The term “looks good on paper” is thrown around quite frequently in sports and this baseball off-season has not been any different with a possible change coming this MLB season. The AL East is part of this possible change with the new dominant team being the Toronto Blue Jays; well at least “on paper” they look like the new dominant leader of the AL East. Anyone who knows baseball will agree that the American League East is the hardest division for any team to play in with the Red Sox and Yankees who are always paying top dollar for players to come to these respective clubs; but that is not all, in recent years the Tampa Bay Rays have built a strong team to contend with through their farm system and it has shown great results with 3 playoff appearances and making it to the World Series in 2008 only to lose it to the Phillies. There is also the Baltimore Orioles who made the playoffs last year like the Rays through a farm system and a few trades that made that team very successful last year. So where does this leave the Jays? Well they have not had a first place win since 1993 when they won the World Series, and the last time they were in second place was 2006 and they were still 10 games back of first place so it has been a significantly long time since the Jays were a threat. With this season being full of injuries and a 73-89 record to finish this season off things were looking grim, even on paper things looked bad with the Jays needing to fill major holes such as starting pitch and holes in the middle infield even with the players like Jose Bautista who were injured over the season, returning the team looked like it was doomed to repeat itself.
Optimism for Blue Jay and Canadian fans were not very high with many of the fans hoping to at least get a few trades or free agents signed and then more bad news came out, John Farrell was moved to Boston for Mike Aviles a rare player for a manager trade and that seemed to be the final blow to the team and fan base there was not a lot of happiness going around when it came to the Jays and it seemed like they were going to stay at the bottom of the barrel for another season. Was it doom for another Toronto franchise? Were they going to be stuck in a hole again? Funny enough while the fans felt that it was going to be a long boring baseball off-season with minimal moves done Alex Anthopolous started to work hard on finding a new manager and trying to add pieces to the team that could make them better. First he traded Mike Aviles to Cleveland for relief pitcher Esmil Rogers and traded cash to the Kansas City Royals for another pitcher named Jeremy Jeffress, he then proceeded to sign infielder Maicer Izturis to a three-year contract. These are not moves that have made a huge impact, but it was adding depth to the bullpen and the infield. Around the 13th of November a humongous trade was coming out to the Sports World involving the Jays and Miami Marlins. The Jays were sending over catcher Jeff Mathis, shortstops Adeiny Hechavarria and Yunel Escobar, pitcher Henderson Alvarez with a handful of other prospects to the Marlins while in return the Jays received a huge amount of talent, catcher Joe Buck, infield utility man Emilio Bonifacio, shortstop and former batting champion all-star Jose Reyes and two starting pitchers in right-hander Josh Johnson and left-handed pitcher Mark Buehrle. In one swoop the Jays went from a team with many needs to a team that filled in its major holes with adding two starting pitchers which makes their rotation much stronger with more experienced pitchers and their middle infield gets a large upgrade too. This was not the end of Anthopolous’ work, on December 17th the Jays made another blockbuster trade with the New York Mets. The Mets received catcher Joe Buck and prospects pitcher Noah Syndergaard, catcher Travis d’Arnaud and outfielder Wuilmer Becerra and the Jays got the grand prize the 2012 National League Cy Young winner knuckleball throwing pitcher R.A. Dickey with catchers Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas. With acquiring Dickey the Jays now have one of the strongest pitching rotations in the league and also pushes Ricky Romero who was the opening day starter this past season and ace down to 4th on the rotation.
So now on paper the Blue Jays look like the team to beat, or at least the team that will take over the AL East division and why not? The Jays seem to be taking advantage of the fact that their division rivals are weaker than they used to be. The Boston Red Sox have not rebounded since there dramatic fall in 2011 and the New York Yankees are getting older and are slowly losing their top players and seem to not be spending money like they used to. The Tampa Bay Rays are hitting the budget wall and have had to trade away top players like James Shields and not re-sign players like Carlos Pena and finally the Baltimore Orioles, many baseball analysts believe that the Orioles success this season will not be repeated and they will start to lose more games once again. Anthopolous has shown that during this off-season the Blue Jays organization is tired of waiting to win and now want to win with making moves and spending a lot of money to be a top competitor in the American league and this has created a major swing in momentum and have many Blue Jays fans including myself rather excited for this upcoming season. Of course this is all once again on paper and there are other powerful teams like the Los Angeles Angels and the Detroit Tigers who are also major contenders and knows who will really be on top in the league and division and which team will stay the healthiest for the long 162 game season, but right now it looks like the Jays have one goal in mind and that is to be the best in the AL East and maybe even win it all. The Jays now have one of the best starting rotations in the league and a powerful line-up to compliment the pitching which on paper can lead to a wonderful baseball season in Toronto which can hopefully lead to a playoff run and for all the Jays fans including myself, it is safe to say that we hope the Jays are on the field and not just on paper.