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Where do Alex Anthopoulos' moves leave the Jays in 2013?

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Pat Lovgren, TSN.ca Staff
12/18/2012 1:05:10 AM
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What started modestly with the signing of a middle-of-the-road utility infielder, has quickly turned into a winter to remember for Jays' fans, with general manager Alex Anthopoulos making a series of ground-breaking moves, culminating in the acquisition of  the reigning National League Cy Young winner, R.A. Dickey.

Counting utility-man Maicer Izturis and back-up catcher Josh Thole, eight new faces have been added to the Blue Jays 25-man roster, including three each to their projected opening day lineup and starting rotation.

Let's take a look at how the new faces will fit into the Jays' lineup and how the team compares with the one that took the field to open last season.

Despite being without Bautista for 70 games last season, the Jays still finished in the middle of the pack in runs scored in the American League. Additionally, Lawrie and Arencibia missed time due to injuries and Lind was demoted and then placed on waivers, before being recalled.

Without factoring in the additions, the Jays should simply be better if they are able to get full seasons from any or all of the four mentioned above.

If you add in the new faces, Toronto has a chance to be one of the top scoring teams in the American League, as Reyes, Bonifacio and Cabrera all represent upgrades over their predecessors.

Looking at wins above replacement, Reyes was nearly three wins better than Escobar, (according to fangraphs.com) while Bonifacio was of equal value to Johnson despite having less than half the plate appearances.

The big trade-off should come with Cabrera however, as the combination of Blue Jays' left fielders posted a combined WAR of -0.1, while Cabrera's 4.6 mark was amongst the best at his position.

Even if you drop Cabrera down to four wins considering his breakout year, and double Bonifacio's number since he is expected to play a full season, the trio should still make Toronto about eight wins better in 2013.

Combine that with a bounce back season from Bautista, who was good for more than eight wins in 2011 and full seasons from Lawie and Arencibia and it is realistic to think the Jays – just on the strength of their offence — should be at least 10 wins better over last season.

2013 Projected Rotation: 2012 Opening Day Rotation:
RHP R.A. Dickey LHP Ricky Romero
RHP Josh Johnson RHP Brandon Morrow
LHP Mark Buehrle RHP Joel Carreno
RHP Brandon Morrow RHP Henderson Alvarez
LHP Ricky Romero RHP Kyle Drabek

While Toronto had a respectable offence last season, their pitching staff was a huge disappointment, finishing with the sixth most runs allowed in all of baseball.

The starters combined for a WAR of just 5.1, as Morrow made only 21 starts and Romero suffered through a disastrous year, falling from a wins above replacement mark of 2.9 in 2011 to 0.5.

Realizing their pitching shortcomings, Anthopoulos' moves have added three new starters that combined to throw over 627 innings last season. After being forced to hand the ball to 12 different men in 2012, the consistency and ability to pitch deep into games is what makes Dickey, Johnson and Buehrle all that more valuable.

If Johnson and Buehrle can duplicate the success they had with Miami and Dickey can produce somewhere in the neighbourhood of the 3.3 WAR he averaged over his last three years with the Mets, the Jays should be looking at between nine and 10 wins from the three hurlers.

Likewise, if Morrow manages to post a number near the 3.2 WAR he's averaged over the last three years and Romero bounces back to become the pitcher that averaged better than 3.0 wins over his last three seasons in Toronto, then the Jays starting five should easily combine for around ten more wins than they had last season.

Unlike his lineup and rotation, Anothopoulos hasn't made any major moves to add to his bullpen, thus far in the off-season.

Part of the reason for that is because he was very active during the year making trades to add a number of power arms that he felt would be an upgrade over what the team started 2012 with.

On paper, having the new arms available over the course of a full season should make Toronto a better team in its ability to close out games.

Only two of the six members finished the season where they started it and the Jays were forced to use a patchwork pen to get through games. The relievers would end up posting a WAR of just 2.5 in 2012, which was good for 20th in baseball. 

If they are able to, at the very least, get back to the middle of the pack – and on paper, the arms they have now should easily allow them to do this – it would mean adding another win to their total last season.

So, what do all the additions mean? Are the Jays positioned to be a playoff contender in 2012?

Well, if you add up the 10 win increases that the starting lineup and rotation should provide, along with the one more win the bullpen should easily achieve, it would be realistic to think Toronto should be 21 wins better in 2013.

Add 21 wins to last season's 73-89 mark and you have a 94-68 record.

That would be one win better than the Baltimore Orioles and Texas Rangers achieved last season in claiming the AL's two wildcard spots.

So, on paper, Anthopoulos looks to have, at a minimum, positioned his club to be in the midst of the playoff race in 2013 -- exactly what he set out to do at the start of the off-season.

 

Alex Anthopoulos (Photo: Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
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