Toronto Blue Jays: Are the Jays Closer to Making the Playoffs in 2012?

Michael LevineContributor IIIJanuary 11, 2012

With the extended wild-card system in 2012, the Blue Jays, statistically, will have their best shot of making the postseason in recent memory. Alex Anthopoulos has made some solid minor moves this offseason, but these equate to ripples in a pond. The Jays have yet to make that big splash fans have been anticipating.

Despite the extra wild-card team, the additions of Albert Pujols and Yu Darvish to the AL could lower the chances of the Jays making the playoffs. Not only do the Blue Jays need to finish ahead of two of the top three teams in the AL East (the Yankees, Red Sox or Rays), they also will need to top either the Angels or the Rangers.

The Yankees have their flaws in the rotation, but they are still going to be tough to beat on a nightly basis.

The Red Sox are in a state of turmoil after a late-season collapse, but they're still an incredible ball club and you can guarantee they will be out to prove their worth in 2012.

Tampa Bay always seems to put solid teams out on the field. Their rotation is very young and strong, and they will surely remain competitive for years to come.

Texas easily has the best offensive lineup in the entire league and is a sure lock to make the playoffs if Darvish replaces Wilson in the rotation.

The Angels could be the best team in the AL this year. With the addition of Wilson, they have the best rotation in the AL with three aces, while Pujols gives them the deep threat they have been lacking since the departure of Vladamir Guerrero.

One of the main issues heading into this offseason for the Jays was their bullpen, or lack thereof. I commend Alex Anthopoulos on his bullpen remodeling. He has done a nice job of bolstering the bullpen with the additions of Sergio Santos, Darren Oliver and Jason Frasor. Though not perfect, a bullpen comprised of Casey Janssen, Jess Litsch, Jason Frasor, Carlos Villanueva, Darren Oliver, Joel Carreno, Luis Perez and Sergio Santos taking the mound in the ninth should be strong enough to compete with the beasts of the AL East.

Everyone knows the Blue Jays can hit. With full seasons from Brett Lawrie, Colby Rasmus and Kelly Johnson, it is fair to assume that Toronto’s offense will be even more dangerous than last year. Having said that, I still think the Blue Jays need another offensive threat in the lineup. In this day in age, one offensive superstar does not cut it.

Prince Fielder is by far the best option left on the market and would look great in Toronto’s new jerseys. This is starting to look like a far-fetched fantasy to Jays fans, and signing Prince seems more unlikely with each passing day. Alex Anthopoulos is very adamant on not handing out contracts longer than five years, while Prince will not accept one shorter than six years.

The Blue Jays need to improve their starting pitching. Behind Ricky Romero, the rotation is troubling. Henderson Alvarez is coming off a great rookie campaign, but he is still only 21 and has to prove himself over a full season. Brandon Morrow has incredible stuff but is wildly inconsistent. Kyle Drabek, Dustin McGowan and Brett Cecil will likely compete for the final two spots. Although all have shown flashes over their short careers, none are sure locks in any rotation, let alone in the toughest division in baseball.

The best free-agent starter left on the market is Edwin Jackson. Unfortunately, like Price, Jackson will want more than five years. Roy Oswalt also seems unrealistic, as Anthopoulos is not a fan of surrendering draft picks for type-A free agents.        

To sum up, the Jays are likely to enter the 2012 season with the roster they currently have. If they are to take the next step and contend, they must defy Murphy’s Law. Literally everything that can go wrong for the Jays must go right.

The AL is stacked with incredible ball clubs and far more talent this coming year. I‘m not saying it’s impossible for the Blue Jays to make the playoffs, but there is little room for error. They have done nothing to boost their starting pitching and their offense remains unchanged.

They need another CY Young-caliber performance out of Ricky Romero, and Brandon Morrow needs to stay healthy and be the pitcher that has looked nearly untouchable at times. Kyle Drabek has to find the strike zone and unleash the dominant pitcher everybody knows is lurking within. Jose Bautista needs to have another MVP-caliber season while Brett Lawrie must continue the hot start to his career and maintain it over 162 games.

The Jays also need Kelly Johnson to be the All-Star second baseman he once was in Arizona, Colby Rasmus must get on base a lot more than 20 percent of the time and Adam Lind needs to rewind and hit like it's 2009.

If Toronto plays like they did last year, Jays fans are destined to see another fourth-place finish in the AL East.