As prospects develop, trade with Jays looking better for Marlins

Fifteen months ago, the Marlins sent four All-Stars and a fifth player to Toronto. Miami received seven young prospects that are showing they have a bright future.

Jake Marisnick, one of seven players who went to the Marlins as part of a deal with Toronto, earned a July call-up and will battle for the starting job in center field this spring.

Daniel Shirley / USA TODAY Sports

JUPITER, Fla. -- Outfielder Jake Marisnick was driving back from an Arizona Fall League game when he got the call.

It was Nov. 13, 2012, and reports had begun swirling that the Miami Marlins and the Toronto Blue Jays had agreed to a historic 12-player trade.

Marisnick, along with shortstop Yunel Escobar, right-hander Henderson Alvarez, shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, pitching prospects Anthony DeSclafani and Justin Nicolino and backup catcher Jeff Mathis, were headed to South Florida.

In return, the Marlins offered four All-Stars -- shortstop Jose Reyes, right-hander Josh Johnson, left-hander Mark Buehrle and catcher John Buck -- as well as utility player Emilio Bonifacio.

''It was towards the last three games and I didn't play in them and for the championship game I wore the Blue Jay because it wasn't finalized,'' Marisnick recalled. ''If it was I would've switched jerseys. It was a trippy deal.''

The blockbuster became official a few days later, generating passionate responses from fans of both teams.

Fifteen months have since passed, and the negative sentiment seems to be changing.

All seven players (infielder Derek Dietrich was acquired for Escobar) are at big-league camp in Jupiter, Fla.

Though Alvarez didn't make his debut until July 4 because of right shoulder inflammation, he pitched the club's fifth no-hitter on the final day of the 2013 regular season.

The 23-year-old went 5-6 with a 3.59 ERA in 17 starts, surrendering just two home runs in 102 2/3 innings. He had 41 combined starts over parts of two seasons with the Blue Jays.

Alvarez is locked in as the third starter in Miami's rotation, which set a club mark for lowest ERA in 2013.

''Coming from Toronto was something unexpected, but as a baseball player you learn to handle it,'' Alvarez said through a translator. ''When I came here dealing with the arm I just worked hard and got it stronger and prepared myself for the second half of the season, which led to the final game.''

Mathis, a nine-year veteran, recovered from a broken collarbone to record a 3.15 catcher's ERA over 73 games with a young staff. He also threw out 33 percent of base stealers.

It was a mixed bag for the younger guys.

With just 41 major-league games of experience, Hechavarria struggled offensively as the everyday shortstop, but turned in highlight-reel plays with his glove.

Hechavarria batted just .227 with three home runs and 42 RBI. The 24-year-old did hit eight triples (fifth in the National League) and was durable (148 games) up the middle.

Dietrich, acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays for Escobar, made his major-league debut May 8 against the San Diego Padres. Before being sent down, he hit .214 with nine home runs and 23 RBI in 57 games.

The 24-year-old, who moved from third to second with Donovan Solano on the disabled list, struck out 56 times in 233 plate appearances.

''When we did what we did we knew we were trading away very talented players, so our goal in return was to get talented players back,'' president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. ''Jury's still out, but we couldn't be happier with (them).

''From that standpoint they all show tremendous promise, extremely talented young players and we hope they continue on their path and develop into productive major league players and help us win games.''

Nicolino, 22, and DeSclafani, 23, would be two of those guys working their way up.

The pair arrived in Jupiter in January 2013 and took part in winter workouts, easing into the transition of a new organization. It proved beneficial knowing the others included in the trade.

Both started 2013 at Single-A Jupiter before advancing to Double-A Jacksonville. They're now getting their first taste of big-league camp, soaking in knowledge from the veterans and chasing dreams of tomorrow.

In just his second minor-league season, DeSclafani went 9-6 with a 2.65 ERA. Nicolino posted a combined 8-4 record and 3.11 ERA in 27 starts.

''I've felt I've grown up a lot in the last year-and-a-half,'' Nicolino said. ''I got traded in November 2012 and to go through something like that and show up here feeling like I just got drafted again when I really didn't ... To me it's helped my career tremendously.

''I've been given a lot of opportunities here, and since I've been over here they've said, 'Take advantage of your opportunities.' Everything that they've had me do and everything I'€™ve done so far has been great.''

Marisnick, who will battle for the center-field position this spring, earned his call-up last July. It took 15 at-bats before he got his first hit, and he finished with a .183 average, one home run and five RBI in 40 games. He also battled a nagging left knee injury.

While in Arizona with baseball's top prospects, the 22-year-old remembers talking and playing catch with left fielder Christian Yelich. Three days later, they were teammates.

Now it's hard to find one without the other. In fact, they got called up together on July 23, 2013, making up two-thirds of the starting outfield.

''For fans, they don't get too much of a chance to see what the minor-league players can do and being a minor-league player and playing with some of the guys the Marlins were getting I thought it was a pretty good deal,'' Marisnick said.

''You're starting to see that now when guys get called up or guys playing well. It's definitely not as lopsided as people originally thought.''

You can follow Christina De Nicola on Twitter @CDeNicola13 or email her at

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