Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE
The Toronto Blue Jays just got a whole lot better, but hold the panic until the off-season ends
Thanks to the still-in-the-works Toronto Blue Jays and Miami Marlins mega-deal, the holes in the Red Sox' roster have become more apparent. The Blue Jays fixed their shortstop problem, bolstered their rotation, and added a useful multi-position player, doing so without giving up anything of immediate consequence. They might miss a few of the young players in the future, but this is a calculated risk with the goal of winning now in mind.
Boston, on the other hand, still has a gaping hole in the middle of its rotation. Who will play shortstop remains an open question, one that will likely be filled by a question unto itself in Jose Iglesias. The team lacks a definite solution in either of the outfield corners, just what is happening behind the plate in 2013 remains a mystery, and just how big of a player the Sox look to be in the free agent market is an unknown until they start to dive into it or not.
That being said, it's early in the off-season. The Jays finally flexed the financial muscle that playing in a gigantic market with very rich owners merits, and did it all in one fell swoop by acquiring nearly everything of monetary value that the Marlins owned: starting pitchers Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle, shortstop Jose Reyes, second baseman/center fielder Emilio Bonifacio, and backstop John Buck. Their roster looks better, for sure, their core vastly improved. But they still have question marks, too, as their two most-talented starters spend a lot of time on the disabled list, Buehrle historically has a tough time against the top offenses of the AL East, and Ricky Romero, who also has a rough time against strong lineups out east, is still employed by the Jays. Toronto also lacks a viable option at first base -- no, Adam Lind doesn't count -- and have to deal with that at a time when there are very few options available.
This doesn't mean they're sunk, either, just that they aren't a finished product in a division that looks to be very competitive. Much like the Red Sox are not finished. Yes, Boston could go into the 2013 season without adding another body, using the resources available at Pawtucket to stitch together a complete roster, and the Jays would very likely be the better team because of it. They won't, though, as the Red Sox have buckets of money to spend this year and next on players who can help them now -- much like the Jays are doing -- but without the long-term ramifications that the $96 million of guaranteed money to Jose Reyes over the next five seasons could have.
Reyes is a shortstop, and one of the few worthwhile ones at the position, but he also has a history of injuries and is average or worse as often as he approaches his perceived value. To put it into terms Boston fans can relate to, his Carl Crawford quotient is very high. It's a worthwhile risk for the Jays, there's no denying that. But it's still a risk that could easily backfire. Johnson, as mentioned, is an arm injury away from forever securing his legacy as an unreliable, albeit talented, piece. Brandon Morrow, for all his talent, is now 28 and has yet to throw more than 150 innings in a season twice. Nothing is definite here, no matter how impressive it all sounds coming in a single deal.
Don't take this as discounting what the Jays have accomplished, as they are pulling an August 2012 Dodgers right now, absorbing the core from another team into their own, in the hopes that the combined product is more than what it previously was. These could very well be the first (and second, and third) steps towards making Toronto a legitimate contender again in the AL East. What it isn't, though, is a guarantee that the Red Sox will be in the basement once more in 2013.
The team isn't finished building itself. The calendar is barely at the halfway point in November, and the league has yet to even begin the winter meetings, or even to set the 40-man rosters for the first time in the off-season. If Boston goes through with their plans, and comes away with a quality first baseman, the addition in the rotation they need, and at least one outfielder for the corners, things are going to look very, very differently than they do today, two weeks into the off-season's first official month. Ben Cherington has already stated that Toronto's big move doesn't change Boston's plan, and since that blueprint looked to build something successful for both now and the future, there's little reason to panic at this early junction.