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2013 Preview: Toronto Blue Jays

Mar 26, 2013, 8:52 AM EDT

Blue Jays Reuters

Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2013 season. Up next: The Toronto Blue Jays.

The Big Question: The Blue Jays went for it this offseason. They gonna get it?

There’s every reason to think so. Look, normally I don’t look too kindly on assuming 20-win swings by any given team from year to year, but in 2013, in the AL East as currently constructed, and with all of the moves the Blue Jays made, I don’t think it’s irrational to think they can do it.

You don’t need me to recap the dramatic changes the Jays made this offseason, but I will anyway: They picked up Jose ReyesJosh JohnsonMark BuehrleMelky Cabrera and R.A. Dickey and gave up little if anything that would have helped the 2013 team. What’s more, they will be getting Jose Bautista back for a full season and can expect improvement from young players like Brett Lawrie and (maybe, because we’ve been saying this for years) Colby Rasmus. The rotation went from a flaming crater to a team strength and everyone else who was already there save Edwin Encarnacion can be expected to either be healthier or to improve. Most things went wrong for this team in 2012. It won’t take miracles for most things to improve. Even cautiously optimistic projections for this roster make them a strong, strong team. If some things break right, well, it’s a darn good team.

But the biggest reason why I think the Jays have a good shot at taking the AL East is that there simply is no alpha team in this division at the moment.  The Yankees are probably gonna be better than the current gloom-and-doom surrounding them would have you believe, but they are not the 2012 Yankees and, for the first month or two of the season before they get some injured players back, they may be way worse than that.  The Red Sox are in transition. The Rays lost James Shields and always operate on thin margins. The Orioles are no longer doormats, but they got an awful lot of good luck last year.

The Blue Jays can win this division because they got a lot better over the winter. But they can also win this division because no one else did, and because anyone can win this division. And anyone can probably finish fifth, with the spread between first place and fifth place being a relatively small number of games compared to the way these things usually go. Any person who tells you that they have some certainty about that to the contrary is full of it.

So what else is going on?

  • Not that there is reason for unbridled optimism. All of the additions contain some bit of risk. We probably saw the best R.A. Dickey will ever pitch last year. He’s 38. It’s possible that he found some new kung-fu that will help him be an elite pitcher well into his 40s, but it’s more likely that he takes a step back. Buehrle is still only 34, but he has a lot more mileage on the odometer than most 34 year-olds. Josh Johnson has been a mess of injuries for year. Rickey Romero is way better off being a back of the rotation risk than a front of the rotation risk but he’s been a hot mess this spring. On paper the Jays really turned that rotation over, but in practice there is risk here.
  • The back end of the bullpen is something of a question mark. Casey Janssen is just now getting game action in Dunedin thanks to collar bone surgery in the offseason and Sergio Santos‘ 2012 season ended early due to shoulder surgery.  Darren Oliver is 146 years-old. Again, good on paper — I like Janssen a lot — but  it could go sideways in practice. Which doesn’t make it a liability. It’s an uncertainty, the kind of which goes to why one does not hand the Jays the AL East now.
  • Melky Cabrera has a lot to prove. He had two great seasons at an age when you can expect a player with promise to take a step forward, but then he tested positive for testosterone last year. Now everyone wants to forget that Cabrera had such promise when he broke in, claiming he was a marginal-at-best talent then and a PED-fueled fraud now. In the public relations arena Cabrera can’t win. If he hits again people will just claim he’s on PEDs and continue to believe he’s a fraud. If he falters, even a little, people will nod their heads in a self-satisfying fashion. Thing is, though, the public relations arena doesn’t matter. Cabrera could be the bargain pickup of the offseason if even approaches the production he provided in San Francisco and Kansas City.
  • John Gibbons is back. I always find it weird when a guy manages a team, leaves, and then comes back and manages the same team. The Blue Jays have done that twice now, with Cito Gaston and now Gibbons. If Gibbons screws up I predict either Jimmy Williams or Bobby Cox to return. And that’s just because Bobby Mattick and Roy Hartsfield are dead.

So how are they gonna do?

First place, American League East. Because fewer things have to break just right for that to happen to this bunch than for any other team in the division.

