Back the early 1990s, the Toronto Blue Jays were the preeminent franchise in Major League Baseball. The Jays were playing in the glistening, state-of-the-art SkyDome which was the envy of nearly every other team. In 1990, the Jays set a then-MLB record by drawing more than 3.8 million fans to SkyDome while selling out 58 games.
It helped that the team was good on the field. Toronto won the American League East in 1989, falling to the Oakland A’s in the ALCS. The Jays won the division again in 1991 — the year the SkyDome hosted the MLB All-Star Game — but lost in the ALCS, this time to Minnesota. In 1992, Toronto won the East again and reached its first World Series, beating the Atlanta Braves in six games. Game 3 of that series was the first Fall Classic game outside of the United States.
Toronto’s dynasty continued in 1993 with another division title and a repeat World Series championship, famously won at the SkyDome (now Rogers Centre) on Joe Carter’s walk-off home run in Game 6 against the Philadelphia Phillies. That was the last time the Blue Jays reached the playoffs.
The drought could well end 20 years later, after the stunning trade announced Tuesday between Toronto and Miami that landed the Blue Jays shortstop Jose Reyes, starting pitchers Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson, utility man Emilio Bonifacio and catcher John Buck. And what did Toronto have to give up? Not much in terms of present value. Off the major league roster, only inconsistent shortstop Yunel Escobar, pitcher Henderson Alvarez and backup catcher Jeff Mathis were sent to Miami, along with four minor league prospects.
Those additions have propelled Toronto to 14-1 to win the 2013 World Series at Bovada after opening at 35-1. It gives the Jays the shortest odds of any AL East team outside of the Yankees (11-1). It’s also better than 2012 playoff teams Atlanta (16-1), Oakland (18-1), St. Louis (20-1) and Baltimore (28-1). Yes Toronto will make the playoffs is +150, with no at -200.
Toronto finished last season fourth in the AL East at 73-89 as injuries crippled the team, especially in the rotation. That group is hugely fortified with the lefty Buehrle (13-13, 3.74 ERA last year) and right-hander Johnson (8-14, 3.71). Buehrle is an innings machine, having topped 200 innings for 12 straight years. That’s exactly the stability the young Jays rotation needs. Buehrle signed as a free agent with Miami last season for four years and $58 million.
Johnson has some of the best stuff in baseball but is injury prone. He led the National League in ERA in 2010 but made only nine starts in 2011. He’s in the final year of his contract and has an over/under wins total of 13 at the book for next year.
Reyes will slide into the leadoff spot for the Jays. He hit .287 with 40 steals in 160 games last season. Reyes led the majors in batting in 2011 with the Mets and signed a six-year, $106 million contract last offseason with Miami. The book lists Reyes’ totals for next season at over/under .297 average and 37.5 steals. Bonifacio can fill in at multiple positions and hit .258 with 30 steals in 64 games last year. Buck will take Mathis’ spot as the backup catcher. Toronto’s over/under wins total for 2013 is set at 87.5.
As for the Marlins, they were one of the stories of last winter in spending nearly $200 million in landing Reyes, Buehrle and closer Heath Bell as the team moved into a new stadium. The club also had a new manager in Ozzie Guillen. But the season was a disaster, with Miami going 69-93.
Bell also has been traded since the end of the season, and Miami dealt star Hanley Ramirez before the 2012 trade deadline to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Overall, the team will have traded 12 major leaguers so far off last season’s Opening Day roster since July. The combustible Guillen was fired and replaced by former catcher Mike Redmond.
Miami was 40-1 before this deal to win the World Series and now is a 100-1 long shot. Only Houston (200-1) has longer odds. The Marlins’ over/under wins total is 69.5.
The Marlins got nearly $360 million in public funds to build the new Marlins Park to energize the south Florida fan base with the promise of a contending team. But those fans are now livid as the team has gone from contender to arguably the least-talented team in baseball. Don’t be surprised if the Marlins are last in MLB in attendance in 2013. The book lists that over/under at an average of 18,500 fans per game, with the under a -130 favorite.
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