It was readily apparent from the outset of the 2012-13 offseason that the Toronto Blue Jays were all in and playing for keeps. In short order they bagged some big names, constructing arguably the best lineup on paper in the AL East. They’ve done everything in their power to get their pieces in place and position themselves for a run at the division title. I recently had a chance to catch up with Fansided’s Jay’s Journal Editor, Kyle Franzoni. Here’s how my Q&A went with him.
In your opinion, did the Blue Jays make enough changes in the offseason to help increase their chances to win in 2013?
I think you’d be hard pressed to find an organization that did more work during the offseason than the Toronto Blue Jays. Not only did the Blue Jays net Josh Johnson, R.A. Dickey, Jose Reyes, Emilio Bonficaio, and Mark Buehrle in big trades with the Marlins and Mets respectively, but Alex Anthopoulos spent just as much time signing players like Melky Cabrera and Maicer Izturis to bolster other needs. And that says nothing of the multitude of waiver claims made this winter.
What/who have been your most surprising upsides and let downs during this spring training season?
Surprise wise, you’d have to go with Mark DeRosa, who has looked pretty spry this spring. Coming off a multitude of injuries over the past several years, he was an under the radar type guy that could play an important role this season, especially with Brett Lawrie starting the season on the disabled list.
There is no greater disappointment to Blue Jays fans than Ricky Romero. The one-time ace has still not recovered from his dismal 2012 campaign and the fans are clamoring for him to start the season in the minor leagues rather than let that carry over into the regular season. Yes, you can get by with your fifth starter struggling for a few starts, but how much rope will the Blue Jays give him?
Key injuries impact teams both on Opening Day and beyond. What injuries, both short-term and long-term, will most hamper the Blue Jays’ ability to be successful?
The injuries I am watching are those to the back-end of the bullpen. Closer Casey Janssen just started appearing in games and has looked good, but coming off of shoulder surgery and getting such a late start is concerning.
Then there is Sergio Santos, the primary set-up man who would be closer if Janssen faulters. Santos missed all of 2012 with arm issues and required his own surgery. Like Janssen, he’s looked okay, but having two bald tires on the back of the car is scary, especially given the Blue Jays aspirations in 2013.
What are the three keys to success for Toronto to compete for an AL East title in 2013?
1.) The bullpen must be solid. Dickey and Buehrle will eat up innings, but Romero, Brandon Morrow, and Johnson aren’t known for working deep into games. That means a lot of innings on the pen. Baltimore proved in 2012 that you can lean on the pen, if done properly. Let’s hope Toronto can count on theirs.
2.) Health. Plain and simple. This team struggled to stay healthy in 2012. They appear to be in better shape this season, especially when it comes to depth. However, they have a lot riding on this season. One injury to a front line starter and this team may be in some trouble.
3.) The top of the order will be essential. Toronto got little to no offense out of the first and second spots in the order in 2012. They made a huge play to rectify that by adding Reyes and Cabrera to bat 1, 2 and that will be huge to have in front of the big boppers in the middle of the order.
Predict your AL East end of season standings and why.
1) Blue Jays – They are the deepest team in the division, and they are most well-rounded. They have very few weaknesses to exploit. As long as they stay healthy and can gel as a unit, the division should be theirs to lose.
2) Tampa Bay – It’s hard to beat good pitching, and the Rays have that in droves. What they don’t have it much offense outside of Evan Longoria. Wil Myers may help change that, but they’ll have to wait a month until they engage that weapon.
3) Boston – The Red Sox made some subtle tweaks and I think they’ll surprise a lot of people. They may not qualify for the playoffs, but they’ll be a lot better. Lester and Buccholz cannot possible struggle again in 2013 and the new additions will be good for them. Can Big Papi get on the field though?
4) Baltimore – The Orioles arguably overachieved in 2012 and I think they are in for a market correction in 2013. Baltimore will have the same core, which should help them, but can they rely on their bullpen to bail them out again this season or will they need something more this time around?
5) New York – It’s tough placing the Yankees this low, but the injuries and the complacency this winter is going to be tough to overcome. How do you lose that much offense and still contend? If they figure that out, Girardi could be up for Manager of the Year, but I’m not ready to buy in yet.
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