The Marlins and Jays pulled off the trade of the winter. I guess we can all go home now, because shy of Josh Hamilton getting $300 million ain't nuthin' gonna top that. In case you haven't heard the full breakdown:
Whew. The Toronto Blue Jays-Marlins have a whole new look, including a much more stable rotation, a solidified shortstop position (and possibly middle infield depending on the futures of Bonifacio and Macier Izturis), and a slightly depleted farm system. The Marlins have a lot more money and an actual farm system instead of a cardboard cutout of a farm system.
While this will be talked about all winter, let's not forget about the other trade that happened just a few short months ago. You know, the one that the Dodgers used to win the NL West, the one that everyone figured they'd be talking about forever. In case you somehow forgot:
Red Sox get:
Rubby De La Rosa
The trade was quickly lauded as an excellent move for the Sox. The Dodgers certainly got what they wanted out of the deal, a whole bunch of who-cares-what-they're-making star players of varying skill, but the Red Sox being able to dump pretty much every big money contract on their books in one move was widely seen as an excellent decision. I suspect history shall not be so kind to the Marlins.
Unfortunately, I don't think that history is right on this one. Let's look at some numbers!
The Toronto Blue Jays acquired
$44.75 million in 2013 commitments (assuming an Arb 2 salary of $2.5 million for Bonifacio in 2013) (minus $4 million in cash)
$165.75 in total commitments
The Los Angeles Dodgers acquired
$61.5 million in 2013 commitments (minus $12 million in cash)
$262 million in total commitments
The money isn't actually that far off. Certainly the Dodgers took quite a bit more in total money, but that's mainly due to the fact that Johnson and Buck are free agents after 2013. After that time, the Jays will still owe $39 million to Buerhle over two years, and $82 million to Reyes over four years. The Dodgers of course dug themselves in deep with Gonzalez and Crawford, but Beckett represents a substantial chunk of that money.
But of course the money isn't the only thing. Let's look at the players:
The Jays acquired:
Josh Johnson (2012 WAR: 3.8. Average full season WAR: 4.5)
Mark Buerhle (2012 WAR: 2.1. Average full season WAR: 4)
Jose Reyes (2012 WAR: 4.5. Average full season WAR: 5)
Emilio Bonifacio (2012 WAR: 0.6)
John Buck (2012 WAR: 1.2. Average full season WAR: 1.3)
The Dodgers acquired:
Adrian Gonzalez (2012 WAR: 3.6. Average full season WAR: 4.5)
Carl Crawford (2012 WAR: 0.4. Average full season WAR: 4)
Josh Beckett (2012 WAR: 2.3. Average full season WAR: 4)
Nick Punto (2012 WAR: 0.5)
With the crazy assumption that each player performs more or less to their career averages in the near future, the Dodgers paid $61.5 million for about 13 WAR, and the Jays paid $44.75 million for about 15 WAR. It looks like the Jays did better here, paying about $3 million a win to the Dodgers' $4.75 million.
And of course we're not done. Gotta look at what they gave up (Sickels' 2012 grades in parens):
Henderson Alvarez (B/B+)
Adeiny Hechevarria (C+)
Jake Marisnick (B+)
Justin Nicolino (B+)
Anthony DeSclafani (Honorable Mention, unranked)
Red Sox acquired:
Allen Webster (B)
Ivan De Jesus (HM 2011, unranked)
Jerry Sands (B, 2011)
Rubby De La Rosa (B, 2011)
Escobar, despite his asshattery, has averaged just over three wins from SS per full season. He put up a 1.8 in 2012. Let's take those three wins out of the Jays' haul from Florida, bringing them down to 12 WAR for a price of $44.75 million. Now they're up to $3.75 million a win. The fact that LA got an extra $8 million out of Boston lowers their price slightly as well.
Really, this deal is not nearly as silly as it first appears for the Marlins. Though the Jays paid more than the Dodgers this summer, there are two seriously mitigating factors:
1. The Jays are not the Dodgers, and don't have their unlimited payroll. That means the Marlins had to make some concessions to get the deal done. The Jays jumped their 2013 payroll by 50% on this deal alone, and they have to be out on all significant free agents at this point
2. The Marlins got a LOT more talent than the Red Sox did. The Sox basically ended up with some expendable minor league players - no one useless (except Loney) but basically pieces that now had no place in LA due to the presence of guys like Gonzalez and Crawford and Beckett. Not to say LA wanted to get rid of them, but they probably weren't too displeased with their departure. Miami got three B+, one C+, and one HM out of a stacked Toronto system, while Boston could only extract three Bs and an HM, including only one true rookie. The Jays paid less in cash than the Dodgers did, but they paid considerably more in prospects.
There's going to be a lot of vitriol spewed at Marlins management in the next few days especially, and this trade will allow most everybody to crucify them. But let's be honest: they did not do nearly as badly as they could have. They dumped a lot of large contracts that had little use for them. They acquired a significant amount of minor league talent that they could use to rebuild their team. Most importantly, people are looking for reasons to hate the Marlins management. They have consistently been cheap, unwilling to shell out money to keep homegrown stars, and unwilling to dive into the free agent market (until this offseason of course). They draw very poorly. They make a profit from revenue sharing. Plenty of teams do this, yet the Marlins tend to be singled out, mostly because beyond the financials, they are quite an impressive organization.
Think of it this way: this expansion franchise has two World Series titles to its name, and we don't hear "fire sale" attached to the Royals or Pirates or Orioles or any other sad-sack franchise because they haven't been good enough to have a fire sale. The Marlins have. They've consistently won on a very tight budget, whether self-imposed or a result of their awful attendance (and let's not let Marlins fans off the hook here - fire sales or not, they do not support the franchise). Even when they make a bad decision, at least they make a decision. They decided they weren't going to win in 2013 - likely true - and instead of hanging around and trying to save face, they blew up their roster, dumping all the players who couldn't help them in the long run, because the short run was no longer important. They got rid of useless contracts and got prospects. They weren't the Astros, hanging around for four years making futile attempts to win because they did not want to face the fact that they were simply devoid of sufficient talent.
The Dodgers/Red Sox trade had two obvious winners. Both sides accomplished a goal, and for the most part their fanbases recognized that. This trade will not (and already has not) be received the same way. The Jays will be lauded for making a great win-now move without crushing their substantial haul of minor league talent, and rightfully so. But the Marlins will be demonized for ditching their less-than-a-year-old plan to become big-money spenders, when they should be recognized for realizing a failed plan when they saw one and taking action to fix it. They weren't interested in their public perception, they weren't interested in saving face. They are interested in winning baseball games, and they took steps toward that end. Marlins fans, and baseball fans in general, should be in favor of that.