Blue Jays

2013 Preview: Toronto Blue Jays

60 Comments

Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2013 season. Up next: The Toronto Blue Jays.

The Big Question: The Blue Jays went for it this offseason. They gonna get it?

There’s every reason to think so. Look, normally I don’t look too kindly on assuming 20-win swings by any given team from year to year, but in 2013, in the AL East as currently constructed, and with all of the moves the Blue Jays made, I don’t think it’s irrational to think they can do it.

You don’t need me to recap the dramatic changes the Jays made this offseason, but I will anyway: They picked up Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Melky Cabrera and R.A. Dickey and gave up little if anything that would have helped the 2013 team. What’s more, they will be getting Jose Bautista back for a full season and can expect improvement from young players like Brett Lawrie and (maybe, because we’ve been saying this for years) Colby Rasmus. The rotation went from a flaming crater to a team strength and everyone else who was already there save Edwin Encarnacion can be expected to either be healthier or to improve. Most things went wrong for this team in 2012. It won’t take miracles for most things to improve. Even cautiously optimistic projections for this roster make them a strong, strong team. If some things break right, well, it’s a darn good team.

But the biggest reason why I think the Jays have a good shot at taking the AL East is that there simply is no alpha team in this division at the moment.  The Yankees are probably gonna be better than the current gloom-and-doom surrounding them would have you believe, but they are not the 2012 Yankees and, for the first month or two of the season before they get some injured players back, they may be way worse than that.  The Red Sox are in transition. The Rays lost James Shields and always operate on thin margins. The Orioles are no longer doormats, but they got an awful lot of good luck last year.

The Blue Jays can win this division because they got a lot better over the winter. But they can also win this division because no one else did, and because anyone can win this division. And anyone can probably finish fifth, with the spread between first place and fifth place being a relatively small number of games compared to the way these things usually go. Any person who tells you that they have some certainty about that to the contrary is full of it.

So what else is going on?

  • Not that there is reason for unbridled optimism. All of the additions contain some bit of risk. We probably saw the best R.A. Dickey will ever pitch last year. He’s 38. It’s possible that he found some new kung-fu that will help him be an elite pitcher well into his 40s, but it’s more likely that he takes a step back. Buehrle is still only 34, but he has a lot more mileage on the odometer than most 34 year-olds. Josh Johnson has been a mess of injuries for year. Rickey Romero is way better off being a back of the rotation risk than a front of the rotation risk but he’s been a hot mess this spring. On paper the Jays really turned that rotation over, but in practice there is risk here.
  • The back end of the bullpen is something of a question mark. Casey Janssen is just now getting game action in Dunedin thanks to collar bone surgery in the offseason and Sergio Santos’ 2012 season ended early due to shoulder surgery.  Darren Oliver is 146 years-old. Again, good on paper — I like Janssen a lot — but  it could go sideways in practice. Which doesn’t make it a liability. It’s an uncertainty, the kind of which goes to why one does not hand the Jays the AL East now.
  • Melky Cabrera has a lot to prove. He had two great seasons at an age when you can expect a player with promise to take a step forward, but then he tested positive for testosterone last year. Now everyone wants to forget that Cabrera had such promise when he broke in, claiming he was a marginal-at-best talent then and a PED-fueled fraud now. In the public relations arena Cabrera can’t win. If he hits again people will just claim he’s on PEDs and continue to believe he’s a fraud. If he falters, even a little, people will nod their heads in a self-satisfying fashion. Thing is, though, the public relations arena doesn’t matter. Cabrera could be the bargain pickup of the offseason if even approaches the production he provided in San Francisco and Kansas City.
  • John Gibbons is back. I always find it weird when a guy manages a team, leaves, and then comes back and manages the same team. The Blue Jays have done that twice now, with Cito Gaston and now Gibbons. If Gibbons screws up I predict either Jimmy Williams or Bobby Cox to return. And that’s just because Bobby Mattick and Roy Hartsfield are dead.

