There have been a lot of gambles made this offseason. The Angels are banking on Josh Hamilton putting them over the threshold. The Dodgers hedged their Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford trade by inflating the payroll up toward $230 million. The Royals are going for it all in the AL Central after dealing perhaps the top prospect in baseball (and then some) for James Shields and Wade Davis. But no team has put it all on the line the way the Reds and the Blue Jays have, and who could blame them?
The AL East is up for grabs right now. The Yankees are aging rapidly and will be depending on the 38-year old Derek Jeter to man shortstop and hold the team together, without Alex Rodriguez’s bat or glove in the lineup. The Red Sox hit rock bottom last season and don’t appear as though they’ll be competitive again for a couple years. The Rays may have reloaded their system with high-end prospects, but without James Shields in the rotation or Wade Davis in the bullpen, they’ll be depending upon unproven pitchers to stabilize their run to the playoffs. Finally, I’m not sure anyone is convinced the Baltimore Orioles weren’t a fluke last season. They lack speed and their pitching staff is comprised of a lot of pitchers that shouldn’t reasonably be as good as they were last season.
So it makes sense for the Jays to make their move, but did anyone see them doing so on such a magnificent scale? They didn’t just make a move here and there to put their proverbial “hat in the ring”. The Blue Jays shoved all the chips to the center of the table and declared they be taken seriously. They’ve raised payroll by approximately $40 million and added steroid infused MVP candidate Melky Cabrera, premier shortstop Jose Reyes, the underrated but pesky Maicer Izturis and Emilio Bonifacio, reigning NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey, potential staff ace Josh Johnson and the always dependable Mark Buehrle. They’ll join a trio of dangerous hitters in Brett Lawrie, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion as well as the formidable arms of Brandon Morrow and Ricky Romero.
The Reds find themselves in a similar circumstance in the NL Central. Despite winning 97 games last season, they were promptly bounced from the playoffs in the Division Series by the Giants, and undoubtedly were a team with certain shortcomings. However, the Cardinals will return virtually their entire roster and look dangerous to say the least. The rest of the division however, remains uninspiring, or at least a couple of seasons away from seriously challenging. So the Reds make a couple of moves specifically designed at putting them over the top. They weren’t necessarily at the scale of Toronto, but are certainly gambles to say the least. The first was moving Aroldis Chapman to the rotation. They’ll not only be banking on Chapman’s ability to remain healthy and effective, but Jon Broxton’s ability to do the same in the bullpen while serving as the new closer. They also swung a trade for Shin-Soo Choo formerly of the Indians to be their new leadoff hitter and centerfielder. This came as a surprise as Choo has always profiled as a corner outfielder and more of a two or five-hole hitter rather than a leadoff man. There are also questions about exactly how much defense the Reds will lose without the speedy Drew Stubbs roaming their outfield.
The moves could certainly blow up in their faces. Melky might miss more time due to the most recent steroid scandal that has not only linked him, but Alex Rodriguez and Nelson Cruz as well. Reyes still hasn’t shed the injury prone label he’s worn for years, neither has Maicer Izturis or Josh Johnson. R.A. Dickey may have won the Cy Young in the NL, but now he’s moving to the AL and a ball park that isn’t nearly as friendly as Citi Field in New York. Then again, it could all just as easily mesh and the Blue Jays could run away with the division. As for the Reds, Choo may not cover enough ground in centerfield, which would directly affect the pitching staff. A pitching staff that will depending on getting the most from Aroldis Chapman. Can he throw 200 innings a season? Can he remain as lethal in the 7th inning as he was in a shorter role? Time will tell for both teams, but for now, it would appear they both have a great deal to both gain and lose in 2013.