Following the 2012 season, the Marlins angered many in the baseball world when they traded away two of their key veterans, Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle, along with three other players to the Toronto Blue Jays in what was widely viewed as just the latest “salary dump trade” for the Miami franchise.
However, less than three years later, the deal is starting to look like a genius move for the Marlins.
The latest sign is the Major League debut of Justin Nicolino on Tuesday, when he pitched seven shutout innings in the Marlins win over the Cincinnati Reds.
At the time of the deal in November 2012, the Marlins were heavily criticised from people both inside and outside of baseball. The trade came only one year after moving into a new stadium that could end up costing local taxpayers $US2.4 billion and here were the Marlins gutting their payroll, again. In addition, the trade was viewed by many as an unfair shift of power in MLB. Many felt the Blue Jays were handed several good players for almost nothing and the rest of the teams in the Marlins’ division suddenly had a team with a $US40-50 million payroll that they could pick on 18-19 times each season for the next few years.
Other owners in MLB were so angry, they refused to eat with Marlins owner Jeff Loria during the owners’ meetings that winter.
Thirty months later, things are starting to look much different.
Three of the players acquired by the Blue Jays are no longer with the team and by the time Reyes and Buehrle are done in Toronto, the Jays will have committed $US160 million for the five players combined.
Meanwhile, Nicolino was one of seven players acquired by the Marlins trade. Of those seven players, four have contributed to the 2015 Marlins and the other three have been traded for key contributors to the 2015 team. The total guaranteed financial commitment by the Marlins to these players is just $US28 million.
Here is the trade:
The exact value of the trade gets a little more complicated. In addition to Anthony DeSclafani, the Marlins also traded a single-A catcher to the Reds for Latos. Also, Jake Marisnick and Jarred Cosart were just two of seven players involved in the trade with the Astros.
Meanwhile, the Blue Jays used John Buck as part of the package to land pitcher R.A. Dickey from the Mets. However, Buck was not considered a key part of that trade and was later flipped to the Pirates in another deal.
The Blue Jays did receive solid production from the players acquired in the trade in the first two years following the deal, but that is starting to wane, and they have yet to make the playoffs. Meanwhile the Marlins are starting to reap the benefits.
On top of that, the Blue Jays committed a lot of money to making the trade.
The Marlins will almost certainly commit money to some or all of the players still with the club as contracts are renewed. But the key is the players are young and cheap and the Marlins have no guaranteed money tied into any of the players and can walk away at any time if needed. The Blue Jays still owe Reyes $US48 million for the next two seasons (including a $US4 million buyout of his option for the 2018 season).
Michael Hill, the Marlins president of baseball operations, recently reflected on the trade with Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald.
“A lot of our current team was put together through that [Toronto] trade,” Hill told the Herald. “Now, hopefully, people will see what we saw when we had to make it.”
Hill also noted that the trade was not about dumping salary but about recognising that the Marlins at the time “weren’t going to be successful” and that the team “had to redo it, hit the reset button.”
It has taken a couple of years to start realising the benefits. But with star slugger Giancarlo Stanton now locked up longterm (a contract that would have been more difficult to pull off if the team was still committed to Reyes and Buehrle), star pitcher Jose Fernandez nearing a return from Tommy John surgery, and several young players starting to contribute, the Marlins appear to have made the right move.
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