To say the Blue Jays made a big splash this off season would be an understatement. Not only was Toronto able to capitalize on the latest Marlins fire sale, they also added the reigning NL Cy Young award winner. But in reality that might not be the biggest addition the Blue Jays are making for this season.
R.A. Dickey (Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports)
Jose Bautista is healthy and fully recovered from his wrist injury that ended his 2012 season. Much has been made about the new players Toronto added this winter, but it is the returning players that will make or break their 2013 season. At least for the position players, because 60% of their starting rotation was added this off season.
Bautista leads a core of power hitters that has defined Toronto’s success over the last few seasons. Both Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion were signed essentially off the scrap heap by the Blue Jays only to develop into bona fide power threats. Bautista missed the second half of the 2012 season with his wrist injury, but it appears that he is fully recovered. Encarnacion also had a career year for Toronto last year as he is another power hitter the Blue Jays seemed to guess right on. That combination should project to about 70 home runs this year.
But that is nothing out of the ordinary for Toronto the last few seasons. They have had the power, but other aspects have been missing. And that is where Jose Reyes comes in. Reyes was the centerpiece of the trade with the Marlins and is the player Toronto will count on to get things started. As long as he stays healthy on the artificial turf, he very well could be the MVP for the Blue Jays. With the power hitters behind him, there is no reason why he can’t score 120 runs.
An underrated piece of the trade was the addition of Emilio Bonafacio. The speedster is going to be starting at second base and batting ninth, which in the American League is essentially a second leadoff hitter. Toronto’s new double play combination has the potential to steal 90 bases and truly set the table for the previously mentioned power hitters. Not only will they add a dynamic aspect to the lineup, but their defense will also aid the Toronto pitching staff.
The Blue Jays also bet two years and $16 million that Melky Cabrera is in fact a good player and his recent success is not fully attributable to his use of steroids. They have the power covered as Adam Lind is also a power threat if he keeps up the positive momentum he generated in the second half of last season. Cabrera could in fact be the perfect fit for this team. He should see plenty of fastballs and all he needs to do is hit line drives and get on base.
All of this talent and we still haven’t gotten to the biggest prospect, Brett Lawrie. Lawrie is starting the season on the Disabled List with a strained rib cage, but it does not appear that the injury will be serious or keep him out for long. He actually has the potential to be the biggest star on this team in a few years, but to start the season gritty veteran Mark DeRosa will man the hot corner.
This really has the potential to be a prolific offense, but the pitching staff is nothing to sneeze at either. Starting from the bullpen Casey Janssen looks to build on the success he had last season and Sergio Santos provides firepower late in games as well. But the real focus is on the rotation.
RA Dickey is the reigning Cy Young award winner and projects to be the ace of the staff. Not only can he be the ace, but more importantly, the leader. Pitching in a dome should agree with Dickey, but he is far from the biggest question mark on the staff as he makes the transition to the AL East.
Josh Johnson has loads of talent, but has had trouble staying healthy and remaining consistent in his career. Perhaps a change of scenery into a winning situation will suit Johnson well, but there is no guarantee that this will be the season he turns it around. The trade with the Marlins also brought the reliable left handed pitcher Mark Buerhle. Buerhle has experience pitching in the American League and should be a valuable addition to the staff.
By the end of the season Brandon Morrow could very be the second best starter on the staff. The young strikeout pitcher has the stuff to dominate opposing hitters. Toronto thought Ricky Romero could also be that guy, but once again he is going to have to sort out his stuff in the minor leagues. Instead, J.A. Happ will start the season as the fifth starter and at this point, he does not have much upside.
On paper the Blue Jays have one of the top teams in the league. There are some question marks, but not many. It might take them a little while to find their momentum, but once they do Toronto is a team to watch out for this season.