Monday, December 17, 2012

All In

As if trading for the Marlins wasn't enough, the Toronto Blue Jays acquiring RA Dickey screams from the mountaintops "We're all in."

And why not? The Yankees are looking more and more like a senior league softball team, Boston is still in a transitory phase, Tampa hasn't done much to improve for 2013 and Baltimore is still Baltimore. The AL East is as wide open as ever.

The Blue Jays have never had trouble scoring and it won't be any trouble in 2013. The lineup features three of the top hitters at their positions in the two Jose's (Reyes and Bautista) and Edwin Encarnacion; in addition to a host of players with huge potential in Melky Cabrera, Colby Rasmus and Brett Lawrie. Like I said, barring injuries, offense is not a concern in Toronto; that side of the coin is covered.

(Get into the good stuff below the page break)

Pitching, especially starting pitching, has been a significant issue in Toronto however. Well, I think it's fair to say they'll be just fine in this department as well. As a testament to their strength, Ricky Romero, the 2012 Opening Day starter, will have to fight with JA Happ for the last spot in the rotation. Dickey, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle have each led a rotation in the past 5 years and have finished in the top-5 of Cy Young voting once. (Somewhere there's an interesting comparison between the three hurlers, as they couldn't be a more diverse set of pitchers: Dickey the late-blooming knuckleballer, Johnson the injury prone phenom and Buehrle the steady horse.) Topping it all off, the rotation will feature a ball of potential that looks like it may have finally developed in Brandon Morrow.

GM Alex Anthopoulos only needed two moves to put together this super-team, a baseball equivalent to the Traveling Wilbury's. The first didn't cost much in the way of prospects or players, but was primarily a salary dump by Florida. The second, on the other hand, was an extremely prospect rich deal. Dickey (and a couple friends) cost Toronto their top two prospects in Travis d'Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard (and a couple friends). By the way, Mets fans can have fun committing those names to memory, they took me forever to get the spelling right. Anyway, d'Arnaud (pronounced Dar-No, I believe) and Syndergaard (cinder-guard) were not just Jays top prospects, but some of the brightest in all baseball: an incredibly high price to pay for anyone and another example of how insanely expensive pitching is these days. This seems to be a great trade for the Mets, maybe I'll get to them another day. But for now I'm sticking to Toronto.

So what does it mean to be all-in on 2013? For one, it means a $110+ million payroll and large commitments into the future - especially in Reyes, Buehrle and Bautista. For another, it means Anthopoulos can't stop now.

The rest of the 2013 off-season needs to be dedicated to filling holes. One glaring hole is a player to share 1B/DH duties with Edwin Encarnacion. I don't know what happened to Adam Lind, but he's so ineffectual against lefties (and on defense) that he's barely worth the roster spot. Perhaps David Cooper is the answer, however, if that's Toronto's opinion they have to be certain of it.

Furthermore, Toronto may have some issues with depth. Assuming Josh Thole is acquired for John Buck (part of the Dickey trade), the Jays will have JP Arencibia and Thole behind the plate. Not a bad duo, but with the loss of d'Arnaud there is a hole where their third catcher should be. This hole needs to be addressed, as I'd be damned if the downfall of my Traveling Wilbury's was a lack of competent backup catcher. Macier Izturis was a fantastic depth signing to backup Emilio Bonifacio and the omni-injured Jose Reyes up the middle and Anthony Gose and Rajai Davis should be versatile enough outfield reserves.

The bullpen needs to be shored up as well. Despite the lack of a true relief ace, there is depth in Janssen, Delabar, Santos, Rogers, Oliver, Lincoln, Cecil and Happ. However, if one or two of these guys fall, there will need to be options readily available in AAA.

These are the problems that teams who are going for it all face, every small detail must be squared away to avoid failure. Having mortgaged a huge amount of money and a huge chunk of their future on 2013, it's too late to turn back now. Anthopoulos and co. need to be thorough and aggressive to reach their ultimate goal this season.

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