Blue Jays introduce shortstop Jose Reyes
Dominican batted .287 with 37 doubles and 40 stolen last season with Miami
He's a four-time all-star, a National League batting champion, a Silver Slugger award winner and the New York Mets' all-time leader in triples and stolen bases.
But Jose Reyes wasn't the focal point of November's blockbuster 12-player trade that made him a member of the Toronto Blue Jays.
The club officially unveiled its new star shortshop on Thursday, however when general manager Alex Anthopoulos first called the Miami Marlins about making a deal, it initially involved pitchers Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle.
"I've always talked about Jose Reyes in the office as one of my favourite players and I remember when we left our first meeting with the Marlins I had brought up Reyes at the end," Anthopoulos said. "That wasn't the gameplan, I had to slide it in there and see if they wanted to talk about him.
"Once they said with the right players they would, we were going to try and find a way to get him."
What resulted Nov. 19 was Toronto acquiring Reyes, Johnson, Buehrle, catcher John Buck and infielder/outfielder Emilio Bonifacio from Miami for infielders Yunel Escobar and Adeiny Hechavarria, pitchers Henderson Alvarez, Anthony DeSclafani and Justin Nicolino, catcher Jeff Mathis and outfielder Jake Marisnick.
Pitching was the priority
After Toronto's disappointing 2012 campaign — the club finished fourth in the American League East with a 73-89 record — Anthopoulos started calling Miami looking to shore up the starting rotation.
"We had asked about Josh Johnson first ... the rotation was clearly the priority and then Buehrle's name came up," Anthopoulos said. "It evolved.
"Not that we went out looking for a shortstop but Jose Reyes brings a lot to a team. I just threw his name in at the end and figured if we're going to make a big deal let's try to find a way to get him in there. We knew the rotation was what we needed to obviously improve."
The trade to Toronto surprised Reyes because he had received assurances prior to the deal from the Marlins that he wouldn't be moved. Ultimately, though, he was sent to the Jays less than a year after signing six-year, US$106-million deal with Miami.
On Thursday, he certainly didn't look or sound like a player who was holding a grudge. Reyes sported a broad smile as he spoke to reporters and said he's anxious to begin a new chapter in his career with a new team in a new country.
"As a baseball player you have to realize this is a business ... and that's going to happen sometimes," Reyes said. "As a player you need to understand that.
"[In Toronto] the team we're going to put on the field is going to be good. I can't wait."
The acquisition of Reyes, 29, certainly provides Toronto a tremendous boost offensively and in the field.
A switch hitter, he batted .287 with Miami last year with 37 doubles, 12 triples, 11 home runs, 57 RBIs and 40 stolen bases after claiming the 2011 NL batting title with the Mets. Defensively, he's also a major upgrade over Escobar.
Reyes led the majors in triples in 2005, 2006, 2008, and 2011 and topped the NL in stolen bases in 2005, 2006, and 2007. Reyes is career .291 hitter with 92 homers, 111 triples and 410 steals over nine major league seasons and will give Toronto a bona fide leadoff hitter in 2013.
"I doubt that there's another shortstop like him," Anthopoulos said. "The other element about Jose is he's a great offensive player.
"The leadoff component is becoming more and more rare to find in the game today. You see a lot of great lineups, they have that catalyst at the top of the order. And there's also the energy he brings, you hear guys say all the time they feed off someone like this.
"I don't know if we're going to see another shortstop like this in Toronto for a long time. This is one of the great players to play the game and the fact that he's got a chance to be in Toronto for the next five or six years is exciting."
However, Reyes has had hamstring issues, which could be a concern for a team that plays on turf at Rogers Centre and is chasing its first playoff appearance since its second World Series title in 1993. But that won't force Reyes to play conservatively.
"I'm going to try and score a lot of runs with this team," he said. "That's something I've been doing [throughout] my career so hopefully I can continue to do that here.
"When I take the field I want to play my game the way I played before. We've got a good lineup so we're going to be dangerous."
But Reyes will miss a portion of spring training with his new team. That's because he'll suit up for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic.
"I'd like to be with the Jays in spring training," he said. "But when you represent your country you have to be honoured about that ... I said yes because I wanted to represent my country."