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Blockbuster revisited: Modern day dissection of the Blue Jays 2012 offseason

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The departures of R.A. Dickey and Josh Thole this offseason officially close the door on the last remaining pieces involved in the Blue Jays’ two blockbuster trades that reshaped the franchise back in the winter of 2012.

The pair of deals, which included a 12-player trade with the Miami Marlins that brought three former All-Stars north of the border, and a move with the New York Mets to acquire the reigning NL Cy Young champion, shocked the baseball world and received acclaim from Jays fans, media, and players alike.

Four years later, the Blue Jays have made two consecutive American League Championship series appearances, despite only one of the players directly involved in the Marlins or Mets trades ever playing a game for the club in the playoffs, R.A. Dickey‘s 6.1 innings over two starts.

So what exactly was the real impact of these two deals?

Blue Jays acquired:

Josh Johnson. Starting pitcher. Current team: Retired.  

It was Alex Anthopoulos’ unrelenting interest in the six-foot-seven Johnson that initiated what would materialize into the 12-player trade with the Marlins.

Although limited by injuries in Miami, Johnson was a two-time All-Star who possessed a rare combination of size, power, and finesse. When paired with an impressive 2.74 ERA in his four seasons leading up to the trade, it is easy to understand why the Blue Jays were so willing to look beyond his injured past, and focus instead on his immense potential.

Despite the optimism, Johnson’s career in Toronto never got off the ground. He was sidelined in late April 2013 with tricep inflammation that resulted in a trip to the DL. When he returned to the lineup he followed his first win with the team on June 23rd with six consecutive losses, a career worst.

He eventually finished the season with an underwhelming record of 2-8 with a 6.20 ERA.

The Blue Jays chose not to qualify Johnson after the 2013 season, and he signed a one-year contract with San Diego Padres, where he continued to be hampered by injuries, electing to undergo his second and third Tommy John surgeries while under contract with the club.

He officially announced his retirement on January 19th, 2017.

Mark Buehrle. Starting pitcher. Current team: Free Agent  

Few would have guessed at the time of the deal that it would be a 33-year-old with a sub 85 mph fastball that would end up having the biggest impact on the Blue Jays organization.

In his three years in Toronto, Buehrle never went on the disabled list and had a record of 40-28 with a 3.78 ERA.

He was named to his fifth All-Star game in 2014, and in the same season became the seventh pitcher since 1901 to throw 14 consecutive seasons of at least 200 innings pitched.

After falling 1.2 innings shy of extending his 200 inning streak during the 2015 season, the Blue Jays and Buehrle mutually parted ways in the offseason. He did not pitch in 2016 and is unlikely to return to the MLB, but he has not officially retired, as of yet.

Jose ReyesShortstop. Current team: New York Mets 

At the time of the deal, Reyes was a four-time All-Star, former NL batting champion, and less than one year into a six-year, $106 million contract.

Despite the hype, Reyes’ tenure as a Blue Jay was mixed. He was a reliable leadoff hitter, averaging .285 at the plate, but his defence deteriorated significantly during his time as a Jay. Setting his career worsts in both errors, 19, and fielding percentage, .953, in his final two years with the team.

Reyes’ was traded to Colorado just before the trade deadline in 2015, as part of the deal that saw Troy Tulowitzki come to Toronto.

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Emilio Bonifacio, Utility player. Current team: minor league contract with the Atlanta Braves 

Bonifacio began the 2013 season as Toronto’s opening day second baseman. Over the course of the season, he would see time at third base, shortstop, and the outfield.

Despite possessing elite speed, Bonifacio struggled to produce with any consistency on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball, eventually becoming the backup utility option behind Maicer Izturis.

He ended up playing 94 games with the Blue Jays, hitting  .218 with 3 HR, and 20 RBI, before being traded to the Kansas City Royals on August 14, 2013, for future considerations.

John Buck, C. Current team: Retired 

Buck did not remain a Blue Jay for long. He was flipped by the Jays to the Mets in the R.A. Dickey trade less than a month after being acquired.

Marlins acquired:

Adeiny Hechavarria, SS. Current team: Miami Marlins.

Hechavarria was the Blue Jays tenth rated prospect at the time of the trade. He had the potential to become one of the elite defensive shortstops in all of baseball, however, there were significant doubts regarding his ability to hit at the major league level.

That conversation is still happening today.

In his four years with the Marlins, Hechavarria has predictably amazed on defence, being named a finalist for the 2014 Golden Glove award, while also underwhelming at the plate, hitting .255 average and a .293 OBP.

Anthony DeSclafani, RHP. Current team: Cincinnati Reds.

The Blue Jays selected DeSclafani in the sixth round of the 2011 MLB Draft. He made five starts for the Marlins before being traded to the Cincinnati Reds in 2015 in exchange for pitcher Mat Latos.

In two season’s with the Reds, he has gone 18-18 with a 3.66 ERA.

Yunel Escobar, SS,3B. Current team: Washington Nationals

Less than a month after the trade with the Marlins, Escobar was dealt to the Tampa Bay Rays.

Movement has been a common stay for the skilled yet controversial Escobar, who has been a member of six organizations during his 11-year career.

In the four years since leaving Toronto, he has continued to hit the ball well for an infielder, averaging a .283 BA and .346 OBP.

His fielding has begun to show signs of regression, however, setting a career high with 19 errors in 2016, prompting a move from shortstop to third base.

