11/15/12 1:00 PM ET
Anthopoulos shops early to fill Blue Jays' wishlist
Blockbuster trade with Marlins potentially gives club a formidable rotation
By Gregor Chisholm / MLB.com
In one fell swoop, Toronto's general manager accomplished just about everything he set out to do this offseason. Anthopoulos provided a major upgrade to his starting rotation while also solidifying the top of his batting order.
The move doesn't come without an element of risk, as evidenced by the approximately $160 million in salaries reportedly en route to Toronto, but it's the type of move that could potentially make the Blue Jays relevant in the American League East for the first time since 1993.
The massive trade was first reported by Foxsports.com and will see All-Star shortstop Jose Reyes, bonafide ace Josh Johnson, veteran left-hander Mark Buehrle, infielder/outfielder Emilio Bonifacio and catcher John Buck on their way to Toronto.
Headed to Miami are shortstop Yunel Escobar, right-hander Henderson Alvarez, infielder Adeiny Hechavarria, backup catcher Jeff Mathis, outfielder Jake Marisnick, pitching prospect Justin Nicolino and Anthony DeScalfani.
Here's a look at how the surprising trade affects the Blue Jays' roster and their leftover plans for the offseason:
Catcher: Toronto suddenly has four Major League-calibre catchers on its 40-man roster, and it's obvious that someone has to go. J.P. Arencibia is currently entrenched as the starter, but he has drawn trade interest in recent weeks from teams such as the Rangers. Anthopoulos could package Arencibia in another deal while briefly handing over the starting duties to Buck until top prospect Travis d'Arnaud proves he is ready for the next level.
First base/Designated hitter: Edwin Encarnacion and Adam Lind will continue to split time at both positions. The hope is that alternating both players between defensive responsibilities will help keep them healthy and in the lineup on an everyday basis. There was some talk earlier in the offseason that the Blue Jays would look for an upgrade over Lind, but that appears extremely remote now following the financial commitments coming over from Miami. With at least $7 million remaining on his contract, Lind will have one more opportunity to prove his worth.
Second base: The Blue Jays likely will allow Bonifacio to compete with recently signed infielder Maicer Izturis for the starting duties at second. Bonifacio has the ability to play in both the outfield and infield, and it remains to be seen what roles he will ultimately be used in, but second base would make the most sense. The only question here is health, as Bonifacio battled a knee injury last season while also having surgery to repair a torn thumb. That's why he only appeared in 64 games last season, but he did manage to steal 30 bases in that short time and would provide another element of speed to Toronto's lineup.
Shortstop: Out with the old and in with the new, as Reyes is set to take over for the erratic Escobar. Reyes got off to somewhat of a slow start last season in Miami, but he managed to stay healthy and hit .287 with a .347 on-base percentage in 160 games -- his highest total since 2007. When he's able to stay on the field, Reyes is one of the more electrifying players in the game and should become a mainstay at the top of the Blue Jays' batting order.
Third base: Brett Lawrie will continue to hold down the fort at third, and it should be exciting to watch him play alongside Reyes on the left side of the diamond. Lawrie will need to continue to improve his discipline at the plate in future seasons, but he has the makings of a future All-Star.
Outfield: The biggest hole in the Blue Jays' lineup is now left field. Rajai Davis is under contract for one more season at $3 million, but the club prefers to use him as a fourth outfielder. It's possible the Blue Jays will continue looking for another upgrade, but it remains to be seen how much money they have left to spend once the trade with Miami goes through. If Toronto is forced to stick with the status quo, then look for Davis to split time with Anthony Gose. The other two spots in the outfield will go to returnees Colby Rasmus and Jose Bautista.
Starting rotation: In a matter of hours, the Blue Jays' starting rotation went from their biggest weakness to one of their biggest strengths. Toronto now possess a formidable group in Johnson, Buehrle, Brandon Morrow, Ricky Romero and J.A. Happ, which could rival Tampa Bay for best staff in the AL East. The club will still need a return to form by Romero and continued progress from Morrow, but there is plenty of reason for hope.
Johnson is a legitimate ace when healthy, and even though his velocity dipped last season, he also unveiled an effective curveball late in the year which led to improved results on the mound. The problem is that there isn't much depth beyond the starting five. Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison are out until the All-Star break, leaving Chad Jenkins as the only reliable depth option. Anthopoulos will need to address this either through minor trades or Minor League free agency.
Bullpen: The only thing left for the Blue Jays to do in the bullpen is to convince veteran Darren Oliver to return for one more season. The club exercised its team option on Oliver's contract earlier this offseason, but he is still contemplating retirement at the age of 42. Time will only tell if the recent influx in talent will be enough for Oliver to want to go through the 162-game grind one last time.
Outside of that, the Blue Jays appear mostly set in the 'pen. Closer Casey Janssen will return, while the club hopes to have hard-throwing Sergio Santos (shoulder) back for Spring Training. Other candidates in the mix for jobs are Steve Delabar, Brad Lincoln, Brett Cecil, Esmil Rogers, Aaron Loup and Jeremy Jeffress.