Led by MVP candidate Jose Bautista, the Toronto Blue Jays bashed their way to an 81-81 record, their third season in the last four years at or above .500. All those .500 seasons have gotten them...a permanent spot in fourth place in the highly competitive AL East. But the Blue Jays fine tuned their team this offseason, and look to be at least in contention for one of the AL wild card slots this season.
Depth Chart (as of 3/15)
C: JP Arencibia
1B: Adam Lind
2B: Kelly Johnson
SS: Yunel Escobar
3B: Brett Lawrie
LF: Eric Thames
CF: Colby Rasmus
RF: Jose Bautista
DH: Edwin Encarnacion
SP: Ricky Romero
SP: Brandon Morrow
SP: Brett Cecil
SP: Henderson Alvarez
SP: Dustin McGowan
CL: Sergio Santos
Toronto's big offseason acquisition was bringing in former White Sox closer Sergio Santos, for a B-level prospect in Nestor Molina. Toronto's other major acquisitions also came in the bullpen, with the signings of veterans Francisco Cordero, and Darren Oliver, and by re-acquiring former Blue Jay Jason Frasor. Toronto also re-designed their bench by signing catcher Jeff Mathis, outfielder Ben Francisco, and veteran infielder Omar Vizquel.
A pair of bullpen arms left as free agents, with both Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco signing with the Mets. Former backup catcher Jose Molina also left town, signing with the division rival Rays in a starting role. The team also released overpaid (and disappointing) utility player Mark Teahen, who came over last season in the Colby Rasmus trade.
Catcher Travis d'Arnaud could take hold behind the plate if JP Arencibia, he of the massive power and little else, struggles during the season. Young starter Kyle Drabek, who isn't a rookie anymore, could also get some time in the majors if he gets his control problems taken care of.
Eric Thames could get a battle in left field from former top prospect Travis Snider, who hasn't been able to put it together in the majors thusfar in his career. I don't think there's anything else that's really up in the air for the Blue Jays right now.
While the Jays have Dustin McGowan penciled into the fifth spot in their rotation right now, the man has had multiple shoulder surgeries over the last few years. It would be a great story if McGowan was able to perform at a major league level this season, but I wouldn't put any money on it with his injury history. Reliever Jesse Litsch has an infection in his shoulder, and won't be ready for Opening Day. That's really about it for this Toronto team.
Everyone knows about the talent that Colby Rasmus possesses, but he was pretty awful after coming over from the Cardinals last July. Is this going to be the year where he finally turns into a superstar?
The Blue Jays young players put it all together, and the team is able to contend for a playoff spot in the loaded AL East. It would take a collapse from one of the teams ahead of them, though.
The same stuff happens as has happened in the last few years of Blue Jays baseball, and they finish in fourth yet again.
The Blue Jays are probably the fourth-most talented team in the AL East on paper, so something is going to need to break right for them to contend in 2012. However, I'm not doubting that something along those lines could happen.
TEAMS: Toronto Blue Jays, Chicago White Sox, New York Mets, Tampa Bay Rays, Washington Nationals
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