The Red Sox had one of baseball’s worst records last year, went through a massive salary dump a few months ago, and have filled holes with large and — in some cases — questionable free agent contracts. The Rays have traded away two key members of their pitching staff and lost their center fielder to free agency. The Orioles seemed to be playing over their heads last season, and now they’ve lost more than they’ve gained in the offseason. The Yankees are old, banged up and trying to restrict spending.
So what are the Blue Jays doing? They’re seeing same thing everyone else is seeing, and they’re doing something about it. The American League East is vulnerable, and the Blue Jays have decided it’s time to stop preparing for tomorrow.
They’ve completed the winter’s most overwhelming blockbuster, signed one of the market’s most controversial free agents, and traded away two of their brightest prospects for three years of an unconventional Cy Young winner.
They’re going for it, and it’s hard to blame them.
Toronto’s trade for R.A. Dickey became official yesterday. The Blue Jays agreed to a contract extension with the knuckleballer, and gave up two of their top three prospects — including coveted catcher Travis d’Arnaud — to get him. Dickey will join a rebuilt rotation that already includes trade additions Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle.
To generate run support, the Blue Jays will be able to stack new shortstop Jose Reyes and busted-PED-user Melky Cabrera ahead of in-house sluggers Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. They’ll be able to sprinkle younger everyday players Brett Lawrie, Colby Rasmus and J.P Arencibia lower in the lineup.
To watch it all come together in a matter of weeks has been stunning, and at this point, Toronto has be considered the A.L. East favorite (or favourite, sorry). They’re certainly winning the offseason.
To be fair, the Blue Jays had the worst bullpen ERA in the American League last season, and they’ve have done little to fix that. Lawrie, Rasmus, Arencibia and Adam Lind have not been nearly as overwhelming as some expected them to become. There are obvious questions about Cabrera’s ability to perform without performance enhancing drugs, and about Reyes’ ability to stay healthy on turf. There’s a sense that the team overpaid in the Dickey trade. Spending sprees weren’t enough to get either the Marlins or the Angels into the playoffs last season.
But so what?
Here and now, the Blue Jays are better. Or at the very least, they’ve given themselves a chance to be better. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman talks a lot about striking when the time is right, and for the Blue Jays, the time is right now. It’s easy to find holes in every team — and there are those in Toronto who are horrified by the Dickey deal — but the Blue Jays are relevant again.
They’re clearly winning the winter. We’ll see whether they can win the actual season.
Associated Press photo