The Blue Jays have been mired in mediocrity for quite some time. With the division as weak as it's been in years, and their players reaching or in the middle of their prime, they've struck deals that should propel them into contention.
As the old saying goes, the best things in life are worth waiting for. While we may have different beliefs of what the best things in life are, Major League Baseball teams would probably all agree that winning a World Series tops that list. Unfortunately for those up in Toronto, the Blue Jays haven't found themselves to be championship contenders in quite some time. This hasn't been entirely their fault, though. They've always had solid teams, consistently hovering around the .500 mark. If they had played in a different division, they probably would have qualified for the postseason at least once in the past 19 seasons.
When you play in a division with perennial powerhouses like the Yankees and Red Sox were in the 2000s, extra talent is needed to play beyond the regular season. That goal becomes even tougher when a team like the Rays builds up enough young talent to finally push through and become annual playoff contenders. Stuck in such a tough division, the Blue Jays have been biding their time, building up a farm system in order to quickly build a contending team when the time felt right. Well, in the winter of 2012, the time has finally come.
The AL East is as up for grabs as I can ever remember it. Everyone here knows about the struggles the Red Sox find themselves in nowadays. They typically can be penciled in to at least contend for a wild card spot, but this is now a team that needs everything to break right if they want to play more than 162 games.
The Rays are also in a bit of a strange spot, coming off a 90 win season, but one that ended up without a playoff berth. With their budget, they haven't been able to bring big talent in to boost their roster. In fact, they recently traded away one of their best, most consistent starters in James Shields. Tampa will still field a very good team, but one that is far from a slam-dunk for postseason play.
The Yankees are in a position that is very rare for them, as they are trying to keep their payroll down below the luxury tax threshold. In what has been an uncharacteristically quiet offseason for them, they've stayed away from any major talents, and are instead bringing in role players to solidify their lineup, rather than acquiring top-end talent.
Finally, there is the upstart Orioles. While their "magic" carried them to one of the most unexpected playoff runs in recent memory, the talent on their roster suggests a repeat performance will be much easier said than done. Their biggest move of the offseason has been to bring back Nate McLouth.
As can be seen, the AL East doesn't have any team that figures to be a sure bet to be playing in October. Because of this, Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos decided it was time for the organization to quit waiting, and finally make a push back towards relevance. This all started in November, when they traded for all of the talent in Miami that's not named Giancarlo Stanton. This alone made them at least in the conversation for preseason AL East favorites. However, they weren't done yet.
On Sunday, it was announced that the long-rumored trade for R.A. Dickey had been completed, pending the knuckleballer agreeing to a contract extension. Yesterday, the extension was agreed to, and the Blue Jays had officially acquired the reigning NL Cy Young award winner. They paid a high price for Dickey - two of their top-three prospects - but it was worth the risk.
The Blue Jays' brass knew their time was now. This division is the weakest it has been in years, and it doesn't seem likely that it will stay this weak for a long time. With Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion in their primes, now seemed like the perfect time to take advantage. With a rotation now consisting of Josh Johnson, Dickey, Brandon Morrow, Mark Buerhle and Ricky Romero, along with a lineup featuring the likes of Jose Reyes, Bautista, Encarnacion and Melky Cabrera, Toronto will probably enter the 2013 season as the favorites to win the division.
Anthopoulos has been waiting for this moment, as he's been building a very solid farm system through trades, the draft and international signings. Now, with two moves, he's dealt a good chunk of those potential future stars for immediate talent. There is something to be said for developing your own talent and winning with those players, but that's often a very difficult process. The Blue Jays saw their opportunity to put themselves back on the baseball map and ran with it. The Red Sox and Yankees will now have a new team to battle with over the next three-to-five years. Every team is waiting for their chance to win the World Series. Anthopoulos was sick of waiting, and has quickly put together a contending-caliber roster at the most opportune time.