That was Then...
Things couldn't have gone much worse for the Jays in 2012.
Sergio Santos' shoulder, Jose Bautista's wrist, Brandon Morrow's oblique, Brett Lawrie's ribs, J.P. Arencibia's hand and Ricky Romero's complete lack of control all forced the Jays to make do as the season wore on.
Injuries didn't help, but neither did the Jays' rotation. Romero had his worst professional season, Morrow missed two months, Drew Hutchison and Kyle Drabek both underwent Tommy John surgery, Brett Cecil found himself in the minors mid-season, Aaron Laffey was a spot-starter and J.A. Happ didn't come to town until the trade deadline. At least Henderson Alvarez stayed healthy.
Edwin Encarnacion had a breakout season, becoming just the eighth Jay in history to hit 40 home runs, but that was little consolation for another quiet October in Toronto.
The tantalizing possibilities of an extra Wild Card berth vanished as the team finished fourth in the East for a fifth consecutive year and posted its lowest win total since 2004.
John Farrell seemed to want out as the season waned and he got his wish shortly into the off-season. Then Alex Anthopoulos got down to work.
...This is Now
2012 NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey was the final piece in Alex Anthopoulos' off-season spree. Will the moves pay immediate dividends?
The Jays have loaded up their roster for 2013 by adding significant cash commitments through a series of trades that would have seemed unthinkable to the 2012 Jays fan.
The team overhauled 60 percent of the starting rotation and added speed and pop at the top of the batting order.
The additions are familiar by now: Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Emilio Bonifacio, Melky Cabrera and R.A. Dickey.
The subtractions were familiar to anyone who's followed the Jays system for the past few years: Adeiny Hechavarria, Jake Marisnick, Justin Nicolino, Travis d'Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard (amongst others).
The risks on both sides of the transactions are high.
If the Jays make the playoffs and can compete for a third World Series title, the fans will forget about the potential Anthopoulos gave up. All five of the pieces given up were amongst MLB.com's top 100 2013 prospects and should all be Major Leaguers, if not Major League stars.
But what's come back makes the Jays a completely different team.
Reyes and Bonifacio bring 70 steals to the line-up. Melky Cabrera (suspension aside) was an All-Star in 2012. Buehrle and Dickey are the kind of innings-eating, durable veterans that the team has been in search of for a few years now and Johnson is electric when he's on his game.
Add that to a line-up with a core mostly on the right side of 30 – Lawrie, Arencibia, Morrow, Colby Rasmus – and two of the premier home run hitters in the majors over the last two years in Bautista and Encarnacion.
The team – on paper – is vastly improved and Anthopoulos has played his hand. After years of hoarding draft picks and prospects, cashing in on established talent in one fell swoop to try to maximize Bautista and Encarnacion's prime years.
But teams have been declared off-season favourites before and faltered. Look no further than the team Anthopoulos pillaged – the Miami Marlins – for proof of that.
That said, the Jays' roster is deeper and more talented than it has been in years and the pieces are there for the Jays to break their nearly 20-year playoff drought.
It's now up to the returning John Gibbons to get the most out of the on-field pieces he's got.
It's no secret that the East is a tough division to survive, so preseason excitement should be tempered by the fact that the Jays will have to climb over at least one of the six best teams in the AL from 2012 to even make the playoffs.
That said, there is – finally – a great reason for Toronto baseball fans to be excited.
Every year, we look for players 26-years-old or younger that could make an impact on their team in the upcoming season. The player might have already established himself with a regular role with the team, or he could make their mark later on in the season.
After their huge off-season, the Blue Jays leap into the Top 3.
Newcomer Jose Reyes is the top-ranked Blue Jay, at 19th overall.
Suddenly thrust into the role of contenders, the Blue Jays have all kinds of players that provide Fantasy value.
New SS Jose Reyes is, potentially, the best at his position, depending on health of Hanley Ramirez and Troy Tulowitzki (the other top contenders).
1B Edwin Encarnacion and RF Jose Bautista have rare power. If Bautista can bounce back after wrist surgery, he's the most dangerous power threat in the game.
Energetic 3B Brett Lawrie was a bit of a disappointment last season, but his talent is obvious. Harnessed, and supported by a strong lineup, he could have a big year. C J.P. Arencibia has struggled with his batting average, but has power to spare.
Some others hitters of note: CF Colby Rasmus has potential, though he could be at a crossroads in his career and LF Melky Cabrera raked his way to a .346 average last year before a PED bust. If he can hit clean, he could be a great value pick.
RHP R.A. Dickey has the unpredictability of a knuckleballer, but he's been very good over the last three seasons, with improving peripheral numbers paying off last season.
RHP Josh Johnson is an ace-calibre starter, but has trouble staying healthy for a full year. RHP Brandon Morrow is almost in the same boat; not quite ace-calibre, but could be very good if healthy for a full year.
Even soft-tossing LHP Mark Buehrle holds some value for deep leagues, despite low strikeout totals, because he stays healthy and wins games.
Either Casey Janssen or Sergio Santos is an okay pick at closer, but probably below average compared to the resume of others league-wide.