Shortly after news broke Tuesday that the Blue Jays and Marlins were on the verge of a megadeal, a major league source confirmed the Red Sox had been discussing a smaller deal — albeit with some of the same players — with the Marlins.
The Sox, according to the source, were working on bringing All-Star shortstop Jose Reyes and righthander Josh Johnson, a player the team has long coveted, to Boston. It’s not known what the Sox were offering, but it certainly involved some of their top prospects.
So the Marlins and Jays put together a blockbuster deal that for the moment shocks the AL East. According to multiple reports, the Jays will land Reyes, Johnson, lefthander Mark Buehrle, utilityman Emilio Bonifacio, and catcher John Buck for shortstop Yunel Escobar, infielder Adeiny Hechavarria, outfielder Jason Marisnick, catcher Jeff Mathis, righthander Henderson Alvarez, lefthander Justin Nicolino, and righthander Anthony DeSclafani.
This move separates the Jays from the Red Sox. And the Yankees and Orioles also must be wondering what hit them.
It wasn’t certain whether the Jays were going to assume all $160 million of the guaranteed money involved. Also, if they are acquiring two shortstops, the Marlins may be flipping one. The Diamondbacks are seeking a major league shortstop for outfielder Justin Upon.
But the Jays are serious about changing their image. General manager Alex Anthopoulos has been wheeling and dealing since the season ended. He traded manager John Farrell to the Red Sox for shortstop Mike Aviles and then flipped Aviles and Yan Gomes to the Indians for reliever Esmil Rogers.
Buehrle and Johnson should give Toronto’s rotation a huge boost. Buehrle threw 200 innings for the 12th straight season while Johnson is one of the best pitchers in baseball when he’s on. He had a career-worst 3.81 ERA last season.
Reyes is an exciting player who should mix well with sluggers Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox have signed backup catcher David Ross.
There are plenty of transactions still to be made, but the Blue Jays apparently decided they were sick of finishing fourth.
Prior to the deal, Sox owner John Henry addressed Boston’s strategy and the effects of retiring his trading company.
“One could say that spending constraints for the Red Sox have essentially been set more by MLB and collective bargaining than by us,” Henry wrote in a e-mail.
"This offseason we have considerable payroll flexibility as a result of 2012 trades. If we cannot utilize all of our flexibility this year, that will be due solely to attending to what makes the most sense going forward on a competitive basis given how much the rules in baseball have changed recently, more than any plan or desire on our part to reduce payroll.”
Henry, whose John W. Henry & Co. “has determined to cease managing client assets effective Dec. 31, 2012,” explained that his company “is retiring, withdrawing from public, retail money management” and that it has nothing to do with his personal bottom line or the Red Sox’.
Henry has continually denied reports that he is looking to sell the team.
Henry has “no issue with media reports” that has characterized the company’s closure as a negative because “it’s understandable that no one seems to comprehend what a small company it was over the last five years.
“It was a break-even proposition over the past five years and had virtually no impact on me financially over the past five years.”
He added, “Fenway Sports Group is now 11 years old and stands completely on its own. It has from day one in 2001. It has never relied on capital contributions from ownership nor has it paid out profits — only taxes. It is self-sufficient. I own other companies such as iRacing.com, but none of those companies impact FSG.”
The Red Sox have plenty of money to spend, but they don’t want to make mistakes similar to the signings of Carl Crawford and John Lackey to long-term deals or signing Josh Beckett to an extension. Yet they don’t want to get beaten out on players and trades either.
The Sox seem to have many irons in the fire, from Torii Hunter (who may sign with the Tigers) to Nick Swisher, Anibal Sanchez, Mike Napoli, Adam LaRoche, Cody Ross, and others.
But right now they find themselves looking up at the Jays.