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Today in Blue Jay History: The Big Trade with the Marlins

Toronto Blue Jays v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images

Fifteen Years Ago:

A.J. Burnett opted out of his Blue Jays contract. In 2006, the Jays signed Burnett to a 5-year, $55 million contract, which included a player opt-out after the third season. Burnett had a 38-26 record in those three seasons and a 3.94 ERA in 81 games, 80 starts. His best season was the third. He went 18-10 with a 4.07 ERA in 34 starts. It was the only season of the three where he didn’t miss time with an injury.

He signed with the Yankees for five years, $82.5 million. We had this poll:

As it turned out, we were right.

He pitched three seasons with the Yankees and had a 34-35 record and a 4.79 ERA. As a Yankee, his last season went 11-11 with a 5.15 ERA in 32 starts. The Yankees traded him (and cash) to the Pirates, where he was much better, going 35-28 with a 3.70 ERA in 87 starts. There was also a season with the Phillies mixed in, where he went 8-18 with a 4.59 ERA. He came back to the Pirates for the 2015 season and retired after.

We took a fair be of glee in his troubles with the Yankees. Sorry, A.J., but when you join the Evil Empire, you must understand we will cheer when the Death Star blows up.

Eleven Years Ago:

The Jays made a massive trade with the Marlins:

As it stands now, the Marlins will send right-hander Josh Johnson, left-hander Mark Buehrle, shortstop Jose Reyes, outfielder Emilio Bonifacio, and catcher John Buck for shortstop Yunel Escobar, infielder Adeiny Hechavarria, right-hander Henderson Alvarez, left-hander Justin Nicolino, outfielder Jake Marisnick, catcher Jeff Mathis, and right-hander Anthony DeSclafani.

This was Alex Anthopoulos’s first big win-now trade. He had made big trades before that, but they were the get rid of big contracts, get prospects, type trades. This trade excited people about the Jays for the first time in years.

The “Do you approve of this trade?” poll yielded 88% yes, 4% no, and 8% unsure (damn fence-sitters).

When I think about the last 10-15 years of trades, this is not one of the most important. The Bautista trade is at the top. But then this one got us thinking the team could win. It didn’t push the needle in a baseball sense, but it did in a public opinion way. It showed the franchise that making a push could excite the fans to come to the park. And it changed Alex from being in a build-up of the minor league system mode to a win-now mode.

Before this trade, Alex talked about having a team with a minor league system that gives us a team that can compete for the long term. After this trade, the farm system became something we used to get older players who could win now. Perhaps he got impatient. Maybe he decided the other way doesn’t work. Nevertheless, it started us down an enjoyable path.

The players we picked up:

  • Josh Johnson was either terrible or hurt. He was so bad that we didn’t give him a qualifying offer after the 2013 season. He didn’t pitch in the majors again.
  • Mark Buehrle started the 2013 season in an awful slump, hitting bottom with a 7.02 ERA after his May 6th start. After that, he improved with ERAs of 3.50 in June, 2.75 in July and 2.70 in August. Unfortunately, we dug too deep a hole to hope to contend that year. Mark pitched for us for three seasons, going 40-28 with a 3.78 ERA. In 2015, he was 15-8 with a 3.81 ERA in 32 starts (198.2 innings, missing 200 innings for the first time since his rookie season), but the team left him off the playoff roster. Mark lasted longer as a Jay than any of the players we got from the Marlins. He deserves more consideration for the Hall of Fame.
  • Jose Reyes wrecked his ankle on April 12th of the 2013 season, missed over two months of baseball, and, when he came back, seemed afraid to push off on that ankle, but he did finish off the season well. Jays fans didn’t love him, and he was traded to the Rockies in the middle of the 2015 season (along with Jesus Tinoco, Miguel Castro, and Jeff Hoffman) for Troy Tulowitzki and LaTroy Hawkins. As a Jay, he hit .289/.334/.404 with 61 steals but played terrible defense. He had one season with the Rockies and three more with the Mets. He played 1877 games in the majors, hitting .283/.334/.427 with 145 home runs and 517 stolen bases.
  • Emilio Bonifacio was awful, defensively and offensively, and we traded him to the Royals for the change they found in their couch cushions. There, he started to play the way we hoped he would play for us. Since then, he’s played for the Cubs, Braves, White Sox, Braves again, and Nationals. He’s the only player from the Marlins who made it to 2020 in the MLB.
  • John Buck was included in the trade for R.A. Dickey. He wasn’t terrific with the Mets, but then he was a better version of not very good than what we got out of J.P. Arencibia. He went from the Mets to the Pirates, then Mariners and Dodgers, but was out of baseball after the 2014 season.

The guys we sent to Florida?

  • Yunel Escobar was flipped to the Rays for Derek Dietrich. He went from the Rays to the Nationals and then the Angels, playing decently wherever he went. He played in 89 games in 2017, and his career ended.
  • Henderson Alvarez pitched parts of 3 seasons with the Marlins, 17-17, with a 3.23 ERA in 51. Injuries have derailed his career. He made 3 starts for the Phillies in 2017. Since then, he’s played in Mexico and Venezuela.
  • Adeiny Hechavarria played five and a half seasons with the Marlins. He was traded to the Rays in the middle of the 2017 season. As a Marlin, he hit .255/.278/.336 in 599 games. Since then, he has been a Pirate, Yankee, Met, and Brave, getting into 27 games with them in 2020. He’s played in Japan for the last couple of years.
  • Jake Marisnick was a Marlin for a season and a bit before being traded to the Astros. He played there for six seasons, winning a World Series. Since then, he’s been with the Mets, Cubs, Padres, Pirates, White Sox, Tigers, and Dodgers. He’s played 877 games, hitting .228/.281/.385 with 65 home runs.
  • Anthony DeSclafani pitched 33 innings for the Marlins in 2014 and then traded to the Reds. He made 112 appearances and 110 starts for them, going 35-37 with a 4.19 ERA. He’s been a Giant the last three seasons, making 54 starts, with a 17-17 record and a 3.99 ERA.
  • Justin Nicolino pitched three seasons for the Marlins. He came up to the major league team in 2015. In his three seasons, he had a 10-13 record and a 4.65 ERA in 50 games, 33 starts. He hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2017.
  • Jeff Mathis played four seasons with the Marlins and hit .195/.252/.292 in 210 games. Since then, he’s played with the Diamondbacks, Rangers and, in 2021, the Braves (backup catchers never retire). In total, he played 17 seasons, hitting .194/.252/.299 in 3015 PA.

It’s too bad we can’t see an alternative timeline where we don’t make that trade. You could play Out of the Park Baseball, starting before the trade and see what happens without the deal. The trade came out of a need to get rid of Escobar after his black eye incident.

Eight Years Ago:

The Jays signed Marco Estrada to a 2-year, $26 million contract. We wondered then if he could give us value for the deal. FanGraphs has him at a value of $23.8 million for 2016 and $20.7 million for 2018, so we can say we got value for the contract.

We signed him to a one-year $13 million extension for 2018. He put up a 5.64 ERA in 28 starts. He pitched five games for the A’s in 2019.