Last week, MLB rubber-stamped a blockbuster trade between the Toronto Blue Jays and Miami Marlins. There’s no doubt this mega trade has been the most prominent transaction of the early offseason; it’s reshaped the fortunes of two franchises and their respective divisions (AL East and NL East).
There’s significant fantasy implications as well. Of the twelve players changing teams, nine forecast as MLB players for 2013, and these players will experience drastic changes in fortunes, given the new environs the players will enter. This article will forecast the players’ 2013 change in value predicated by the trade.
First, here’s a recap of the trade:
The Toronto Blue Jays receive the following players from the Miami Marlins
- SP Josh Johnson
- Mark Buerhle (SP)
- SS Jose Reyes
- IF/OF Emilio Bonifacio
- C John Buck
In return, the Miami Marlins received the following players from the Toronto Blue Jays:
- SS Yunel Escobar
- C Jeff Mathis
- SP Henderson Alvarez
- 2B/SS Adieny Hechavarria
- OF Jake Marisnick
- SP Justin Nicolino
- SP Anthony DeSclafani
2013 Fantasy Fortunes for the new Blue Jays
The Blue Jays play in the ultra-competitive AL East and their home ballpark is the Rogers Centre. With the unbalanced schedule, players moving to the AL East play a higher proportion of their games against the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays and Orioles. Typically, pitchers moving to the AL East suffer relative to their prior performance; hitters’ fortunes can depend on the ballpark they’ll be making their home. Rogers Centre is considered a hitters’ ballpark, inflating runs at 1.0% above 2012 MLB averages. With these predictors in mind, we’ll review the pitchers and hitters moving north.
Josh Johnson and Mark Buerhle – There’s little doubt these pitchers are moving to a tougher environment. These pitchers benefitted from the new Marlins stadium, which played as a neutral field in 2012. They’ll no longer have the benefit of facing their opposing pitcher in the batters’ box, their primary opponents (Yankees, Red Sox, Rays and Orioles) have formidable lineups, which play in hitters’ parks (exception being the Rays’ Tropicana Field). Rogers Centre inflates home runs by 8% over MLB averages, while Marlins Park suppresses home runs by 3% below MLB norms.
Johnson’s a strikeout pitcher and does not heavily rely on ground balls. He’s a similar pitcher to new teammate Brandon Morrow (high K/9, line drive and fly ball ratios). However, he’s already exhibited decreased fastball velocity (down 94 to 92.8 from 2011 to 2012) and will be in trouble against AL East batters unless he continues to improve the use of his secondary pitches. No doubt he’ll be a great addition over Toronto’s 2011 pitching staff, but don’t expect 2013 numbers anywhere near his 2009-11 peak. I’d peg him for a solid win total (16-18), 180Ks, 3.5 ERA and 1.25 WHIP.
Buerhle has long been known as an efficient ground ball pitcher. While this combination sounds like the perfect tonic at the Rogers Centre, Mark’s long had troubles facing the Red Sox and Yankees during his 12 years with the Chicago White Sox. At the same time, Buehrle’s got a long enough track record in the AL, pitching in a hitters’ park (Comerica), with consistent performance that there’s little reason to think his 2013 record will vary much from his career line. I’d expect 200+ innings, 12 Wins, an ERA in the high 3, with a WHIP around 1.35. If there’s any pitcher in baseball to bank on, it’s Buerhle and the Jays will be happy with this line.
Jose Reyes and Emilio Bonifacio – Much as the move to Toronto will hurt Johnson and Buerhle, Rogers Centre will play well for Reyes and Bonifacio. Both players heavily rely on their speed to generate a high BABIP that results into a higher number of extra base hits. Rogers Centre turf tends to turn singles into doubles, and doubles into triples, especially for burners.
Reyes’ 2012 season with the Marlins produced a solid 4.5 WAR, but there’s plenty of room for him to improve while with the Blue Jays in 2013. Despite his blazing speed, he managed just a .298 BABIP and 60 extra base hits. I expect he’ll easily top 40 doubles, and 15 triples in 2013. There’s reason to believe his HR power will improve as well; he’s managed between 11 and 16 per year, while hitting in pitcher-friendly parks (Miami and New York). He’s going into his age-30 season, so 2013 may represent his peak value. So long as he can remain healthy on Rogers’ Centre turf, I’m forecasting a career-best line that echoes his 2011 line (.337 AVG, .384 OBP, .493 SLG). His average may not end quite that high, but he’ll easily make up for it with increased extra base hits (which will drive his SLG% up).
