Article Written By: Manny Alcala
Toronto Blue Jays
2013 Record: 74-88 (5th place in AL East)
Key additions: Dioner Navarro, Tomo Ohka.
Key losses: Josh Johnson, J.P. Arencibia, Mark Derosa.
Most important players for 2014: Jose Bautista, R.A. Dickey, Edwin Encarnacion, Colby Rasmus.
The Toronto Blue Jays made a big splash in last year’s off-season when they made a big blockbuster trade with the Miami Marlins that brought Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, and others to Toronto. Many thought that they were the team to beat in the AL East, especially after they also acquired Cy Young award winner R.A. Dickey.
As we all saw, things didn’t work out as planned for the Jays, Dickey was only one game above .500 and his ERA nearly doubled from his previous season. Jose Bautista got injured late in the season and was on the disabled list for most of September, and we can’t forget about the nasty ankle injury Jose Reyes got in an attempt to steal second base. Things didn’t pan out for the blue birds last season.
This season brings a different opportunity for the Blue Jays, they certainly won’t have much of the attention other teams in their division have. Toronto could very easily fly under the radar and finish better than last season. They have acquired Dioner Navarro as a free agent which should help them in the lineup with a more consistent hitter who can hit higher for batting average than their recently lost catcher J.P. Arencibia who signed with the Rangers. Arencibia might have more power than Navarro, but the Jays need a catcher who can hit above the Mendoza line.
After getting a two-year $25 million extension R.A. Dickey will be entering his second year with the Blue Jays. It’s always a mystery with knuckle ball pitchers and how they can pitch great one day and then pitch completely terrible their next outing. Now that Dickey got through his first season with Toronto I expect him to feel more comfortable and have way better numbers than last season. A key to the Blue Jays success is the pitching of R.A. Dickey. Just like Dickey, the Blue Jays signed Tomo Ohka, another knuckle ball pitcher, to a minor league deal. I know it’s only a minor league deal, but it would be really cool to see two knuckle ballers pitch in a series, it could really help Toronto throw off opposing lineups.
As for Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, fans can only hope that they stay healthy (especially Bautista) and still produce huge power numbers. When these two players are at their best they can be one of the most feared 3-4 hitters in the league. Expect 30+ home runs from each Bautista and Encarnacion, but the key here is for them to be on the field playing every day.
The biggest challenge for the Blue Jays this season is the competition they will have in their division that features the current world series champs Red Sox, the newly revamped Yankees, and the other two teams that always seem to be in contention in recent years, the Rays and Orioles. It will be a difficult test for Toronto to pass when they have to play most of their games versus these teams.
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