They say that championships are not won in the offseason, but the Toronto Blue Jays are trying their best to prove that axiom wrong. With just one trade, Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos turned his team from a sub-.500 crew to a serious threat to win the American League East.
In return for these five players, the Marlins will receive Yunel Escobar, Adeiny Hechavarria, Justin Nicolino, Henderson Alvarez, Jake Marisnick, Jeff Mathis and Anthony DeSclafani (h/t Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports). Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports has noted that the trade is not yet official, but that there is also no concern that the deal will not be approved. Olney has reported that the deal may not be completed until Wednesday.
While the Blue Jays are coming off a 73-89 season, they were certainly not as bad as last year's record indicates. Injures really hurt the Blue Jays last season. Jose Bautista only played in 92 games, and Toronto also lost Brandon Morrow, Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison to injuries.
After the deal, teams around the league need to take the Blue Jays much more seriously as they prepare for the 2013 season. The team will have a dynamic staring lineup as well as a great starting rotation.
The Blue Jays already had a solid core heading into the season with two huge power bats in Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion as well as talented youngsters Colby Rasmus and Brett Lawrie.
Who are the AL East favorites in 2013?
There should also be a tremendous amount of speed in the Blue Jays lineup next season to complement their power hitters. Rajai Davis will be back and in one of the outfield spots, and Anthony Gose could also start the year in the majors. Bonifacio has experience at second base and could be in the position if Gose starts the year in the majors.
If the Blue Jays decide to keep Gose in the minors, then Bonifacio will play in the outfield, and the newly signed Maicer Izturis will likely start at second base.
Throw Reyes into the mix, and the Blue Jays have four players in their batting order that could steal 40 bases.
Toronto will only need to find a first baseman. After the mega-deal, chances are that the Blue Jays stick with Adam Lind at first base. While Lind’s overall performance in 2012 was poor, he did perform much better after he was sent down to the minor leagues.
In 59 games after being brought back up to the majors, Lind hit .296 with eight home runs and 34 RBI. If he can produce at that level for a full season—he has in the past—he will be a more-than-adequate option at first base.
This combination of power and speed should drive pitchers around the American League crazy. The Blue Jays will be able to win with both power bats and small ball next season, and that makes them very dangerous. It is easy to see that the Blue Jays have the offense of a playoff team.
While adding Reyes and Bonifacio to the Blue Jays lineup is huge, the deal’s impact on their starting rotation will be even bigger.
Josh Johnson will come in as the ace for which the Blue Jays have been searching. The two-time All-Star might need some time to adjust to the American League, but once he does, he should pick up some big wins for the Jays.
Right behind Johnson in the rotation will likely be Brandon Morrow. Last season, Morrow finally broke out and looked like the top-of-the-rotation starter that the Blue Jays thought that they were getting when they first acquired him. Along with Johnson, the Blue Jays will have a great one-two punch.
Buehrle provides an outstanding veteran presence to the Blue Jays rotation. He has spent almost the entirety of his career in the American League and has been a very consistent producer over his career.
Ricky Romero slides into the fourth spot in of the Blue Jays' starting rotation. If Romero can return to the production level of his 2009 and 2010 seasons, Toronto will have a very good rotation.
The one thing that could keep the Blue Jays from being a postseason team is their bullpen, but with a few small offseason improvements, they would be in a very good position to reach the playoffs.
All things considered, this mega deal has to put the rest of the American League East on notice.
The Boston Red Sox have a long way to go to be a contender after the fire sale that they had during the 2012 season. Without some big offseason moves, they will not be a major postseason contender.
After missing the postseason by three games in 2012, the Tampa Bay Rays have to be considered a playoff contender. The recent move by the Blue Jays may tempt them to improve their roster by dealing for Justin Upton.
Following their surprising wild-card berth last year, the Baltimore Orioles need to be taken seriously. The team did get a bit lucky during the year, as they won 93 games despite scoring only five more runs than they allowed. Baltimore got by on the strength of its bullpen, and the club may not be able to return to the playoffs next year.
The New York Yankees are a perennial threat to win the American League East. However, their roster is getting older, and they have a number of distractions around. It is unknown how Derek Jeter will perform once he returns, and the Yankees will also need to deal with the Alex Rodriguez saga.
Additionally, the Bronx Bombers will need to find a way to replace Nick Swisher and possibly Hiroki Kuroda.
Even with these issues, the Yankees should always be considered a big threat to win the American League East.
Comparatively speaking, Toronto has certainly assembled a team that could challenge for the American League East title. While it may be early to call the Blue Jays favorites, with a few more winter moves they could be deserving of that title.