Major League players to bolster their roster, while the Marlins received disgruntled shortstop Yunel Escobar, five young players that varied in their potential impacts at the Major League level and Jeff Mathis.

The trade was heavily argued, noting that for really no top prospect of note (At the time, the Blue Jays had blue chippers Travis d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard) the Jays got a handful of above average players that put them in position to win immediately. The Marlins were blamed for it being a salary dump more than anything else, and a year after opening their brand new stadium in Miami, the team suddenly had only one star to build around in Giancarlo Stanton. And he wasn’t exactly happy about it.

But 18 months later, what if the giant trade actually turned into a win for the Marlins? Amazingly, a closer look at the deal shows that. Even after so many horrible seasons in South Florida (and the worst possible luck with Tommy John surgery for Jose Fernandez) the 2014 Marlins have had a great start to their season. On top of that, they have many players to look forward to coming up through their ranks, including the players they received in their deal with Toronto.

Let’s take a look at where those players are now, and whether or not the Blue Jays truly won their deal with the Marlins. (You can look back at my initial thoughts on the trades for the Blue Jays and the Marlins. Hooray for hindsight.) All stats are current heading into Tuesday’s games.

Toronto gets:

SS Jose Reyes
2013: 93 G, 419 PA, .296/.353/.427, 10 HR, 58 R, 15 SB, 2.2 fWAR
2014: 22 G, 100 PA, .213/.290/.393, 3 HR, 19 R, 5 SB, 0.3 fWAR

The Blue Jays got somewhat of a vintage Reyes season in 2013. This included Reyes missing 59 games, mostly due to a severe sprain of his left ankle only two weeks into the season. While it was the most games he had missed since 2009 and he came off playing in 160 games in 2012, it was somewhat of a lost season for Reyes, and was the biggest representation of what became a nightmarish season for the Jays. So far in 2014, Reyes has gotten off to an auspicious start, pulling his hamstring in the first game of the season, going on the DL and then being a non-factor since coming off of it.

Oh, and did I mention he is slated to make $72 million over the remaining four years of his contract, and $90 million if his 2018 option somehow gets picked up? The Jays knew they were taking on a crazy contract situation with Reyes, but they were hoping he’d get somewhat close to recouping some of that value. So far, he really hasn’t gotten close.

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SP Josh Johnson
2013: 2-8, 6.28 ERA (4.62 FIP), 16 GS, 81.1 IP, 83 K, 30 BB, 15 HR, .356 BABIP, 0.5 fWAR
2014 (Padres): Out for season (Tommy John surgery)

Johnson was a sweetener in the deal in many ways. He was in the final year of his contract and was coming off a good 2012 after a down 2011. If anything, the Blue Jays were hoping they got a guy who would turn into a bargaining chip at the trade deadline, if not an outright contributor should they make a playoff run.

Instead, Johnson made two trips to the disabled list and was incredibly ineffective for the Blue Jays, save his strikeout rate being above one per inning. The forearm tightness that put him on the DL in August led to the removal of bone spurs in his elbow, which then led to the San Diego Padres looking for Johnson to bounce back in their haven of a ballpark in 2014.

Instead, elbow issues persisted through Spring Training, and before he could even take the hill as a Padre, Johnson went under the knife for a second Tommy John surgery. While the Padres did spend $8M to see if Johnson’s arm was worth a flier, a shrewd vesting option for 2015 will see the team pay Johnson only $4M for his services thanks to him not having seven starts this year.

Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

SP Mark Buehrle
2013: 12-10, 4.15 ERA (4.10 FIP), 33 GS, 203.2 IP, 139 K, 51 BB, 24 HR, .305 BABIP, 2.5 fWAR
2014: 7-1, 2.04 ERA (3.25 FIP), 8 GS, 53 IP, 31 K, 17 BB, 1 HR, .287 BABIP, 1.2 fWAR

Ho hum, another slightly above-average year from Buerhle in 2013, what with the 200 innings, ERA just over 4, BABIP just over the magic mark of .300 and peripherals to match. He’s about as good an innings eater as you’re going to get.

He’s off to a terrific start in 2014, and while he’s pitching way over his head thanks to peripherals like his low strikeout and home run totals, his BABIP is similar to 2013, his walk rate is a bit higher but not by much, and he’s on pace once more for 200 innings. When the Blue Jays made this trade, they were hoping that Buehrle would just keep on Buehrle-ing. He’s done that and then some this year, with his $14.5 million annual contract through 2015 looking like a great deal for both sides.

C John Buck
2013 (Mets/Pirates): 110 G, 431 PA, .222/.288/.365, 15 HR, 39 R, .262 BABIP, 1.6 fWAR
2014 (Mariners): 8 G, 30 PA, .259/.333/.333, 0 HR, 3 R, .318 BABIP, 0.0 fWAR

With J.P. Arencibia not working out and the team probably still stinging from not holding onto Mike Napoli after the incredible Vernon Wells trade, the return of John Buck might have been nice to see from both sides, especially considering Buck’s career year came with Toronto in 2010. However, he had barely gotten his passport renewed before he was packaged with d’Arnaud and Noah Syndegaard for 2012 NL Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey.

Buck had a great start in 2013 before falling off completely, and now looks like someone who will toil around the Majors sniping backup jobs until they dry up.

Meanwhile, Dickey was merely a league-average pitcher, not the Cy Young Award winner the Jays were hoping for when they gave up two of their top prospects for him. If you think of this in terms of Buck being replaced by Dickey, it’s a step up for sure. However, considering what they gave up, even if it’s just Syndegaard, the Mets look like they will probably win that trade.

Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

UT Emilio Bonifacio
2013 (Blue Jays/Royals): 136 G, 461 PA, .243/.295/.331, 3 HR, 54 R, 28 SB, .312 BABIP, 0.6 fWAR
2014 (Cubs): 34 G, 151 PA, .312/.366/.377, 0 HR, 22 R, 11 SB, .394 BABIP, 1.2 fWAR

Nope, you’re not seeing things. In a third less plate appearances, Bonifacio has accumulated twice as much value as his 2013 season, where Toronto hoped he would fill the hole at second base they had since trading Aaron Hill. Instead, he was absolutely horrible for the team and was traded to Kansas City after the non-waiver deadline.

Why is he suddenly killing it in 2014? Well, for starters, an improved eye at the plate. Add to that a sharp increase in both line drive and ground ball rates (where he can beat them out) and a sharp decrease in fly balls and you have a player who has truly turned it around on offense to add to his already good base running and defensive skill-set. A great example of a change of scenery and lowered expectations coming together.

About Tim Livingston

Tim has worked for over a decade in media, including two years as the communications coordinator and broadcaster for the Dunedin Blue Jays. He is currently the Director of Broadcasting for the Sonoma Stompers and is pursuing a Master's degree in data analytics. When he's not doing that, you can find him behind the microphone on various podcasts, fighting game tournaments and even pro wrestling shows.