Examining the newest Toronto Blue Jays

Earlier this week the Miami Marlins gutted their team, sending several star players north of the border to the Toronto Blue Jays. The main additions to the Blue Jays through this trade were Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle. Since then the Jays have also signed Melky Cabrera. Fellow Yankee Analyst Michael Eder already looked at the Blue Jays in aggregate after this trade. I agree with his conclusion. Between the new additions to the team and the players returning from injury, the Blue Jays figure to be a contender in 2013. Rather than rehashing that, in this post I wanted to zero in on the four new players and assess their value.

Jose Reyes – Yankee fans know Reyes well from his days with the Mets. In 2011 Reyes had a career (injury shortened) year and managed a 142 wRC+. That season had contract year written all over it and Miami took the bait, signing Reyes to a $100 million contract. Reyes rewarded the team with 160 games, his first full season since 2008, but his offensive production took a big, predictable step backwards. He managed just a 109 wRC+ on a .287/.347/.433 slash line. That may not have been production worthy of his big contract, but Reyes gave Miami a good year. He’ll be a pain in Toronto and I don’t look forward to the Yankees having to face him nearly 20 times in 2013.

Josh Johnson – It’s difficult to evaluate a player as injury prone as Johnson. Before he began accumulating so many injuries he looked destined to become one of the game’s most dominant pitchers. Now it isn’t as clear. In 2012 Johnson gave the Marlins 191.1 innings and 31 starts, his largest production in either category since 2009, but his numbers weren’t the same. His slash line was 3.81/3.40/3.73. Those are good numbers, but they aren’t the numbers he was putting up 2010 when he was almost unhittable. Johnson is a high risk, high reward acquisition. He could regain the form that made him one of the most coveted young pitchers in the game, or his arm could fall off. Who knows?

Mark Buehrle – It seems like Buehrle has been around forever, but he actually has a few seasons left in him. He’ll turn 34 in 2013 and could possibly pitch for another three or four years. Buehrle is the definition of a reliable starter. He’s managed 200 innings and 30 starts every season since 2001. 2012 was no different. Mark gave Miami 202.1 innings and 31 starts. His 3.74/4.18/4.17 line wasn’t out of this world, but it wasn’t bad either. Some are saying that his numbers may take a hit in the AL East, but with the Red Sox a shell of their former selves it isn’t clear that will be the case. Buehrle won’t compete for the Cy Young in Toronto, but he’ll win the Blue Jays a few games.

Melky Cabrera – I was stunned when the Blue Jays signed Cabrera to a two year, $16 million deal. No one knows what he’s actually capable of. Is he the .387 wOBA player who was competing for a batting title in San Francisco? Is he the .350 wOBA hitter he was in Kansas City? Or is he the .292 wOBA reject he was in Atlanta? How much impact did the steroids have on his game? The Blue Jays are betting that either the steroids didn’t help Cabrera all that much, or that he won’t get caught again in Toronto.

Individually, these aren’t huge moves for Toronto. Taken as a whole, however, they definitely improve the team. Perhaps more importantly, the Blue Jays will also get healthy in 2013 (remember Jose Bautista). Between the new talent and the old talent getting back into shape the Blue Jays figure to be in the conversation next year. It’s never easy in the AL East.

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