Henderson Alvarez Current team: Free Agent

Though only 26 years old, Alvarez’s promising career has been impacted significantly by injuries. The 31 starts he made for the Blue Jays in 2012 still stand as the highest season total of his career

When healthy, Alvarez has shown flashes of brilliance. Most notably on September 29, 2013, when he threw the 282nd no-hitter in MLB history against the Detroit Tigers.

His best season to date came in 2014, when he was named an all-star and posted a record of 12–7 with a 2.65 ERA.

Alvarez underwent shoulder surgery in September of 2016 and is currently a free agent.

Jake Marisnick, OF. Current team: Houston Astros

Marisnick was selected by the Blue Jays in the third round of the 2009 MLB draft, and prior to the 2012 season was ranked as the 58th best prospect in baseball by mlb.com.

Traded to the Houston Astros in 2014, Marisnick has played solid defensively, averaging a 2.0 dWAR (defensive Wins above replacement) in his last two seasons, but has struggled significantly at the plate, averaging a .222 BA and .269 OBP.

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With the additions of Josh Reddick and Carlos Beltran this offseason, there will be heavy competition for Marinsnick in a crowded Astros outfield.

Justin Nicolino, LHP. Current team: Miami Marlins

The Blue Jays selected Nicolino in the second round of the 2010 draft.

He made his major league debut with the Marlins in 2015, and in two seasons with the team has gone 8-10 with a 4.52 ERA.

Jeff Mathis, Catcher. Current team: Arizona Diamondbacks 

Mathis has been a fringe major leaguer his entire career. His career batting average of .197 limits him to ever being more than a backup catcher for a major league club.

He signed a two-year, $4 million deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks on December 5, 2016.

Blue Jays acquired:

R.A. Dickey, RHP. Current status: Atlanta Braves pitcher.

Dickey never came close to replicating his Cy Young form during his four seasons with the Blue Jays. Considering the steep price it took to acquire him, two of the Jays top three prospects at the time, one of whom being Noah Syndergaard, from a pure talent perspective the Jays gave up considerably more than they got back in this deal.

Be that as it may, it’s not fair to say Dicky’s tenure with the Blue Jays was a failure as a whole. Though he never materialized into the top of the rotation pitcher many expected, Dickey’s 4.07 ERA and 205.7 average innings pitched per year as a Jay are fairly solid numbers for the back of the rotation role he had on the team. Those numbers are also in-line with other pitchers, such as Yovani Gallardo and Ubaldo Jimenez, who had comparable contracts to Dickey’s $12 million yearly salary.

Josh Thole, C. Current team: Minor league contract with Arizona Diamondbacks.

Thole’s career in Toronto was centered around one thing: catching a knuckleball.

Despite the organization briefly attempting to try R.A. Dickey out with catchers like J.P. Arencibia and later Russell Martin, they quickly realized that keeping Josh Thole, and his limited offensive ability, on the roster was an unfortunate reality of carrying a knuckleball pitcher in the rotation.

Thole averaged a .199 batting average in 170 games over his four years with the Blue Jays.

Mike Nickeas. Catcher. Current team: Retired.

A native of Vancouver, British Columbia, Nickeas played two seasons for the Blue Jays’ Triple-A affiliate Buffalo Bisons before retiring from baseball in 2015.

Mets acquired:

Noah Syndergaard, RHP. Current team: New York Mets

Still just 24 years old, Noah Syndergaard, nicknamed Thor, has already developed into one of baseball’s elite starting pitchers. He has roared through the gate, posting a record of 23-16, with a 2.92 ERA in his first two seasons with the Mets.

Standing six foot six, “Thor” possesses a deadly arsenal of pitches that blow opposing batters away. According to FanGraphs.com, both Syndergaard’s fastball, averaging 98.2 mph, and slider, averaging 92.5 mph, are the hardest of any qualified starting pitcher in each respective category.

With hindsight being 20/20, it is hard for Jays fans to see Syndergaard’s success and not imagine how dominant a hypothetical starting rotation of Syndergaard, Sanchez, Estrada, Stroman, Happ would be.

Be that as it may, Jays fans must not forget that the trade came at a time when the franchise had not made the playoffs in nearly 20 years. The organization needed to make a splash and Dickey, fresh off a Cy Young, was the best available pitcher at the time. 

Wuilmer Becerra, OF. Current team: New York Mets

Becerra is currently the seventh-rated prospect in the Mets system. He is still very much a work in progress, but showed signs last year playing for St. Louis in Class A Advanced Florida State League that he could develop into a power hitting outfielder.

Travis d’Arnaud, C. Current team: New York Mets

People tend to forget that it was Travis d’Arnaud, not Noah Syndergaard, that was the Blue Jays top rated prospect at the time of the R.A. Dicky deal.

d’Arnaud has been hampered by a wide array of injuries during his time with the Mets, which have limited him to under 80 games played in each of the last two years.

This time on the disabled list has not been beneficial to his development, but a healthy and productive 2017 season could be just what the 28-year-old needs to get his game back on track. 

Next: Blue Jays may have a Canadian talent funnel in Okotoks

John Buck, C. Current team: Retired 

Buck played half a season with the Mets before being traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates. He officially announced his retirement in January of 2015.

By: Patrick Allen

Follow @patrickallen92

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