The Toronto Blue Jays are well on their way to a successful 2013 campaign.
At least, that's what the unbiased Vegas ratings are saying, honoring the Blue Jays as 8-1 favorites to bring the World Series back north of the border.
General Manager Alex Anthopoulos has been pressured for years to make a significant move to bolster the team's chances.
With the acquisition of Colby Rasmus, and the emergence of Brett Lawrie, Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista, it seemed to be a good first step.
This offseason, Jays nation has had more than enough to talk about, and a playoff buzz has been circulating in the city.
Yet with the triumph of being obvious trade winners this winter, the Blue Jays are not guaranteed a championship, and may not even be guaranteed a playoff spot.
Their chances might be better than they have been in recent memory, but there are still a few questions to be asked, and a few potential weaknesses to adhere to.
As good as the club may be on paper, there's an issue that cannot be addressed to off the diamond and with a few signing bonuses.
Cabrera is at the top of the list because he's been there the most, in 2006, 2007 and 2009 with the New York Yankees and 2010 with the Atlanta Braves. But in 22 games and 75 at bats, he batted a dismal .213/.244/.280 with one home run and seven RBI.
Reyes has been to the post-season once in 2006 with the New York Mets. In 10 games and 44 at bats he batted .250/.298/.386. I've stated before that Reyes has the opportunity to hit very well in Toronto---and should he do so---he'll need to carry that into the postseason in order to establish himself.
Rasmus has been into October with the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals, where he flourished in the three games he was given. He batted .444/.545/.778. Although the numbers are inflated in the playoffs (less games, less at bats), it's a sign that Rasmus has the potential to be a playoff guy. Should Toronto make it that far, he may be someone to look out for.
Toronto should have a stellar season, but if they make the playoffs, it will be a whole new season that will require the veterans to step up and take control of the team.
John Gibbons was a gutsy and unexpected signing by Alex Anthopoulos.
Although AA stated he was looking for a man he could trust, he knew he could work with and a man who wanted to be in Toronto. Bystanders had thought of everyone except for one person - Gibby.
As a manager with the Toronto Blue Jays, Gibbons has an even 305 wins to his 305 losses.
He's most remembered for his altercations with Shea Hillenbrand in 2006, when Hillenbrand wrote "the ship is sinking" and "play for yourself" on the whiteboard in the clubhouse. Gibbons reportedly confronted Hillenbrand and challenged him to a fight.
Later that year he got into it with Ted Lilly after Lilly had given up five runs in the third inning, cutting the Blue Jays lead from 8-0 to 8-5. Lilly initially refused to give the ball to his manager after getting yanked, and soon thereafter, Gibbons and Lilly had a shoving battle in the tunnel.
But beyond the scenery of what seemed to be over-aggressive managerial styles, Gibbons also managed the 2006 club to an 87-75 record and a second place finish in the A.L. East---the best finish since winning the Series in 1993.
He might be difficult to handle at times, or he might fit right in. But Gibbons hasn't managed many, if any of the players on the 2013 Blue Jays squad, so chemistry might be an issue. That being said, it could also lead to triumph.
When the Blue Jays acquired Colby Rasmus, initially it seemed like a "big move" simply due to the fact that Toronto hadn't really made any sort of splash.
In two years with Toronto, the Colby Rasmus project isn't working out very well, as he's struggling at the plate (.213/.273/.384).
Suddenly with the acquisition of so many superstars, Rasmus is being overshadowed in the field and will likely get bumped to the bottom of the order.
From there he'll need to prove his worth as the up and coming speedster Anthony Gose will be lurking in the shadows waiting for his shot at a starting job in the bigs.
Ideally, the Blue Jays have left and right field set with Melky Cabrera and Jose Bautista respectively, but center field is up for grabs. If Colby Rasmus can't play up to the level the Blue Jays need him to, don't be surprised if he is replaced sooner rather than later.
In 2010, Jose Bautista broke out of his life-long slump, shocking the baseball world and belting 54 home runs.
In 2012, Edwin Encarnacion played a similar act, launching 42 of his own.
Combined, Bautista and Encarnacion have made for quite the three-four punch the Blue Jays have been seeking.
But should they remain healthy, and the question of whether or not they can continue to perform at that level will linger.
In 2011, Bautista knew his worth, and managed to work on being more patient at the plate---regardless of the pressure he was put under.
He increased his walks to 132 in 2011 from 100 in 2010, and boosted his OPS to 1.056 from .995.
Encarnacion is in a position he's never been in before.
After a stellar 2012 campaign, the bounce-back season is always the toughest. After all-star-like numbers last season, he will be pitched around and pitched to differently. Now the question is whether or not he can be patient and continue to produce.
Should the two combine for a successful 2013, they will be the heart of an order looking for leadership, and with guys like Jose Reyes and Melky Cabrera ahead of them (who will get on base), hitting now is more important than ever.
It's taboo to think about it---let alone speak it---but there's always the chance that all the signings, trades and shipment of rookies will not pay off.
After sending off a plethora of magic-beans for immediate superstars, Toronto isn't necessarily left without a farm system (there's still a lot of fish in the tank), but they are by no means the top of the farm.
In order to be successful, the Blue Jays will need all their hitters to hit to their average. Pitchers will need to get the ball over the plate, and pitch to their average.
And although it's unpredictable, the Jays need to stay healthy in 2013, because ultimately that was their demise in 2012.
There is always the opportunity to succumb to the fate of the 2012 Angels and Marlins, but with the A.L. East in the state it is in, Toronto has a chance to push through and make their offseason acquisitions pay off. Now they just need to go and do it.