Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria was the media whipping boy during the offseason leading up to the 2013 season. In November of 2012, he oversaw an overhaul of his franchise as the Marlins traded away established veterans Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, John Buck, Jose Reyes, and Emilio Bonifacio for a boat load of prospects and Yunel Escobar to the Toronto Blue Jays, only one year after the team decided to promise their fans they would do whatever it took to win.
The media and baseball fans everywhere thought of the deal as nothing more than a salary dump with the greedy Loria only looking at his own personal interests instead of those of the team. Fans wanted to chase Loria out of his post with pitchforks. No one considered the pieces that the Marlins were getting, just the ones they were losing. Looking back on the deal in the middle of the 2014, it is clear that the Marlins did acquire players that would make an impact in the majors, especially one guy who will be in the rotation for years to come.
In the brief year and a half since the infamous deal, only Buehrle and the injury-prone Reyes are contributing in a Blue Jays uniform. Buehrle is having a career year so far in 2014, while Reyes is struggling to find the consistent stroke that made him a deadly hitter during the early part of his career. Still, it is a piece the Marlins received that is being hailed as the winning part of the deal.
Henderson Alvarez, who was one of the intriguing prospects the Marlins acquired, has been downright filthy in 2014. While the face of the franchise Jose Fernandez is out for the rest of the season, Alvarez has thrived in his new-found role as ace of the rotation. While he only has three wins in 13 starts this year, his 2.56 ERA displays his dominance so far this season.
On Sunday against the Chicago Cubs, Alvarez showed why he is heralded as one of the most promising under-the-radar young phenoms in the game. During a start that ended prematurely due to a freak injury that he sustained while trying to cover first base, Alvarez struck out five batters on the afternoon, which was only two fewer than his season high of seven. He appeared fine before exiting the game, mostly due to precautionary reasons. Before his departure, Alvarez was showcasing why the team is excited with him moving forward.
While Alvarez’s fastball does top out at 94-95, he does not rely on it too much. The 24-year-old would much rather fool a hitter with his sweeping sinker that forces batters to hit measly balls in play. His stuff is absolutely filthy coming out of his hand as the subtle twist in his motion hides the ball just enough to keep the hitters off balance. When Alvarez mixes his late-biting slider with his devastating two-seam fastball, he is unstoppable, as seen on Sunday.
It is not just his array of pitches that makes the Marlins confident that Alvarez will be at the top of their rotation for years to come. The righty’s ability to be efficient on the mound is also appealing, especially in this day and age of protecting a young pitcher’s arm. A team that knows first hand about the effect of a budding pitcher being shelved with an injury, the Marlins are ecstatic that Alvarez can rack up innings (he leads the league in complete games with three) without his pitch count exploding. With Fernandez and Alvarez as the one-two at the top of their rotation for 2015 and beyond, it will be sooner rather than later before the Marlins become a consistent force in the division.
In baseball, when a trade involves prospects, it cannot be judged until years down the road. While it may appear like a steal at the surface, it could make critics go back on their initial thoughts. If Alvarez continues to succeed at his current rate, there will be a number of people that will have to put their foots in their mouths.