Toronto Blue Jays’ general manager Alex Anthopoulos has made a splash in the baseball world so far this offseason. He’s letting everyone know in no uncertain terms that the Blue Jays are ready to compete.
He took care of the Blue Jays’ future at second base by trading for Detroit Tigers’ top prospect Devon Travis. Travis has moved through the minors very quickly since being drafted by Detroit in the first round in 2012. He played 100 games in Double-A last season hitting .298, with his lifetime professional average being .323.
Still, Travis might not be quite ready to start the 2015 season in the majors. The rumor is, according to Ken Rosenthal at Fox Sports, that they are looking at infield utility man and free agent Alberto Callaspo.
Callaspo, who can play any infield position, is seen by the Blue Jays as a versatile, potential bounce-back candidate who could man second until Travis is ready. He has been known to bat above the league average in the past, despite batting just .223 last season with the Oakland Athletics.
Anthopoulos then jumped in at the last minute, made a play for top free agent catcher Russell Martin and won, essentially stealing Martin away from the Chicago Cubs and the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Jays’ signed the Canadian native, who had a .402 on-base percentage in 2014, to a five-year deal worth $82.5 million.
As if that weren’t a bold enough move, Anthopoulos made a deal with Billy Beane, the “Moneyball” famous GM for the Oakland Athletics.
In the end Anthopoulos had to give up four players, all of whom are young and three of which are ready for the big leagues, to make it happen. The sacrifice got him what he wanted.
Anthopoulos had reportedly been asking and pushing for weeks about Oakland’s best player, third baseman Josh Donaldson.
Finally he made Beane an offer he couldn’t refuse and the Athletics sent their All-Star third baseman to Toronto, much to everyone’s surprise as Beane had been adamant about Donaldson not being available.
The Blue Jays were good last season finishing the year over .500 at 83-79. Yes, they were 13 games behind the AL East winning Baltimore Orioles and 5 games out of the second A.L. Wild Card spot behind the A’s but the team showed its potential.
Their finish in 2014 exhibits enough to know that the team has talent. It just also had a hole or two to fill. Anthopoulos has taken care of most of that already.
He needs to secure an experienced everyday second baseman as well as sign a couple relievers in order to fortify the bullpen. However, those are minor details in comparison to what Anthopoulos has already been able to accomplish.
Then the Blue Jays’ will have the consistent hitting of both Jose Reyes, who hit .287 in 2014, and Russell Martin who batted .290 with a .402 on-base percentage with the Pirates last season.
If the Blue Jays are able to re-sign left fielder Melky Cabrera and Anthopoulos is optimistic that they will, even though Cabrera has expressed his desire to move back to playing somewhere with real grass instead of the turf that is in the Rogers Center.
Still with or without Cabrera, who hit .301 for the Blue Jays’ last year, there would hardly be a place in the lineup that would not intimidate opposing pitching.
The starting rotation is set according Anthopoulos. It will begin with veterans Mark Buehrle and R.A. Dickey and continue with 2014 rookie phenom Marcus Stroman, 24-year old Drew Hutchison and new starter, 22-year-old Aaron Sanchez.
Hutchison pitched well last season but has room for improvement. Sanchez will be making the transition from the bullpen to the rotation but looking at the bigger picture the two should, in theory, be solid fourth and fifth starters.
While he says the rotation has no standout ace, they have what Anthopoulos believes “is a rotation without an ace, but five reliable, 200 innings starters.”
Even with their new formidable lineup and solid starting rotation, some analysts believe that the Baltimore Orioles are still the front runners in the A.L. East. However, look for the Blue Jays to give the Orioles a run for their money at the 2015 A.L. Eastern Division Title.
*This piece was written for 90 Digital