The truth about the 2012 Marlins-Blue Jays trade, once and for all

Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

The way humans, and by extension sports fans, judge situations, is an amusing thing to observe.

People can literally come to a strong conclusion at one point, and when results entirely independent of that conclusion take hold, by random or improbable chance, than we use that result to prove or disprove the validity of our original arguments.

It's an interpretive fallacy. An old correlation proves causation phenomenon that's equally fascinating and disappointing at once.

I don't mean to have a human logic discussion here, but an annoying narrative has popped up recently in opinion about the current state of the Miami Marlins. The microbe took hold late last season, but has slowly grown into a legitimately toxic opinion on the 2012 blockbuster trade between the Miami Marlins and Toronto Blue Jays.

I reached my point of combustion when this incredibly insightful tweet ran down my timeline yesterday.

The post is about an article Frisaro writes where he lazily runs down why this trade from two years ago worked, because the Marlins appear to be in better position to contend heading into 2015.

I tried to add some context to the argument, but Frisaro told me the Marlins' starting shortstop, who is statistically one of the worst players in the sport for the last two seasons, is a future All-Star, according to himself, and blocked me on the social network.

Good talk.

First of all, I'd like to say the trade was decent. In a pure baseball sense. I don't think it was bad. You shed a lot of salary, brought back a few top 100 caliber prospects, but exactly zero top 50 prospects. It wasn't a notable haul, but looking at it blankly, it was solid. With the added context of the circumstances the team was in, the owners history and the delicate relationship the team has with the community, it's still a bad deal, however.

But the idea that the trade was some master stroke by Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, who supposedly had the foresight to see the future and make some courageous bold move despite the criticism of the baseball world on his back is a load of buffalo crap.

Before I state the reasons why, enter the discussion understanding that the trade could have been unspectacular and the team could still be better, just like the trade could have been brilliant if they got the best prospects in the world but they turned out to be busts, so the team suffered long term.

Correlation does not always equal causation. The 2012 fire sale did not trigger a turnaround, which leads me to my first point of why the 2012 trade was not a good move then, and still isn't now, and Loria deserves no credit for it.


Why did the Marlins improve by 15 games in 2014 after the 2012 trade brought about a 100 loss season in 2013?

It wasn't because the Blue Jays' haul brought back some great load of players. It also wasn't because the team used it's new-found resources to re-invest in the club. Nope. Loria stood still and dumped Garrett Jones and Jarrod Saltalamacchia on us last offseason as a tiny investment.

The Marlins were better because they had some tremendous talent graduate from the minor league system recently, and although a few former Blue Jays farmhands (By a few I mean Henderson Alvarez) helped the cause, the Marlins bounceback season was driven by home grown talent that was already here, not brought about by the 2012 fire sale.

Giancarlo Stanton was here. Christian Yelich and Jose Fernandez were recent first round picks who have lived up to their billing and more. Marcell Ozuna's powerful bat broke out. Ace closer Steve Cishek and key setup arm A.J Ramos are former Marlin prospects. Tom Koehler, who surprised with a 2.5 WAR, was organizational depth. You get the drift?

According to baseball reference, Adeiny Hechavarria had 0.6 wins above replacement (WAR) last season. Hechavarria snuck onto's top 100 prospect list pre-2013, but was generally not very revered.

Jake Marisnick was the prize package of the deal, a legitimate prospect. Although he wasn't an elite prospect, he was generally thought of as a top 100 prospect by most publications. He hasn't worked out though, and was traded in a package for Jarred Cosart, who has an extremely checkered minor league track record and struggled with control throughout his career, and will regress to the mean as a backend starter this season.

Justin Nicolino is a solid prospect who won't show up on any lists this season because he doesn't have overpowering stuff and his strikeout numbers in the minors rarely translate to the next level.

Than we have Henderson Alvarez. A player in the deal who at the time, was not a top prospect but a decent throw in to the deal that was based around Marisnick, Hechavarria and Nicolino. He has turned into a legitimate middle of the rotation arm who has fit it nicely at Marlins park, but remember, correlation doesn't equal causation, and Alvarez becoming a good player is independent of his value at the time.

In short, none of the Blue Jays players were elite prospects, and none will be elite players in the league. A few busted and one turned out in Alvarez, but the end result was an unspectacular haul.


I'm not going to say I loved the 2012 offseason, because I hate giving 30 year old pitchers a lot of money (Mark Buehrle, Heath Bell), but you want to know what is interesting? The Marlins would have been better in 2014 if they didn't make the deal.

Hanley Ramirez, the Marlins third baseman to begin 2012, had a 3.2 WAR last season. Casey McGehee had a 1.1.

That black hole Hechavarria was/is? Jose Reyes had a 3.1 WAR to Hech's poor 0.6. The Marlins could have really used a true leadoff hitter with speed AND on base ability, huh? They paid the price to get one, than gave it away.

Omar Infante, the team's second baseman in 2012, had a terrible 2014, and still had a higher WAR than Donovan Solano, who had the most at-bats of any Marlin second baseman last season!

Hechavarria is considered a core Marlin

This dude isn't very good

John Buck and Jarrod Saltalamachia were essentially zeroes last season, so the catcher comparison is a wash.

