“In Lou Of” The Blue Jays Are The New AL East Power
The Toronto Blue Jays have not played a post season game since Joe Carters famous walk off home run in the 1993 World Series. Even with the addition of the wild card in 1995, the Blue Jays really never came close to qualifying for the playoffs. Many people attribute this to the Yankees and the Red Sox domination, but truthfully the Jays just never put together a complete team. During this past offseason, the Jays made drastic improvements to their roster via the trade market and free agency. While their divisional foes did little to improve and keep pace with them. The Jays are poised to have one of their best seasons in franchise history, and they should restore some balance to the AL East.
The Acquisitions: The Jays made two major trades this off-season with NL East teams looking to rebuild. The first was with the Miami Marlins. The Jays received starting pitchers Josh Johnson, and Mark Buehrle along with utility man Emilio Bonifacio, and superstar shortstop Jose Reyes. The second was with the New York Mets who sent 2012 NL CY Young award winner R.A. Dickey to Toronto. The Jays were also active in free agency, signing utility man Maicer Izturis, and 2012 All-star game MVP outfielder Melky Cabrera. With these acquisitions, it has allowed the Blue Jays to move their number 1 and 2 starters from 2012 (Brandon Morrow and Ricky Romero) to their number 4 and 5 spots in the rotation. This has given the Jays the deepest pitching staff in the AL and possibly all of Major League Baseball. Their lineup is also much improved. They have added a much-needed lead off man in Reyes as well as a very talented number 2 hitter in Cabrera. Izturis and Bonifacio will compete for AB’s at 2nd base, and hit 9th in the lineup. They provide the Jays with a lead off type hitter in a spot that in many lineups does not typically produce much offence. The Jays lineup is also much more versatile by adding these 4 players because they are all switch hitters. Last years team did not feature one switch hitter in the lineup. All 4 players possess great speed along with base running abilities, and should provide sluggers Jose Bautista & Edwin Encarnacion with plenty of RBI chances. With a loaded pitching staff and batting order, the Jays have extremely high expectations and they are certainly justified.
The Division: The Jays may have picked the perfect time to, “go for it”. They are much improved while the rest of their division stayed put, and watched as they reloaded their roster. They all made acquisitions, however, none of them are good enough to put them over the top. Every team has their issues, and I am going to discuss them below.
Tampa Bay Rays: The Rays seem to always have a great rotation, yet they struggle to score runs with any consistency. They are probably the second best team in the AL East, but I personally think they are a worse team than the 2012 squad. They lost their big game pitcher in James Shields when they traded him to the Royals, which immediately makes their pitching staff weaker. They also lost 2 of their best power bats, B.J. Upton and Carlos Pena to free agency. The Rays always seem to find a way to compensate for losing players, yet this time they may have to take a long-term approach.
Baltimore Orioles: They were the surprise team last season, winning a wild card spot and then taking the Yankees to 5 games in the ALDS. They have a great young offensive ball club that is led by the big bat of Adam Jones, however, they have a big question mark when it comes to their starting pitching. Their bullpen was one of the best in baseball last season and heading into the 2013 season they look to repeat that success with the help of Pedro Strop and Jim Johnson. Unfortunately, the Orioles do not have a true ace in their rotation and none of their projected starters are proven commodities. None of them have multiple years of success in the MLB, and there is no way of knowing how they will fair this season. The Orioles chances of making the post season will come down to whether or not their starters can get the ball to the bullpen with a lead.
Boston Red Sox: The Red Sox have been in turmoil since their late season collapse in 2011. They traded away some of their best players last season, and although they made acquisitions this offseason, they weren’t good enough to have an impact in 2013. Their bullpen has some solid arms with the acquisition of Joel Hanrahan and returning set up man Andrew Bailey, yet it still ranks 4th or 5th in the division. Their rotation features 4 players whose best seasons are behind them and their lineup is filled with declining players and guys who are injury prone. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Sox made another trade this season that sends star players like Jacoby Ellsbury and David Ortiz away for a handful of prospects. It’s time to rebuild in Boston. They need a miracle to occur for them to make the post season.
New York Yankees: For the first time since 1997, the Yankees are not a favourite to make the postseason. Their long time superstars are getting up there in age and 2 of their best power hitters (Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson) are set to become free agents at the end of the 2013 season. Their starting rotation is above average but still ranks 3rd in the division and their lineup is heavily depleted. The Yankees will be without A-Rod, Granderson and Teixeira to start the season and are hoping that Derek Jeter can return to form after suffering a season ending ankle injury last October. The Yankees are destined to finish towards the bottom of the AL East this season unless they can find a way to play .500 baseball until their offensive stars return.
With all that being said, this is how I see the final standings in the AL East:
Toronto Blue Jays: 97-65
Tampa Bay Rays: 90-72
Baltimore Orioles: 88-74
New York Yankees: 83-79
Boston Red Sox: 73-89
The Jays Projected Lineup:
- 1. Jose Reyes-SS
- 2. Melky Cabrera-LF
- 3. Jose Bautista-RF
- 4. Edwin Encarnacion-1B
- 5. Colby Rasmus-CF
- 6. Brett Lawrie-3B
- 7. Adam Lind-DH
- 8. J.P. Arencibia-C
- 9. Emilio Bonifacio-2B
- R.A. Dickey
- Josh Johnson
- Mark Buehrle
- Brandon Morrow
- Ricky Romero
The Blue Jays are in a great position not only because of the strength of their roster, but also because of the deficiencies of the rest of their division. Many people around Major League Baseball have named them as one of the favorites to win the World Series and I have to agree. Apparently, Las Vegas also agrees with me. They have made the Jays the favorite to win the World Series with 15/2 odds. They also have 8/5 odds to win the AL East division. The Jays will have to deal with teams like the Angels & Tigers in the post season, but their deep starting rotation will give them a chance to play deep into October. 2013 should be a great year for Baseball in Canada, and should be the first time since 1998 that one of the Yankees, Red Sox or Rays don’t win the division. To those of you who are fans of the Rays, Orioles, Sox & Yankees, I’m sorry but this just isn’t going to be your year.