  1. proudlycanadian - Mar 26, 2013 at 9:19 AM

    World Series? Why not? Except for Rasmus and Izturis, the hitters have had a great Grapefruit League. Lawrie will only miss a few games. The bench is strong. On the downside, the starting pitchers, other than Johnson have not shone brightly this spring. Morrow was clearly “working on things”. Romero stunk but his backup (Happ) had a fine spring and is ready to step up if needed. Drabek and Hutchinson are coming off Tommy John surgery, but could be available in the second half. Both Janssen and Santos are now healthy and Janssen has struck out 5 of the 6 batters he has faced this spring. They will be ready. Oliver is a year older, but had the best season of his career last year. Delabar looks great and has closers stuff.

    In response to the Red Sox fan who wants to know if I will be attending the post World Series parade, the answer is no simply because I do not go in for those things. I will simply drink a glass of wine in salute to the Jays.

    • cur68 - Mar 26, 2013 at 10:45 AM

      Craig’s assessment leaves out an en fuego Jose Reyes, Moises Sierra, and a potential bounce back from Adam Lind. So there’s some wiggle room if things to don’t entirely come up Millhouse for The Beavz.

      He also neglects some pretty good base stealing. The on base skillz of Davis, Bonifacio, & Reyes shouldn’t be dismissed.

      I’m not predicting Total Baver Victory yet, PC. This isn’t 1812 after all. But, I will go this far: Our Boys are going to be a lot of fun to watch this season. What’s more, we have Lex Luthor’s Seal of Approval. He’s got good instincts, so this calls for a Optimism Watch of 7.5 on the 10 point Beaver Optimism Scale.

      With the recent addition of our friend Vernon Wells to the forces of The Empire & Jeets’ ankle botheration I’m setting Doom Conditions to 1.5. One more thing goes wrong for them and its X-Wings in the service trench.

      • Old Gator - Mar 26, 2013 at 10:54 AM

        Re 1812: we weren’t really trying.

      • proudlycanadian - Mar 26, 2013 at 10:56 AM

        Sorry to disagree Gator, but your guys were quite trying during that encounter.

      • cur68 - Mar 26, 2013 at 10:59 AM

        Not only trying, but also putting out out a BEEEEEEG fire. Speaking of en fuego, eh?


      • Old Gator - Mar 26, 2013 at 11:27 AM

        Let’s put it this way: that bunch of exceptionalist clowns we sent up there couldn’t have signed minor league contracts with the Feesh. If they ever make a film about it (aside from the one that runs on a loop at the Quebec Museum), they’re going to call it Zero Dork Thirty.

      • unclemosesgreen - Mar 26, 2013 at 11:45 AM

        1812 – Posers vs. Hosers.

        Nobody wins, Native Americans lose again.

        Only historiophiliac could convince me otherwise.

      • cur68 - Mar 26, 2013 at 11:49 AM

        Well Gator, as you might know, My People have put out a very nice set of commemorative coins about the whole 1812 “event”. There’s a set of really, truly, INCREDIBLY boring commercials that play during hockey games about the coins and everything (seriously, we beat THE CRAP our of an invader and the best we get is a droning voice and images of coins? Really? Show the White House on fire and some poutine eating, beer swilling, dog team driving counter-invaders having a drunken victory feast in the warm glow of the blaze and THEN you’ll move some damn coins).

        What gets me though is that there seems to be a similar commemorative movement in The States with 1812 coins and everything. Since when do the losers of the war commemorate the event with coins, songs, and so on? I mean, why? Having to paint over the soot stains on the presidential residence was so much fun? Did the painters get a dead cat and a string to swing it with, too? Why do your people want to remember Zero Dork Thirty anyways?

      • historiophiliac - Mar 26, 2013 at 12:01 PM

        Yet again, the Queen’s subjects are going to pretend that they weren’t riding Tecumseh’s coattails there. When he died — and with him the pan-Indian alliance — that British ground war…wait, what’s the official military term? Oh, yes: “went to shit.” And, as always, it ends with lobsters cowering before Jackass Jackson like a bunch of Palmetto State nullifiers.

      • cur68 - Mar 26, 2013 at 12:16 PM

        Ah, but we WERE riding Tecumseh’s coattails and it WORKED. Worked well enough to be worth some commemorative coins gleaming in the glow if a smouldering city, at any rate. That’s the point. That’s worth a celebration or two (pass the poutine and stop hogging the barmaid, eh?).

        Anyhow, once our borders were secure, we returned home to our traplines, seal pup harvest and Maple Tree abuse and left The Queen’s (or was it The King’s??) representatives to get on with being pummelled. Their loss has nothing to do with us.

        Victory Poutine is THE BEST, eh?

      • Old Gator - Mar 26, 2013 at 12:21 PM

        We can add the commemorative coin set celebrating two hundred years after beating up on an “invasion force” unmatched for ineptitude except perhaps by Tully Bascomb’s Grand Fenwick Expeditionary Force to our long list of beaver jokes.

