What the Blue Jays-Marlins Mega Deal Means for the Rest of the American League East

While most discussion throughout the last couple days has focused on the Miami Marlins selling off nearly all of their assets and the re-loaded Blue Jays north of the border, there’s also a discussion to be had about what the reported massive trade means for Toronto’s competition, the American League East division.

In case you missed it, the trade that went down looks as follows …

Blue Jays receive:

  • SS – Jose Reyes
  • SP – Josh Johnson
  • SP – Mark Buehrle
  • OF – Emilio Bonifacio
  • C – John Buck

Marlins receive:

  • SS – Yunel Escobar
  • SP – Henderson Alvarez
  • Prospects – Andy Hechavarria, Jake Marisnick, Anthony Desclafani and Justin Nicolino
  • C – Jeff Mathis

Owner Jeffrey Loria’s aggressive plan last offseason could not have turned out worse, so maybe this photo looking up to him isn’t the most appropriate. (Photo by ESPN)

So, yes, the Blue Jays obviously improve a lot on paper with this trade. But will it be enough for them to contend with powerhouses like Boston, New York, and even Tampa Bay? And what about the new resurgent Baltimore squad?

While it’s hard to say Toronto can be considered anywhere near a “favorite” in the division before they play together for a substantial period and prove themselves, as the 2012 Marlins were not able to do, the different units that make up their team are definitely much more worthy of hype than they have been in quite some time.

Starting Pitching

Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle will step in and likely be at the front of the Jays’ rotation. Johnson was finally able to have a healthy season in 2012 and bolstered a solid 3.81 ERA. Based on his at-times dominant numbers from years past, we all know he has the potential to be a top-of-the-line ace … especially somewhere like Toronto that won’t put too much pressure upon him.

Buehrle, on the other hand, will play more of the “Mr. Consistency” role in the rotation and has handled being an “ace” in the American League well for more than 10 years with the Chicago White Sox before going to Miami last offseason. So even he could serve as a viable Opening Day starter. More importantly, though, he’ll be able to mentor the other lefties in the Jays’ rotation, Ricky Romero and J.A. Happ.

While Ricky Romero struggled in 2012, posting a 5.77 ERA, and J.A. Happ hasn’t done much since he dazzled for the Phillies in 2009, Buehrle could help mentor them much like he did with John Danks on the south side of Chicago a few years back. Romero’s 42-29 record from 2009-2011 along with Happ’s 2.93 ERA in 2009 (along with a 10-11 record for the atrocious Astros in 2012) shows that the potential is there for the south paws.

Righty flame-thrower Brandon Morrow will fit in quite nicely to the middle of the rotation after posting a 10-7 record to go along with his 2.96 ERA from 2012. He, along with Johnson, give the Blue Jays someone that can shut you down completely on any given night.

At this moment in time, the Blue Jays have either the 1st or 2nd best rotation in the AL East, as I put them right up there with the Tampa Bay Rays’ unit led by David Price. If anything, that should speak volumes to how much Tuesday’s reported trade turns that unit around instantaneously.

brandon-morrow-blue-jays-tampa-bay-trade

Brandon Morrow flirted with no-hitters on more than one occasion. (Photo by johnathan.mastrella via CC BY 2.0)

Bullpen

While you may not know much about the Blue Jays’ bullpen, I assume most will be surprised to hear they actually have a very good unit. Here’s a quick rundown of Toronto’s ‘pen.

  • Closer Casey Janssen stepped in and saved 22/25 SVO in 2012 while posting a 2.54 ERA.
  • Set-up man Sergio Santos missed almost all of 2012 due to injury, but the organization has high hopes for him after he saved 30 games for the 2011 Chicago White Sox.
  • Ageless wonder Darren Oliver just keeps doin’ his thing, as the lefty posted a tremendous 2.06 ERA in 62 appearances in 2012.
  • Brad Lincoln was very good out of the Pirates’ and Blue Jays’ bullpens in 2012 even though he couldn’t quite figure it out as a starter. As long as he stays in the bullpen, he’s a pretty sure thing in the later innings.
  • Steve Delabar, who would be the 5th option in the ‘pen, posted a sub-4.00 ERA in more than 60 appearances in 2012.

The AL East is pretty good top to bottom in the bullpen department, and it looks like the Blue Jays will be able to keep up with the pack in that respect.

Offense

The biggest question mark for the Blue Jays in 2013 could easily be their offense. As good as Jose Reyes is, Yunel Escobar was a formidable shortstop, so Reyes will have to return to his form-of-old for the trade to be a complete success.

With that being said, his presence in the lineup should help out substantially. I project their 2013 lineup (as of now) to look as follows … (2012 stats)

  1. SS – Jose Reyes – .287 BA, 60 XBH, 40 SB
  2. 3B – Brett Lawrie – .273 BA, 40 XBH (125 games)
  3. RF – Jose Bautista – 27 HR, 65 RBI (92 games)
  4. 1B – Edwin Encarnacion – .280 BA, 24 2B, 42 HR, 110 RBI
  5. CF – Colby Rasmus – 21 2B, 23 HR, 75 RBI
  6. C – J.P. Arencibia – 16 2B, 18 HR, 56 RBI (102 games)
  7. DH – Adam Lind – (2011) 26 HR, 87 RBI (limited 2012 MLB action)
  8. 2B – Emilio Bonifacio – .258 BA, 30 SB (64 games)
  9. LF – Rajai Davis – .257 BA, 35 XBH, 46 SB

Now, yes, I know that order can be re-done in many different ways, but the point was simply to show how much potential their order will have. They could also pursue a second baseman on the market and use Emilio Bonifacio as a utility man and pinch-runner, a role in which he’s sure to excel.

And don’t forget about talented 22 year-old Anthony Gose, who the team currently has listed above Rajai Davis on their depth chart.

I’d still expect the Yankees and Red Sox to have a more potent offense than the Blue Jays year in and year out, but Toronto could, at the very least, close that gap somewhat in 2013.

Sorry to all you Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, and O’s fans out there … but the AL East will be even more competitive than it normally is – and that’s plenty competitive already. It’s sure to be an exciting race out east in the ’13 season, as for the first time in, well, probably ever you’ll hear different “experts” pick all of the division’s teams to win the divisional crown.

It’s always hard for a small market team to compete with the “big boys,” but as we’ve seen throughout recent MLB history, it certainly can happen (see Nationals, Washington; Rays, Tampa Bay; and so on & so forth).



About Zach Gropper

Zach Gropper is a sports broadcasting major at Indiana University in the beautiful town of Bloomington, IN. He is from Flossmoor, IL, a small Chicago suburb.
Zach was was the sports director for WHFH 88.5 FM Flossmoor his junior year of high school and Television Station Manager of Viking Television during his senior year.
He runs a White Sox blog at GrabSomeBench.com and also contributes and reports for AssemblyCall.com. Last summer, Zach interned for ESPN 1000 AM Chicago, working on programming for the Waddle and Silvy Show.
He is currently eager to get out into the professional world of sports media, wherever that may take him.

Comments

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    Since when are the Jays small market? They probably have the biggest regional television audience in baseball with very high television ratings. Yes, their payroll has been in the bottom 3rd of baseball in recent years as they rebuilt their farm system, but we are talking about the 3rd most populous city in baseball with the richest owners in baseball (Rogers Inc). Baltimore and Tampa are the only two true small market teams in the division.

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