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The Next Great Trade: Toronto, Miami, The AL East, And Your Boston Red Sox

What the Blue Jays blockbuster with Miami means for them, for the AL East, and for the Red Sox off-season


By now you've heard about the huge Marlins/Blue Jays deal that went down last night. As of this writing it has yet to be finalized by the commissioner's office, but all reports indicate it will be (and may be by the time you read these words). In short, this trade hands Toronto some good players. To wit:

  • Jose Reyes (5 years, $96 million remaining on his contract)
  • Josh Johnson (1 year, $11 million remaining)
  • Mark Buehrle (3 years, $48 million remaining)

There are assorted other bits headed north (Emilio Bonifacio, John Buck, $4 million from Miami to off-set the salary disparity) but those three guys are the big gets. And really, for as all-around decent as Buehrle is, Reyes and Johnson are the truly desirable pieces. Reyes is one of the best hitting shortstops in baseball and Johnson, when he's on (which he wasn't last year) and healthy, is a top of the rotation ace. Neither is without warts as both players have had injury issues in the past, and Johnson saw his K rate and walk rate and thus effectiveness go the wrong way last season yet, here is what the Globe's Nick Cafardo had to say about this trade.

This move separates the Jays from the Red Sox. And the Yankees and Orioles also must be wondering what hit them. [...] the Jays are serious about changing their image. General manager Alex Anthopoulos has been wheeling and dealing since the season ended. He traded manager John Farrell to the Red Sox for shortstop Mike Aviles and then flipped Aviles and Yan Gomes to the Indians for reliever Esmil Rogers.

Buehrle and Johnson should give Toronto’s rotation a huge boost. Buehrle threw 200 innings for the 12th straight season while Johnson is one of the best pitchers in baseball when he’s on. He had a career-worst 3.81 ERA last season. Reyes is an exciting player who should mix well with sluggers Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. Meanwhile, the Red Sox have signed backup catcher David Ross.

Mr. Cafardo follows that up by going on for eight paragraphs about John Henry and his financial situation. So yeah. Anyway. The implication is clear: the Blue Jays wanted to win and the Red Sox didn't. Or don't. Or something. More than that, even, the Blue Jays are now better than the Red Sox, a fact that I'm not entirely certain is, in fact, a fact. And anyway it's a silly argument because the off-season has just begun, but then why pay attention to such details when one can just condemn the Red Sox and knock off early to catch a Skyfall matinee?

My point is that even with Reyes and Johnson in the fold, handing the Jays the division is probably premature on November 14th. Remember when the Red Sox signed Carl Crawford eight seconds after trading for Adrian Gonzalez? We were all planning the parade route but things didn't quite go the way they were expected to. Make no mistake, the Jays are a better team now than they were before this deal, but considering all their problems last season, problems which aren't going away after this trade, adding two very good players and a slightly above average one isn't going to put Toronto into first place. And even if it did, the Red Sox certainly have enough time to respond should they choose to do so.

Getting beyond the sky-is-falling hyperbole, one of the things that makes this deal especially interesting for the Red Sox is that the Marlins have pushed back their window to contending for at least two if not three seasons. That is going to impact other players they have on their roster. In the Armchair GM series we ran a few weeks back here at OTM, I focused my entry around one particular Marlins player. I think you know where this is going. Here's what I wrote.

[Giancarlo Stanton is] 22 years old this season. He'll be 23 next. He's seven months older than Matt Barnes, a year and a half older than [Garin] Cecchini, and a year and three months younger than [Brandon] Workman. Last year in Miami he slugged .608. On the road it was .629. Over his career, which started when he was 20, he's hit .279/.350/.553. Imagine what he'd do in Boston between the ages of 23 and 26 (though hopefully the Red Sox could extend him beyond that.) It could be sick. It would be sick. But sick in a good way. The best way.

But he's not just a slugger. He's learning to get on base, he has very little platoon split, and he's a good fielder. He's the total package.

What this trade says loud and clear is that the Marlins aren't going to contend. Not next season and not the season after that. Giancarlo Stanton won't be a free agent until 2017, five seasons from now, but given the trade, the current state of the Marlins roster and that their path into contention, if you were Giancarlo Stanton, would you sign an extension with Miami? I understand money talks and teams have pre-arbitration players like Stanton over a proverbial barrel so this isn't all about 'want.' Sometimes when the money is offered you take it because you'd be a fool not to.

One other thing we know is that in modern baseball, players don't need to attain free agency to get expensive. Slug .600 for long enough and the money will get silly even during arbitration years. The Marlins, clearly, don't want to pay players salaries when they're not winning. Or really ever.

We already know Stanton isn't pleased with this deal presumably for what it means to his chances to win in the near term. How can I be sure?

That kind of tells the story.

The Marlins under Loria are a travesty and, as Dave Cameron of Fan Graphs asked, "if you can’t keep a 22-year-old superstar, then what’s the point of any of this?" which is of course totally correct. But forget about the Marlins for a moment. Stanton is young and amazing and now his team is dumping players. Does yesterday's trade mean he's available? Well he's probably more available now than he was 48 hours ago. The cost would still be extreme, but it's certainly worth looking in to. If there is a player in baseball not named Trout or Harper who is worth trading the farm for, it's Stanton. This could be the Red Sox opportunity to add a premium player before the prime of his career on par with those names just mentioned. Will they trade him? Probably not, but now don't you have to ask? And prod?

You do, because of what yesterday's trade says about the direction of the franchise, and for what it revealed as far as Stanton's feelings on the matter. But there's one more reason. When writing my Armchair GM piece, I gave three reasons the Marlins might be amenable to dealing Stanton. The first two were standard, but now, in light of yesterday's trade, the third rings truer than back when I wrote it:

The Marlins are kinda crazy.

Time to find out exactly how crazy they really are.