While the outrage from baseball observers and Miami Marlins fans (and a few of their remaining players) to Tuesday's one-sided trade between the Marlins and Toronto Blue Jays is palpable, fantasy-wise there's only one player that is significant in mixed leagues for 2013 involved, and the value for shortstop Jose Reyes really isn't altered much.
There are plenty of reasons to believe Reyes, who I consider the No. 4 fantasy shortstop and a top-30 player overall (colleague Tristan H. Cockcroft ranks him 42nd overall), will continue his productivity in the AL East, and perhaps even improve it some in a more favorable home ballpark and hitter's league. Reyes finished the 2012 season as fantasy's top shortstop, and he was better in the second half of the season. Assuming Reyes will hit leadoff for the Blue Jays, if he plays in 140-plus games (which is no sure thing despite his good health in 2012), he should be good for double-digit home runs, 40-plus steals and 100-plus runs scored.
The Blue Jays received numerous other major league-level options, but it's tough to make the case their fantasy value improves. Emilio Bonifacio was an elite base stealer while active in 2012, and should be again in 2013, assuming he can stay on the field. He played in only 64 games in 2012. He'll start 2013 with outfield eligibility only, and could be installed at second base for Toronto (as could recent acquisition Maicer Izturis) or in the outfield. Adding middle-infield eligibility would be a nice added fantasy benefit. Bonifacio is a draft-worthy player because he could steal 50 bases next year and, as with Reyes, there's the perception he will score more runs thanks to the players behind him in the lineup (Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Brett Lawrie). I generally don't buy that argument about lineups -- the Marlins had Giancarlo Stanton, who is certainly no slouch -- but regardless, Bonifacio retains his fantasy value.
However, I'm not adjusting my rankings on Bautista or Encarnacion due to this trade. They'll hit their home runs and knock in runs regardless -- likely more for the former player than in 2012, fewer for the latter -- and it's speculative to presume they'll have more RBI chances in 2013. I do like Lawrie a bit more now that he figures to move away from the leadoff spot, a lineup slot he hit in for roughly half the 2012 season. Lawrie was a fantasy disappointment in 2012, but just like with Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer, we really liked them for a reason just a year ago. I consider him a top-60 option overall.
As for Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle, neither were top-30 starting pitchers in my rankings before the deal, and moving to the AL East certainly doesn't improve their stock. Please don't wax poetic about the potential for more wins due to a better lineup; things don't work that way, especially in a tough division. Johnson's problem prior to 2012 was rarely performance, but rather durability. In 2012, he reversed course, making 31 starts, but posting a high (for him) 3.81 ERA and 1.28 WHIP, and his strikeout rate, though still relatively strong, was his lowest since 2006. Unlike with Reyes, we can glean something from his career home/road splits -- he was far better in Miami -- and for a fly ball pitcher moving to a home run park, it's not a positive change. I also don't buy into any argument that Johnson, with one year left on his contract, will perform better for that reason. There's upside, of course, but there are more than 30 "safer" bets with that same upside.
Buehrle is durable, which is great for his real-life value, but he permitted 26 home runs in his one season in Miami. That's likely going to rise in Toronto. Unlike Johnson, he's not a factor in strikeouts, but you can feel good about him making 30-plus starts and winning some games with a league-average ERA, if that appeals to you. He's probably worth drafting late, but not among the top 70 starters. Don't mistake fantasy and real-life improvement here; the Jays were desperate for arms, and they got them. Buehrle is better than Henderson Alvarez, but that's not saying much.
But wait, there's more! Catcher John Buck is in this deal. Woohoo! Well, fantasy owners might say they want no part of Buck, and I concur, but if he's still on the Blue Jays come April, that likely means that top prospect Travis d'Arnaud probably isn't in the majors, which is a shame. Plus, batting average-killer J.P. Arencibia remains a Blue Jay for the time being. (Look for a pending trade.) I'd still prefer d'Arnaud, all things being equal, but who knows what Toronto will do with the catcher at-bats now.
As for what's left of the Marlins, the many players sent packing does open up opportunities, but in this case, it's not exciting. Yunel Escobar moves on, but he wasn't a top-20 shortstop in 2012, and doesn't figure to improve in 2013. Prospect Adeiny Hechavarria also plays shortstop, and he does it much better than Escobar does. Hechavarria, a 23-year-old Cuban, is a wizard in the field, but not much of a hitter. Sure, he (and everyone else) hit for average at Triple-A Las Vegas, but with the Blue Jays, he walked four times against 32 strikeouts and didn't attempt a steal. He also doesn't hit for power. Look for Escobar to move to third base if Hechavarria makes the squad. Ah, Marlins baseball, catch the fever!
The prospects acquired by Miami don't figure to be fantasy-relevant in 2013. ESPN colleague Keith Law sheds light on why Justin Nicolino and Jake Marisnick could matter in time. Alvarez should be in Miami's rotation, but he's way too hittable and makes Buehrle's strikeout rate look like Nolan Ryan's.
This trade actually makes it more likely that Rob Brantly sees regular time behind the plate, which is a good thing. Brantly hit for average in far more neutral parks than Las Vegas in the minors, and could hit double-digit home runs with 400 at-bats. Let's hope Jeff Mathis, acquired in this deal, is the backup catcher.
Justin Ruggiano is probably a bit safer in center field with Bonifacio gone, and again, this is a good thing. Ruggiano has 20-homer, 20-steal potential. Stanton didn't seem pleased (via Twitter) with the trade, but his fantasy owners shouldn't panic; he remains a 40-homer threat, though his RBI potential does drop a bit. He remains firmly entrenched in the second round in terms of fantasy value in my book. He'll have men on base for him, though today, with the Marlins franchise angering many, that might seem hard to believe.