Jose Reyes

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.

Jose Bautista: “I haven’t had to” pay for a meal in Toronto since famous bat flip

Toronto Blue Jays Jose Bautista flips his bat after hitting a three-run home run against the Texas Rangers during the seventh inning in Game 5 of baseball's American League Division Series, Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2015 in Toronto. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
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Arguably the most memorable moment of the 2015 season came in the seventh inning of Game 5 of the ALDS between the Blue Jays and Rangers. The game was tied 3-3, but the Jays were threatening with runners on the corners and two outs. Jose Bautista launched a 1-1 Sam Dyson fastball for a no-doubt tie-breaking three-run home run that would send the Jays into the ALCS to face the eventual world champion Royals.

Bautista didn’t immediately run to first base after hitting the home run. He admired it, looked at Dyson, and then flipped his bat triumphantly. As far as bat flips go, it was a 10 out of 10. Yasiel Puig was proud.

The six-time All-Star admitted “I haven’t had to” pay for a meal in Toronto since that moment in the ALDS, as Jonah Birenbaum notes for The Score. Bautista also served as the assistant coach for musician Drake at the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game. As Drew noted earlier, Bautista had a pretty nice view at the NBA Slam Dunk Contest as well.

The Jays are hopeful to sign Bautista, 35, to a multi-year extension. In six seasons since breaking out with the club in 2010, he has hit .268/.390/.555 with 227 home runs and 582 RBI in 3,604 plate appearances. No one has hit more home runs since the start of the 2010 season, as Miguel Cabrera is the closest at 199. And only Cabrera, Adrian Gonzalez, Robinson Cano, and Albert Pujols have driven in more runs in that span of time. It’s easy to see why, despite his age, the Jays want to keep Bautista around a little while longer.

Dallas Keuchel, Astros did talk long-term contract

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Dallas Keuchel‘s agent Darek Braunecker told MLB Network Radio in early January that he had not engaged in any long-term contract negotiations with the Astros’ front office. Two weeks later, the sides reached a one-year, $7.25 million agreement, avoiding a salary arbitration hearing. So was a bigger financial commitment ever discussed?

Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle has the answer, writing in his offseason review that the “Astros and Keuchel have had substantial talks about extensions [this winter] … but to no avail.”

Keuchel carries all the leverage in the world after winning the 2015 American League Cy Young Award with a 2.48 ERA, 1.017 WHIP, and 216/51 K/BB ratio in 232 innings. He also made three appearances in the postseason to a 2.57 ERA in 14 frames.

Keuchel’s $7.25 million salary for 2016 will be a record for a player in his first year of arbitration eligibility. Locking up some of his free agent years (2019, 2020, 2021, etc.) would likely take a commitment of $120 million or more.

Houston has the 28-year-old left-hander under contractual control through 2018, and it sounds like the plan is to go season-to-season with his salaries.

He’ll remain a huge value to a good-looking Astros team.

Yadier Molina gets cast removed from surgically-repaired thumb

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Yadier Molina underwent surgery to repair a ligament tear in his right thumb shortly after the Cardinals were eliminated from the NLDS by the Cubs, and then he needed a followup procedure two months later.

It’s been an offseason of rest and rehab for the seven-time All-Star and eight-time Gold Glover, though he’s about ready to ramp up the intensity of workouts with the beginning of spring training approaching …

Brayan Pena was signed to a two-year, $5 million free agent contract this winter to provide more reliable depth behind the plate. He’ll be the Cardinals’ starter at catcher come Opening Day if Yadi isn’t quite ready.

Molina started a whopping 131 games behind the plate in 2015.

Jose Fernandez wants $30 million a year, Marlins don’t plan on paying

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You’ve heard the stories by now. Jose Fernandez does not get along with Marlins management and is doubtful to sign a long-term contract with the team.

There’s still time for those relationships to be repaired — Fernandez can’t become a free agent until after the 2018 season — but we also have a monetary issue at play.

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes Sunday that the Marlins are “under the impression” Fernandez and his representatives want $30 million per year on a long-term deal, a figure the Marlins “have no plans to meet.”

If the Marlins won’t pay, Fernandez and his reps will seek that number when the ace right-hander reaches free agency. That could be the same offseason Bryce Harper tries for $500 million.

A friend of Fernandez told Jackson that the 23-year-old native of Cuba was upset about some of the trades the Marlins made last summer and the removal of pitching coach Chuck Hernandez. You probably heard talk of Miami shopping Fernandez this winter, but the asking price was predictably sky-high.

Fernandez has been limited to 19 starts over the last two years because of Tommy John surgery and a biceps injury, but he boasts a stellar 2.40 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, and 10.5 K/9 in 289 career major league frames. He will make $2.8 million in 2016 and carries two more years of arbitration eligibility.

If he can put together a run of 30-start, 200-inning seasons, Fernandez will get that $30 million per year and probably much more.