Previewing the Opposition: Toronto Blue Jays

Tom Szczerbowski

What the Orioles can expect from their neighbors in the great white north

2012 record: 73-89 (74-88 pythagorean record)

2012 record vs Orioles: 7-11

2013 PECOTA wins: 82.7

2012 was not a pleasant year to be a Blue Jays fan. The team was hardly pegged as a powerhouse entering the season, but certainly most expected them to be around the .500 mark, and maybe stay in the mix if things broke their way. Well, it's amazing what a Jose Bautista injury, rotational collapse and prospect regression will do to a team. The Blue Jays pretty much played right to their 73-win mark, but what's most interesting is how they responded. Instead of making some fringe moves, the Jays have pretty much doubled down, hoping to take advantage of what appear to be weakened Red Sox and Yankees clubs to seize upon 2013.

The biggest move of the Blue Jays' offseason was a blockbuster trade with the Marlins, where the team mortgaged a significant portion of their future to obtain Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, Jose Reyes and Emilio Bonifacio. By itself, the trade invited a great deal of skepticism - after all, these were the players who formed the core of a 69-win Marlins team. At this point, Jays management laughed heartily, signed Melky Cabrera and traded for Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey.

The biggest question for this team is going to be about player development. Several players who disappointed in 2012 (Ricky Romero, Brett Lawrie, Colby Rasmus) are still slated to start for the 2013 club, and will need to step up their game for the team to be productive top-to-bottom. On the intangible side, this will be one of the most overhauled clubs in the league - seeing whether all these new pieces can gel into a cohesive team will be important as well (just ask the 2011-2012 Red Sox). And it's worth noting that many of the ex-Marlins arrive appearing to be disgruntled about broken verbal no-trade promises (and in Buehrle's case, separated by an indefensible law from his family and his canine companions).

All that aside, I find PECOTA's 83-win estimate for the 2013 Jays to be a bit of an underestimation. The players obtained by the Jays this offseason combined for over 20 WAR last year, and they largely come in to relieve "replacement" players like Yunel Escobar, Henderson Alvarez and Aaron Laffey. I thoroughly expect the Blue Jays to be right in the mix for the AL East crown, or at least a Wild Card berth. The Blue Jays are playing for this year, and anything less than a playoff berth will be a big letdown. I see 90 wins in this team's future, and a much tougher row for the Orioles to hoe when they face the new-look Jays.

Blue Jays probable hitters: ( * indicates players new to the team for 2013)
Melky Cabrera - LF *
Colby Rasmus - CF
Jose Bautista - RF
Brett Lawrie - 3B
Jose Reyes - SS *
Emilio Bonifacio - 2B *
Edwin Encarnacion - 1B
J.P. Arencibia - C

Adam Lind - DH

Probable rotation:
R.A. Dickey *
Brandon Morrow
Mark Buehrle *
Josh Johnson *
Ricky Romero

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