      • historiophiliac - Mar 26, 2013 at 12:26 PM

        Canadians: “We’re afraid of William Henry Harrison. He makes our blubber quiver.”
        Tecumseh: “Put on your petticoats, fops. To war!”

        Exact quotes.

      • cur68 - Mar 26, 2013 at 12:26 PM

        But Gator, The Poutine of Victory is that much the sweeter for being able to say “they were a bunch of inept incompetents unmatched by anyone except perhaps by Tully Bascomb’s Grand Fenwick Expeditionary Force”.

        mmmmmm….Victory Poutine…..

      • cur68 - Mar 26, 2013 at 12:30 PM

        Americans: “OW! Them Maple Bats hurt!”
        James Madison: “Run for your lives, fellas! A heard of Beavers are charging us! They gots sharp front teef and they’re FAAAAST!!!!”

        Exact Quotes

      • historiophiliac - Mar 26, 2013 at 12:34 PM

        Dolly Madison: “Bitches, please.”

      • cur68 - Mar 26, 2013 at 12:41 PM

        Laura Secord; It. Is. ON. It is SO on….

      • Old Gator - Mar 26, 2013 at 12:57 PM

        Benjamin Franklin: Aaaahhh, to be seventy again.

      • historiophiliac - Mar 26, 2013 at 1:09 PM

        I’m sorry, where was your lady born? Oh, that’s right. She was born in Massachusetts, the daughter of a Revolutionary War rebel. You were saved by one of ours, turned — as ladies always are — by sex and syrup. It’s the story of Genesis repeated: the lady’s sin proves the man’s saving grace in the end. You are welcome.

      • indaburg - Mar 26, 2013 at 1:45 PM

        Victory poutine? Watch your mouth, sir. This is a family web site.

        Secord: the snitch bitch.

    • proudlycanadian - Mar 26, 2013 at 9:39 PM

      A fun history lesson ensued; however, in the meantime, the Jays have decided to demote Romero and to replace him in the rotation with Happ. If you are going for it, you have to take your best players north with you.

      • historiophiliac - Mar 26, 2013 at 10:31 PM

        Sorry ’bout that, PC.

  2. Darkoestrada - Mar 26, 2013 at 9:20 AM

    It’s pretty clear they have the best offense in the division. I just wonder if they’ll hit too many home runs to be successful. Or are home runs only a bad thing when Yankees are hitting them?

  3. Francisco (FC) - Mar 26, 2013 at 9:27 AM

    which goes to why one does not had the Jays the AL East now

    Some bourbon slipped into your morning coffee there Craig.

    • indaburg - Mar 26, 2013 at 1:46 PM

      Ahem… slipped, say you?

  4. biasedhomer - Mar 26, 2013 at 9:30 AM

    Problem is staying healthy.

    Key guys like Encarnacion, Reyes, and Johnson have to avoid multiple DL stints.

    Out of all hte teams in the AL East, the Blue Jays are the most injury prone. If they get snake bitten, they could very well end up at the bottom of the division, yet if they stay considerably healthy, they may find themselves at the top of not just the AL East, but the AL.

    • mathieug79 - Mar 26, 2013 at 10:26 AM

      Agree with everything your saying except the that the Blue jays are the most injury prone. The Yankees in my book are a lot more injury prone for one reason; AGE. As for the Blue Jays I don’t think everyone will go down like flies again this season (knock on wood). Lets hope for a healthy season. Toronto does deserve a playoff game or two after all these years! Once they’re in, anything can happen!!!!

    • kidwunder - Mar 27, 2013 at 12:35 PM

      No, last year was an anomaly of injuries for TBJ. Sure there are some guys who likely will go down but as the article mentions, less things need to go right for Toronto to win the east than for Tampa or Baltimore.

  5. missthemexpos - Mar 26, 2013 at 9:34 AM

    91-71 is my prediction for the Jay’s in 2013, anything better than that is gravy.

  6. Old Gator - Mar 26, 2013 at 9:49 AM

    For this team to have as many injuries as it did last season, they’d have to be shipped to Iraq and put on convoy duty. I agree with the call. And I think Biggeth Dicketh will do just fine in this division, allowing for the normative inflation of the ERA that goes along with that thuggish desecration of the game called designatedhitterball.

