One year ago at this time (December 17th to be exact) the Blue Jays finished off a scintillating offseason by acquiring reigning Cy Young award winner R.A. Dickey from the New York Mets. This, on the heels of signing Maicer Izturis and Melky Cabrera, and trading for Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, and Emilio Bonifacio, vaulted the Jays into number one contenders for the 2013 World Series, and crowned them the Offseason Champions of Baseball.
My, what a difference a year makes.
Now, after a season in which everything went wrong and the Jays finished dead last, this offseason has been filled with nothing but disappointment, disillusionment, and sadness. While teams all around Toronto are diving into the free agency and trade market and improving themselves (or at least attempting to improve themselves), the Jays are sitting idle.
Thus far the Blue Jays have replaced J.P. Arencibia with Dioner Navarro, traded Brad Lincoln for Erik Kratz and Rob Rasmussen, and signed old friend and newly converted knuckleballer Toma Ohka to a minor league deal. Will those moves make the team better? Maybe. Will they make the team 20+ wins better? Highly doubtful.
I have gone on record saying that I don’t think Toronto has to do much this winter. The core of the team remains strong, and if the players that are already on the roster revert back to their career norms – as opposed to the career lows experienced in 2013 – the Jays should be a contender.
But still, a fan can’t help but be upset about what has been happening across baseball. With money flowing into the game like never before, teams clearly haven’t been afraid to use it.
Teams that finished ahead of Toronto last year, those teams that the Jays will have to surpass to make the playoffs, have been busy. The Yankees added Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, and Jacoby Ellsbury. The Tigers sent Prince Fielder to the Rangers, and lost Doug Fister, but added Joe Nathan, Ian Kinsler, and Rajai Davis. Oakland added Jim Johnson, Scott Kazmir, Drew Pomeranz, and Luke Gregerson. The Rangers brought in Prince Fielder. The Angels traded Mark Trumbo for pitching help.
But what has been worse is the fact that teams that weren’t contenders in 2013, teams that Toronto even finished ahead of, are also going full steam ahead. Kansas City signed Omar Infante to play 2B, a massive hole for the Jays. Minnesota went crazy for pitching, inking Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes, and they have been rumoured to be in the market for Bronson Arroyo. Seattle made the biggest splash by bringing in Robinson Cano, and have also been linked with David Price, Matt Kemp, and Shin-Soo Choo.
Toronto’s biggest move has been to bring back Roy Halladay so he could retire. A classy move sure, but not something that will move the team towards a World Series.
Of course just because teams have been busy doesn’t mean they are better. Are the Mariners a contending team now? Probably not. Are the Tigers any better without Fielder and Fister? Arguable. But that doesn’t change the fact that they have been busy making headlines. That at least gives the fan base something to get excited about.
Here in Toronto, as we sit and watch free agents sign elsewhere while our corporate owners spend $5-billion on the rights to the NHL, we can’t help but feel like the Jays are being left behind,
left in the dust of the competition.
Again – maybe the Jays don’t need to make moves. Maybe the team that was put together in the offseason of 2012 will rebound.
But that won’t help alleviate a case of the offseason blues.