What’s going on out there? First the Kansas City Royals are trying to shed their loser image and now the Toronto Blue Jays have decided that they can be a winner, too?
The acquisition of knuckleball king R.A. Dickey, in addition to the willingness to relieve the Miami Marlins of several of their best players, indicates that the Blue Jays believe that the American League East Division is available for the taking. The New York Yankees are old and injured. The Boston Red Sox tried rebuilding, but they are so out of practice at it that they aren’t doing it well. The Baltimore Orioles may well be a one-time fluke. The Rays always get the most out of what they have, but they are budget conscious in the city by the Tampa Bay. So why not us? That’s the mantra at Blue Jays headquarters.
It’s not as if Toronto has been stocking up on guys past their prime, either. The Marlins trade was a windfall, providing top-notch established players for prospects. Throw in Dickey, the incumbent National League Cy Young award winner, who because he is a knuckleball thrower doesn’t come under the usual standards applied to aging moundsmen. And Jose Bautista should be healthy again mashing home runs.
You can’t blame Dickey for going after all he could get when his New York Mets didn’t seem likely to fulfill his needs with a contract extension. He is 38 years old and just had a career year. Dickey was a first-time All-Star, and at the moment he is the last of the knuckleball specialists in the majors. He won 20 games for the first time and he wanted to be paid like a 20-game winner and be loved like a 20-game winner. Well, Toronto showed him the love with a two-year extension worth $25 million.
The Blue Jays never would have made such an offer if they hadn’t robbed the Marlins of several of their finest men earlier. But in one swoop they picked up pitchers Mark Buerhle and Josh Johnson and shortstop Jose Reyes. In mid-summer of 2012 they also found pitcher J.A. Happ in their in-basket courtesy of the Astros. Those guys won’t care so much about the Canadian exchange rate or the summer weather being colder than Miami if they think they can win a pennant and a World Series.
Oh yeah, the Blue Jays took another gamble. In November they gave Melky Cabrera a two-year, $16 million contract, bless his cheating heart. Cabrera became available when the San Francisco Giants ditched him at the end of the 2o12 season. In mid-year, he was riding high, the MVP of the All-Star game. Heading into the stretch he was leading the NL in batting average. Then he got nailed for flunking a drug test and was suspended for 50 games. The Giants won the World Series without him and then waved goodbye. There is no way of knowing if a drug-free Melky will be worth the money, but he could be helpful to the Jays.
Toronto was smart enough to take advantage of the Marlins, smart enough to see the traditional powers in their division teetering, and the management team went hard after guys that can make the franchise relevant again. Right now the Blue Jays may well be the best in the division.
If Toronto isn’t careful their fans might wake up and realize they’re reliving the glory days of yesteryear, 1992, and 1993, when the Blue Jays won back-to-back World Series. What is Joe Carter doing right now, anyway? Maybe he can throw out the first pitch on opening day.