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Are the Yankees still better than the Blue Jays?

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The Blue Jays are rebuilt. The Yankees are still waiting to make their move.

Honestly, it’s far too early to compare these two rosters. The Blue Jays have made their splash, while the Yankees still have little choice but to add at least two starting pitchers, a catcher and a right fielder. The Yankees aren’t going to sit still all winter, and at this point, the pitching staffs are especially hard to compare because the Blue Jays have five legitimate options while the Yankees have two, maybe three. It’s also worth noting that the Yankees won 22 games more than the Blue Jays this season, which means Toronto had significant ground to make up in the first place.

But clearly the Blue Jays are making their move. They’ve answered a lot of their internal questions, but not nearly all of them. How much have the Blue Jays closed the gap, and what do the Yankees have to do to maintain their advantage?


???? vs. J.P. Arencibia
I happen to like Arencibia, but he’s a low-average, high-power guy just like Russell Martin. In fact, of those two, Martin had a better OPS this year. If the Yankees can re-sign Martin, I’d give them the advantage at the position because of Martin’s defense. At the very least it would be considered a push, with Arencibia getting bonus points for his age.

First base
Mark Teixeira vs. Adam Lind
Say what you will about Teixiera’s diminished batting average, but at least he’s not Lind. The Blue Jays thought they really had something when Lind had that big 2009 season, but he’s been brutal ever since. If Toronto shuffles some things around and puts Edwin Encarnacion at first, then this is a worth debate — Encarnacion repeating his breakout season or Teixeira bouncing back — but with Lind at first, the Yankees are much better at the position.

Second base
Robinson Cano vs. Maicer Izturis
Not sure what the Yankees are going to do beyond this season — and no telling how much it would take to sign Cano long term — but in terms of raw talent, this one is a landslide. Cano is better than anyone in the Blue Jays infield.

Third base
Alex Rodriguez vs. Brett Lawrie
Believe it or not, Rodriguez had a better OPS this season than Lawrie (by quite a bit). The worst power output of Rodriguez’s career still resulting in a better slugging percentage than Lawrie had in his second big league season. Lawrie is still extremely young, and there’s no question the Yankees would rather have him than Rodriguez going forward, but here and now, there’s absolutely no guarantee that one team or the other has the advantage at third base. If Rodriguez bounces back at all, he could easily outproduce Lawrie.

Derek Jeter vs. Jose Reyes
In his first year outside of New York, Reyes had a down year in most categories. But even that down year included a .347 on-base percentage with 40 stolen bases. Basically Reyes played to his career slash line. Jeter’s offensive season was better, but he’s also going to have to come back from a broken ankle next year, and he’s almost 10 years older than Reyes. There’s risk associated with each player, and which you prefer is probably a matter of personal preference. I’d rather have Reyes.

Left field
Curtis Granderson vs. Melky Cabrera
Let’s assume the Yankees are going to do the right thing and shift Granderson to left field. Let’s also assume the Blue Jays are going to keep Bautista in right. Creates a fascinating matchup between two guys with a lot to prove. If Granderson can return to his 2011 form, he’ll certainly be a better option. If both players repeat their 2012 results, it will be Cabrera in a landslide. So which is more likely, Cabrera repeating without the PEDs or Granderson’s getting his batting average up without losing the home runs?

Center field
Brett Gardner vs. Colby Rasmus
I happen to really like both players, but Rasmus is coming off a surprisingly bad year — the guy hit 23 homers but still managed to OPS below .700 — and Gardner has always been a suspect player who’s now coming off a season lost to elbow surgery. Like catcher and third base, this is a position where the Blue Jays clearly have the greater long-term upside, but they also have greater questions about the player’s ability to live up to those expectations.

Right field
???? vs. Jose Bautista
In one way, this one is impossible to predict. Clearly the Yankees aren’t going to hand right field to Chris Dickerson, and who they add will greatly change their outfield dynamic. But in another way, this one is perfectly predictable because it’s nearly impossible for the Yankees to land a right fielder who’s better than Bautista. The Blue Jays are going to have the advantage in right field, the question is by how much.

Designated hitter
???? vs. Edwin Encarnacion
One viewed as a failed prospect, Encarnacion was outstanding this season while playing both infield corners and a little bit of left field. He’s been solid for a few years now, but this season was a monster with 42 homers and 110 RBI. Chances are slim tha thte Yankees will sign a full-time designated hitter, and chances are also slim that they can find a platoon-type situation that will produce numbers like Encarnacion put up this season. That said, chances might be just as slim that Encarnacion can repeat his standout season. Advantage clearly goes to the Blue Jays, but like right field, it’s very unclear just how large that gap will be.


[5]Top of the rotation
CC Sabathia vs. Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle
We don’t know who the Yankees No. 2 starter will be, but I have a hard time believing it will be Phil Hughes (the guy who currently slots in behind Sabathia). The Blue Jays have added a moderate risk/huge reward ace in Johnson, and they’ve added a reliable veteran in Buehrle. It’s a good mix. In a lot of ways, the Yankees have the best of both worlds in Sabathia, but how the Yankees matchup will depend on who they add. If Hiroki Kuroda comes back, a matchup of Sabathia/Johnson and Kuroda/Buehrle would be pretty even, with fewer concerns on the Yankees end.

Middle of the rotation
Phil Hughes vs. Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow
I tend to think of these three pitchers along the same lines. All three are roughly the same age with significant potential and a lack of consistency. Romero was terrible this year, Morrow was terrific and Hughes was somewhere inbetween. Again, it’s a fairly even matchup depending on who the Yankees slot into the middle of the rotation alongside Hughes. If it’s Andy Pettitte, that’s a bit of experience and reliability that the Blue Jays can’t match.

Back of the rotation
Ivan Nova and David Phelps vs. J.A. Happ and Kyle Drabek
Fifth starters often come with this sort of uncertainty. Nova and Happ have had much better seasons than they had in 2012. Phelps and Drabek are still trying to establish themselves (Drabek comes with much more prospect hype but much worse big league results). In terms of finding wild card types to round out the rotation, both the Blue Jays and Yankees have some potential that comes with significant questions.


[6]He’s not signed just yet, but this point, we all know Mariano Rivera is coming back.

In terms of big names, it’s hard to top the Yankees foursome of Rivera, Dave Robertson, Joba Chamberlain and David Aardsma. Even without Rafeal Soriano, that group has significant potential, especially when they’re surrounded by bullpen role players like Boone Logan, Clay Rapada and Cody Eppley. It’s not a bad group that the Yankees have in place.

In Toronto, Sergio Santos and Casey Janssen give the Blue Jays two closer options, but they’ve lost Carlos Villanueva and Jason Frasor to free agency.

The Blue Jays bullpen has more holes than the Yankees, and although many of the Yankees go-to relievers — especially Rivera and Aardsma — come with uncertainty, it’s still a stronger group than the one in Toronto.

Associated Press photos