But assuming Stanton, Yelich and Ozuna was your outfield, Ramirez, Reyes, Infante, and the crap the fish fielded at first base in 2012 was significantly better than the 2014 Marlins infield, arguably the worst in the sport.

Pitching? Well, as good as Alvarez was, Buehrle wasn't far behind. He was an All-Star last season too, and had a 3.6 WAR. Alvarez was a bit better (4.6), but Nathan Eovaldi, who the team swapped for Ramirez separate of the Blue Jays deal but a part of the fire sale, wasn't very good last season. We already established Koehler was already here and we should all be very skeptical of Cosart's regression at the end of last season, given his track record.

Not to mention Anibal Sanchez would have helped the rotation.

So there Marlins won 77 games last season. They were below average on the backs of their pitching depth and outstanding young outfield. They also would have been better, although more expensive, if they kept the 2012 team together.


Now that the baseball facts are out of the way, I want to address the narrative here.

Most of you had read the crock of sheep excrement coming from team headquarters to spin this trade as anything other than a salary dump.

As Loria mentioned to USA Today this offseason, he believes the 2012 Marlins core was never going to good, and he was so smart to see it coming, and because Yelich and Ozuna and Stanton and Fernandez and Cishek are great enough to induce a 15-win turnaround it somehow means he was right.

"There was such consternation, I dont think many people understood what we were doing two years ago,'' Loria says. "Everyone said, "Here they go again, another fire sale.' But what we did didn't work. And it wasn't going to work.

"I mean, two weeks into the season I knew it wasn't going to work.

"We had a $100 million-plus payroll, we didn't win a lot of games (69-93), we got the wrong guys in free agency, there were issues with the manager and the community, so we had no choice.

"We had to blow it up and hit the reset button.''

This is an incredible spin job. First of all, the team was around .500, just like last season's group, before he started moving pieces like Ramirez. He didn't know anything. The team was technically within striking distance of a playoff seed in June. He may have thought there were clubhouse issues, but that didn't stop teams from winning it all in the past. Talent wins out. He never gave it a chance to work before he panicked and sold all of his assets away in a hurry.

If Loria is making decisions based on analysis in two weeks, look out Marlins fans.

Loria made an impulsive move, and it isn't the first time he's fired a manager after one season. Both (Joe Girardi, Ozzie Guillen) have won world series' elsewhere, by the way.

This was an old fashioned salary dump and it's really hard to argue it in any other way when you evaluate the circumstances. The team wasn't mightily struggling, they were no worse than last years 'upstart' Marlins who are beloved as a rising team!

Here's the thing, I would buy the narrative about doing this from a strict baseball perspective if the 2012 Blue Jays deal was broken up and the team maybe took on some of the money in order to get better prospects.

Take this bit of information. The Blue Jays top prospect at the time, catcher Travis D'Arnaud, was moved in the offseason for R.A Dickey, along with Noah Syndergaard. D'Arnaud and Syndergaard were arguably the two best prospects in the Jays system, and thought of in higher regard than the players the Marlins got back.

The thing is, when you dump salary like the Marlins did in that deal, you don't get as much value back because of the burden the Blue Jays took in eating all that salary. Do you think if the Marlins simply kept Mark Buehrle out of it, or ate a portion of Jose Reyes' money, they couldn't have gotten a better player?

Wil Myers was also an elite prospect who was traded that winter for a good veteran starter in James Shields.

Maybe if you trade Buehrle alone you could extract better value than including him in a salary dump that seemed to come together extremely quickly?

There it is. Even if the Marlins try to tell you it was the smart baseball move, the smarter move was probably breaking the trade down into pieces, eating some salary, and bringing in some legitimate prospects, not some B prospects and a few throw ins.

And again, it's not like they've reinvested too much, outside out an incredibly backloaded Giancarlo Stanton contract. The team could conceivably sign the best player on the market right now in Max Scherzer and still be around league average in payroll, like they were in 2012.

This wasn't about baseball. It's not that Loria doesn't want to win, but it's not even close to the priority here.

The team is looking good heading into 2015, all things considered, and it's on a small budget, which means it's a more financially efficient grouping than 2012, but I'm not going to give you credit for being thrifty when you have had a bottoming payroll for years and by all accounts you print money enough to spend a bit more.


Can we stop giving Loria credit for this trade now? Or do I need to compare it to another animals poop?

I'm pleased with the Marlins offseason. It's had a bad move but mostly good ones, and I'm an excited Marlin fan about 2015 like you are.

But the same impulses are still alive within Loria. Great business man, impulsive as a baseball owner with limited intellect on the sport. Would you be ok if Miami trades Stanton next offseason if the team misses the playoffs and Loria chalks it up to 'It wasn't working guys'?

Than in a vaccum, you don't agree with the 2012 approach either. It set a bad precedent for baseball and non-baseball reasons that you would be just as mad as you were at the time if it happened again, and rightfully so.

I'm not opposed to some old fashioned rebuilding, but let's stop believing this was that. 2012 was about shedding cash, more cash, and a little more cash, and stories about clubhouse culture, and results that were actually not bad at the time of the first deals, striking some luck with Henderson Alvarez and unbased fantasies about what Adeiny Hechavarria is doesn't change that.

Let's put this trade in the past the right way. With perspective.

Happy New Year.