Jays still not flying in 2014
Lack of off-season shuffling could be a concerning sign that not much will change
Bobby Danger Jones
For the Toronto Blue Jays and their fans, 2013 was supposed to be the year they became a contender once again.
General Manager Alex Anthopolous dished out millions to acquire top players from the Marlins and Mets. Hype surrounding the team had not been so high since the early nineties. Despite strong seasons from blossoming superstar Edwin Encarnacion, Mark Buehrle and others — everything went wrong, and the injury-bug plague did not help in a run for the playoffs
Starting pitcher R.A. Dickey underperformed and Jose Reyes missed almost 70 games due to injury. Meanwhile, Brett Lawrie was hurt practicing for the World Baseball Classic and Jose Bautista missed time due various ailments. Josh Johnson and Brandon Morrow simply pitched far below expectations. To top it all off, Melky Cabrera discovered he had a tumour the size of a ping-pong ball growing between his vertebrae. Basically a very large amount of bad luck befell the Jays in 2013, and they were simply unable to break free from setback after setback
The Jays only real move this offseason to date has been signing former Rays and Cubs catcher Dioner Navarro to a two year contract ($8 million) to replace the departed J.P. Arencibia. The Jays hope that last year’s solid season play will continue. This is Navarro’s first shot at a starting gig since 2009 when he played 115 games for Tampa Bay Rays.
Having the second worst On Base Percentage (OBP) in ball since they lowered the mound in 1969, for any batter with 450 plate appearances, lost starting catcher J.P. Arencibia his job. Josh Johnson left departed after making only 16 starts for the Jays with an unsightly Earned Runs Average (ERA) of 6.20 in 2013 Rajai Davis, who was one of the few Jays who were regularly showing up on of the MLB leaderboards, also left for free agency.
Players to Watch
Colby Rasmus led last year’s Jays squad in Wins Above Replacement (WAR) with an impressive 4.8. The center fielder is entering his last season under contract and put up big numbers at the plate, and on defence in 2013. It is possible the extra motivation to sign could see Rasmus build on his 2013 gains. Brandon Morrow seems to be the unlikely key to the Blue Jays season in 2014. The hard-throwing righty has shown signs of putting all the pieces together in recent seasons, and of justifying all the faith the front office has shown in him.
The Jays have a very talented roster and there is no argument to that. Many teams would gladly trade their core for the Jays’ Encarnacion, Bautista, Reyes, Rasmus, Lawrie, Dickey and Morrow.
A quiet offseason could go either way for the Jays. Either last year was merely a hiccup plagued with injury, or the team Canada’s waited for will blossom in spring, or not. Going back to my preview of last season, in 2014, the Jays face the same conundrum. Translating how good they look on paper, to how they perform on the field.