TORONTO – That hazy feeling the morning after a big night is likely something a lot of Toronto Blue Jays fans woke up with Wednesday, some surely wondering if what they think happened really did, and being in a better state of mind to give recent events a sober second thought.
The pending blockbuster with the Miami Marlins that will send Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes, Emilio Bonifacio and John Buck north isn’t likely to be announced until Wednesday afternoon at the earliest, with some suggestions indicating all the necessary protocols and approvals may very well drag into Thursday.
But as the initial shock and awe from the biggest transaction in franchise history in terms of scale and financial commitments begins to ease, here some things to mull over while matters get finalized:
** With the massive jump in payroll and future commitments taken on, the Blue Jays have set themselves up to run with baseball’s upper class for years to come. They now have $82 million (all figures US) guaranteed to just nine players in 2014, and $76.75 million earmarked for six players in 2015, and will need a payroll of $120 million or more to adequately support that.
** The Blue Jays have never had a leadoff hitter as dynamic as Reyes and he’s likely the club’s most rounded talent since Roberto Alomar. That’s some heady praise, and it’s worth noting that he’s also the team’s priciest commitment ever. Reyes is due $10 million in 2013, $16 million in ’14 and then $22 million in each of the following three years, when he’ll be 32, 33 and 34. There’s also a club option for ’18 with a $4 million buyout.
** What must Reyes and Buehrle be thinking right now? As free agents, they signed up with the Marlins last fall thinking their futures were stabilized through their own decision-making. Now they’ve both been uprooted with no say in the matter, moving from the tax-haven of Florida to heavily-taxed Ontario. Some soothing on that front will no doubt be needed.
** While the Blue Jays didn’t surrender anyone in this deal to make you cringe, losing Henderson Alvarez strips off a layer of depth from the starting staff. Johnson and Buehrle are set to join Brandon Morrow, Ricky Romero and likely J.A. Happ in a formidable rotation, but right now there’s not much behind them in the event of injury. Chad Jenkins and Deck McGuire probably slot in as the sixth and seventh arms, and beyond that there are just kids and injured guys (Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison, both unlikely to factor much this year). This is an area that needs to be addressed, at minimum through six-year free agents (Justin Germano is already one pickup), to ensure more injuries next year don’t hobble the club.
** Speaking of depth, the initial thinking was that the arrival of Buck and the presence of waiver claim Bobby Wilson may set up the possibility of J.P. Arencibia being flipped for more help while opening up an eventual path for Travis d’Arnaud. While that may yet happen to either bulk up more on the mound or perhaps get help for left field, Buck would certainly make a fine backup and bat off the bench behind Arencibia, while d’Arnaud developed at triple-A Buffalo and sat there as injury insurance.
** How will the turf at Rogers Centre impact Reyes and his troublesome hamstrings? While the 29-year-old played in 160 games for the Marlins last season, it was the first time since 2008 he didn’t miss significant time. All the running he does bears watching on the rug, which takes more of a toll on players’ legs than natural grass.
** Speaking of grass, now that Rogers co-owns Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment and its three venues – the Air Canada Centre, the Ricoh Coliseum and BMO Field – couldn’t some of the other events at the dome be diverted to other arms of the business so a natural surface survive a full season?
** If the Blue Jays don’t end up re-signing Johnson, a free agent next fall, they should at minimum end up with a compensatory draft pick to help replenish the farm system. They’d have to offer the 28-year-old a qualifying offer for that, and barring a total collapse or significant injury on his part, it’s hard to imagine them not extending one. The Blue Jays also own the No. 10 pick in the 2013 draft, the reward for 2012’s misery.
** GM Alex Anthopoulos had shown interest in each of the players acquired before and the seeds of this deal were likely planted prior to the trade deadline, when the Marlins first floated the availability of Johnson. But pulling off such a deal is no simple task and would have required input from all arms of the organization plus ownership, making it better suited for the off-season.
** Once the trade deadline passed last July 31 with only the bullpen additions of Steve Delabar and Brad Lincoln, there was so much concern about the clubhouse that then manager John Farrell held a meeting with a few team leaders to try and avoid a letdown. But the acquisition of cheap bullpen help makes so much more sense now, as does the timing of going all-in.
"There was a disappointment last year with one, how we finished, but also a little bit of how close we were at the all-star break and there was a bit of us hoping for something big and it didn’t happen," said closer Casey Janssen. "Maybe Alex knew last year wasn’t the time to put on the gas and this off-season was when he was going to do it. By doing something like this, it’s a humongous step in being the playoff and World Series team we want to be."
** How much of a factor was Mike Redmond’s move to the Marlins a factor in this deal? Redmond managed both Jake Marisnick and Justin Nicolino in the Blue Jays system the past two seasons and would have had a read on other prospects likely discussed in the deal.