  7. dirtyharry1971 - Mar 26, 2013 at 9:51 AM

    3rd place at best, rotation is going to be a problem like it was last year. Offense is overrated, i mean the marlins couldnt win with these guys what makes anyone think the jays can in the AL East? Manager will be fired again after this season flop also, i hope he is renting an apartment somewhere.

    • proudlycanadian - Mar 26, 2013 at 10:18 AM

      Hello Harry one. I see that you are all thumbs.

      • dirtyharry1971 - Mar 26, 2013 at 8:43 PM

        and like i care what the sheep on this site thing about what i write here? If you think that, guess again, but whatever you do dont forget i said it first there will be no playoffs for the jays this year.the streak will continue…

    • spudchukar - Mar 26, 2013 at 10:27 AM

      And who do you think will finish ahead of them? The Orioles possibly, if they can replicate 2012, and a healthy Roberts will help but I see them as an 85-88 win team struggling to grab a wild card slot. The Rays? A good argument can be made, an improved infield offense, better depth, and a little more experience for their young starters. Could be a 90 win team. But both of the traditional powers are going to have to have everything go their way to win more than they lose. Boston probably has a slight edge, particularly with all the Yankee injuries, but the battle between those two will be for the cellar.

      On paper, looks like Toronto vs Washington.

      • Old Gator - Mar 26, 2013 at 10:57 AM

        Which, by the way, would I think produce one hell of a great World Series.

      • fuggles7 - Mar 26, 2013 at 6:41 PM

        It SHOULD be Toronto vs. Washington… *sigh*

      • dirtyharry1971 - Mar 26, 2013 at 8:47 PM

        actually the correct question is who will the jays finish ahead of? Im not even so sure they will beat out boston. There is nothing impressive about their starting rotation and their bullpen is weak, no pitching means no title in the East.

    • mathieug79 - Mar 26, 2013 at 10:35 AM

      I’d be pissed too if I were a Redsox fan. After a year of clowning around with Bobby V, you’ll have the honors to watch what we Blue Jays fan call: Farrell Ball. Farrell Ball also known as bad baserunning, bunting at the worst possible times, playing the shifts (which I thought worked pretty well), and bad bullpen management.

      • cur68 - Mar 26, 2013 at 10:49 AM

        You called it “Farrell Ball”? Jeez man, I wasn’t nearly as elegant. I called it “WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING, FARRELL!!!!!?????”

        If watching The Beavz last season didn’t leave me with a stroke then I shall live forever.

        Good luck Boston.

    • kidwunder - Mar 27, 2013 at 12:45 PM

      Ok, arguing that since the Marlins didn’t win with those players means the Jays will not is a ludicrous and narrow-minded argument. The Royals had a bad year last year but if you traded Broxton Butler and Guthrie to any team in the league and gave away nothing of value off their current roster it would make a huge impact on that team.

      Likewise, the Jays didn’t do very well last year, so if they traded Bautista, Morrow and Encarnacion to another team it wouldn’t have an overwhelmingly positive impact on that team.. right? Work on your deductive reasoning.. it seriously needs a tune-up.

  8. chacochicken - Mar 26, 2013 at 10:44 AM

    Given a healthy Reyes, lots of speed with Davis and Bonifacio, and successful return of Bautista, this should be a very potent offense. If the pitching is 4 runs per 9 then this is certainly close to a 90 win team. I predict lots of RBI doubles and lots of taking extra bases.

    • proudlycanadian - Mar 26, 2013 at 10:58 AM

      I will take the over.

    • dirtyharry1971 - Mar 26, 2013 at 8:48 PM

      yea Reyes did so much for the marlins and his legs are just gonna love playing on the turf 81 games a year, good luck with that cause you are gonna need it

      • chacochicken - Mar 26, 2013 at 9:15 PM

        You mean Jose Reyes who hit .287 with 40 stolen bases and 60 extra base hits for the Marlins? What more do you want from him? The turf isn’t great but its effects are certainly exaggerated.

      • dirtyharry1971 - Mar 27, 2013 at 12:21 AM

        Yea i mean the Jose Reyes who had a .347 on base% and a .780 ops% and dropped big time in every major offensive catagory from the season below after signing a big contract. The turf is gonna be death to his legs but to be honest with ya after the jays fall flat on their faces this year and they will you are gonna see a big fire sale for 2014 so Jose might only have to be on the turf one season anyway. Lucky him is all i gotta say

      • chacochicken - Mar 27, 2013 at 8:45 AM

        You mean his career averages? Do you know how many shortstops would kill for those? Do you have some personal animosity toward the Jays?