So how are they gonna do?

First place, American League East. Because fewer things have to break just right for that to happen to this bunch than for any other team in the division.

Report: Blue Jays to acquire Melvin Upton, Jr. from the Padres

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - JULY 2:  Melvin Upton Jr. #2 of the San Diego Padres hits a walk-off solo home run during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the New York Yankees at PETCO Park on July 2, 2016 in San Diego, California. The Padres won 2-1. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
Denis Poroy/Getty Images
2 Comments

The Padres and Blue Jays have agreed on a trade involving outfielder Melvin Upton, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported on Tuesday morning. The Jays will get Upton and the Padres will receive a prospect from Single-A. The financial details are not yet known, but Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune says the Padres are expected to cover a significant portion of his remaining contract. The trade is likely to be finalized on Tuesday.

The two teams opened up a three-game series in Toronto on Monday, so Upton won’t have to go very far to join his new team. The Jays won 4-2 on Monday.

Upton, 31, has had another solid season for the Padres, batting .256/.304/.439 with 16 home runs, 45 RBI, 46 runs scored, and 20 stolen bases in 374 plate appearances. He’s owed the remainder of his $15.45 million salary for the 2016 season and $16.45 million next season, the final year of his five-year contract.

Upton will provide some outfield depth for the Jays, who currently only have Ezequiel Carrera as a full-time back-up outfielder behind Michael Saunders, Kevin Pillar, and Jose Bautista. Bautista was activated from the disabled list on Monday, so Upton could cover right field in the event that Bautista exacerbates his toe injury.

With Upton leaving San Diego, Alex Dickerson is likely to see full-time work in left field in the short term. Prospects Hunter Renfroe and Manuel Margot could be called up at some point this season as well.

Settling the Scores: Monday’s results

CHICAGO, IL - JULY 25:  Tyler Saladino #18 of the Chicago White Sox celebrates after getting the game-winning hit, a single in the 9th inning, against the Chicago Cubs at U.S. Cellular Field on July 25, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The White Sox defeated the Cubs 5-4.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
1 Comment

The White Sox got their third consecutive win in walk-off fashion on Monday, downing the Cubs 5-4 in the opening game of a short two-game series at U.S. Cellular Field. On Sunday, the White Sox and Tigers played two, sort of. They finished a suspended game from Saturday, which ended with an Adam Eaton walk-off RBI single in the ninth inning to give the White Sox a 4-3 victory over the Tigers. Later that day, Melky Cabrera walked the Pale Hose off on another RBI single, this time giving his team a 5-4 margin of victory.

In Monday night’s game, the White Sox took a 4-0 lead in the seventh inning with third baseman Todd Frazier providing the bulk of the offense with a three-run home run off of Jake Arrieta in the sixth inning. But starter Miguel Gonzalez tired in the seventh, forking up a two-run home run to Javier Baez. He would exit with two outs in the frame. In the ninth, Matt Albers gave up a double and two singles, leading to one run for the Cubs. Dan Jennings came in and immediately let one of his inherited runners score on an Anthony Rizzo single, tying the game at 4-4.

In the bottom of the ninth, new Cubs acquisition Mike Montgomery took the hill. J.B. Shuck led off with a line drive single to center. He advanced to second base on a Dioner Navarro sacrifice bunt, and promptly scored the winning run on a Tyler Saladino walk-off RBI single.

The White Sox had lost eight of their previous nine games prior to their recent three-game walk-off winning streak. They’re now 49-50, eight games out of first place as they approach the August 1 non-waiver trade deadline.

Box scores.

Cardinals, Mets [Postponed]
Tigers 4, Red Sox 2
Rangers 7, Athletics 6
Phillies 4, Marlins 0
Yankees 2, Astros 1
Brewers 7, Diamondbacks 2
Angles 6, Royals 2
Reds 7, Giants 5
Orioles 3, Rockies 2 (10 innings)
Blue Jays 4, Padres 2
White Sox 5, Cubs 4