Breaking down the huge Toronto-Miami trade

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It’s not official yet, but here are some early thoughts on the trade as it’s currently being presented:

Blue Jays acquire SS Jose Reyes, RHP Josh Johnson, LHP Mark Buehrle, INF-OF Emilio Bonifacio, C John Buck and $4 million from the Marlins for SS Yunel Escobar, RHP Henderson Alvarez, SS Adeiny Hechvarria, LHP Justin Nicolino, OF Jake Marisnick, RHP Anthony DeSclafani and C Jeff Mathis.

– Of course, there’s the obvious thought: the Marlins are a joke and owner Jeffrey Loria needs to be forced out of baseball. That still applies.

That said, strictly as a baseball trade, this seems like a pretty good value for them. Reyes and Buehrle really shouldn’t have any trade value at all; the Marlins were the high bidders for both last year and signed them to backloaded contracts. Any time you can sign a free agent to a long-term deal and then trade him a year later, without eating any salary (though the Marlins did eat $4 million here), you’re coming out ahead. The back half of free agent deals are almost always worse than the front half.

Working under that theory, the only two guys in the deal for the Marlins with significant trade value were Johnson, who is one year away from free agency, and Bonifacio, an arbitration-eligible speedster who is an adequate regular at a few positions but not really exceptional anywhere.

In return, the Marlins are getting a cheap No. 3 or 4 starter in Alvarez, a possible long-term shortstop in Hechevarria, two very good prospects who will both probably crack the bottom half of top 100 lists next spring in Nicolino and Marisnick, a possible bullpen arm in DeSclafani and whatever Escobar brings back in trade. That’s pretty good. Better still if catcher Travis d’Arnaud was in there, but that probably would have required eating more salary than the Marlins were willing to do.

If this were a computer simulation, one could make a great argument that the Marlins came out ahead here. Figuring that they weren’t going to contend in 2013 anyway, they might as well start over, tank next year and then try to load up again come 2014 or ’15.

However, this is no computer simulation. The Marlins just took a big ol’ crap on everyone who has supported them in recent years and ticked off their lone remaining star in Giancarlo Stanton. Also, it’s hard to imagine free agents will line up to sign with them, even if they do offer to overpay, after what happened to Reyes, Buehrle and Heath Bell. It’s going to take more than a year or two to recover from this.

– As for the Blue Jays, well, they obviously got a whole lot better. The rotation now lines up as Johnson, Buehrle, Brandon Morrow, Ricky Romero and probably J.A. Happ. Kyle Drabek will return from Tommy John sometime next year, and the team still has some quality pitching prospects behind them.

The lineup could look like:

SS Reyes
2B Bonifacio
RF Jose Bautista
DH/1B Edwin Encarnacion
1B/DH Adam Lind/free agent
3B Brett Lawrie
CF Colby Rasmus
C J.P. Arencibia
LF Free agent/Rajai Davis

With the newly signed Maicer Izturis leading the bench. The Jays could also trade Arencibia for a Lind replacement or a left fielder and then let top prospect Travis d’Arnaud compete with Buck and Bobby Wilson for catching chores in spring training.

The Jays also have plenty of live arms in relief and Sergio Santos making his way back. There’s no doubt that this team should be a contender. Whether it will be will hinge on keeping the arms healthy, especially Johnson’s. That’s an area in which the Blue Jays have had a lot of difficulties.

As is, the Blue Jays look like pretty good bets to claim one of the AL’s five playoff berths next year and those improved odds come at the expense of the Orioles, Rays and Red Sox.

Jonny Venters is still pitching

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Lefty reliever Jonny Venters was among a handful of players the Rays signed to minor league contracts, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Venters, 32, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2012 and has logged just 27 2/3 innings in the minors in the meantime due to a continuous battle with his elbow. According to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Venters has undergone four — four! — Tommy John surgeries.

When he was healthy, Venters was a fearsome late-game option for the Braves. He posted a 1.95 ERA with 93 strikeouts in 83 innings in 2010, and a 1.84 ERA with 96 strikeouts in 88 innings in 2011. His first-half performance in 2011 earned him a spot on the National League All-Star roster.

Venters has spent the last two years in the Rays’ system and he’ll try to make it a third.