Blue Jays Time Capsule: The 2012 Mets and Marlins Blockbusters Trades

This week the Jays have been getting slugged in a four game home-and-home series against the woeful Atlanta Braves. One storyline that was not lost on fans and media alike was RA Dickey’s return to Toronto. The now-42 year-old Dickey continues to float knuckleballs south of the border and his return has unearthed some feelings in Jays nation.

Coincidentally, the last time the Jays were this disappointing this early in the season, the 2013 Blue Jays team had just acquired RA Dickey off of an NL Cy Young winning season and made a blockbuster trade with the Marlins where  they pretty much acquired Miami’s team for the Jays’ farm. Vegas had them as the odds on favourite to win the World Series that year and… they finished last in the AL East with a 74-88 record.

So in the spirit of depressing Blue Jays baseball, let’s take a look back at those two trades made in November of  2012!

To the Marlins

Henderson Alvarez

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Once thought to be a future 2 or 3 guy in Toronto’s starting rotation, the Jays deemed the young sinker baller a necessary sacrifice to land a big ace like Josh Johnson. Despite being mired by injuries, Alvarez gave the Marlins one All Star campaign in 2014 earned with an ERA of 2.65 across 187 innings pitched. Injuries and ineffectiveness has left Alvarez jobless since 2015. His most recent stint was an injury-riddled 2016 with the Oakland A’s that saw him make $4.25 mil to not throw a single pitch for Oakland. As of May the free agent Alvarez has been given the green light by his doctors to return to action. Look for the 27 year-old to get a shot at a comeback.

Anthony DeSclafani

Of the big name prospects exchanged in this trade, DeSclafini is probably the least known. But he could be the best player from in this trade. After the 2014 season, Miami flipped him to the Reds for Mat Latos (LOL), and since the trade DeSclafini has been one of the Cincinnati’s best pitchers. Over his 308 innings pitched in his time with the Reds, he sports 3.78 FIP and has been 4.3 wins above replacement. That being said Desclafini hasn’t pitched yet this season because of a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow and is not expected to return until sometime in July.

Yunel Escobar

While he always had obvious talent at the key shortstop position, Yunel was a bit of a dirt bag. After the Jays traded him, he has had some modest success across four seasons split between the Tampa Bay Rays, Washington Nationals and now the LA Angels. He’s a guy that I wasn’t too heartbroken to see leave, which is ironic because he was actually one of my favourite Blue Jays before his whole eye black controversy.

Adeiny Hechavarria

Even after five seasons in Miami, Hechavarria still can’t hit worth a lick. But his elite defense and athleticism are enough to warrant regular at bats for a mediocre Marlins club. In 2012 Hechavarria was expendable to the Blue Jays due to them acquiring an everyday shortstop in Jose Reyes with top prospect Franklin Barreto developing in the minors. Both may be gone now (Barreto was traded to Oakland as part of the package that pried Josh Donaldson away), but the Jays still have strong organizational depth at the position with Tulowitzki and Goins in the majors and Richard Urena in the minors.

Jake Marisnick

For whatever reason, I do take some comfort in the fact that the two best players the Jays gave up don’t even play for the Marlins anymore. Marisnick has the reputation of a glove-first outfielder but something has clicked this year to the tune of an .871 OPS in 30 games. It could be a flash in the pan, but his glove alone would  have make him an attractive option to flank to Pillar’s left.

Jeff Mathis 

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This whole trade almost didn’t get done because Anthopolous felt guilty for trading the recently re-signed Mathis. What if…

Justin Nicolino

The Marlins had their pick of Nicolino, Aaron Sanchez and Noah Syndergaard… I know all three are still very young but it isn’t looking too hot for Miami. Another amazing “what if”.

Best seasons by WAR for Nicolino, Sanchez and Syndergaard:

  1. 2016 Sanchez and 2016 Syndergaard 5.1
  2. 2015 Syndergaard 2.4
  3. 2015 Sanchez 2.0
  4. 2014 Sanchez 1.4
  5. 2016 Nicolino -0.0
  6. 2015 Nicolino -0.3

For what it’s worth Nicolino is the only pitcher of the three not currently on the DL.

From the Marlins

Mark Buehrle

Buehrle was excellent for the Blue Jays and really was one of the few bright spots from the trade. But his 2014 All Star appearance and 6.9 WAR (nice) was not nearly enough to justify the trade. Put simply, you don’t trade multiple top prospects for an old starting pitcher who struggles to throw 85 MPH… unless he throws a knuckleball… At this point, retired Old Papa Buehrle can be found grazing in the tranquil meadows of his St. Louis-based home. Tip of the cap to one of the best pure-finesse pitchers of all time.

John Buck

I remember being stoked when I heard Uncle Buck was making a return to Toronto. Just a bit of gravy on the main course that was the Marlins trade. People forget he was Toronto’s American League All Star rep in 2010. Unfortunately, Buck never suited up for Toronto after this trade as he was flipped to the Mets a couple of weeks later in the Dickey trade.

Emilio Bonifacio

The Blue Jays unceremoniously sold the speedy utility man to Royals in the middle of the 2013 season. He’s bounced around quite a bit since then, doing enough to justify a team taking a flyer on him but not enough to warrant an extended stay in any one city. He now plays with RA Dickey in Atlanta.

