The Miami Marlins have shipped a big chunk of their starting lineup to Canada, completing one of the biggest trades in team history with the Toronto Blue Jays. The team will get a slew of minor leaguers and other spare parts in return, making this deal possibly a bigger fire sale than those that occurred after the 1997 or 2005 seasons.
The Marlins traded pitchers Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle, along with shortstop Jose Reyes, a person familiar with the agreement said. The person confirmed the trade to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the teams weren't officially commenting.
Infielder Emilio Bonifacio and catcher John Buck also went to Toronto in exchange for shortstops Yunel Escobar and Adeiny Hechavarria, pitcher Henderson Alvarez, minor league pitchers Justin Nicolino and Anthony DeSclafani, and minor league center fielder Jake Marisnick. Fox Sports and ESPN have also reported the deal. The players involved must undergo physicals before the trade becomes final.
The Marlins signed Reyes and Buehrle to long-term deals last winter as part of a huge spending spree in advance of the opening of Marlins Park in 2012. The team grossly underperformed, finishing 69-93 and in last place in the NL East, sparking the current roster shakeup that will surely go down as one of the biggest fire sales in baseball history.
The fire sale of 2012 began in the middle of the season, when the team shipped former franchise centerpiece Hanley Ramirez to the Dodgers for pitcher Nathan Eovaldi and a minor leaguer. The move freed up millions of dollars in salary owed to Ramirez in 2013 and 2014. The team also traded pitcher Anibal Sanchez and infielder Omar Infante in July for more prospects.
The salary dump continued in October, when the team shipped Bell, the third major signee of last winter, to Arizona.
Instead of opening the 2013 season with a payroll above $100 million (as the team did in 2012), the Marlins could be spending less than $30 million on its roster next season.
The players the Marlins got in return for Johnson, Buehrle, and Reyes (all three former All-Stars) are nowhere near the quality they sent to Toronto (though some of the prospects could develop into major talents). This is clearly a salary-dumping move, aimed at reducing payroll costs for a team that few would have expected to compete for a playoff spot in 2013 anyway.
Reyes has $96 million left on a deal expiring in 2018. Buehrle has $52 million remaining on a deal expiring in 2015.
Escobar hit .253 with 9 home runs last season, but he is more renowned for his glove than his bat. Hechavarria hit .254 in 41 games with the Blue Jays last season, his first year at the major league level.
Alvarez went 9-14 with a 4.85 ERA last season, his first full season at the big league level. Nicolini was a second round pick of Toronto in the 2010 draft, and he spent 2012 at Single A Lansing. DeSclafani also played at Single A Lansing in 2012. Marisnick is a former third-round who finished 2012 in Double A New Hampshire.
It should be noted that new Marlins manager Mike Redmond managed in the Blue Jays' minor league system for the past two seasons, so he will be very familiar with many of the prospects the Marlins are to receive. That probably will not make Marlins fans feel any better about the fire sale, though.
All that is left from the core that was expected to keep the Marlins in playoff contention for years to come is slugging outfielder Giancarlo Stanton. In a tweet that is sure to be deleted, Stanton said when news broke, "Alright, I'm pissed off!!! Plain & Simple"
It's going to be a long 2013 season for the Marlins, and this trade could kill the team's fan base in a way that the 1997 or 2005 fire sales could not. The Marlins could be playing many home games in a mostly empty Marlins Park next season and beyond.