ESPN baseball analyst Tim Kurkjian checked in with Dennis & Callahan on Wednesday morning to talk about the Blue Jays-Marlins megadeal that sends All-Star shortstop Jose Reyes, right-hander Josh Johnson, left-hander Mark Buehrle and others to Toronto.
"I really feel sorry for the people in Miami who were told last year, 'We're getting a new stadium, we're going to build a team for the future, we're going to win a whole bunch of times here, get on board because we have the money and we're going forward.' Instead, they turn around and gut the entire team and now they completely started over," Kurkjian said. "And I'm sorry, if I'm a Marlins season ticket-holder, I have to say to myself, 'What are we doing here? What happened to this great promise that you made?'
"On the other hand, you look at the Blue Jays -- and this is something that I wasn't completely aware of -- they have so much money to deal with on that team. The owners of that team, Rogers Communications, is a multibillion-dollar corporation that can do whatever it wants financially, and now it appears the Blue Jays have said, 'We haven't been to the playoffs since 1993, it's time for us to win. What do we have to do to win?' They have to go out and do something and get immediate help, and they did that with two starting pitchers and an everyday shortstop.
"They have put themselves with this trade right in the middle of the race in the AL East. Suddenly the door's open in that division, which it rarely is. I think they've just knocked it down."
The key question for the Blue Jays might be how the new players transition to the American League.
"I'm still going to need to see this," Kurkjian said. "I have no doubt that Reyes will be a dynamic leadoff hitter for the Jays. And as you know, they absolutely had to have a leadoff guy, because their leadoff numbers last year and in recent years have been terrible. So, there's no doubt in my mind that he can switch leagues.
"But let's not fool ourselves. You start pitching in the American League East -- at least, the American League East that we used to know -- and it is a gigantic adjustment for anyone coming from the National League. And yes, Mark Buehrle is a soft-throwing left-hander. And even though he's got a great idea of what he's doing, he makes mistakes in the middle of the plate, he's going to get pounded in the AL East, period.
"And Josh Johnson is the guy that I'm still not sure about. I can tell you fellas having seen him pitch at his best, nobody can hit that guy when he's right. And yet, he hasn't been right for the last couple of years. He gets hurt a lot, and then last year he was healthy and he still got knocked around.
"I still need to see how well these guys do in this division. But again, the division is not exactly what it's been in recent years. The Yankees are in trouble at the moment. The Red Sox are in obvious trouble. I can't imagine the Orioles being as great as they were last year, winning the same way that they did. The Rays lost a lot of players again to free agency. That's why I say the door's open. Not that Toronto is that great. It's that everyone else has taken a bit of a step back."
Touching on the Red Sox' situation, Kurkjian said Boston faces major challenges this offseason.
"Boy, do they have a lot of work to do," he said. "Then when you look at the free agent players available, it's just not a real productive group there. Meaning, they have to get a first baseman from somewhere. Are they going to overpay for Adam LaRoche, to bring him in and have him hit fourth for the Red Sox?
"He's a good player, he won a Gold Glove and he hit more homers than any first baseman in the major leagues last year. But is he the guy that's going to help take the Red Sox from fifth place to contention? That's a lot to ask. So, there's a lot of holes to fill with the Red Sox and not a whole lot of free agents to fill them with."