TORONTO (AP) Jose Reyes was in a hotel room in the Middle East when he received the surprising news: He had been traded from the downsizing Miami Marlins to the bulking-up Toronto Blue Jays.
``I went to Dubai on vacation with my wife,'' Reyes said Thursday in his first public comments about the Nov. 19 deal. ``One day I got up at 6 in the morning and I see all these text messages saying `You got traded.' That kind of surprised me a little bit.''
Reyes left the New York Mets as a free agent after the 2011 to sign a $106 million, six-year contracts with the Marlins, who boosted their payroll as they prepared to move into a new retractable-roof ballpark in downtown Miami. But after fading from contention en route to a last-place finish, the Marlins sold off their stars.
The move was surprising to Reyes, given a conversation he had just had with owner Jeffrey Loria.
``Five days before I got traded I was with the owner of the Miami Marlins and he said he was never going to trade me,'' Reyes recalled.
Like his Miami teammates, Reyes didn't have a no-trade provision. Telephone conversations with new teammates and fellow Dominicans Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion soothed any concerns.
``After that I said, `It's a better opportunity with the Blue Jays,''' Reyes said. ``It's all about winning and the team we're going to put on the field is going to be good.''
Reyes was dealt with pitchers Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson, catcher John Buck and outfielder Emilio Bonifacio and $8.5 million to Toronto for infielders Yunel Escobar and Adeiny Hechavarria, catcher Jeff Mathis, right-handers Henderson Alvarez, and Anthony DeSclafani, left-hander Justin Nicolino and outfielder Jake Marisnick.
``He's the type of guy you want to come and see play, he's electric,'' Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos said. ``This is a rare guy to find. Leadoff, shortstop, energy, makeup, you can check off every single box. I don't know that there's another shortstop like him. I think any GM would love to have him.''
Anthopoulos called Reyes ``probably my favorite player in the league.''
``You can't help but admire what he brings and what he does,'' Anthopoulos said. ``From that standpoint, the opportunity to get him in trade, we jumped at it. We felt we were pretty deep at shortstop but we've never seen a guy like this.
``I don't know that 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 so exciting.''
Anthopoulos had made starting pitching his priority.
``We weren't going to go anywhere if we didn't improve the rotation,'' he said.
He addressed that concern in the trade with the Marlins and another that sent Buck as part of a package to the New York Mets for Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey.
The NL batting champion in 2011 and a three-time NL stolen base champion, Reyes will be the first in a quartet of Dominican stars at the top of Toronto's order. Outfielder Melky Cabrera will likely bat second, followed by sluggers Bautista and Encarnacion.
That's made the Blue Jays as big a story in the Caribbean as they've been since the 1980s and the days of George Bell and Tony Fernandez.
``When I went to the Dominican and people saw me on the street, everybody talked about the Blue Jays,'' Reyes said. ``At least in my town, everybody is a fan of the Blue Jays now.''
Reyes is set to play for the Dominican Republic team at the World Baseball Classic, among seven Toronto players expected to take part in the tournament. Encarnacion, Cabrera and right-hander Esmil Rogers have been selected for the Dominican Republic's preliminary roster; Dickey and catcher J.P. Arencibia for the United States; and infielder Brett Lawrie for Canada.
Bautista is skipping the WBC following surgery in September to repair a left wrist injury that limited him to 92 games last season.
``The biggest thing with that is we need him ready for the season,'' Anthopoulos said.
Anthopoulos said Bautista, who feels good and has been swinging every day, hopes to play in Toronto's exhibition opener on Feb. 23 against Detroit.
That's a game Reyes is looking forward to, as well.
``I can't wait to get to spring training and start to work together,'' Reyes said. ``It's going to be a special season for the Blue Jays. The goal for us here is to go to the playoffs, go to the World Series and win. Less than that is not going to be acceptable with the kind of team that we have.''