MIAMI — The Miami Marlins’ spending spree a year ago didn’t work, so now they’re trying another payroll purge.
Rebranded in a new ballpark at the start of 2012, the Marlins were up to their old ways Tuesday, swapping stars for prospects. Miami traded shortstop Jose Reyes, left-hander Mark Buehrle and right-hander Josh Johnson to the Toronto Blue Jays as part of a blockbuster deal, a person familiar with the agreement said.
The person said the Blue Jays are sending shortstop Yunel Escobar, a former Atlanta Brave, two top prospects – outfielder Jake Marisnick and shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria -- and possibly more to the Marlins.
The stunning agreement came less than a year after the Marlins added Reyes, Buehrle and closer Heath Bell in an uncharacteristic $191 million spending binge as they moved into a new ballpark. The acquisitions raised high hopes, but the Marlins instead finished last in the NL East.
The latest paring of salary actually began in July, when the Marlins parted with former NL batting champion Hanley Ramirez, second baseman Omar Infante and right-hander Anibal Sanchez, among others. Bell, the team’s high-profile bust, was traded to Arizona in October.
Under owner Jeffrey Loria, the Marlins have usually been among baseball’s thriftiest teams. Management pledged that would change with the new ballpark, but team officials were disappointed with attendance and revenue fell far short of their projections.
The players must undergo physicals before the trade becomes final.
Giancarlo Stanton, the Marlins’ precocious slugger, wasn’t involved in the deal, but he wasn’t happy about it.
Stanton said he was mad about the deal “Plain & Simple,” he tweeted shortly after the news broke.
The deal gave an immediate boost to the Blue Jays, who have not reached the playoffs since 1993.
Toronto went 73-89 this season and finished fourth in the AL East.
The Marlins changed their name a year ago but failed to change their losing ways, and instead of contending for a playoff berth, they finished 69-93, their worst record since 1999.
The Marlins drew more than 2.2 million fans but had projected attendance of nearly 3 million. Team officials blamed the difference in part on manager Ozzie Guillen’s laudatory comments early in the year about former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, which antagonized a large segment of an already-small fan base.
Guillen was fired after only one season with the team and replaced this month by the Marlins’ former backup catcher, Mike Redmond.
The roster purge during the season reduced the payroll to $90.3 million from $112 million on opening day, and now it appears it will be much lower next season.
Reyes has $96 million left on a deal expiring in 2018. Buehrle has $52 million remaining on a deal expiring in 2015.
While the team was a disappointment, newcomers Buehrle and Reyes played up to expectations. Buehrle went 13-13 with a 3.74 ERA and topped 200 innings for the 12th year in a row. Reyes hit .287 with 40 steals in 160 games.
The Marlins have a long history of payroll purges, and in their 20 seasons they have reached the postseason only twice, as wild-card teams in 1997 and 2003. Both times they won the World Series.