Barring the unexpected, such as Commissioner Bud Selig vetoing the proposed 12-player blockbuster trade between the Miami Marlins and the Toronto Blue Jays, the face of the American League East has been altered.
Tyler Kepner of the New York Times wrote Tuesday that Selig has no plans to nix the deal. The proposed trade would send shortstop Jose Reyes, pitchers Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle, catcher John Buck, utility man Emilio Bonifacio and $4 million to the Blue Jays in exchange for shortstops Yunel Escobar and Adeiny Hechavarria, catcher Jeff Mathis, pitcher Henderson Alvarez and three minor leaguers.
The deal raises the stakes in the AL East considerably, because it ostensibly turns the race in 2013 into a five-team affair.
Toronto’s pitching staff was basically a hazardous-materials spill in 2012. Jesse Litsch went down in spring training and missed the season after surgery to repair a biceps tendon. Dustin McGowan had shoulder surgery and didn’t pitch in 2012.
Projected closer Sergio Santos had shoulder surgery and made only six appearances. Brandon Morrow missed a lot of time with an oblique injury. Kyle Drabek needed Tommy John surgery, one of three Jays pitchers to need the procedure, according to fangraphs.com.
So the additions of Johnson and Buehrle combined with a return to health from their incumbents makes Toronto’s pitching good enough to be a contender in a stacked AL East that had three teams—the New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays—top the 90-win plateau.
Who goes into 2013 as the AL East favorite?
The Yankees are piecing together their offseason much like they approached last winter, eschewing the high-priced free agents in lieu of trying to meet management’s goal of a $189 million payroll by 2014.
So don’t look for general manager Brian Cashman to have some sort of massive knee-jerk response to the Blue Jays’ wheeling and dealing. Instead, it looks like a series of smaller moves is in the offing, according to a report from Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News last week.
There’s no question the Blue Jays have gone all-in for 2013. ESPN’s Buster Olney tweeted on Tuesday that Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos had told a friend last week he was “working on a pie-in-the-sky trade that he didn’t think would happen.”
Sometimes pie-in-the-sky turns into pie-in-the-face. Other times, you get lucky. It would appear Anthopoulos falls into the latter category.
The Blue Jays replace the talented but maddeningly inconsistent Escobar with a four-time All-Star and former batting champion in Reyes.
Johnson is a two-time All-Star who should be better in 2013 two years removed from his shoulder woes of 2011 (more analysis of Johnson’s potential impact here).
Buehrle has thrown a perfect game, been on a World Series winner, is a four-time All-Star and is as durable as an ox. Buehrle has pitched more than 200 innings for 12 straight seasons, dating back to his second season in the majors and his first as a full-time starter in 2001.
He struggled in two years as a Marlin, hitting .213/.308/.358 in 928 plate appearances with 28 homers and 98 RBI. Buck completely cratered in 2012, dipping to career lows of .192/.297/.347 while hitting 12 homers and driving in 41 runs.
Perhaps a return to Toronto could revive his career. At the very least, he is capable insurance for young J.P. Arencibia.
Even Bonifacio is a valuable piece. He hit .258/.330/.316 as a part-time player in 2012 after turning in a .296/.360/.393 triple-slash and 40 stolen bases as the Marlins’ everyday utility player in 2011. That year, he made 61 starts at shortstop, 30 at third base, 28 in left field, 11 in right field, nine in center field and even a couple at second base.
As a switch-hitter, Bonifacio adds even more flexibility for new manager…oh, wait, they don’t quite have one of those yet.
That’s about the only thing Antropoulos hasn’t done yet this offseason.