Point Counterpoint

On Nov. 19, the MLB approved a blockbuster 12-player deal between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Miami Marlins. The Blue Jays received an influx of proven, but injury-prone MLB talent, and sent a slew of top prospects to the Marlins. With the trade, many baseball analysts believe the Jays are the favourites to take home the American League (AL) East crown next season. Two contributors weigh in on Toronto’s chances.

Blue Jays will win the AL East

The blockbuster trade between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Miami Marlins has finally been made official. Josh Johnson, Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, and Emilio Bonifacio will by playing baseball north of the border next summer. The Jays also signed free-agent Melky Cabrera, who hit .346 last year, and was the MVP of the All-Star Game.

According to my fellow contributor, the Jays are acquiring a great deal of risk with this deal. But are they? Johnson is injury prone, but he’s also in the final year of his contract, and should be motivated to put up a huge season. Reyes has been equally fragile, but he’s only two years removed from a batting title and led the National League in plate appearances last season. Cabrera was suspended 50 games for using performance-enhancing drugs, but in his previous drug-free season, he had 201 hits and 44 doubles.

The risk is present, but the upside of this acquisition is unquestioned. Everyone in baseball is talking about the Jays again.

The real story is this: Blue Jays General Manager Alex Anthopolous pulled the trigger on a deal that makes his team instant contenders. Their projected lineup may turn out to be one of the most prolific offences in baseball—the type that can carry a team to a division title, even with an average pitching staff.

Lucky for Jays fans, their hurlers should also be well above average. The top four starters in the rotation will be the aforementioned Johnson and Buehrle, along with Ricky Romero, and Brandon Morrow. Again, there is some risk and injury history here, but the upside is exciting.

One of the biggest questions surrounding the deal is how the new players will adapt to the AL East division—generally known as the toughest in the league. But for the first time in a decade, the division looks vulnerable and the Blue Jays have a chance to seize the opportunity. The Boston Red Sox are rebuilding, the New York Yankees are getting old, and the Baltimore Orioles will regress after their surprising playoff appearance this past season. That means that the Tampa Bay Rays may be Toronto’s toughest competition, and even they are set to lose B.J. Upton while dangling half their pitching rotation as trade bait.

There are many moves still to be made this offseason, and in two weeks, another team in this division could become the instant favourite—especially if the Yankees sign Josh Hamilton. But as we stand today, the Toronto Blue Jays have the most well-rounded roster in the division. Their lineup is deep and powerful, their pitching staff is ripe with potential, and they have one of the best general managers in the league.

Toronto is buzzing about its team and with good reason. The Jays are back, and soon to be AL East champions.

— Trevor Drummond

Blue Jays will not win the AL East

For much of the past decade, the MLB landscape has been dominated by one division—the American League (AL) East. Despite fielding some quality teams that have posted winning records, the Toronto Blue Jays remain the only team from the division not to have made the playoffs in the last 10 years. However, this offseason has the culmination of GM Alex Anthopolous’ plan to launch the Jays to the forefront of the World Series discussion.  Earlier this month, Anthopolous pounced on the Miami Marlins fire sale and completed a mega trade that netted the Jays Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buerhle, and Emilio Bonifacio. The Jays also signed Melky Cabrera, capping off a string of bold moves that brought an influx of talent to Toronto and excitement to Canada. Although the new-look Jays finally have the talent to reach the top of the AL East, their quest will ultimately be thwarted by one of the division’s powerhouses.

Reyes, the biggest name in the trade, is an injury-prone player. He relies on his speed to turn himself into an excellent hitter and fielder, which will not bode well for the future as he gets older. If Reyes manages to stay healthy, one needs to only look at Carl Crawford—a similarly built player—to envision what kind of regression may lie in Reyes’ future.

Cabrera has spent the majority of his career being a league average hitter and fielder, while exhibiting little power or speed. His two most productive seasons have come under the influence of steroids, eliciting doubts as to whether Cabrera can produce post performance enhancing drug use.

The most consistent of the new additions, Mark Buehrle, should continue pitching at an All-Star level, but is also the oldest at 33 years old.

Finally, recently re-hired manager, John Gibbons, is simply not the right person to lead this roster. Gibbons’ track record inspires little confidence in his abilities as a manager, possessing a lifetime .500 record. Also, his career is littered with controversies surrounding his handling of veteran players. Sound familiar? It’s the same kind of mishandling of veterans that caused former Boston Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine to lose his job after guiding a similarly star-studded squad to a 69-93 finish.

The AL East produced the American League’s wildcard winner, nine out of the past 10 years, and also sent a team to the World Series in five of those years. In essence, what this debate boils down to, is whether or not I have faith in Toronto over the tough field of teams in the AL East. When the Jays’ roster is filled with question marks and the division is as deep as it is talented, I’m inclined to go with the field. Jays’ fans will have to wait for yet another year.

—Mayaz Alam

Winner: Blue Jays will win the AL East

Despite the injury risk of some of the acquisitions, the Jays will take advantage of the weakened AL East to climb to the top of the divison. Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle will immensely improve the team’s rotation, while Jose Reyes will provide the Jays’ with a top-of-the-order stud.

One Comment

  1. The only way the Jays will every make the playoffs is if there is a division re-alignment.

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