Miami close to dealing JJ, Reyes, Buehrle to Toronto
Marlins would get at least seven players, nearly $160 million in payroll flexibility
MIAMI -- When the Marlins hired Mike Redmond as manager last week, it opened a pipeline with the Blue Jays.
The two organizations didn't waste much time tapping into each other's resources.
On Tuesday night, Miami was reportedly working on a blockbuster trade with Toronto, sending off five established veterans, including Josh Johnson and Jose Reyes, while shedding nearly $160 million in payroll commitments.
Heading to Toronto would be Johnson, Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Emilio Bonifacio and John Buck. In return, the Marlins would receive shortstop Yunel Escobar, second baseman Adeiny Hechavarria, right-hander Henderson Alvarez, left-hander Justin Nicolino and catcher Jeff Mathis.
Miami also would acquire outfield prospect Jake Marisnick, who played for Redmond at Dunedin, and right-hander Anthony DeSclafani. The trade was not officially announced as of Tuesday night, but players like Johnson were informed that they were being dealt.
"I enjoyed my time in Florida," Johnson told MLB.com. "Thank you, fans, for everything. You always supported me, and I appreciate that."
The blockbuster deal comes a year after the Marlins underwent a rebranding -- with name and uniform changes -- and made major roster additions. Bolstered by revenue generated from their retractable-roof ballpark, the Marlins were the talk of last year's Winter Meetings, signing Reyes, Buehrle and Heath Bell for a combined $191 million.
Now, all three will be gone.
Bell was the first to be sent out, when the former three-time All-Star closer was traded to the D-backs on Oct. 20 for Minor League third baseman Yordy Cabrera.
For all the attention the Marlins grabbed, they were disappointing on the field, finishing last in the National League East with a 69-93 record.
Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria declined to speak with reporters at the Owners Meetings in Chicago on Wednesday.
"We have to get better," Loria said in an interview with CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman. "We can't finish in last place. We finished in last place. That's unacceptable. We have to take a new course."
But the first signal that major changes were in motion came on Oct. 23, when Ozzie Guillen was dismissed as manager. Redmond, two years removed from his playing days, was brought in to provide new leadership.
The Marlins were expected to get younger in 2013, and now they are in the process of being completely rebuilt.
Nicolino, a Florida native who turns 21 later this month, discussed the trade via Twitter. On his @J_Nicolino22 account, the left-hander said: "Just wanna say thank you to the blue jays organizations." He added: "Now it's a new chapter! Looking forward to being a part of the Miami Marlins!"
The mega-deal removes $159.75 million in base salary commitments off Miami's books. Reyes, who signed a six-year, $106 million contract last December, has $92 million remaining in base salary through 2017. Buehrle, signed through '15, is owed $48 million, with Johnson owed $13.75 million and Buck owed $6 million.
Bonifacio made $2.2 million in 2012, and he is projected to make about $2.4 million in arbitration next year.
Johnson, 28, is a two-time All-Star and one of the best pitchers in Marlins history -- posting a 56-37 record with a 3.15 ERA. In 2011, he missed most of the season with right shoulder inflammation. Healthy in '12, Johnson made 31 starts and finished 8-14 with a 3.81 ERA.
Johnson's $13.75 million base salary was to be the highest on the team for 2013. The right-hander, the Marlins' fourth-round Draft pick in 2002, is eligible for free agency after the 2013 season.
Buehrle, 33, came as advertised. The veteran left-hander ate up innings and was a model of consistency, going 13-13 with a 3.74 ERA in 31 starts. He finished with 202 1/3 innings, marking the 12th straight season in which he won at least 10 games and threw a minimum of 200 innings.
Reyes, a four-time All-Star with the Mets, showed durability and stepped up in a leadership role during a rough second half for the team. In 160 games, he batted .287 with 11 home runs, 12 triples, 37 doubles and 40 stolen bases.
The versatile Bonifacio was showed by injuries and limited to 64 games. He had surgery on his left thumb in May and was shut down in the second half after injuring his right knee. The speedster had 30 stolen bases in limited action.
Buck, like Johnson, is entering the final year of his contract. The 32-year-old had a disappointing 2012, batting .192 with 12 home runs and 41 RBIs in 106 games. Miami was limiting Buck's playing time late in the season after rookie Rob Brantly was promoted from Triple-A New Orleans.
The revamped Marlins will have Hechavarria either at shortstop or second base. Escobar also is a shortstop candidate.
Alvarez, 22, was 9-14 with a 4.85 ERA in 2012. Nicolino was ranked by MLB.com as the Blue Jays' No. 5 prospect, going 10-4 with a 2.46 ERA at Class A Lansing. Marisnick was Toronto's No. 2 prospect on MLB.com's list.