Obviously, no one knows at this point how the 2013 season will unfold, but if offseason wheelings and dealings were all that factored into the equation, the Blue Jays would already have this thing in the bag.
Detecting weakness in the New York and Boston strongholds, general manager Alex Anthopoulos decided this offseason to sell out for the now. It was an approach that most would probably classify as reckless if he hadn't been so thorough in reshaping a team that went a disappointing 73-89 last year.
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It all started when he convinced the Marlins to trade him their entire roster (or all the pieces that mattered, anyway) for a couple of prospects. Granted, Miami also got salary relief in the deal, but it's not like the Blue Jays saddled themselves with a bunch of albatross contracts that will misallocate their funds for the next decade or so. Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle are all potential All-Stars, and Emilio Bonifacio is a pretty nice throw-in as a base-stealing fiend who can play just about anywhere on the diamond.
As if remaking their starting rotation and acquiring arguably the game's best leadoff hitter weren't enough, the Blue Jays then swung a deal for R.A. Dickey, the reigning NL Cy Young winner. They paid a hefty price to get him, including their very best prospect in Travis d'Arnaud, but by adding three high-profile arms to the top of their starting rotation, this team's greatest weakness a year ago is now a legitimate strength.
And oh yeah, they also got All-Star outfielder Melky Cabrera at a discount by signing him right after he completed a 50-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs. So there's that.
It's a gamble, as is asking the injury-prone Johnson to help anchor a starting rotation, as is paying for career-best numbers from a 38-year-old knuckleballer, as is counting on a bounce-back season from a banged-up Jose Bautista or a repeat season from a surging Edwin Encarnacion. But what team isn't gambling on a few hopeful scenarios this time of year?
The fact the Blue Jays were willing to stake their future on these particular scenarios says a lot about their confidence in them.
Bounce-back player ... Melky Cabrera, outfield
Statistically, Cabrera is unlikely to "bounce back" in 2013. After all, he was leading the NL with a .346 batting average at the time of his 50-game suspension last August. But the suspension itself knocked him down a peg in the eyes of many Fantasy owners, creating the need for him to resuscitate his value. Crediting performance-enhancing drugs for his increased production over the last two seasons discounts the role natural progression may have played. His big breakthrough with the Royals in 2011 came during his age-26 season, when breakthroughs are oh so common. Isn't it possible he didn't start using until 2012, when his batting average rose another 40 points and his OPS another 100 points? And even if he used as a Royal, isn't it possible he would have broken through to a smaller degree simply by natural progression? If Cabrera regresses to his 2011 numbers, he's still likely a top-10 outfielder in Fantasy. Drafting him among the top 30 is hardly a reach.
Bust ... Emilio Bonifacio, infield/outfield
Fantasy owners so want Bonifacio -- he of the 80-steal pace at the time of his thumb injury last May -- to start at second base for the Blue Jays that, in their minds, he already has the job. But the Blue Jays signed Maicer Izturis -- a superior defender up the middle -- to a three-year deal this offseason with the intention of making him their starting second baseman. Granted, that signing came before the blockbuster that brought them Bonifacio, but since then, general manager Alex Anthopoulos has declared Izturis the front-runner at the position. Of course, losing the starting job wouldn't necessarily condemn Bonifacio to failure. He can play anywhere, so between the infield and outfield, he'd likely still get enough at-bats to contribute. The problem is the Blue Jays are already rotating speedster Rajai Davis into the outfield, which might limit Bonifacio to the infield. He's still fine as a late-round source of steals, but you wouldn't want to reach for him earlier than that.
Sleeper ... Casey Janssen, relief pitcher
A limited number of saves caused Janssen's breakthrough to go by the wayside last year. But while Craig Kimbrel, Fernando Rodney and Aroldis Chapman made history with the kind WHIPs they were putting up, Janssen's 0.86 mark ranked fifth among closers with at least 50 innings. And it's not like his 2.54 ERA or 9.5 strikeouts per nine innings were anything to sneeze at. So then ... about those saves. Beginning 2013 as the team's closer will help. He didn't claim ninth-inning duties from an injured Sergio Santos until May last year, and by then, the Blue Jays starting rotation was so decimated by injuries that a closer was hardly necessary. They either outslugged the competition, or they lost. Obviously, that formula is destined to change this year with all the upgrades they made this offseason, particularly to their starting rotation. Add, say, 15 to last year's save total, and you'll see why Janssen is a bargain after the top 20 closers go off the board.
The Blue Jays pretty much gutted their farm system in their dealings with the Marlins and Mets this offseason, so you won't find much Fantasy value here, at least not in the immediate future. ... With a mid-to-high-90s fastball, Aaron Sanchez has the look of a top-of-the-rotation starter, but at age 20, he's still at least a couple years away. ... Likewise, speedy outfielder D.J. Davis, the 17th overall pick in the 2012 draft, is more of a project than a prospect at age 18. ... Deck McGuire, the team's first-round pick in 2010, has a chance to contribute this year if enough injuries befall the starting rotation, but given the way he has stalled at Double-A, compiling a 5.88 ERA and 1.56 WHIP there last year, you wouldn't want to dedicate a roster spot to him right now.
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