There is little doubt across Major League Baseball who has stolen this winter, as the consensus pick is the Toronto Blue Jays. The Jays have made two blockbuster trades this offseason, including their most recent move acquiring 2012 NL Cy Young award winner R.A. Dickey from the Mets.
The Jays also made the largest deal of the off-season when they acquired Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, Jose Reyes, John Buck and Emilio Bonafacio from the Miami Marlins. They also signed last year’s NL MVP front-runner turned known steroid user Melky Cabrera. Now, before everybody goes and proclaims Toronto the 2013 World Series Champions let me remind everyone of something.
They still have to play the games.
Let’s take a look at the last couple of off-seasons, and see how the “winners” fared in the following season. Last year, the Angels dominated the headlines by signing both Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, and how’d they turn out? Not only did they miss the playoffs, they didn’t even finish second in their division.
How about the year before? The Boston Red Sox acquired Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford to add to a team many felt was already close to contending. Everyone knows how this story ends. An epic September collapse left the Sox out of the playoffs, and one year later wound up dumping Gonzalez, Crawford and Josh Beckett to the Dodgers.
So winning the off-season doesn’t automatically grant you the World Series the following year, as we have found out, but there are other reasons why everyone should look beyond the names and evaluate this properly.
Let’s start off with that package from the Marlins. Mark Buehrle is a solid veteran left-handed starter with considerable experience in the American League from his time with the White Sox. But how did he fair facing the AL East? Let’s just put it this way. New York Yankees hitters have combined to hit .333 against Buehrle over the years, while the Red Sox have combined to hit .300. Combine that with him being a fly ball pitcher being in more hitter-friendly ballparks and the Baltimore Orioles being much improved offensively, Buehrle might run into some trouble.
Jose Reyes and Josh Johnson, here are two all-star caliber players when they are both healthy and playing well. However, that hasn’t been the case for these two over the last couple years. Reyes has had well-documented knee problems over the last several seasons, plus his hamstring issues last year, and I’m not sure if I trust those legs playing on the turf in Toronto for the next six seasons. As for Johnson, he is a great pitcher, but he is coming off a down year by his standards with a 3.81 ERA, and the American League East doesn’t tend to be a good place for pitchers to have bounce back campaigns.
Now, RA Dickey. Look, I love Dickey’s story. From the problems of his childhood to totally recreating himself as a player with tremendous results, he’s had a fascinating journey to the Cy Young award and seems like an extraordinary guy. But at age 38 coming off a season in which he won 20 games on a bad Mets squad, there will be much higher expectations for Dickey. As mentioned before, the AL East isn’t exactly a weak division offensively, so this road coupled with the astronomical expectations he will be facing could be tough.
As for Melky Cabrera, nobody knows exactly what kind of player he is. He was a mediocre player before he got to Kansas City two years ago, and then became a sudden MVP candidate last year in San Francisco before being busted for steroids. We will find out exactly who Cabrera is, whether it be that last year’s incredible numbers were an anomaly or that he really did work hard to become a premier bat.
Look, at the end of the day the Toronto Blue Jays have a tremendous team on paper,there’s no denying that. But my point is to wait before crowning the Jays champions of baseball, or even champions of the AL East. There are no games won in the off-season, and especially no games won in October until the temperatures drop and the pressure is on.