Josh Johnson

What a disaster. The biggest worry about Johnson at the time of the trade was “how are the Jays going to be able to afford to keep him in free agency.” Johnson then proceeded to go out to the mound every fifth day and give us 16 starts of 6.20 ERA batting practice before his arm mercifully broke down. That 2013 season with the Jays was his last in the MLB. The former All Star and NL Cy Young contender retired in 2017 as a member of the San Fransisco Giants organization due to his arm blowing up yet again. Once one of the centerpieces of this Jays-Marlins exchange, it really is a shame how quickly injuries derailed his career.

Jose Reyes

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I don’t know how many times Sportsnet tried to tell me that Jose Reyes would be “my favourite Blue Jay”, but let’s just say fans were dancing in the streets when they heard he was being flipped (with 2 top prospects) for Troy Tulowitzki. While he was never that bad for Toronto–6.2 WAR and a .738 OPS across two and a half seasons–injuries had sapped him of his other-worldly athleticism and left him a shell of his former self. Without his speed he was a slap-hitting leadoff guy whose triple potential was nonexistent, with erratic arm in the field couldn’t make up for his lost quickness. He was actually a pretty decent player for the Jays, but when you’re promised “one of the best shortstops in the league”, you expect him to make at least one All Star team.

To the Mets

Travis D’Arnaud

D’Arnaud was a necessary addition to the trade because of the bounty of young talent the Jays had at the catcher position. We could all sleep easy at night knowing that AJ Jimenez and JP Arencibia would have the position locked down for years to come!

Sarcasm aside, at age 28 D’Arnaud has shown flashes of being a potent bat at the catcher position, but has lacked the health and consistency to put it all together. Backcatcher is such a random position in terms of players realizing their potential that this was an understandable gamble by the Blue Jays. Correct me if I’m wrong but the last blue chip catching prospect that fulfilled his potential and stuck at the position is 30 year-old Buster Posey.

John Buck

Wuilmer Becerra

As if I needed more of a reason to feel sick about this trade. Seemingly a throw-in at the time, Becerra has become a legitimate prospect.

Ranked as the Mets 11th best prospect per MLB.com, his player profile holds no punches:

The third player in the big R.A. Dickey trade with the Blue Jays back in December 2012 that netted the Mets Noah Syndergaard and Travis d’Arnaud as well, Becerra’s full-season debut in the Mets system in ’15 certainly made it look like that trade would be even more one-sided. While he showed some good things with the move up to the Florida State League, a shoulder injury that nagged him all year shut him down in July and required surgery.

Becerra is expected to make a full recovery from his right labrum injury, and the Mets hope he can get all of his offensive tools back as a result. It’s possible it caused his lower power output in St. Lucie, and the Mets feel that the lack of that threat caused him to become less patient at the plate, leading to a much lower walk rate. The good news is that despite the problems, he still hit for average and maintained the ability to make consistent hard line-drive contact. It may take some time for Becerra to be all the way back, especially with unleashing what was an above-average arm in right field. He’s a good athlete and covers a lot of ground from the corner outfield position.

Assuming his shoulder does bounce back, there’s no reason to think Becerra can’t get back to profiling well as a future right fielder. He’ll be just 22 for all of the 2017 season.

Noah Syndergaard

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At the time of the trade Syndergaard was known as one of the Blue Jays “Lansing Three” top pitching prospects. What nobody expected was that he’d become the Norse God of Strikeouts and take the league by storm. His quick ascension to dominance has quickly made this Mets-Jays swap an all-time misfire.

From the Mets

Josh Thole

Not much to say about T Hole. He wasn’t very good, but hey, you can’t fault him for finding a market inefficiency in the knuckleball-catching industry and exploiting it. I respect the hustle.

Mike Nickeas

Who is this guy?

RA Dickey

This part is tough for me to write. Despite falling short meteoric expectations, despite being traded for a generational pitching talent and despite the boat-load of home runs allowed… I’m still a Dickey fan.

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It’s unfortunate that his name will be forever tied with Noah Syndergaard’s. But if you take the context of the trade and the expectations created by his 2012 Cy Young award out of the equation, what’s not to like? His miraculous comeback story (I read his book “Wherever I Wind Up” in two days), the unconventional knuckleball, the Gold Glove defense and his refreshingly honest and interesting interviews should have made him a fan favourite. Don’t forget that when all is said and done, of all of the players involved in the 2012 blockbuster trades, Dickey was the only one to see playoff action in a Jays uniform.

The Dickey trade is a harrowing reminder of this inherent risk of swapping prospects for proven talent. I’m usually of the belief that most baseball prospects are losing lottery tickets (Travis Snider, David Cooper, JP Arancibia, Russ Adams) so any chance to flip them for legitimate MLB talent should be a no-brainer. But in hindsight, trades like Dickey to the Mets are harsh but necessary doses of reality needed to keep free wheeling GMs like Dave Dombrowski and Alex Anthopolous in check.

I guess what I’m trying to say about Dickey is that you can hate the trade, but shouldn’t hate the man.

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