The Tuesday trade between the Toronto Blue Jays and Miami Marlins could be considered a surprise but not altogether shocking. Anyone who has followed the Marlins’ franchise knows that this isn’t the first time owner Jeffery Loria has orchestrated salary dump maneuvers. It is particularly galling because taxpayers forked over almost $500 million dollars to build the new stadium. I would rather focus on the other end of the deal specifically what the move could be saying about the newly energized Blue Jays.
Now it could turn out that each of the players Toronto acquired does not live to the advanced billing. Josh Johnson, as wonderfully talented as he is on the mound, always seems to be hurt. Who knows if Jose Reyes is actually happy with this deal and if that unhappiness carries over into the season. Can Mark Buehrle turn in another season of at least 13 wins? Actually, this could be less about the performance on the field than what it says about ownership’s commitment to win. The organization signed both Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion their two best players, to deals through at least 2015. Suddenly, a team that has wallowed around .500 for the last 15 years or so can now be considered serious playoff contenders.
As for the timing of the deal, it couldn’t be better for the franchise. Although hockey will forever be king in Toronto, the Maple Leafs have been bad the last five seasons, missing the playoffs in all of them. Now that the NHL is on the sidelines, the Blue Jays can maybe finally get back at least some of the many fans that were lost due the 1994 work stoppage. The strike came at the worst time for the franchise as they were in the process of defending back-to-back World Series titles and drawing four million fans per year. When play stopped, those fans never came back. This trade can put the Blue Jays back on the map instead of being reduced to just highlights of Bautista, Encarnacion and Brett Lawrie. More importantly, they can rebuild a jaded fan base.
All through grammar school, high school and college, the Toronto Blue Jays were one of the best teams in baseball with one of the most passionate set of fans. While this deal is rotten for fans of the Marlins, I hope it is just the opposite for our fans north of the border. As for the rest of the American League East, you have been put on notice.
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