Off-season summary: In 2013, the Blue Jays had a very exciting off-season, as they traded for Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, and R.A. Dickey. This off-season, much to the disdain of Blue Jays fans, was the complete opposite. The only notable signing that the Jays made was signing catcher Dioner Navarro.
Strengths: Their lineup has the potential to be pretty darn good. Reyes and Melky Cabrera, when healthy, are a nice 1-2 punch at the top of the order.
The bane of Gary Thorne’s existence First baseman Edwin Encarnacion and annoying person to follow on Twitter star outfielder Jose Bautista are great guys to have in the middle of the order. If designated hitter Adam Lind could figure out how to hit left-handed pitchers, he’d be one heck of a middle of the order bat. Tattooed bro Third baseman Brett Lawrie could be primed for a breakout season. Center fielder Colby Rasmus will be playing for a long-term contract, so he’s obviously a candidate to have a great season. If Navarro can repeat his 2013 season, he’s a great bat to have, especially at catcher. I like the back end of their bullpen if Sergio Santos can stay healthy.
Weaknesses: The Jays have a very questionable pitching staff. Dickey is a very good pitcher, but he’s the only reliable guy in their rotation right now. Brandon Morrow was having a great season in 2013 before getting injured. His health will be key for the Blue Jays in 2014. When he’s healthy, he’s arguably one of the best pitchers in the league. Buehrle will give you 200 innings, but the quality of those innings probably won’t be good in the AL East. Pitchers who pitch to contact like Buehrle rarely succeed in the AL East. The fourth and fifth spots in the rotation will go to two in a group of youngsters and veterans. I like J.A. Happ and Esmil Rogers to win the fourth and fifth spots respectively, but I wouldn’t be shocked if Marcus Stroman, Kyle Drabek, or Drew Hutchinson do well in spring training and grab one of the spots in the starting rotation. I’m rooting for Drabek because he’s a rarity: a pitcher whose uniform number is a single digit.
X-Factor: Lawrie. If Lawrie has a breakout season, that would be huge for the Jays. Add a full season of production from Morrow and Santos, and that would give the Jays an outside shot at the playoffs.
Why is your bacon ham? Can you get Jose Bautista to shut the heck up on Twitter? Can the Jays rebound from a depressing 2013 season? Considering that the Blue Jays still have obvious needs and only one of them was addressed over the off-season, I’m leaning towards “no”.
Non-Roster Invitees: What happened to Ricky Romero? In 2012, he entered the season as a breakout candidate. Now he’s a NRI. I think you’ll see Romero in a Blue Jays uniform at some point this season. I’ve already discussed Stroman, he’s looked very good in spring training so far. Easy to see why the Jays love him. I wouldn’t be shocked at all if Chris Getz gets a spot on the Opening Day Roster because second base is pretty much wide open right now. If you know me, you know how much I adore Munenori Kawasaki. I wish he was a good player because he has such a lovable personality (look up “Munenori Kawasaki Interview” on Youtube if you want proof), but sadly he’s not. Steve Tolleson provides some depth for the Blue Jays. He’s another candidate for the second base job because, as I said earlier, second base is wide open for the taking.
Best Case Scenario: The Jays get a full season from Brandon Morrow and the Jays exceed expectations by sneaking into the second wild card spot.
Worst Case Scenario: 2013 all over again.
Overall outlook: If the Jays were in the AL Central, they’d be contenders. They are very comparable to the Royals and Indians, except that the Jays actually have an offense. But they are in the brutal AL East, and the AL East is going to prey on their mediocre pitching. Their lineup could be a ton of fun to watch this year as long as you mute Buck Martinez .