There are a handful of impact players still on the free agent market, and a few teams might still have a significant move or two up their sleeves, but at this point we have a decent idea of what other teams in baseball are going to look like next season. There will be some adjustments here and there, but the basic groundwork is set, and we might as well start looking at the four teams competing with the Yankees in the American League East. We’ll start way up north.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS
2013: 74-88 (fifth place)
Key additions: C Dioner Navarro, INF Chris Getz, C Erik Kratz
Key losses: RHP Josh Johnson, LF Rajai Davis, C J.P. Arencibia, LHP Darren Oliver
Big question: Can the pitching staff do enough to support an already solid lineup?
Coming off a disappointing 2013, the Blue Jays really haven’t done much to improve this offseason. As you can tell from that list of “key” additions, it’s been a pretty quiet winter up in Toronto. But maybe that was the plan, because making a bunch of noise last winter certainly didn’t accomplish very much. Similar to the Yankees, the Blue Jays need some guys to bounce back in a big way.
LINEUP: The Blue Jays have some real power in their lineup. Even if Jose Bautista isn’t a 40-home-run monster any more, he’s still an awfully good hitter. And the Blue Jays also have Edwin Encarnacion (who’s emerged as a significant power threat), Adam Lind (coming off a strong bounce-back season) and Colby Rasmus (who hit 22 homers in 118 games as a center fielder last year). They also have a table-setter in Jose Reyes. That group helps to somewhat mask questions about whether Melky Cabrera can be healthy and productive, whether Brett Lawrie will find some consistency, and whether the Blue Jays can get any sort of production from second base and catcher.
PITCHING: Really, lineup questions are secondary for the Blue Jays. Their bullpen is solid and fairly deep, but their starters’ ERA was the second-worst in baseball last season. And so far, that situation has not been improved (unless you count losing Josh Johnson’s 6.20 ERA as improvement). R.A. Dickey might be better than he was last season, and a healthy Brandon Morrow would bring some relatively high-end potential, but the Blue Jays still need some sort of rotation boost. Maybe they could jump in the mix for Ervin Santana or Ubaldo Jimenez? Doesn’t seem to be much noise there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Simply staying healthy might help, but right now it’s hard to see how the Blue Jays have improved upon a team that was easily the worst in the division last year. Adding a starting pitcher would help, but even that might not be enough.
Associated Press photo