Let’s revisit that trade made in November, 2012 for a moment.
Consider the main pieces in the deal – Mark Buerhle, Josh Johnson, Emilio Bonifacio, John Buck, and Jose Reyes all headed north to Toronto while the Fish received Henderson Alvarez, Jake Marisnick, Adeiny Hechavarria, Anthony DeSclafani, Justin Nicolino, Jeff Mathis, and Yunel Escobar.
The Marlins contended they got younger and cheaper, and cleared their books of what they thought were bad investments. The total was $163.75M invested in salaries through 2018, including Jose Reyes’ $98M deal.
Of the ex-Marlins pitching for the Blue Jays, only one is actually still doing so – Buerhle. He is 10-6 with a 2.86 ERA and continues to put up very good numbers despite his age (35) – but he also costs $19M this season. Meanwhile, the Marlins have an all-star in Henderson Alvarez who is putting up similar numbers (7-5 with a 2.62 ERA) but is nearly a decade younger (24) and costs a fraction of what Buerhle makes ($525K).
Josh Johnson ended up with the Padres, but is currently out with his 2nd Tommy John surgery. At 30, there is still time for him to make a solid recovery but at $8M, this would have been disastrous for the Marlins. Pick any Marlin currently pitching and you will see a much greater ROI. In fact, DeSclafani (aka “Disco”) has made a couple of starts and may get a longer look down the stretch here.
John Buck, after bouncing around with the Mets and Pirates last season, ended up with the Mariners this year – only to be released. He has currently signed a minor league deal with the Angels. His production never matched up with the deal he signed with the Marlins and it didn’t take teams long to see that prove true as well. Signing Jarrod Saltalamacchia to a three year deal has proven to be more valuable moving forward as Salty brings his championship experience and is 7 years younger than Buck. Not to mention, Jeff Mathis has added a solid backup catcher that has handled the young pitching staff very well as a result of that trade.
Emilio Bonifacio is currently playing for the Cubs and there were rumors the Marlins were thinking of pulling a deal to bring him back to Miami to man 2B. That said, Bonifacio is due $2.5M this year and is hitting .263 with 13 SBs and a .306 OBP. He has bounced around from Toronto, KC, and now the Cubs in his days away from Miami. He offers value as a utility player – the kind of situation that he was placed into here in Miami.
Jose Reyes was the linchpin in this deal as his all-star status and experience as a batting champion made his $98M deal comprehensible. Perhaps the Marlins outbid for his services because after having had an injury-riddled 2013, he’s back and has solid numbers (.278 AVG with 8HRs, 32RBIs, 19SBs, and .329 OBP) but he is due $16M for this season and is locked up through 2018 at increasing values. By comparison, Hechavarria shows a better defensive glove than Reyes and his hitting, although not as comparable, is progressing. Hech sports a .271 AVG with 0HRs, 19RBIs, 5SBs, and a .295 OBP and costs $2.2M (compared to Bonifacio’s numbers would be a pretty good value as well). Hech is younger than Reyes (25) and much less costlier.
As far as financials are concerned, the Marlins would be better spent (pun intended) placing their dollars at premium positions. They are getting maximum value from Giancarlo Stanton at $6.5M this season and considering how much was on the books for the other contracts, wouldn’t it make more sense instead to throw $98M at Stanton over Reyes?
If the Marlins didn’t make that deal with the Blue Jays, they would maybe have improved but then again, maybe not. The Blue Jays were instantly picked to win the AL East and instead had one of their worst seasons in a while. Sure, Reyes being injured had something to do with that but even at this point, it is hard to say how much the Blue Jays are benefitting from his presence alone and where else could they allocate that $16M in payroll?
The Marlins got younger, they became more talented, and – of course – they got cheaper. Last season’s 100 loss season was not indicative of the talent level of the team as much as this year’s team has begun to shine with some tweaks here and there (McGehee, Saltalamacchia, Jones, etc.). Of the players dealt to the Blue Jays, only Buerhle and Reyes remain – it cost them a stable of their most talented prospects, too. Alvarez is an all-star and has picked up the ace title while Jose Fernandez is down. Hechavarria is an everyday SS on the defensive side – possibly contending for a Gold Glove one day – and has made positive strides at the plate.
In the meantime, Marisnick, Nicolino, and DeSclafani continue to gain experience and are on course for major league careers. Marisnick is defensively the Marlins best OF and his offense is continuing to improve. DeSclafani has gotten some starts at the major league level and had an impressive debut against the Dodgers on the road to build upon.
Also, the Marlins were able to trade Escobar to the Rays for Derek Dietrich who, despite his defensive gaffs this year at 2B, has shown tremendous promise as a potential everyday 2B. Dietrich has power from the left side of the plate and plays smart and can help generate offense.
All in all, it may be time to revisit this trade as a true watershed moment for the Marlins. If they can parlay this into a long term deal for Stanton and build a winning team around him, this may have been the best path towards achieving that goal. There is a lot of talent on the Marlins that is 25 years old or younger which means the future is bright. The cost of retaining this talent will come, but at least the Marlins can make decisions about internal players instead of trying to grab overpriced free agents like they tried in that fateful offseason in 2011 – which erupted into a fire sale of 2012. At least, that is what the knee-jerk reaction was back then. Perhaps that was the wrong reaction after all.