It is being widely reported that the Toronto Blue Jays and Miami Marlins have all but finalised a major trade. There is some importance in that little phrase ‘all but’; the deal is not official yet and we have already seen once this winter a solid looking trade fall through at the last minute. But this time it appears that all that need to be completed are player physicals before five players including Mark Buehrle can make plans to go north of the border next April.
Beyond all the immediate impacts of the trade, this move speaks volumes about the direction and philosophy of the two clubs. The Blue Jays are going for broke, possibly literally given the amount of payroll they are taking on. The reports are that it will be in excess of 165 million US dollars which would be the highest figure in franchise history (though I don’t know if the historic payrolls have been adjusted for inflation when making that assessment). It is a massive throw of the dice by GM Alex Anthopoulos; he clearly thinks the Blue Jays have a shot to win the AL East next year, but it will still be very difficult. All four other teams in the division have been to the playoffs at least once in the past three seasons and one would not look at them and say that any of them are no-hopers next year. It is probably the strongest division in baseball right now and I would not say that the Blue Jays are favourites even with this deal.
But that does not mean that it is a bad idea, far from it. The Blue Jays needed to do something like this if they wanted to stand a chance and they have now thrown down a gauntlet. The fans in Toronto can go into next year expecting to compete instead of just hoping to and legitimately hoping to win a title, even if it won’t be easy. Fans are natural optimists and I’m sure most people in Toronto would now consider themselves favourites even if I don’t. That is a great thing for a fan base and for a franchise and because of that this was a great move by Anthopoulos.
But there is another side to that coin as well. Remember the fresh start for the Marlins last winter? The one with the new stadium, the new name, the new jerseys and the new free agent signings? All that lasted a year. Really, it lasted less than a year as the Marlins struggled in 2012. And now they have made it clear that they are not going to stick with it. They are selling off their signings and dumping salary and there is a very good chance that they are not done. Having shown their hand there will be little chance of persuading Giancarlo Stanton to re-sign when his contract is up and the Marlins are likely better off trading him as well. One can see the logic behind all this. The great effort last winter failed and it is time to build long term. But the variation of the Marlins front office is a sight to behold; not often does a team go from buying to selling so much so quickly and this isn’t exactly new territory for them.
And just as the deal was great news for Blue Jays fans, it will be a bitter pill for Marlins fans. Their team have not even tried to make good those free agent signings and are surrendering before the season has even started. As a Kansas City Royals fan I know exactly how that feels and it isn’t pleasant.