TORONTO -- The Blue Jays have officially entered a new era in their franchise history.
After sitting in limbo for almost a week, Toronto's blockbuster 12-player trade with the Marlins was finally announced on Monday. As expected, Toronto acquired All-Star shortstop Jose Reyes, right-hander Josh Johnson, left-hander Mark Buehrle, catcher John Buck, infielder/outfielder Emilio Bonifacio and cash considerations.
Going to the Marlins are shortstop Yunel Escobar, infielder Adeiny Hechavarria, right-hander Henderson Alvarez, veteran backup Jeff Mathis, outfielder Jake Marisnick, left-hander Justin Nicolino and right-hander Anthony DeSclafani.
The move goes down as the largest in franchise history, both in terms of the numbers of players and money involved. It also has the Blue Jays thinking big in 2013.
"I don't think we look at this team as being anything other than a contender," president Paul Beeston said Tuesday morning. "I don't want to put it into the context of what number of wins we're going to have, but it's built to win. I think that was the way that it came together when we made the trade."
General Manager Alex Anthopoulos first approached the Marlins about a possible deal during the recent GM Meetings in California. The two sides originally sat down to discuss a possible trade of Johnson, but as the dialogue continued to grow, so too did the number of players involved.
It became clear over the course of several hours that Miami was looking to drastically cut its payroll. That prompted talk about including the likes of Buehrle and Reyes, while Anthopoulos began to think he had the makings of a potential massive trade.
That's when he approached Beeston about the negotiations. Anthopoulos likely did so with at least some level of uneasiness -- the deal would represent a massive increase in the club's payroll -- but Beeston immediately warmed to the idea.
Beeston made some calls to the Blue Jays' ownership group -- Rogers Communications -- and before long the club received permission to take on the extra salary. Toronto ranked 23rd in baseball with a $75-million payroll in 2012, but will now see that number soar just above the $120-million mark. It's the first time in franchise history that the club has assumed more than $100 million in salaries during the course of one season.
"I don't think you can ever dictate when opportunities are going to present themselves," Anthopoulos said. "I think the one thing we remained very consistent on ... if the right opportunity presented itself, I was always promised and Paul was very adamant, for the right players in the right deal, we would have the ability to [add salary].
"I've had many conversations with Paul over the years, we talk and brainstorm all the time, and I think that's where the strength of our relationship is."
Beeston had spent much of the past three seasons talking about the upside of Toronto's market. It's a city that used to sell more than four million tickets a year during the early '90s, and there was a belief that attendance would again rise with a competitive team on the field.
That's why Beeston said during a state of the franchise in 2011 that the Blue Jays could eventually see their payroll rise to $120 million or beyond. But that claim always came with the caveat that more tickets would have to be sold first, and once revenue began to rise, so would the money that gets re-invested back into the team.
Blue Jays fans partially came through last season, increasing attendance by approximately 3,000 per game despite a disappointing 73-89 record. Also helping the cause was that starting in 2014, Major League teams will begin receiving upwards of $25 million in revenue sharing as part of a new television contract.
Those were all factors in the club's decision, but Beeston said more than anything else it came down to the timing of the deal. He claimed the money was always available and it was just a matter of finding the right fit.
"I always felt like when the opportunity was right, Rogers would actually invest in the ballclub," Beeston said. "Not just money, it's a matter of investing it right, we don't want to spend stupid, we don't want to be dumb about it.
"We've had opportunities in the past where we've gone to them and said this is what we want to do, that would have gone over our budget. But it didn't happen because the deal didn't go through, so nobody knows about it."
Big names on paper don't necessarily equate to success on the field, but for the first time in recent memory the Blue Jays have realistic expectations of reaching the postseason. Even with the Yankees' roster continuing to age and the Red Sox attempting to reload, there are no guarantees in place. However, anything less than meaningful games in September will end in disappointment.
Toronto's biggest weakness last season was on the mound -- a result of a series of devastating injuries to the rotation -- but now Johnson and Buehrle give Anthopoulos the two starters he was so desperately seeking. On offense, Reyes and the recently acquired Melky Cabrera appear to be perfect fits at the top of the lineup in front of Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion.
Even Bonifacio, who Anthopoulos said Miami was extremely reluctant to part with, also represents an interesting piece. He spent most of the past two seasons in the outfield, but he has the ability to play second base and is expected to compete with recently signed Maicer Izturis for the starting job.
Buck appears to be a relatively minor inclusion in the deal, but he provides Toronto with even more depth behind the plate. The Blue Jays also have J.P. Arencibia and Bobby Wilson on the 40-man roster, with top prospect Travis d'Arnaud waiting in the wings. It's a strong possibility Toronto will now look to deal from a position of strength to acquire another pitcher or to restock the Minor Leagues with upper-level prospects.
Even though the offseason isn't even two months old yet, the Blue Jays have already turned over almost a third of their roster from the end of last season. In the minds of some, they all represent the missing pieces.
"Buehrle's career speaks for itself, what he does year after year," said John Gibbons, who was officially hired as the club's new manager on Tuesday morning. "Josh Johnson, arguably, over the last few years was the most sought out pitcher out there.
"You combine that all together and you have a little bit of everything. You have very good team speed, you have some guys that can steal some bases, they can manufacture runs that way. Then you have some guys in the middle, and not just the middle but throughout the lineup, they can turn the game in a hurry with one swing."