Reyes' gusto resonates with Blue Jays
Prized acquisition boosts anticipation, expectations for 2013
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Jose Reyes had the whole spectrum covered when he arrived at the Spring Training headquarters of the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday.
On the one hand, there was his inherent nature, which is relentlessly positive, upbeat and encouraging to those in his company. On the other hand, there was a cautionary tale about a baseball team that was advertised as having great potential, but finished in last place.
Reyes is a particularly prized part of the package the Blue Jays got in a trade with the Miami Marlins. The trade helped to transform the Jays into something more than simply contenders. Expectations are soaring for the Toronto club.
Reyes, a fine defensive shortstop, a legitimate leadoff hitter and one of baseball's most exciting, dynamic players, is one big reason for that optimism. But he has been through this experience before. Prior to the 2012 season, the Marlins made major acquisitions and, as they moved into a new ballpark, spent major money. After putting in his formative Major League seasons with the Mets, Reyes received a share of that money, signing a long-term deal with the Marlins.
One way or another, the Marlins were widely seen before the 2012 season as a team that could/would/should reach the postseason.
"Last year, we had an unbelievable team in Miami and we finished last," Reyes said, uttering the word "last" with real distaste. "So everything that people say sounds good -- we've got a good team, stuff like that -- but it's about the players putting it together on the field.
"It's kind of similar [with the Blue Jays]. But it doesn't matter what people say. It's just, get on the field and get it done. ... That team in Miami, we had a lot of talent, but we never put it together on the field."
This same outlook has taken hold in the Toronto front office, as well. Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos said Friday that it could be helpful to his current club having former Marlins players who experienced both the hype and the letdown last season. But the Jays who were in Toronto in 2012, Anthopoulos said, may have learned the same sort of lesson when what had been a promising season unraveled due to injuries.
"It's like the saying, 'I'm from Missouri, show me,'" Anthopoulos said. "Again, we have talent, that goes without saying and I think the fact that we have an older club helps. I think what the Marlins players went through, what our own players went through; I hope there has been a sense of humility developed."
On the other side of Reyes's arrival, there was the contagious enthusiasm he carries with him to any baseball occasion. It was noticed immediately and appreciated immensely at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium.
"It's amazing, the energy he brings," Anthopoulos said. "You know, you hear about it. Sometimes, you go, 'All right, everybody's blowing this up into a little more than it is.' But man, oh man. He walks in and the smile on his face just lights up the room. And I can see how it's contagious and it impacts his teammates.
"I understand. Being around him now, in the clubhouse for 20 minutes? I get it. For the guys who had been around him before, I see what you guys saw. It's just a genuine passion, for life, for the game.
"And then there's obviously his talent. It's going to be fun to watch him play."
It will be a different league and a different home country for Reyes. But he's had adjustments to make before, after being a Met for years and then lasting only one season in Miami.
"It's a little weird because when I went to Miami, I didn't expect that I'd get traded so soon," Reyes said. "But it's a business, and as a baseball player you've got to understand that kind of stuff is going to happen sometimes.
"I was shocked because [Marlins owner] Jeffrey Loria always told me he was never going to trade me. He called my agent and said: 'Tell Jose to get a good place to live.' Stuff like that."
Days before the trade to Toronto, Reyes said, he was having dinner with Loria, who "was talking still about me getting a nice house in Miami. So it was kind of a surprise."
Now well past the surprise, Reyes is looking forward to playing with an exceptionally talented Toronto team. He is encouraged by the proud history of players from the Dominican Republic being major contributors for this organization. And he has personal testimony from one of the leading players in Blue Jays history, first baseman Carlos Delgado, who later played with Reyes on the Mets.
"Carlos Delgado is a great friend of mine," Reyes said. "He told me a lot about Toronto and how great the city is. I'm looking forward to stepping on the field and meeting the fans there. ... I'm very excited to be part of this team."
The excitement is a two-way street. The Blue Jays are filled with happy anticipation regarding the prospect of Reyes, with all his talent, all his boundless enthusiasm and all of his baseball experience -- including the 2012 letdown -- playing for them.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.