Blue Jays fans have been patiently waiting for another contending team ever since the amazing back-to-back World Series run 20 years ago.
Alex Anthopoulos has given the team hope with the improvement of the farm system and the monumental trades that brought Brett Lawrie into town and Vernon Wells out.
2013 might be our year. This is my take on the lineup of this possible contending team.
Jose Bautista? He's not a first baseman, you might say.
Jose Bautista has played first base in the past, though, as the ultimate utility man and even during this 2012 season in a emergency situation.
His defense over 162 games may be questionable, but so is Adam Lind's. Not to mention Bautista has the power and the hitting prowess of a first baseman.
I believe that Adam Lind is too wound up on his performance in Toronto, and I predict that if his performance doesn't improve over the season, he will be traded and given a fresh start with a new team.
The 2013 free agent pool of second baseman is excruciatingly thin again, with the only all-star second baseman available being Robinson Cano, if his option is not exercised.
Kelly Johnson is the best option for the Blue Jays, including internal options from the minors.
Johnson has earned his spot as well with all-star-caliber hitting this year, and his defense isn't too shabby either.
I believe Alex Anthopoulos won't hesitate to extend Johnson, possibly even working out a deal mid-season to lock up this slugger.
Now, Yunel Escobar wouldn't be my first choice for a shortstop, but he is doing a fine job as the Blue Jays shortstop.
His defense makes up for his weak power and low on-base percentage, and with such an anemic pool of hitters at the position, it is expected.
He is also signed till 2015 at a very reasonable rate.
If all else fails and his defense hits the floor too, the Jays always have the option of calling up Adeiny Hechavarria to man the position.
I don't think I have to explain this "prediction," but here goes some quick points.
1. He's Canadian.
2. He's a very good hitter.
3. He has very good defense.
4. He's under control for five more years.
5. He has lot of passion for the game.
Brett Lawrie is here to stay.
I have really high hopes for this one.
Ichiro Suzuki would give the Blue Jays a true lead-off hitter since Marco Scutaro from the 2009 season. Ichiro is still fast for his age and always hits for a high average.
With the Mariners and Ichiro having trouble with extension talks, this future Hall of Famer might enter free agency for the first time in his major league career.
Ichiro is near the end of his career and might be only seeking a one- to three-year deal, which is perfect while many of the Blue Jays' top prospects develop.
I'm not quite on the Anthony Gose train quite yet: he has insane speed, but so did Rajai Davis. To use that speed well, you first must get on base, which Anthony Gose does not do well.
Gose has been given an ETA of 2013 in many prospect logs, but I think he is too young and needs another season in the minors.
Alex Anthopoulos doesn't give up easily on his young players (e.g. Travis Snider), and I believe Colby Rasmus will be back patrolling center field in 2013.
He has the potential to break out—it's just a matter of time.
This is the big acquisition I believe the Blue Jays need to make in order to compete.
Many other teams don't really know the names of any other bat in the lineup other than Jose Bautista. Josh Hamilton would give them a left-handed power bat to go along with the right-handed one of Bautista.
With drug and alcohol problems in the past, Texas Ranger's management might be hesitant on giving Hamilton a long-term deal. This is where the Blue Jays could come in and offer a five- to seven-year deal worth around $100 million.
The Blue Jays have to spend some money eventually. Hopefully it's on this guy.
J. P. Arencibia has a lot of power, but that's about it.
The 2012 season has been riddled with passed ball after passed ball, and Arencibia is trying to slug his way to keep his starting position.
I don't think it will be enough with Travis d'Arnaud waiting in the minors. He is an all-around improvement except in the power department, but to go along with decent power he can hit for a high average.
Edwin Encarnacion has been doing a good job this year protecting Jose Bautista—too good of a job.
Slated to be a free agent by the end of the season, Encarnacion is sending his stock through the roof. With the ability to play first base and third base in a pinch, he has become the target of many National League teams like the Phillies and the Giants.
Encarnacion is most likely to demand a short multi-year deal worth around $40 million, too much for someone that is mostly going to DH, in my opinion.
There are many other options, including bench players, who could fill the role for a lot cheaper.
J. P. Arencibia
With Travis d'Arnaud promoted to the big leagues, Arencibia will fill the role of back-up catcher and possibly DH more to keep his power bat in the lineup.
I believe Snider has deserved to be at least on the bench for the Blue Jays, He has tremendous power and if one of the outfielders do get hurt, he could slide in easily.
I was going to have Rajai Davis in this spot, but Thames and Snider are just as effective as Davis, but at about one-eighth the cost.
Two years ago it was John McDonald, then Mike McCoy and now it is Omar Vizquel. Possibly Vizquel comes back, or one is called up from the minors.
1. Ricky Romero
2. Brandon Morrow
3. Cole Hamels
4. Henderson Alvarez
5. Kyle Drabek
The most notable one I included was Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels. Philadelphia has reached their peak and instead of desperately holding on to all their stars, they have to go into rebuilding mode.
Cole Hamels is most likely going to walk and the Blue Jays fit him perfectly. The Jays have the need and resources to acquire Hamels, the only thing stopping it would be that GM Alex Anthopoulos didn't see the need for Hamels.
CL: Sergio Santos
SU: Casey Janssen
LH: Evan Crawford
RH: Joel Carreno
LH: Luis Perez
RH: Jason Frasor
Of the entire bullpen, Darren Oliver, Francisco Cordero and Jason Frasor are all going to be free agents. I believe that Frasor, the leader in appearances for the Blue Jays, will be extended, while Evan Crawford and Joel Carreno get permanent promotions to replace Oliver and Cordero respectively.