Happy New Year Toronto Blue Jays’ fans, ’tis the season to rejoice! A new year, a new team. General manager Alex Anthopoulos treated the fans to a pair of blockbuster trades and a potential blockbuster free agent in a busy 2012 offseason.
Anthopoulos dealt the perennial headache of a shortstop Yunel Escobar, backup catcher Jeff Mathis, starting pitcher Henderson Alvarez, and highly touted prospects Adeiny Hechavarria, Jake Marisnick and Justin Nicolino to get MLB proven talent in former All-Stars Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and Jose Reyes plus Emilio Bonifacio and John Buck. The flurry of moves continued with the signing of last year’s All-Star Game MVP Melky Cabrera to a two year deal, plus swapping the newly acquired Buck and top prospect Travis d’Arnaud for last year’s National League Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey plus knuckleball catcher Josh Tole.
These moves have the fans of not just the Blue Jays, but baseball in general buzzing. The Jays are now favourites to win the World Series, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers with 15/2 odds.
What isn’t there to be excited about for this upcoming season? Oh ya, they haven’t won anything yet.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m plenty jazzed about all this, but I’m also a realist. My favourite sports teams have done this to me in the past, they will go out and make a big move only to have it blow up in my face (see Montreal Canadiens signing Mike Cammalleri, and the Philadelphia Eagles signing, well, everyone). So forgive me for being slightly pessimistic about this.
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Jose Reyes has had an amazing career as a professional baseball player. He’s the player the Jays needed (leadoff hitter) and they went out and got him. Now Reyes has played with the New York Mets his entire career, except for last season, with the Miami Marlins. The Marlins and Mets have more than the same division in common; they also have grass infields in their home stadiums. Whether Reyes can hold up for a whole season on turf is yet to be seen, this was a high risk, high reward move, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Reyes on the 15 day DL a time or two this year.
Buehrle has been as consistent as you can get for a major leaguer, but at 33 he’s definitely on the decline, and he has voiced his displeasure about being moved out of Florida. I can see Buehrle slotting into the three spot in the rotation between flamethrowers Johnson and Brandon Morrow. While Buehrle won’t miss many bats, he will have a solid infield behind him defensively.
Not much you can say about Cabrera’s performance last year. In 113 games with the San Francisco Giants he hit .346, swiped 13 bases, had 60 RBIs and scored 84 runs. That’s a dynamite season, other than it being cut short due to suspension for PED usage. Whether or not Cabrera can pick up where he left off is yet to be determined, but his injection in the lineup will be a much needed one at the top of the order.
Don’t get me wrong, Robert Allen Dickey had a monster season last year: 20-6, 2.73 ERA and 230 K’s, unreal stuff. I can’t help but have an uneasy feeling about this. I have been a Jays fan far too long to see them sign a guy who is fresh off a monster season, and not flash back to Alex Rios and Vernon Wells decline to mediocrity after their stellar seasons. Dickey has been consistent in the ERA column over the past three seasons, but prior to last year he had touched double digits in wins just once, and hadn’t even sniffed the 200 strikeout mark.
So while the potential is all there to make a World Series run, I am being realistic about this and figure that the Jays will be battling with the Yankees for AL East supremacy, while the Tigers are still kicking around, and the Angels, Rangers and Athletics are all out west. An interesting season awaits MLB fans.