Physicals were passed and ZIP codes, area codes and job titles were changed all over the Toronto Blue Jays organization this offseason. For many, this represented a change in scenery, for some it was accompanied by a new contract and for others it was a chance at redemption with an organization that they already proudly represented.
No matter the circumstances, players and management stand to benefit greatly from the winter acquisitions that general manager Alex Anthopoulos made. Through a number of transactions, ten MLB players (R.A. Dickey, Josh Thole, Mike Nickeas, Maicer Izturis, Josh Johnson, Mark Buerhle, Jose Reyes, Emilio Bonifacio, Melky Cabrera and Esmil Rogers) have found new homes in Toronto, while 13 players (Henderson Alvarez, Yunel Escobar, Adeiny Hechavarria, Jeff Mathis, Jake Marisnick, Justin Nicolino, Anthony DeSclafani, Travis D’Arnaud, John Buck, Noah Syndergaard, Wuilmer Becerra, Yan Gomes, Mike Aviles) have been shipped out.
This means huge opportunities for new and returning players alike, but which returning player stands to benefit the most?
Edwin Encarnacion has an opportunity to continue his phenomenal play at the plate while contributing to a competitive team. As this is an opportunity he has yet to have in Toronto, 2013 will be a big year for him.
Jose Bautista has the chance to prove he is completely healed from the wrist injury that kept him out of the lineup last year and has the chance to return to being the player that led the league in home runs in back-to-back years.
Adam Lind has one more year to prove to the organization that he can compete at this level and that he can contribute to a winning baseball team.
Sergio Santos has the opportunity to win back the closer’s job, while Casey Janssen has an equal opportunity to prove he belongs in that role.
All the Blue Jays are in a unique position this year, as they start the season as the World Series favorite, but no one more so than Rickey Romero.
This season could be the most important of Romero’s career and could ultimately define his legacy in Toronto. After a solid start to his career that saw him ascend to the top of the Blue Jays' rotation, his 2012 campaign was marred by a 0-13 streak over the span of 15 games, 14 of which the Blue Jays lost.
The cause of his sudden struggles was not immediately apparent, but whether you believed he struggled because of an injury or due to the pressure put on him as the ace of the staff, it appears he is better suited to succeed in 2013.
Romero underwent elbow surgery in the offseason that should set him up to be healthy (and potentially healthier than he finished last year) by the start of spring training. The pitching acquisitions the Blue Jays made also slid Romero down to fifth on the depth chart, effectively removing all the pressure of carrying a team on his shoulders.
This newfound home as the fifth starter, however, is a double-edged sword for Romero. He should now have the peace of mind to only focus on pitching every fifth day without the pressure of carrying a struggling team. On the other side of the sword is the fact that, should he consistently struggle, he would be the first pitcher to miss a start or be replaced in the rotation.
This potentially negative consequence of the trades could be a newfound source of motivation for Romero to return to, and is another reason he has benefited from the offseason acquisitions.
The winter acquisitions made by Alex Anthopoulos and the Blue Jays have created a unique opportunity for every player on the roster to benefit. Ricky Romero has both an optimal situation to succeed, as the trades have put him in a more conducive role within the pitching staff, and the necessary motivation to do so.
Romero has benefited immensely from the offseason deals, and the organization has done everything they can to help him succeed. The last piece of the puzzle is execution.