DUNEDIN, Fla. – Last November, then-Marlins shortstop Jose Reyes sat down to dinner with his boss, owner Jeffrey Loria. The two chatted about the future – specifically, Reyes’ future in Miami. Loria encouraged his star to find a nice house in South Florida.
Days later, Reyes was traded.
That was the story Reyes told Friday here at Blue Jays camp, where he is now starting another spring training as a member of a supposed dream team. The last dream team, as we now know, was built on false promises and empty words. The Marlins, looking like World Series contenders opening a brand new, mostly publicly financed ballpark one year ago, have been mostly dismantled by their owner. Loria's Marlins dealt Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, John Buck and Emilio Bonifacio to Toronto last November for a few prospects and other players. All the hope for another World Series title in South Florida has, much like Reyes, gone north. Reyes, like star pitcher Buehrle, was only in town for one season.
"He always told me he was never gonna trade me," Reyes said Friday. "He told my agent, 'Get a place here to live.' Before he traded me, days before the trade."
Reyes then went on vacation with his wife and heard a rumor about the trade. "I thought it was a joke," Reyes said. "When I called my agent, he said yes."
Reyes said he was in disbelief for two weeks.
Reyes is a happy guy, an optimistic guy, but he told the story about the dinner with a look of disappointment and resentment. He never heard from Loria or anyone at the Marlins about the deal. Reyes still hasn’t heard from anyone at the Marlins. And he assumes he won't. "How are you gonna tell me to spend some money on a house," he said, "and then trade me in two days?"
Asked if he'd have any advice for free agents considering signing with the Marlins, Reyes said, "I don't need to say anything. You see what happened. I signed up for six years, I only played one year."
Loria's reputation is so bad that a reporter asked Reyes if the owner even picked up the check for the dinner. (Reyes said it was an awards dinner.) Later Friday morning, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos directly referenced Reyes' treatment by Loria when he said, "We built our trust on actions, not on words."
Loria's actions speak for themselves: He pushed Miami into backing a $634 million house of cards that fell apart when he dumped $181 million in salary months after the gleaming stadium opened. Loria and team president David Samson are now considered, as Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Passan writes, "the con artists who pilfered Miami's money before moving on to its dignity."
That's the real injustice here. Reyes will be fine. "I'm not in Miami no more," he said. He has a new team and new hope; the Blue Jays already have sold out their first home game against Cleveland. There is real excitement among Toronto fans. Marlins fans? Not so much. The city of Miami is left high and dry, on the hook for $2.4 billion when the full bill for the 40-year financing of the ballpark is due. There wasn't even one season of great baseball for all that money, as the Marlins finished in last place for the second straight year. Several days ago, when single-game tickets went on sale at the still-new Marlins Stadium, a photo of the line outside the park circled the web. There were fewer than five people waiting.
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"I feel bad for the fans of Miami," Reyes said.
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