The Toronto Blue Jays made the first big splash of the offseason trading for Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle. They continued to make splashes that shook the baseball world.
The Angels didn’t strike early and often like the Blue Jays but they made the biggest splash of the offseason for the second straight season, signing Josh Hamilton, the offensive prize of the free-agent market.
With the Blue Jays vastly improving and the Hamilton signing making the Angels’ offense even more dangerous, many have instantly vaulted the Blue Jays to the AL East crown and the Angels deep into the playoffs in 2013.
Now would be a good time to remind people that there are still nine days left in 2012 first.
If there’s one thing the Angels should have learned last season, it was that there are no guarantees. Signing Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson minutes apart during the Winter Meetings and trading for Zack Greinke at the deadline still didn’t get them into the Postseason even with the expanded wildcard. And as for the Blue Jays, ask the 2012 Marlins how Reyes, Buehrle and closer Heath Bell – also traded this offseason – worked out.
All the money in the world can’t buy you a championship, and in all honestly, did the Blue Jays improve as much as people think they did? Are all three players acquired in that trade upgrades? Yes. But do all three cost with concerns? Absolutely.
The most valuable player in that trade – who isn’t being as acclaimed – is Johnson. The guy is probably a future Cy Young winner if he could just stay healthy. That’s the downfall. Johnson hasn’t had a season of good health is three years. There’s an awful high amount of risk casting a hefty shadow on the potential high reward.
Meanwhile, Buehrle and Reyes are both somewhat overrated. Both could very easily be All-Stars. But they could also just as easily be forgotten. Buehrle has a perfect game and no-hitter to his credit, but hasn’t been near the quality of pitcher he was when those feats happened in recent years. Meanwhile, Reyes went from being a batting champion to an average hitter. Last season, he was hardly considered a threat.
But the list of acquisitions is huge: Johnson, Reyes, Buehrle, Melky Cabrera, R.A. Dickey, Emilio Bonifacio, Josh Thole. The Blue Jays have by far been baseball’s busiest team.
It’s never too early to predict what will happen in a 162-game season. Do the Blue Jays appear to have the upper hand in the AL East? Yes. Why? Because suddenly the Yankees weren’t everyone’s destination of choice, which seems to mark the end of their supremacy. If you’ve read some of the top baseball experts in recent weeks, some have the Yankees out of the playoff picture in their early predictions. The Red Sox have improved mightily but maybe not quite enough to be a playoff team – at least on paper – which as I said earlier, proves nothing until things start happening on the field. Meanwhile, the Rays have taken a step back, the Orioles have stayed put from last season – hold for Mark Reynolds and his solid power numbers going to Cleveland – and the Blue Jays certainly emerge as a contender.
Meanwhile, the Angels looked at last year’s moves and just took 2012 as a year where it didn’t pan out. They know they have one of the top rosters in the game – again, on paper. But with them stealing the Rangers top run producer – and several other talented Rangers going elsewhere – the Athletics seem to be the only team standing in the way. And, on paper, they don’t look like much more than what they were last season. Can the A’s be the little team that could for a second straight season? In this early stage of the game, that’s hard to believe.
So, while the experts may think that the Blue Jays and Angels have more than just divisions locked up, let’s not forget that the 2013 season can’t start before 2013 arrives. It is way too early to be making predictions of that stature.
These teams have improved there’s no question. But 2012 proved more than just the fact that performance, not paper, determines results. Even the unlikeliest of scenarios can shock even the experts of the baseball world.