The Blue Jays have continued their crazy offseason today by adding 2012′s NL Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey in a trade with the Mets. Despite only a 73-89 record in 2012, the Blue Jays have vaulted themselves into contention in a flurry of moves this offseason. First there was the gigantic trade between them and the Marlins which netted Toronto Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, and Mark Buehrle in exchange for Yunel Escobar and a handful of prospects. Next, they signed Melky Cabrera to a two year contract worth $16 million. Finally, they further upgraded their rotation today with the acquisition of Dickey (as well as catcher Josh Thole) from the Mets.
Dickey had a career year at the age of 37 in 2012, going 20-6 with a 2.73 ERA and winning the National League Cy Young. The knuckle-baller also led the league in innings pitched and strikeouts and was simply a dominant force every five days. With only one year left on his contract, however, the Mets felt obligated to sell high on him and certainly did, receiving a handsome sum for their ace. New York acquired prospects Travis D’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard in the trade, prospects MLB.com ranks #11 and #83 in the major leagues (#1 and #3 in the Blue Jays’ system).
Even more than this deal shakes up Major League Baseball as a whole, however, it really shapes the AL East. With this trade, the Blue Jays rise to being clearly the best team in the AL East right now. A revamped rotation to go with an already powerful lineup vaults Toronto well ahead of the Orioles, Red Sox, Rays, and Yankees.
The feeling that the Orioles’ surprising 2012 season was a fluke grows stronger by the day. They benefited from an unrealistically good bullpen which carried a weak rotation. To top that off, the O’s have done just about nothing this offseason, the re-signings of Luis Ayala and Nate McClouth being their only notable moves so far. I expect the Orioles to fall back into the rut they’ve been in for the past decade if they do nothing major.
While the Red Sox have had a productive offseason so far, signing Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino, and Ryan Dempster to name a few, they were in an even worse place than Toronto. While the Red Sox have improved their offense immensely this offseason, the Blue Jays have a much superior rotation with the added Dickey as well as Johnson (8-14, 3.81) and Buehrle (13-13, 3.74). If the Red Sox can add another good pitcher, they could give the Blue Jays a run for their money. At the moment, however, the Jays stand tall in the AL East.
Although the huge trade between the Rays and Royals (moving James Shields and Wade Davis to Kansas City for Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi, and other prospects) makes the Rays better in the long term, they take a major short term hit. Pitching was this team’s strength, and they traded away Shields– the second best pitcher on a staff featuring AL Cy Young winner David Price. Although the Rays will probably surprise everybody as they usually do, they don’t even come close to matching Toronto on paper.
That brings us to the Yankees, the only team right now that stands a chance against Toronto. Honestly, though, the Yankees aren’t looking too great on paper. Their elderly core gets another year older and the acquisition of Kevin Youkilis is uninspiring as a game changer. The Yankees’ rotation could look good if everyone lives up to expectations, but it’s a very high-risk mix of pitchers with the only sure bets being C.C. Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda. Even the Bombers’ homer happy offense is inferior to Toronto’s similarly high power offense.
With no other team in the AL East having made a strong effort to improve (apart from the Red Sox, who were in an awful position to start the offseason), the Blue Jays stand alone. While it’s possible that they won’t gel as a team and will look like the 2011 Red Sox, it seems more likely that they’ll be serious contenders. It’s tough to predict outcomes in March, much less December, but if no other major moves are made– the division is Toronto’s to lose. On the bright side, however, the Red Sox aren’t looking too bad compared to everyone else!