Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Rest of the East: Toronto Blue Jays

In the final installment of my analysis of American League East teams, I look at the newly revamped Toronto Blue Jays who acquired half of their roster from the Miami Marlins in a mega-trade early in the off-season. The Jays were a horrific baseball team last year. Most of their key players were injured, and the rest of the team was not effective. If they want to finish first in the division, a lot of things have to go right.

Jose Bautista missed most of the second half of the 2012 season with a wrist injury that he suffered at Yankee Stadium during an at-bat. Until that point in the season, Toronto was treading water. They remained in the wildcard hunt until the end of July, when things totally fell apart. Their manager, John Farrell, did a great job in working with what he had but the end result was not a desirable one. After winning a mere 73 games in the AL East one year ago, the Blue Jays look to buck that short trend by taking it all in 2013. The star power on the team begins with the pitching staff and ends with the starting lineup. There is no question that the Blue Jays are an all-around improved team, aside from minor holes in the bullpen. The World Series is not won in March, it is won in October. The Miami Marlins learned that the hard way after they spent a ton of money of big free agents and came in last place in their division.

Beginning with the trade, the Blue Jays now have a stellar front of the rotation pitching staff. Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle were both respective aces at some point in their career. The problem with the pair is, Johnson could not stay healthy in 2012 and Buehrle had an off year for his standards. The rotation looks great on paper, but the players have to stay healthy and remain effective to pose as a real threat in the division. Jose Reyes was another key player traded from Miami to Toronto. There is no question that the team up north possesses one of the best shortstops in Major League Baseball. Reyes had a great season with the Marlins, and was able to remain healthy through the season which is something he has struggled with in the past.

The Blue Jays further strengthened their rotation by adding the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner in RA Dickey. Dickey is the only remaining knuckle ball pitcher in baseball and has found his way after struggling for years before coming to the Mets in 2010. RA has already been announced as the Opening Day starter, and he has fared well in domes over the last couple of years so I don't expect him to struggle north of the border.

The Jays announced that Ricky Romero is getting sent down to Class A Dunedin. The former ace lefty starter has struggled with his command since the middle of last year and has shown no signs of improvement in spring camp with the Blue Jays. Manager John Gibbons said that Romero is lacking confidence and mental toughness, which is something that a first year manager should not be saying to the media. However, the fact remains that Romero pitched to a 7.35 ERA with 59 walks and 55 strikeouts over his final 17 starts of 2012. Those are startling numbers from a pitcher who was thought so highly of in the past.

The Blue Jays offense is certainly capable of hitting, with Jose Bautista and Jose Reyes leading the way. Toronto has added some pieces which include Melky Cabrera and Maicer Izturis. They have great players in Edwin Encarnacion and Brett Lawrie, who projects to be a start third baseman one day.

With all of that said, I believe that the Blue Jays will make the postseason, but likely in a wildcard spot. I project the Jays winning about 87 games, which should be enough to make the postseason.

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