To put it mildly, the Toronto Blue Jays’ 2012 season was a disaster. After injuries sidelined three members of their starting rotation in less than a week, star players Jose Bautista and Brett Lawrie eventually went down with their own ailments and the Jays limped to a 73–89 season record, 15 games below .500.
The Blue Jays offseason didn’t start much better.
Fans saw manager John Farrell leave for his “dream job” with the Boston Red Sox.
They witnessed only small bullpen improvements—acquiring Esmil Rogers from the Cleveland Indians and Jeremy Jeffress from the Kansas CityRoyals—and, while they finally saw general manager Alex Anthopoulos hand out a multiyear free agent contract, it amounted to just three years and $9 million for bench player Maicer Izturis.
But then everything changed.
While fans were pining for a big signing or big trade, everyone was caught off guard when the Blue Jays and the Miami Marlins officially announced their blockbuster 12-player trade on Monday that drastically changed the outlook of both clubs.
With open arms, Blue Jays fans welcomed a trio of former All-Stars—right-hander Josh Johnson, left-hander Mark Buehrle, and shortstop Jose Reyes—as well as versatile infielder/outfielder Emilio Bonifacio and catcher John Buck.
But it’s not only Blue Jays fans that are justifiably excited about the new acquisitions. Bautista was delighted to hear of the moves that were made.
“Going into next year, we were all going to be excited about our team, and now all this happens,” he said on Sportsnet.ca on Monday.
“I guess a nice way to put it, and a humble way to say it, is that my level of confidence as an athlete has just been quadrupled and I don’t say that lightly.”
In addition to the players sent, the Marlins included $8 million to help with the cost of adding over $160 million in contract guarantees over the span of the newly acquired contracts; Reyes alone is owed nearly $100 million through 2017.
The extra funds will be put to good use. Going into 2013, the Blue Jays were in dire need of pitching after Kyle Drabek, Drew Hutchison, and Luis Perez all received Tommy John surgery near the end of 2012.
Now, the team has an ace in Johnson and an innings-eater in Buehrle.
It’s been rumoured that the Jays aren’t even done acquiring starting pitchers. With the acquisition of Buck, they presently have four catchers on their 40-man roster with J.P. Arencibia, Bobby Wilson, and star prospect Travis d’Arnaud. This surplus of talent behind the plate could make any of the aforementioned catchers trade bait for another arm or another bat.
At one point, it was likely that the Blue Jays were going to trade one of their young catchers for a left-fielder to fill the hole made after both Travis Snider and Eric Thames were traded mid-season, but that is no longer needed.
After another surprising move, the Jays signed LF Melky Cabrera to a two-year, $16 million contract. The 28-year-old Dominican batted .346 with 25 doubles, 11 home runs, and 60 RBIs before getting caught using testosterone half way through the season.
Had he not been caught, the star left-fielder could have easily netted double that amount in free agency.
“I think he’s going to be a tremendous addition to the lineup,” said Anthopoulos in Tuesday’s press conference. “Cabrera is a contact hitter. He obviously brings some speed and brings some defence as well.”
Assuming no other moves are made, Arencibia would likely start in the majors with John Buck as his backup, the opposite from the 2010 season. Wilson would then play backup to d’Arnaud in AAA. As such, the lineup would probably resemble the following in 2013:
2B Izturis / Bonifacio
Looking at the 2013 proposed lineup, one can see that in addition to having power, it also has a tremendous amount of speed.
In 2012 alone, a combination of Reyes, Bonifacio, and bench player, Rajai Davis stole a total of 116 bases. If top prospect, CF Anthony Gose, who stole 15 bases in 50 games last season, finds his way on the team, that number could increase even further.
In addition to speed, the Jays also have versatility at the plate. Four of their newly acquired players are switch hitters, as Izturis, Bonifacio, Cabrera, and Reyes can all hit from both sides of the dish.
With the newly acquired bullpen, hitters, and starting pitchers, the last move the Blue Jays needed to solidify was a manager.
After Farrell left, many names were rumoured to have been linked with the position. On Tuesday morning, however, one name was confirmed—John Gibbons.
This would be Gibbons’ second stint with the team, as he managed the team from 2004-2008, posting a 305–305 record, and a high of 87 wins in 2006.
He is known to have the ability to manage a lineup well, can utilize a bullpen to its full extent, and most importantly, can take command and keep some of the younger talent in line.
“I am thrilled to be back. It’s always good to see some old friendly faces,” Gibbons said in Tuesday’s press conference.
“It’s always nice to step into a situation where you’ve got some pretty good talent.”
Gibbons couldn’t be more right. Expect big things for the boys in blue in 2013.
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