The Toronto Blue Jays have set out to completely remake their team this offseason. They have added Maicer Izturis and Melky Cabrera through free agency. They have acquired Esmil Rogers via trade from the Indians. They executed a much bigger trade with the Marlins, as I am sure you have heard, adding Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle, infielders Jose Reyes (an all star) and Emlio Bonifacio as well as catcher John Buck. They are turning Buck and more into R.A Dickey and Josh Thole from the Mets. The Red Sox and Yankees are down, and this certainly is the time to make a move if a move is easily made in the AL East so I can’t fault the Jays for trying.
I do question if they are as good as everyone expects, however. Let me specifically note the questions I have.
- For a team that has been run so affordably, will the influx in payroll be a major concern for ownership? This isn’t a huge question for me, to be honest, though I can understand why it would be for so many. If the moves have been made, you have to believe that the payroll was approved. The question then becomes “how long will the Blue Jays keep this roster together?” On the one hand, it’s tough to maintain a payroll this large for more than one season outside of New York and Los Angeles. On the other hand, if they want to win this season, what does 2014 matter?
- As for the players, my biggest concern is with the supposedly elite rotation. Since joining the National League, R.A. Dickey has been a legitimate force. He came on late in his career though, after a troubled, journeyman career in the American League. True, he developed the knuckler after he turned 30, but there are so many red flags around him, I can’t believe the price (including Travis D’Arnaud, an elite catching prospect) was so high. First, there is the question of how his stuff will translate to an AL East known for its offense. Then there are the statistical anomalies of the past season. 80% strand rate? A K rate that jumped more than 3/game last year? Certainly, Dickey is better than he was, but I don’t think he is worth top prospects. Mark Buehrle is on the wrong side of 30 as well. His soft stuff worked in the AL Central, where there was no offense, and went to the National League last year. Can he be effective in a tougher AL East? Will Josh Johnson stay healthy? It’s a lot of money for a lot of question marks. It was a lot of prospect depth for a a lot of question marks.
- The offense is better with Reyes at the top of the order, and Bonifacio or Izturis in the lineup instead of Kelly Johnson, but the offense wasn’t much of a problem last year. Keeping Jose Bautista healthy seems like the eminent concern. Again, was the money and prospect talent sacrificed worth it?
- And say nothing of Melky Cabrera. He’s not a great fielder, so most of his value comes from his bat, which came alive over the past two seasons. His power jumped, which is possibly explained by his PED usage, which assumably will not be continuing anymore, since he was caught. His leap in batting average is almost directly tied to an outrageous BABIP, which was .379 last year. That’s nuts. Two years ago, it was .288, which lined up more accurately with his career average (to that point) If you took that BABIP and applied it to his average last year, instead of .346, Cabrera would have hit .243. Is that really worth the risk? He is probably a better player than that now, but how can you be sure that a clean Melky Cabrera is much better than that?
The Blue Jays, obviously, look to be a better this year. If the Dickey trade goes through, though, I’m still not convinced that they are as good as people think.