2013 Team Preview: Toronto Blue Jays

USA TODAY Sports

Following a complete overhaul of the roster, can the Jays make the playoffs for the first time in 20 years?

Notable Numbers
59: The number of runs saved above average the Blue Jays’ defense had last year, according to Baseball-Reference’s Defensive Runs Saved metric. A big chunk of this was due to aggressive shifting, including swinging third baseman Brett Lawrie between first and second against pull-happy lefties. Will the Jays continue to shift aggressively under new manager John Gibbons?

79.4%:
This is the expected "break-even" success rate for stolen bases to make them a net positive if Jose Bautista is batting with two outs, the second highest threshold in MLB. That is, expect Jose Reyes to be somewhat limited on the base paths beyond the first inning (when there can’t be two out with Reyes on and Bautista up) if Bautista is at the dish, since he, more than almost any other player, changes the base stealing equilibrium with his pop.

2012 Season in Review:

The Blue Jays struggled to a 73-89 record, their worst since 2004. Struggles from Adam Lind and Yunel Escobar were compounded by injuries to Jose Bautista and Brett Lawrie, while Ricky Romero allowed more runs than any other pitcher in baseball -- save for Luke Hochevar -- a year after posting a 2.92 ERA. Needless to say, changes were in order.

Key Offseason Moves:

12-player trade with the Marlins nets Josh Johnson, Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Emilio Bonifacio: A top-three farm system was mortgaged for a potential top-five team in the present, as the Jays dealt Escobar and prospects to the salary-dumping Marlins. The Jays took on $146.5 million in payroll (after accounting for cash paid to Toronto in the deal), giving them the largest salary structure in franchise history. But they weren’t done …

Seven-player trade with the Mets nets R.A. Dickey:
The NL Cy Young winner and a pair of catchers also came north for a package centered around catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud. Dickey brings his knuckleball to the AL East and to a dome, neither of which are certain to be safe. The Jays then extended the righty-come-author with a three-year, $29 million contract, overwriting his existing deal, and adding a team option for 2016.

Signed Melky Cabrera to two-year, $16 million contract:
I believe the term is "all in." Somewhere between those moves, the Jays grabbed the suspension-damaged left fielder to ensure the Rajai Davis-Anthony Gose experiment wouldn’t come to fruition. If Cabrera can return even half of his 2011-2012 production in these two years, the deal is a solid one.

Agreed to deal with Buffalo Bisons:
This was somewhat minor considering the other moves, but having their Triple-A team just across the border and in a normal ballpark will be a huge upgrade over having them in a Las Vegas bandbox.

Depth Chart:
It’s all new in Toronto, but it’s also all very clear. Every role seems accounted for except perhaps second base, where Maicer Izturis and Bonifacio are doing battle. The loser will become a super-sub off the bench. The rotation is set, even if J.A. Happ isn’t thrilled with being a sixth starter in Buffalo. The bullpen has some competition for spots, but the real battle could be between Casey Janssen and Sergio Santos for saves -- Janssen took the role when Santos was injured last year, but Janssen is injured at present and Santos is lurking.

Check out the Blue Jays 2013 depth chart at MLB Depth Charts

2013 Outlook: The AL East is the most vulnerable it’s been in quite some time. The Yankees are beset with injuries, the Orioles are due for regression and the Red Sox were even worse than the Jays last year and made far fewer upgrades. You can never count the Sox and Stripes out, but the Jays look poised for their first playoff run since 1993.

Check out the Blue Jays ZiPS projections for 2013 at FanGraphs

Bold Prediction: The Jays make the World Series. I’m a total homer for saying that, so allow me some smaller bold predictions: R.A. Dickey struggles in the early months but finds his groove by mid-season. Steve Delabar becomes a reliable late-inning reliever. Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion combine for 80 home runs but J.P. Arencibia and Adam Lind combine for only 25. Mark Buehrle struggles but still throws 200 innings for the 13th straight season.

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