2013 season preview: Toronto Blue Jays

The Toronto Blue Jays didn't have a great 2012. Their season collapsed like a house of cards when Jose Bautista broke his wrist and the pitching staff suffered injury after injury. This offseason, Alex Anthopolous made his move. He had accumulated several talented prospects that weren't going to be ready for the majors in 2013, and cashed them in to pick up Jose Reyes, RA Dickey, and Josh Johnson, among others. Now, the Blue Jays look like one of the best teams in the American League, a position they haven't been in for 20 years.

Blue Jays on TOC
End of Season Postmortem
Hope for the Hopeless
2013 Season Preview
You May Say I'm a Dreamer (11:30 PM)
2013 Burning Question (12:45 PM)
This Is My Nightmare (2:00 PM)
X-Factor (3:15 PM)

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Depth Chart (as of 2/26)
C: JP Arencibia
1B: Edwin Encarnacion
2B: Emilio Bonifacio
SS: Jose Reyes
3B: Brett Lawrie
LF: Melky Cabrera
CF: Colby Rasmus
RF: Jose Bautista
DH: Adam Lind
SP: RA Dickey
SP: Brandon Morrow
SP: Mark Buehrle
SP: Josh Johnson
SP: Ricky Romero
CL: Casey Janssen

New Faces
Where do we begin? Jose Reyes, Emilio Bonifacio, Josh Johnson, and Mark Buehrle all came over from the Marlins in a heist by Anthopolous. RA Dickey (along with catcher Josh Thole, who isn't even on the major league depth chart right now) came over from the Mets for a package centered around catcher Travis d'Arnaud. Melky Cabrera was signed as a free agent to a reasonable two-year deal. Maicier Izturis was signed to fill a middle infield hole before Reyes and Bonifacio were acquired, and is now a solid bench option. Veteran Mark DeRosa was brought in to do the same thing as Izturis for the mostpart. The team also picked up relievers Michael Schwimer, Esmil Rogers, and Jeremy Jeffress to provide some depth. There's also a new (old) manager in the fold in John Gibbons, replacing John Farrell, who made his way to Boston after the season.

Departures
Kelly Johnson signed with the Rays after the Blue Jays showed no interest in bringing the veteran second baseman back. Shortstops Yunel Escobar and Adeiny Hechevarria were dealt to the Marlins in the megadeal, along with starting pitcher Henderson Alvarez, and prospects Jake Marisnick, Justin Nicolino, and Anthony DeSclafani. Relievers Jason Frasor, Carlos Villanueva, and Brandon Lyon all signed elsewhere as free agents this winter. A package of players including prospects Travis d'Arnaud, Noah Syndergaard, and Wuilmer Becerra, and catcher John Buck, were sent to the Mets for Dickey. The Blue Jays also played tons of games on the waiver wire that saw plenty of players come and go without even throwing on a uniform, including Bobby Wilson, Eli Whiteside, and Russ Canzler.

Impact Rookies
This year, no one really. Anthony Gose burned through his rookie eligbility last season, but could be a solid fourth outfielder for Toronto in 2013 if something happens to Rajai Davis (a similar, older version of Gose). Marcus Stroman, Toronto's first round pick in the 2012 draft, could hit the majors later in the season as a reliever after he serves his 50 game PED suspension. Aside from those two guys though, don't expect to see a new young stud on the block in Toronto in 2013.

Position Battles
Most of the Blue Jays "position battles" are in the bench and bullpen. Veteran Henry Blanco has the edge on Thole for the backup catcher job. Mark DeRosa appears to be winning a job on the bench by default, but someone like Moises Sierra or (god forbid) Lars Anderson could have something to say about that and add some power to Toronto's bench. A strong spring from Gose could push the Blue Jays to trade Davis and open a spot up for the youngster, but they may prefer to have him play every day in AAA Buffalo instead. I'd say that only three bullpen spots are locked up right now: Casey Janssen, Steve Delabar, and Darren Oliver. If Sergio Santos is healthy, he's got a spot as well. The other spots will be up for grabs between Brett Cecil, JA Happ, Rogers, Jeffress, Schwimer, Aaron Loup, and Brad Lincoln, though Lincoln and Happ will likely going to be stretched out to start in case of an injury in the rotation.

Injury Concerns
None of Toronto's Tommy John trio, Kyle Drabek, Luis Perez, and Drew Hutchison, will likely be ready to pitch in 2013. Dustin McGowan is probably also out of the picture for 2013 after yet another shoulder surgery. David Cooper had back surgery and is out indefinitely. Focusing on the major league roster right now, Santos was a non-factor last year, but is apparently ready to roll this season after shoulder surgery last summer. Josh Johnson is seemingly always hurt, so that's something to keep an eye on. People are also focusing on Jose Reyes' health while playing on turf in the Rogers Centre, which is an unknown that could doom the megadeal for the Blue Jays in the future. There also needs to be some focus on Bautista's wrist, which eliminated the second half of his season just when he was putting it all together.

Burning Question
What makes the 2013 Blue Jays different from the 2012 Marlins?

Best Case
A World Championship, plain and simple. Toronto has all of the pieces in place to contend this season and I think we'd all be surprised if they weren't at least contenders in the AL East this season.

Worst Case
2012 Marlins, part two. Remember what happened in Miami last season? Heightened expectations, and a precipitous drop into the basement of the NL East? Imagine that happening all over again in Toronto. It would be a disaster.

Realistic Prediction
This Blue Jays team is much different from the Marlins last year. The Blue Jays already had a decent core in place, and the players they added will build upon that core. Compare that to the Marlins, who essentially tried to rebuild their team around their new players, and fell flat on their faces. The Blue Jays might not make the playoffs in 2013, but if they don't at least finish .500, I think it'll be a surprise to everyone.

Joe Lucia

About Joe Lucia

Joe is the managing editor of The Outside Corner and a contributing author at Awful Announcing. He lives in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and is stuck somewhere between tolerating and hating Pittsburgh and Philadelphia sports.

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