30 Clubs in 30 Days: Toronto Blue Jays

Posted: March 4, 2014 in Uncategorized

bluejayLast year, many analysts (including this one) projected the Toronto Blue Jays to win the American League East. The organization was coming off a transformative offseason, in which the Jays landed big fish like Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Melky Cabrera, and the reigning National League Cy Young R.A. Dickey. Heading into April, Toronto was among the favorites to win the World Series; a spectacular feat for team that hasn’t even made the postseason since Joe Carter won them their second consecutive championship in 1993. 20 years of futility was supposed to all disappear. Instead, injuries, inconsistency, and disappointment led to a last place finish in their difficult division. Toronto, 74-88, looks for a rebound in 2014 with a roster that is very similar to last year’s. GM Alex Anthopoulos just has to hope that his team fares better with injuries this time around.

Offensively, the Blue Jays return 8 of their 9 starters that helped them score 712 runs a year ago. Edwin Encarnacion’s transition from third to first base has been successful. The 31-year old had the best season of his career in 2013, slamming 36 homers to go along with 104 RBI (both team leads). Reyes, 31, came over from Miami to much fanfare. But, injuries cut nearly 70 games off the schedule for him. His numbers (.296-10-37) weren’t bad. So, the Jays would be pleased with Reyes if he could just stay on the field. Former superstar Jose Bautista may be losing a step or two. The outfielder played in just 118 games last year and hit merely .259 (though he did slug 28 homers).

Really, though, it’s difficult for anyone in the lineup to have consistency when injuries are ravaging the clubhouse. The only Blue Jays regulars who played more than 118 games in 2013 were DH Adam Lind, Encarnacion, and C J.P. Arencibia. The latter has moved on to Texas. He’ll be replaced in 2014 by former Cubs’ C Dioner Navarro.

The pitching staff doesn’t change much, either. They lose Johnson to San Diego, though he was nothing more than a disaster in his lone season north-of-the-border. Returning are Dickey, Brandon Morrow, Mark Buerhle, J.A. Happ, and Esmil Rogers to make up their rotation. Former prospect Kyle Drabek and phenom Marcus Stroman will have an outside chance at making the roster. In the bullpen, Casey Janssen returns to man the ninth inning. The RHP saved a career high 34-games in 2013.

Key Acquisitions

C Dioner Navarro (Cubs)
C Erik Kratz (Phillies)
INF Chris Getz (Royals)

Key Departures

C J.P. Arencibia (Rangers)
2B Emilio Bonifacio (Cubs)
OF Rajai Davis (Tigers)
RHP Josh Johnson (Padres)
RHP Brad Lincoln (Phillies)
LHP Darren Oliver (Retirement)

Projected Lineup and Rotation

SS Jose Reyes
OF Melky Cabrera
OF Jose Bautista
DH Edwin Encarnacion
3B Brett Lawrie
1B Adam Lind
OF Colby Rasmus
C Dioner Navarro
2B Maicer Izturis

RHP R.A. Dickey
RHP Brandon Morrow
LHP Mark Buerhle
LHP J.A. Happ
RHP Esmil Rogers

RHP Casey Janssen

Outlook

The Blue Jays might have been in contention last year if they had avoided the plague of injuries that swept through Rogers Centre. Instead of a team that was expected to put up 90+ wins, Toronto got one of their worst records in a decade. Can a new year put an end to their woes? It’s jays wordpossible. But, unlikely. After all, this is a much better division than it was a year ago. New York is certainly much better. As are the Baltimore Orioles, who boosted their roster with a couple of key free agent acquisitions. Toronto, meanwhile, took a step back and spent this offseason admiring the landscape. After a shopping spree during the winter of 2012, the Jays decided to see if their investments would pay off a year later than expected.

Offensively, the Blue Jays could be as talented as anyone in the league if they play their cards right. The top four of Reyes, Cabrera, Bautista, and Encarnacion are very impressive. Both Bautista and Encarnacion should be expected to hit over 30 homers this season. Adam Lind and Colby Rasmus also have an outside shot at eclipsing that plateau.

The concern for Toronto comes from their weak rotation. Dickey experienced a considerable decline after joining the A.L. Meanwhile, Buerhle is 35 and the Morrow/Happ combination, despite their promise, have never been able to stay on the field. The team never replaced the departed Josh Johnson, and that could be a big concern if injuries again befall one of their starters in 2014.

Yes, Toronto has some big names. But, those names didn’t translate to wins in 2013. I fear that the Jays are going to be saddled with the same problems this time around. Their impact players aren’t getting any younger and the pitching staff is devoid of depth. That’s a disaster waiting to happen for the Blue Jays, and might just be the straw the broke the camel’s back in the career of Alex Anthopoulos. I see the Blue Jays winning between 73-79 games, finishing last in the American League East once again.

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