  9. digbysellers - Mar 26, 2013 at 11:10 AM

    Be careful of unbridled anything there Craig. That’s what lead to Billy Mumphrey’s downfall.

  10. papacrick - Mar 26, 2013 at 11:18 AM

    I’m a Tigers fan but a baseball fan first and this team excites me. Can’t wait to see what the Jays do with a healthy Bautista and all the new additions. Regardless how it shakes out, it’s nice to finally see some parity in the ALE. Who knows maybe they can recreate the Tigers-Bluejays rivalry of the 80’s

    • proudlycanadian - Mar 26, 2013 at 11:24 AM

      That was a fun rivalry with a sad ending.

    • unclemosesgreen - Mar 26, 2013 at 11:57 AM

      At this point, an ALCS of Tigers-Blue Jays would surprise few. I’ll root for the Jays this year, it’s always fun to have someone upset Yankee and Red Sox fans. I won’t call either of them “Nation” or “Empire”. Just fans. Do you hear me? You’re all just fans.

    • historiophiliac - Mar 26, 2013 at 12:07 PM

      Keep coming, Jays. Cats love bird.

      • unclemosesgreen - Mar 26, 2013 at 12:12 PM

        … but get stomped on by giants.

      • historiophiliac - Mar 26, 2013 at 1:13 PM

        He’s on a DIET.

  11. Fruitland Generic Citizen - Mar 26, 2013 at 11:47 AM

    Why is there no index for this series? How do we know which ones have run and where to find them?

    • indaburg - Mar 26, 2013 at 11:57 AM

      In the upper right hand side of this page is a search box. Enter in the search box “2013 Previews.” Click the search button. Viola. There’s your index. (We’re also going to get a summary when all the teams are done.)

      • Francisco (FC) - Mar 26, 2013 at 3:14 PM

        Viola? I prefer the Cello myself.

      • indaburg - Mar 26, 2013 at 4:20 PM

        lol.. er, I’m more of a fiddle girl. (Shhhh… don’t tell anyone I snuck in a few sips of Craig’s bourbon.)

  12. paint771 - Mar 26, 2013 at 1:01 PM

    So I’ve been a diehard Jays fan my whole life, and am super excited about this team. BUT, I’ll also play the role of fear-of-success worry wart.

    Namely, this is a team that isn’t necessarily used to winning or being in viable contention, and it’ll be very interested to see how that plays out. I don’t mean they’ll wilt under a spotlight, what I mean is I haven’t really seen a killer instinct in this team that extended beyond moments here and there (that usually involved Brett Lawrie). They go out there every day and play, sure, and I don’t doubt they want to win. But I also wonder whether they hate losing as much as they might need to to really go on a late season tear if they’re down a bit.

    I worry whether the rotation is just a collection of guys who will each be battling more or less themselves. There is no greater fan of Jose Bautista than I, but I have to say I worry about his attitude and given that this is “his” team, how that bleeds down. This team has been hit by bad luck with injuries for sure, but I also think there are some management/training/attitude issues there as well and I’ll just leave it at that. There will be plenty of offense, but especially with guys like JPA, Rasmus, Lind, and whatever backup catcher/infielder they trot out, this won’t be a lineup that you can say doesn’t have weak spots – on any given night that 7, 8, 9 might be pretty easy to blow through (of course, they can also hurt you). And, speaking of some of those guys, guys like Lind, Romero, Rasmus, and JPA may never quite put it together again (I suspect that’s not true and each is due at least one great season, but probably not at the same time).

    So yeah, I’m totally THAT fan – excited more than I should when the team is middling, worried more than I should when the team is great. Still, I’ve got my concerns.

    But, all that said, I haven’t been more excited by this team since the early 90s, I think Gibbons was an inspired choice and the most underlooked addition to the team this offseason, and there is just so much talent there on the field and savvy in the front office. Gonna be a great year.

    • fuggles7 - Mar 26, 2013 at 6:44 PM

      I was hoping for Cito Part III.. *Sigh*..

      • dirtyharry1971 - Mar 27, 2013 at 12:22 AM

        Cito was a terrible manager, i hope the jays bring him back for next season after they fire their current manager.

    • kidwunder - Mar 27, 2013 at 12:51 PM

      What did JPA do to offend you? 2 years ago he hit more home runs than any blue jay catcher ever and was on his way to surpassing that before getting injured last year.
      And Lind will either bounce back, as his spring would suggest, or we sign Morneau to play first next off-season.

      Oh, and most teams have pretty weak hitting 789 spots, if you compare the Jays 789 to the league we’re actually better than most.

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