SportsCentre Year In Review: Turning around the Blue Jays

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Scott Ferguson
12/18/2012 7:04:10 PM
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Leading up to SportsCentre's Year In Review on Christmas Eve, TSN and TSN.ca look back at each of the Top 10 stories of 2012.

Today, TSN Radio 1050's Scott Ferguson looks at the headline-grabbing offseason of the Toronto Blue Jays.

There has to be an end before there can be a new beginning.

And the Toronto Blue Jays' disaster of a 2012 season got full closure when the ball club worked out an arrangement with Boston in October to allow skipper John Farrell to take his "Dream Job" of managing the Red Sox. Though not considered direct compensation by MLB rules, the Jays received veteran middle infielder Mike Aviles from the Red Sox in return for pitching prospect David Carpenter.
 
And just like that, it was the end of the John Farrell era in Toronto (154-170).

At that point, no one knew quite what to expect. It was clear when the Blue Jays lost three starting pitchers to injury in a four-day span in June, the club had to add some veteran arms to the rotation in the offseason. Most believed they might be able to land one ace and maybe one of two more who could slot in at the back end of the rotation. But it soon become clear we had underestimated the resolve of general manager Alex Anthopoulos and the sudden willingness of Rogers to spend significant money.
 
We could call this the 58 days that shook the Toronto Blue Jays universe.

From the day Farrell left town, Anthopoulos acquired not one, but three pitching aces who at various times had been the lead men in their club's rotations. They also came up with a star shortstop and a somewhat disgraced left fielder who was blossoming into stardom.

And to just about everyone's surprise brought back a manager who had only been gone about four years.
 
The first strike came on Nov. 3, a mere appetizer if you will. The Jays shipped catcher/DH Yan Gomes and Mike Aviles to Cleveland for hard throwing right reliever Esmil Rogers, another strong arm to go with the two relievers they had picked up at the July 31 trade deadline - Steve Delabar and Brad Lincoln.
 
Nov. 8 - Step 2. The Blue Jays signing utility infielder Maicer Izturis away from the Angels as a free agent to a three-year deal, plus an option worth a guaranteed $12 million.
 
On Nov. 14 came the trade that will be talked about for years. The Blue Jays pulled off a 12-playes mega-deal with the salary dumping Miami Marlins. The Blue Jays acquired two bonafide top of the rotation arms in lefty Mark Buehrle and right hander Josh Johnson. And if that wasn't enough, they added star shortstop Jose Reyes, infielder/outfielder Emilio Bonafacio and catcher John Buck.
 
The deal wasn't officially approved by Commisioner Bud Selig until Nov. 19, largely over concerns the Marlins were ripping their franchise apart just a year after moving into a largely publicly funded state of the art new ballpark. In the end, the deal went through with the Marlins receiving seven players - including two veterans and four who could be considered pretty good prospects.
 
The Marlins got right-hander Henderson Alvarez, lefty Justin Nicolino, shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, outfielder Jake Marisnick, veteran catcher Jeff Mathis and pitching prospect Anthony DeSclafani. In terms of numbers, it was the largest trade in Blue Jays history.
 
The day after that trade was confirmed, there was another flurry of activity. The Blue Jays brought back John Gibbons as manager, a move that surprised reporters and fans alike. Gibbons's name had never surfaced in the rumour mill after Farrell had left.
 
Gibbons, an affable man with southern roots and a deep passion for baseball, had managed the Jays to a (305-305) record from 2004 when he replaced Carlos Tosca in season, to 2008  when he was replaced in turn by Cito Gaston.
 
That same day, the club confirmed the signing of veteran lefty fielder Melky Cabrera to a two-year deal worth $16 million. Cabrera had left San Francisco in a shade of disgrace after being suspended for 50 games in the heat of a pennant race for testing positive for elevated levels of testosterone.

Though the move appeared a bit risky, Gibbons - who knew Cabrera - from his coaching days at Kansas City vouched for him as a player and a person.
 
That move showed just how committed the Jays were to being top-notch contenders in 2013. It would have been a lot easier to avoid the controversy and not sign Cabrera.
 
And Anthopoulos wasn't done yet. He wanted one more blue chip starting pitcher - one who could be his ace.

After countless rumours, the New York Mets were going to trade Cy Young-winning knuckleballer R.A Dickey. It finally happened, when they realized they couldn't get his name on a workable contract extension.
 
On Dec. 17, the Mets swapped the 38-year-old Dickey and his magicial pitch to the Blue Jays along with his personal catchers Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas (who hails from Vancouver) for two prime prospects catcher Travis D'Arnaud and right hander Noah Syndergaard, along with catcher John Buck and outfield prospect Wuilmer Becerra.
 
This is arguably the greatest off-season makeover of a team in baseball history. It's certainly the only time I can remember an organization acquiring three potential No. 1 starters in such a short period of time.
 
The Blue Jays have also bumped their payroll for 2013 into the $125 million range, about $40 million over last season.
 
Oddsmakers in Las Vegas have already made them the favourites to win the World Series. It's truly amazing how far this team has come in less than two months. And to think - the two biggest rosters moves the Blue Jays made in May and June of last season were the signings of Vladimir Guerrero and ageless lefty Jamie Moyer to minor league deals. Neither panned out and both were released before suiting up in Toronto. At the time, both of those moves generated some excitement in the city, but just a ripple compared to what has happened over those 58 days in November and December.

Buehrle, Reyes and Johnson - Blue Jays (Photo: TSN.ca/Getty Images)

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(Photo: TSN.ca/Getty Images)
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