The Toronto Blue Jays have made headlines in the baseball world this off-season by revamping their starting rotation and adding a number of upgrades to the batting lineup and bullpen. The changes have been so significant that 2012’s opening day starting pitcher, Ricky Romero, is now the number-five starter, a testament to the depth and talent in the Jays’ new rotation.
The additions to the rotation are headlined by the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner, RA Dickey. Dickey came off a season with the New York Mets in which he posted a 2.73 ERA in 233.2 innings of work, leading the National League. The 38-year-old knuckleballer is expected to anchor the starting staff and help stabilize a rotation that has lacked a bona fide ace since the departure of Roy Halladay in 2009.
Besides Dickey, the Blue Jays have added a powerful right-handed pitcher, Josh Johnson, and veteran left-hander Mark Buehrle. Johnson and Buehrle are expected to add a reassuring veteran presence to the rotation and put in the hard work during the innings, something the team sorely lacked in the 2012 season.
At the back of the rotation the Jays will feature Brandon Morrow and Ricky Romero. Provided that everyone stays healthy, the rotation figures to be the toast of their division, perhaps even of the entire American League.
The bullpen was another sore spot for the Jays in 2012. The Jays finished 2012 with a combined 4.33 ERA, the lowest total in the American League. Fortunately, the Jays have made efforts to upgrade their pen, beginning with the acquisitions of Steve Delabar, JA Happ, and Brad Lincoln during the trade deadline last season. The hope is that this trio will complement the existing core of Casey Janssen, Sergio Santos, Brett Cecil, and newcomer Esmil Rogers.
As for offence, the Jays made considerable alterations to their batting order. José Bautista and Edwin Encarnación still figure prominently in the middle of the lineup—and, if healthy, could combine for 80 or more home runs. They will be complemented by the addition of shortstop José Reyes and left fielder Melky Cabrera at the top of the batting order. After the top four, it is believed that the new manager, John Gibbons, will alternate between Adam Lind, Brett Lawrie, Colby Rasmus, JP Arencibia, and Emilio Bonafacio to fill the 5–9 spots.
The addition of Reyes and Cabrera should increase the on-base average for a team that combined for a mediocre .309 OBP in 2012. In addition to their talent for getting on base, Reyes and Cabrera possess the essential leadoff skills: Reyes is a speed merchant on the base paths, and Cabrera can advance runners on base with his swing.
Fans’ opinions on the new look of the 2013 Blue Jays has been overwhelmingly positive. “On paper, this is the best team in baseball, hands down,” comments Aadam Ali, a third-year economics student. “The lineup, rotation, and bullpen are all stacked. The Jays are going to be a handful for every team in the AL this season.”
Ashley Adams, a first-year English student, is also positive. “Alex Anthopoulos was clutch this off-season; he identified a number of holes on this team, and filled all of them through trades and free agency,” she says. “I fully anticipate a playoff season for the Jays, and I can’t remember the last time that happened.”
It remains to be seen how the Blue Jays will fare in 2013, but if the off-season has been any indication, it is bound to be interesting, win or lose.