December 20, 2012
On the Beat
Jays Ready for Takeoff
It is almost like the American League East has been put in a time machine and sent backward 20 years. The Blue Jays are the division favorites with less than a week left before Christmas. Toronto hasn't been to the postseason since winning its second consecutive World Series in 1993. Those Blue Jays used to fill SkyDome on a nightly basis, but they now have trouble drawing crowds to what is known as Rogers Centre.
Seven of eight front-office types and scouts polled randomly this week picked the Blue Jays to win the AL East in 2013. The lone dissenter picked the Yankees because "they are the default option." My, how things have changed for the major leagues' only non-United States franchise, a team that has finished fourth in the division in each of the last five seasons.
"How can you not make them the favorite?" one AL front-office type asked. "Man-for-man, they have the best team in the division now."
Rogers Communications, which owns the Blue Jays, gave general manager Alex Anthopoulos permission to "go for it" this winter, and he hasn't held back. First, he took advantage of the Marlins' fire sale and acquired the double-play combination of shortstop Jose Reyes and second baseman Emilio Bonifacio as part of a 12-player trade, along with right-hander Josh Johnson and left-hander Mark Buehrle. Then Anthopoulos took a shot on free-agent outfielder Melky Cabrera—the Melkman's 50-game PED-related suspension that ended his 2012 season with the Giants be damned—for two years and $16 million. Finally, the Blue Jays acquired the 2012 National League Cy Young Award winner, knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, from the Mets on Monday in a seven-player trade with the Mets.
Dickey, Johnson, and Buehrle now front a rotation that pushes Brandon Morrow and left-hander Ricky Romero down to the Nos. 4 and 5 spots. Reyes and Cabrera will hit at the top and Bonifacio will bat at the bottom of a lineup that will likely include right fielder Jose Bautista, first baseman Edwin Encarnacion, center fielder Colby Rasmus, third baseman Brett Lawrie, designated hitter Adam Lind, and catcher J.P. Arencibia.
"I'm not ready to say they have the best team in baseball, but they definitely have the best team in the American League East," another AL front-office type said. "They've struck at the right time. It's the perfect storm for Alex."