11/15/2013 10:11 A.M. ET
Blockbuster of 2012 set Marlins up with talent
One year later, club seeing young players blossom into quality core pieces
By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com
MIAMI -- A year ago at the General Managers Meetings, the seeds were planted for what blossomed into one of the biggest and most controversial trades in Marlins history.
The framework of the 12-player package was discussed at last fall's GM Meetings in Indian Wells, Calif. On Nov. 19, 2012, the deal became official, as Miami sent established stars Josh Johnson, Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, John Buck and Emilio Bonifacio to Toronto for Adeiny Hechavarria, Henderson Alvarez, Jeff Mathis, Jake Marisnick, Justin Nicolino, Anthony DeSclafani and Yunel Escobar.
Escobar, at the Winter Meetings a few weeks later, was sent to the Rays for Derek Dietrich.
The trade shed roughly $168 million in future salary commitments by the Marlins, and it purged the remaining high-priced pieces from the high-profile 2012 Miami roster.
At the time, the deal created a backlash locally and nationally because the Marlins cleaned house after just one season in their retractable-roof ballpark.
A year later, Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill understands why people were upset. He also noted several of the returning pieces in the deal are core pieces to the organization pushing forward.
"It's always tough when you move talented players," Hill said. "They were established players in the game, with established pedigrees. And the names coming back, a lot of people didn't know.
"What I tried to do in following up the trade was to just have people reserve judgment. See what we got back. See the talent we got back before they made an opinion."
The 2012 Marlins, with a $100 million payroll, ended up in last place in the National League East, losing 93 games. In 2013, a transition season with younger players, the Marlins dropped 100 games and also ended up last in the division.
As the organization pushes to move forward, it will be banking heavily on a number of the players acquired a year ago from Toronto.
Hechavarria is an athletic shortstop with slick defensive skills, but he ultimately will be evaluated on how much improves as a hitter. Alvarez is a fixture in the rotation, and he no-hit the Tigers in the last game of the '13 season.
Mathis is the starting catcher, and Marisnick has a chance to be the center fielder of the future.
DeSclafani and Nicolino were standout pitchers in Double-A, and Dietrich made contributions at second base at the big league level and in the Minors. Dietrich will be in the mix to contribute at second or third base in 2014.
"As we look at where those guys are now, they're a big part of our future moving forward, with a year of experience under their belts," Hill said. "When we made the deal, we were pretty confident we had gotten a lot of talent back. To anyone who would listen that's what we said, we got a lot of talent back."
DeSclafani, a right-hander, was named the organization's Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Nicolino is a left-hander who will head into Spring Training looking to earn a roster spot. The two pitchers could be in position to reach the big leagues in '14. They also may be dangled as trade pieces in Miami's quest to land impact bats.
Marisnick is terrific defensively, but he has a ways to go at the plate.
Marcell Ozuna is the front-runner to win the center-field job in Spring Training. If he does, Marisnick likely could open at Triple-A New Orleans to refine his swing.
Dietrich, a left-handed hitter, belted nine home runs in 57 games with the Marlins, and another 11 at Double-A.
Mathis was commended for the way he handled the young pitching staff, but he had his struggles at the plate. Most likely, he will split time behind the plate next year.
"You look back a year later, and DeSclafani was our Minor League Pitcher of the Year," Hill said. "Nicolino had a very good year at Double-A. Jake Marisnick gets to the big leagues for us. Hechavarria plays a Gold Glove [caliber] shortstop, and he is our everyday shortstop. Henderson Alvarez is a big piece of our rotation and he finishes the year with a no-hitter. We strongly felt we were getting quality back. A year later, my opinion hasn't changed a bit. I'm even stronger in the belief that we did get a lot of talent back."