The Toronto Blue Jays had the most noteworthy off-seasons of any team in Major League Baseball over the winter, and arguably the boldest in the history of the franchise. They made a huge trade with the Marlins acquiring Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Burhele, and Emilio Bonifacio.
They also traded for reigning NL CY Young award winner RA Dickey and Josh Thole, and signed Melky Cabrera to a 2-year deal. Toronto’s offseason is leading many to pick them as the favorites to win baseball’s most competitive division, the American League East. The Blue Jays haven’t done anything to warrant being favored to win their division, and here’s why:
I’ll start with their pitching rotation. The Blue Jays 5 slated starting pitchers include Josh Johnson, RA Dickey, Mark Burhele, Ricky Romero, and Brandon Morrow, sounds great on paper. RA Dickey dominated the NL East last season and was incredible. He won 20 games, struck out 230 batters, and had a 2.73 ERA. But now he’s pitching in the AL East.
In his start against the Yankees last year, Dickey gave up 5 runs in 6 innings, one of his worst starts of the year. I viewed that June 24th game as a true test of whether Dickey was for real because it was on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball against the hated Yankees. Dickey didn’t deliver in a huge game for his team. Josh Johnson’s career high in wins is 15. For a pitcher who is supposed to be dominant, that’s really not that impressive. He’s made under 10 starts in 2 of the past 5 years, and had an ERA of just under 4 last season. I have no reason to believe he’s all of a sudden going to come in and dominate.
He’s never done it for a full season. Mark Burhele is extremely reliable, making over 30 starts every year since 2001. However, Burhele for the first time will be living away from his family because pit bulls are banned in Ontario. That’s right, Burhele picked his dogs over his family. People may overlook the impact family can have, but he has little kids at home and who knows if it will effect his everyday mentality. While he’s living in Toronto, his family will be living in St. Louis. Factor in living alone, with his 13-13 record and 3.74 ERA in the NL East last season, and those numbers don’t scream dominance in the AL East. He pitches to contact and those are the pitchers the Yankees are known to feast on. If they can hit it, the ball goes far.
After a very impressive 2011 season, a season where Ricky Romero pitched to a 2.92 ERA, he followed 2011 with a 9-14 record and a horrendous 5.77 ERA in 2012. While Romero can easily bounce back in 2013, there’s no guarantee he ever regains his solid form. The book is still out on who Romero is as a Major League pitcher.
The fifth starter is Brandon Morrow, who had his best professional season last year. Morrow’s 2.96 ERA was easily his career best, and almost 2 runs per game better than his 2011 season.
He looks to be on the upside. So to recap, Josh Johnson has been unable to put a full season together, RA Dickey is moving to the AL East after making the NL East look silly, Mark Burhele is a contact pitcher, Ricky Romero was terrible last year, and Brandon Morrow is coming off a break out year, how do we know he’s going to replicate what he did? The Blue Jays rotation has a ton of potential, but there are so many question marks for anyone to trust them to get the job done.
On to their lineup, which again on paper looks like it could be potent. Their lineup could look something like this: Jose Reyes SS, Brett Lawrie 3B, Jose Bautista RF, Edwin Enacarcion 1B, Adam Lind DH, Colby Rasmus CF, JP Arancebia C, Melky Cabrera LF, and Emilio Bonifacio 2B. Jose Reyes has tons of talent, but is not a winner, that’s simply a fact. In his last year with the Mets, Reyes started the final game of what was a meaningless season, but was in contention for the NL Batting title. He laid down a bunt single in his first at-bat, then left the game. He cared more about his own achievements then his team winning. With the Marlins last year and tons of expectations, Reyes’s batting average dropped over 50 points.
He’s not the kind of player I want on my team if I’m trying to win. Two, three, and four in the Blue Jay lineup is scary. Brett Lawrie plays the game harder than anyone I’ve ever seen, Jose Bautista before getting hurt last year, was coming off 40 and 50 Home run seasons. He’s one of the best power hitters in the sport. Edwin Enacarcion after having a career high of 26 home runs in 2008, had a career year with 42 home runs and 110 RBIs. Like Bautista, Enacarcion came out of no where. The one common factor between these 3 hitters is none of them have ever been in a pennant race. They have no idea what it’s like to play meaningful baseball. Lawrie, Bautista, and Enacarcion can be just as good when it matters the most, but have never shown they can do it. Rounding out the lineup is Adam Lind who hit .255 last year, Colby Rasmus who hit a dreadful .223, JP Arancebia who hit .233, and Emilio Bonifacio, a speedster who had one good year in 2011. Last season Bonifacio only played in 54 games, and was part of a Marlins team that failed miserably with the expecations that were set for them.
The last player in the lineup is Melky Cabrera who was busted for PEDs last season. He will not be on the juice this season, and as someone who watched him on the Yankees, he’s a fourth outfielder at best. Overall, like the Blue Jays starting rotation, their lineup has unlimited potential, but besides Cabrera, none of them have ever played a meaningful game. And all of a sudden they are going to flourish in that spot and roll through the division? It’s hard for me to see that happening.
The bullpen is also not a sure thing. Sergio Santos is supposed to be the setup man, but is currently hurt and had an ERA on 9 last year. Casey Janssen is coming off his first year as the closer. He had 22 saves and a 2.54 ERA last season which is pedestrian at best for a closer. Janssen has also never closed a meaningful game in his career, and I highly doubt he will be like Mariano Rivera when it matters.
Any time a team has an offseason like the Blue Jays, they are automatically going to be looked at as favorites to win the World Series. Look at the Marlins and Angels last year. Both of those teams made some pretty massive moves, (Albert Pujols, CJ Wilson, Zach Greinke to name a few), yet both missed the playoffs. The Blue Jays may one day click as a team. But with the Yankees being the Yankees, the up and coming Orioles, the Rays, and even though they aren’t supposed to be good this year, the Red Sox in the division, chances are the Blue Jays won’t all of a sudden get it right this year and live up to expectations.
Follow the writer of this story on Twitter @lucasfrankel