Let’s all go to Toronto! (Joe Robbins / Getty Images)

The Miami Marlins have a lovely new stadium — thanks, taxpayers! They have colorful new uniforms. Now, if they only had a team.

Owner Jeffrey Loria gutted the Marlins on Tuesday night, sending a boatload of players and roughly $160 million in salary to the Toronto Blue Jays. The move was, as USA Today’s Bob Nightengale put it, “the ultimate Ponzi scheme, getting South Florida taxpayers to pay for a new ballpark to watch a product that simply doesn’t exist.”

Blue Jays General Manager Alex Athopolous made the stunning 12-player trade, getting All-Star shortstop Jose Reyes, pitchers Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson, catcher John Buck and infielder Emilio Bonifacio. In return, the Marlins get seven players, three of whom are minor-leaguers, and about $160 million of salary relief. While the trade awaits the approval of Major League Baseball, Blue Jays fans are rejoicing over this unusual thing called hope in Toronto, Bruce Arthur writes.

Maybe Jose Bautista roars back, and Romero gets well, and Brett Lawrie pulls himself together, and … well, the necessary ifs feel a lot less tenuous than they used to, all of a sudden. Whatever happens, they are going for it, really going for it, and now there is some hope that expectations could be met. The Jays made the move, Toronto, so you may as well get on board.

Hope. So that’s what it feels like.

In Miami, there is anger, outrage and shock. Outfielder Giancarlo Stanton vented his anger at being abandoned on Twitter, saying, “Alright, I’m [ticked] off. Plain & Simple.”

Certainly, salary dumps are nothing new. The Boston Red Sox unloaded after last summer’s debacle. The Marlins have battered their fan base with fire sales before under Wayne Huizenga and have had largely empty stadiums to show for it. But this seems different. Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald describes the desolation:

What remains bears little resemblance to the Opening Day roster that was escorted onto the field by Brazilian dancers in April at the team’s expensive, new ballpark, one largely paid for with taxpayer dollars. The Marlins’ entire four-man infield from April has now been traded. Gone, too, are three-fifths of the starting rotation, the closer, and a starting catcher and outfielder.

Once it became apparent in mid-summer that the Marlins would not contend, they began chiseling away players in July at the trade deadline, dealing Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez, among others.

Dissatisfied with Guillen’s performance in the first year of a four-year contract, the Marlins fired him a few weeks after the conclusion of the season and replaced him with rookie manager Mike Redmond.

One component that will remain unchanged: owner Jeffrey Loria. Speculation was rampant that the latest deal might signal Loria’s intention to sale the franchise. But two sources said Loria, who has owned the team since 2002, remains committed and has no interest in selling the club.

And this may be only the beginning of a wild offseason, Albert Chen of SI.com writes. Buckle up.

Not long after the final out of the 2012 World Series, a baseball executive looked ahead at the offseason and predicted that it would be unlike any other. He talked about how the trend of long-term contracts was killing free agency and how teams, enriched by lucrative regional cable TV deals, would aggressively pursue creative ways to upgrade their rosters, whether it be through the international market or the trade market. “With more and more teams thinking they’ve got a chance to be the next Orioles and make the playoffs, a lot of teams will be really aggressive,” he said. “Beyond that, I’ll be honest, I don’t know what to expect.”

In other words, Tuesday’s stunning deal may just be the start of a wild offseason — a winter where 75-win teams, inspired by the success of the 2012 Orioles and A’s, are more motivated than ever to go for it. What’s next? Justin Upton to the Royals in the next blockbuster? Anything is possible.

Oh, boy.

Follow @CindyBoren on Twitter and on Facebook.


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