It seems as though the Toronto Blue Jays will have plenty to be thankful for this holiday season. In what has developed very rapidly the Miami Marlins are reportedly trading Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson and others to the Blue Jays in return for Yunel Escobar and several top level prospects.
The move gives the Blue Jays a speed threat in Reyes at the top of a lineup. Last season, Toronto already had plenty of pop with the always steady Jose Bautista and the arrival of Edwin Encarnacion. The addition of Buehrle and Johnson helps stabilize an underachieving but potentially devastating rotation.
Theoretically, this move should significantly increase the Blue Jays' chances in the always competitive AL East. However, Toronto should not begin making plans for a ticker tape parade just yet as each player will be bringing over more than just clothes in their baggage.
In a blockbuster deal with many big names involved, none are bigger and come with a larger price tag than Reyes. It was just last offseason when the Marlins inked Reyes to a 6 year $106 million contract.
A huge contract for one player with premier talent can potentially benefit your team, but comes at a significant risk. In this case, the question for Toronto isn't whether or not Reyes will perform well, the question is whether or not he will actually be on the field to display his talents.
Prior to this past season, Reyes hadn't reached over 135 games in a season since 2008. He managed to stay healthy enough last season to play in 160 games for the Marlins so the Blue Jays may be getting him at his healthiest, but he isn't getting any younger.
In fact, Reyes will turn 30 next season and very well may be creeping past his prime. Reyes relies on his speed—an attribute which tends to fade as players get older. He had 40 stolen bases last year which was still good for fifth in all of baseball. However, the last time Reyes played in 160 games, he had nearly double that.
I could easily attack Josh Johnson for many of the same health risks as I did for Reyes. However, even if Johnson stays healthy there is no guarantee he will even be effective.
Johnson is coming of a season in which he finished 8-14 and posted his the second worst ERA of his career. He just posted his worst K/9 since his rookie season and a WHIP over 1.0. His recent lack of dominance when healthy in the NL would be a major red flag for his success in the switch to the AL.
The effects on a pitcher coming from the NL to the AL and vice-versa have been on display for years. For example, A.J. Burnett pitched back-to-back seasons with an ERA over 5.00 for the New York Yankees. In one season with the Pittsburgh Pirates, his ERA dropped to 3.50 and posted better marks across the board than Johnson. The Blue Jays cannot afford Johnson to come to the AL East and pitch to the level that Burnett did while he was there.
Mark Buehrle has had great success in his career in MLB. He has flourished in the past pitching in the AL and his career numbers are more than respectable. The problem for the Blue Jays is his numbers would be fantastic if he never had to face an AL East opponent.
Buehrle has struggled mightily against just about every team he will face on a regular basis next season. His best numbers come against the Baltimore Orioles in which he has a career 2.83 ERA, however many of those starts came against the bottom dwelling Orioles and not the newly invigorated Buck Showalter-led Os.
To top it all off are Buehrle's career numbers against the team that won the division last season. Against the New York Yankees, Buehrle has a 1-8 record with an ERA of 6.38. The Yankees are batting .333 in 12 starts against Buerhle.
Even if Buerhle projects to be the Blue Jays No. 3 or 4 pitcher, those numbers will have to improve quickly.
It may not seem like baseball is a sport that relies on team chemistry considering how individualistic the game actually plays out, but there is a level of importance of having built a certain team bonding that helps over the course of a grueling 162 game season.
If there was a veteran manager already in place in Toronto that could help form the relationships between the old faces and the new faces, I could see a major deal like this becoming a grand success. Unfortunately the Blue Jays currently are without a manager and their previous one now resides in a division rivals uniform.
It takes time to adapt to a new environment and new teammates. If the players are getting to know each other at the same time as the manager is getting to know them, there may be too much going on to focus on the task at hand.
It is possible that everything just clicks right away and the Blue Jays hit the field running but a slow start in April would not be surprising and that is when the critics love to come out and play.
Half of the 2012 MLB playoff teams ranked in the bottom half of the league in team salaries. The Baltimore Orioles were one of the top story lines of this past season. The Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay Rays have made repeat playoff appearances with some of the lowest budgets in all of baseball.
The New York Yankees are finding it difficult to win it all with team of overpaid aging veterans that are locking money for years, preventing them from improving in the ways they would like. Red Sox attempted to build their team by acquiring big name free agents and that crashed and burned in less than two years leading to their own version of a blockbuster trade.
There is no right way to build your team, but if you pretend to be a big market team in attempt to catch lightning in a bottle and it fails, then the ramification that follows could be shocking; just ask the Miami Marlins.