Jettisoned off to the Toronto Blue Jays this week in a predictable Miami Marlins fire sale trade, former Chicago White Sox left-hander Mark Buehrle will now be forced to navigate through what may be baseball's best division going forward.
Instead of facing some of the low-scoring clubs who play in mammoth parks across the National League in order to keep his career going strong, the 33-year-old Buehrle will now have to deal with the top offenses in the game at some of the smallest venues in baseball. And considering Buehrle's declining velocity and that albatross of a contract he still needs to live up to, Jim Margalus of South Side Sox isn't entirely sure this move up north is the best situation for the veteran lefty's career right now:
His baseball environs may prove to be equally inhospitable. Buehrle would move from one of baseball's stingiest home run park to Rogers Centre, which has given up bunches in recent years. His home run rate was its highest since 2006, although he compensated by allowing fewer hits and walks overall, so the uptick in gopher balls might be the result of challenging hitters more often. Setting aside the park, he'll face stiffer competition in an AL East that he's found challenging at times.
Buehrle comes back to the American League with even less on his fastball and cutter, so he'll have to be even craftier than usual. I'm far more interested in how he handles an unprecedented amount of turmoil around him. For the first time in a long time, Buehrle won't have his choice of surroundings or coaches. It's quite possible nothing will harsh his mellow, but this should put the elasticity of his baseball being to the test.
While he still managed to win 13 games and post a stellar 3.74 earned-run average for an awful Marlins team in 2012, Buehrle's situation in Miami proved to be beneficial for him in the short-term solely because he hand-picked his destination beforehand.
Aside from the fact that the Blue Jays have now morphed into a title contender due to this blockbuster deal, having to quickly relocate to Canada after just moving down to South Beach is more than just a minor burden for even the most traveled professional athlete. The crafty left-hander has certainly defied the odds plenty of times over the years, although he still looks to be on the verge of his most challenging season in the majors in 2013.