The Blue Jays and Marlins stole the spotlight in the wide world of sports Tuesday night, agreeing to a blockbuster trade that will send Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and others to the Blue Jays in return for Yunel Escobar, Henderson Alvarez, Adeiny Hechavarria and prospects to the Marlins.
In completing this trade, the Marlins have completed a fire sale of their highest-paid players that began over the summer when they shipped Hanley Ramirez to the Dodgers and continued on Oct. 20 when they sent Heath Bell to the Diamondbacks.
The Blue Jays add enough pieces that should make them an immediate contender in the American League in 2013.
The offseason is just beginning and most free agents have yet to sign, but here are the early AL East power rankings, as of Nov. 13.
After a last-place finish in 2012, the Red Sox have not given any indication that they will try to return to contender status in 2013.
They've re-signed David Ortiz and signed catcher David Ross, but they still have major offensive and pitching questions.
They badly need a first baseman (they have been linked to free-agent catcher/first baseman Mike Napoli) and at least one corner outfielder, and each of their projected starting pitchers (Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, John Lackey, Felix Doubront and Franklin Morales) have major questions surrounding them.
The Sox are not in need of a complete rebuild, but it's hard to imagine that their roster, as currently constituted, could compete for a division title, and there's not much available in free agency that could help them.
The Orioles had a storybook season and pushed the Yankees to a fifth game in the Division Series, but I see a serious regression for them in 2013.
They're not likely to lose any major pieces (the only regulars who are free agents are Mark Reynolds and Joe Saunders, who could both return to Camden Yards), and they may go after a big name like Josh Hamilton, but their roster, as it stands now, is not as good as those of the Yankees, Rays or up-to-the-minute Blue Jays.
The O's went 93-69 this year, but a lot of that is due to their record in one-run games, which was an impressive 29-9. It's hard to expect them to do as well in close games again. Fans should expect a regression. In fact, the 2012 Orioles have a Pythagorean record (which projects what a team's record should be based on the number of runs it has scored and allowed) was just 82-80.
Without any major additions, I see the Orioles in the bottom half of their division.
The Rays' lineup, which was weak in 2012, contains four free agents, so it's hard to see them returning to the top of the division next season without a major shakeup (which is possible, given their apparent interest in trading for Justin Upton).
The rotation has been and will continue to be a strength, but presently, the Rays just don't have the bats to compete with the Yankees and, now, the Blue Jays.
Today's trade puts the Blue Jays neck and neck with the Yankees for the best team in the AL East. It's hard to project exactly who will be in the Jays' 2013 lineup, both since the trade is not finalized at the time of press and the offseason is just beginning, but it will include John Buck, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Reyes, Brett Lawrie, Colby Rasmus, Jose Bautista and Adam Lind. That's impressive.
The pitching staff got significantly better as well. Adding Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle to go alongside Brandon Morrow and Ricky Romero makes the Jays' starting hurlers a group to be reckoned with for the first time in a long time (Romero had an awful 2012, but he's no longer the team's ace and, in my opinion, will return to being a quality pitcher in 2013).
The Jays are going to score a lot of runs and have a good-enough pitching staff to qualify as a legit contender in the American League.
The Yankees have 13 free agents on their 40-man roster, but is there really any doubt that they will retool this offseason to remain competitive next season?
They need to sign a catcher, right fielder, a starter or two and a reliever, but it's possible (maybe even probable) that they will fill those holes with familiar names in Russell Martin, Ichiro Suzuki, Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte.
Despite a poor postseason, the Bronx Bombers still have one of the best offenses in the league and will hit plenty of home runs in the friendly confines of Yankee Stadium.
Assuming Pettitte returns to the Yanks (which it looks like he will) and Mariano Rivera is the same pitcher he has been his whole career despite coming off ACL surgery, the Yankees will be near or at the top of their division regardless of how they fill the rest of their holes.
The Blue Jays have been on the verge of contention for several years now, holding back from spending money until they were ready to make a splash and jump up to the top of their division. They've finally made their move and—who knows?—they may not be done yet, but on Nov. 13, they've already done enough to put themselves squarely in the middle of the conversation of the American League's best teams.
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