Sunday, November 25, 2012

How changes on the Blue Jays have completely recast the American League East for 2013

Alex Anthopoulos doing his best to look inscrutable.
The Toronto Nine have been the only really active team so far in the off-season, pretty well for all of baseball. I’m not going to count the Marlins here, even though the just received seven players from Toronto because most will not be seen on the big stage by opening day.

What strikes me as odd is that so few changes have happened with the other AL East clubs so far. The Yankees resigned Kuroda which is not unexpected. The Red Sox resigned David Ortiz, something they had to do to avoid rioting on the streets of Beantown. The Rays have pretty well done nothing, not that they have the money to do much. Their strength is in their farm system which either provides talent for the big team (they turn out great pitchers at an alarming rate) or great trade bait. The Orioles made what pretty well amounts to a lateral trade with the Mariners, moving out Robert Andino and getting Trayvon Robinson. That’s about it so far.

It’s certain the other teams will make changes. The Red Sox are in need of probably the same number of new players the Blue Jays just got because there are some glaring holes in their roster, especially in their pitching staff. No one there had an especially good 2012. They need at least two starters and Bard hasn’t exactly set the world on fire as their closer. I don’t know that they have what it takes at first base or shortstop. David Ortiz is getting older and who knows what he’ll do next year. I am not familiar with their farm system, so I don’t know what kind of trade bait they have. Their pockets are deep, though, so I few free agent signings could well be in their future.

The Yankees are getting old. Jeter had a great season, surprisingly good, really, but he’s at that age where things start falling apart. Everyone wishes him well, but that ankle could be a big issue. A-Rod is getting old really fast. His last great season was 2010. He’s now injured more often, doesn’t run as well, and strike out rate is ridiculously high – especially last season. He can’t connect on the high fastball anymore, so of course, that’s all he’s going to see until he proves he can do it. Will Rivera make it all the way back? Hard to say. If he doesn’t, what then? They don’t seem to be making much of an effort to re-sign Soriano. Does Granderson get things back in gear again? What are they going to do behind the plate? Martin’s hitting was really not good last year. Expect the Yankees to make a few big trades. If Petttite doesn’t come back, they need a front of the line starter.

Does Tampa have much room to manoeuvre? As stated above, the team usually improves by trading. Shields could bring in a number of good players (whether MLB ready or prospects for their farm system), but can they improve their offense. That is where they always seem so vulnerable. I don’t expect them to do much of anything, but somehow, they always do. Don’t count them out, but if they are ever going to disappoint, it might well be in 2013. After several great seasons, they could well inhabit the basement next season.

Baltimore was about the luckiest team in all of sports last year. Yes, they have a very good and creative manager in Buck Showalter, but they certainly can’t expect to rattle off another stunning number of 1 run games. Do they go out for a few starting pitchers. The one trade they did make won’t turn out to be earth shattering. Trayvon Robinson is not going to set the world on fire.

By adding the players they did, the Jays are going all in. Gibson as manager for the second time seems to me to be a move to bring in someone Anthopoulos can 100% trust to have his back. It is another calculated risk, though. If the players they’ve brought in have years that should be expected of them based on their pasts, it will prove to be a very good trade. Surely they can’t be expected to have a great number of injuries as they did this year. It’s my feeling they’ve done all that can be expected of them to improve the team and there might be a few more moves made before we even hit January. But basically, it’s now up to the baseball gods.

As far as the AL East goes, Toronto has set themselves up to a place where all the other teams are forced to respond. Once we get past the Thanksgiving weekend, it’s my suspicion that things will go a little nuts as the other four teams in the division jockey for position.

And a month ago I was getting fed up with the Jays!

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