Bonifacio missed significant time in 2012 due to injury after posting career bests in 2011. It’s not yet clear how he fits into a loaded and very diverse Toronto offense. He’ll surely get time at 2B, but his other options in LF, CF and 3B are blocked by Maicer Izturis, Melky Cabrera, Colby Rasmus and Brett Lawrie, respectively. Expect Bonifacio to produce a similar slash line to his 2011 season (.296 AVG, 360 OBP, .393 SLG) but with small playing time. He’ll likely be a super-sub, gaining most of his ABs at 2B.
John Buck – 2013 would likely be Buck’s second go-round with Toronto, as he was their primary backstop in 2010 (his career year, by all accounts). It’s not clear how much playing time Buck will get in 2013, as the Jays have catchers JP Arencibia, Bobby Wilson and Travis D’Arnaud on the 40-man roster. Buck produced a miserable 2012 (.192 AVG, .297 OBP, .347 SLG), so there’s no reason he should receive the bulk of playing time in 2013. Unless Arencibia is traded before 2013 Opening Day, I expect he’ll be the backup catcher until mid-season (prospect D’Arnaud should be ready for big league action at that time), and will receive most of his ABs as the platoon DH against LHPs. Buck’s long had decent splits against LHPs (.740 career OPS); Manager John Gibbons would be wise to use him in counter to Adam Lind’s inability to hit LHPs. He’ll have negligible fantasy value as he’s likely relegated to 200 ABs in 2013.
2013 Fantasy Fortunes for the new Marlins
The trade has shelled the Marlins franchise for 2013, while boosting the system with strong prospects for 2014 and beyond. There’s little of MLB-level value for 2013 here.
Henderson Alvarez - The move to a more pitching friendly ballpark and division will help the 23 year old Alvarez. Alvarez rocketed through the Blue Jays system in 2011, starting in single-A ball and ending the season with 13 starts in Toronto. However, he sported a 5+ ERA in 2012 and was no sure thing to make the Blue Jays 2013 rotation.
With Florida, Alvarez will face weaker lineups, aided by the presence of a batting pitcher in the 9th hole. Marlins Ball Park plays as a neutral field, particularly useful as he was prone to the long ball in 2012 (1.39 HR/9 Innings, one of the worst in baseball in 2012). Pitchers average more than one strikeout per nine innings when moving from the AL to the NL, so he should sport some improvement to his lowly 9.8% SO rate.
There’s plenty of room for improvement as Alvarez sported some of the worst peripherals in the Al last year. However, his long SO rates and poor 2013 team performance (limited him opportunity for wins) make him of questionable fantasy value. I don’t see him cracking ten wins and 100 Ks would represent significant improvement for him – but is of no value to you in a fantasy league.
Yunel Escobar and Adieny Hechavarria – Cuban middle infielders Escobar and Hechevarria both move to Miami in the mega deal. It’s expected that Escobar will log much of his ABs at 3B while defensive wizard Hechevarria will play at SS. Both players have limited fantasy value, as they are defense-first players.
The move will seriously limit Escobar’s fantasy usefulness; historically he’s sported a weak BABIP and he’ll have a tougher time reaching base as he’s leaving friendly speedy turf of Toronto for the grass at Marlins Ball Park. He’ll be lining up against tougher players at 3B, which bump down his position in any 2013 fantasy draft. I’d be wary of Escobar in anything but the deepest mixed-league fantasy draft, as a .280 AVG, 15 HR, 60 RBI, 10 SB season would be a considerable jump for him.
Adieny Hechavarria is a defense first SS that will log his first full MLB season in 2013. He’ll no doubt get lots of ABs, but it’s unclear what he can contribute with the bat. He’s not a fantasy option at this point – you’d be better off taking Escobar as your SS and steering clear of the younger Cuban version (Hech).
As for Jeff Mathis, if you have any thoughts of drafting him to your fantasy league, you’d best be changing sports. He’s one of the worst offensive players of the past twenty years and should be nowhere near a roto sheet.