The New York Yankees have their own issues to deal with this offseason and they will not pay particular attention to what other teams do in a reactionary way. It will however be difficult to ignore the major haul the Toronto Blue Jays pulled off with MLB’s most embarrassing franchise, the Miami Marlins, yesterday afternoon. The trade has significant implications in the landscape of the American League East and the Yankees chances of repeating as division champions.
The Blue Jays received right-handed starter Josh Johnson, lefty starter Mark Buehrle, shortstop Jose Reyes, catcher John Buck and second baseman Emilio Bonifacio plus $4 million to offset the close to $165 million in guaranteed salary coming north. The Blue Jays, though not necessarily stingy with their payroll, apparently found a cash box buried below home plate in Rogers Centre after the season ended. General manager Alex Anthopoulos obviously deserves some credit for pulling this deal off but the Marlins really handed them a pretty nice lot of players in one fell swoop. Watching the Marlins purge the players one by one would have been less dramatic, so the trade is pretty amazing in that it required just the two teams for so many players.
The Marlins received a mix of MLB talent (loosely named) and a set of minor league prospects — Yunel Escobar, Adeiny Hechavarria, Henderson Alvarez, Justin Nicolino, Jeff Mathis, Jake Marisnick and Anthony DeSclafani. Nicolino, Hechavarria and Marisnick are considered good prospects, but the deal had one intention — salary dump.
The Blue Jays instantly gain one starter who can be an above average arm if he can stay healthy in Johnson and another solid rotation member in Buehrle, who has tossed at least 200 innings in each of his last 12 MLB seasons. Add Brendon Morrow, who suffered from injuries for a better part of this season and Ricky Romero who can’t possibly be as bad as he pitched this season and the Blue Jays have a very formidable rotation.
The addition of Reyes and Bonifacio at the top of the order makes this an incredibly interesting offense now balanced with great speed and immense power with Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Colby Rasmus in the middle of the lineup ready to drive in the newcomers.
Of course, like any other move there are chances this could blow up in the Blue Jays face. Johnson is one year removed from the 2011 season largely lost to back issues. This year he went 8-14 this season with a 3.81 ERA. He has just one year left on his contract worth $13.75 million, so this part of the deal could be seen as a risk worth taking knowing they do not have an investment beyond this season and Johnson was one of the National League’s best pitchers before he was injured in the 2011 season.
Buehrle, 33-years-old, has many miles on his left arm and there are three years left on his deal. He’s not a flashy pitcher, but is very consistent and it’s his ability to eat innings and keep his team close in games which makes him an attractive rotation member. But, he is in his declining stages, so it will be interesting how he holds up at the back end of his remaining seasons in Toronto.
Reyes, while mostly healthy for the last few seasons, could find the turf at Rogers Centre an issue on his troublesome hamstrings. The same worry can be placed on Bonifacio who missed time this season with a sprained thumb and a sprained knee ended his season in August.
In all the deal makes the Blue Jays a definite threat in the AL East, a division in which a case can be made that each team now has a good shot of reaching the postseason. The Yankees while in the midst of payroll stability will be more than talented enough to compete for the division crown. The wild card winning Baltimore Orioles will be able to spend more this offseason to fill in any gaps they have heading into 2013. The Boston Red Sox look to wipe away two seasons of disappointment and still have a solid base to work with and cash to make adjustments. The Tampa Bay Rays, the only team which will be below the $100 million payroll mark in the AL East, still has arguably the best pitching staff in the division and manager Joe Maddon is among the best at working with less.
Again, the Yankees will not necessarily be reactionary in their moves and they don’t have to be. But in the back of Yankees general manager Brian Cashman’s mind he’ll feel the pressure of one more team becoming stiffer competition in 2013, while hoping his plans are enough to keep the Yankees at the top of the AL East.