It’s been a long time old friend. Not since the 1980′s has the prospect of playing the Toronto Blue Jays stirred the feelings of rivalry amongst Tigers fans. Back then, it was Tony Fernandez, George Bell, Dave Stieb, and Jimmy Key. Now, with recent additions made by the Blue Jays, it appears that the Blue Jays have become players again, and a team that we Detroiters must pay attention to again.
The first move by the Jays was the stunning salary dump of a trade made by the Florida Marlins. Well, not technically first, I thought the pickup of Esmil Rogers was a solid one for the Jays. I know why the Marlins made the deal. As their owner mentioned, they were a last place team. Much to the angst of Marlins fans everywhere, Loria wasn’t willing to give it another chance. Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, and Mark Buehrle are some real good players, even if they couldn’t push the Marlins to the top. Emilio Bonifacio isn’t so bad himself.
Yesterday, the Jays added Melky Cabrera to that impressive mix. Melky was one of my personal targets for the Tigers. My reasoning was simply that he wouldn’t require a long term contract and a lot of money. He didn’t get either from the Jays, and the payoff could be substantial. If Cabrera is even 80% of what he was in 2012, it’s a big time addition for the Blue Jays.
When looking at the Jays lineup, one can see an incredibly powerful and diverse one through nine. You have the power of Colby Rasmus, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, and J.P. Arencibia. They have guys that can run and handle the bat as well. Jose Reyes, Maicer Izturis, Bonifacio, and Rajai Davis can all run, bunt, and in general wreak havoc teams in multiple ways.
The starting rotation consists of Johnson, Buehrle, Ricky Romero, and Brandon Morrow. Competition will decide the last spot as of now, but this is where the Jays could get even better. Right now, they have J.A. Happ and Kyle Drabek likely to fight it out.
The real kicker is, that even though the Jays dealt seven talented players to the Marlins in return, they have plenty of young talent left. I don’t see the Jays and GM Alex Anthopolous stopping now. They have the bullets to get another stud pitcher should they want.
Why does this concern the Tigers?
Well, simply put, the Tigers are thinking beyond just the division now. Essentially, the Tigers were building themselves in 2012 to get by Texas. They did get past the Rangers and everyone else in 2012, making it to the World Series. If they want to get back there, they have to consider what other teams outside of the Central Division are doing.
Right now, it’s difficult to say with any certainty that the Tigers or the Jays are better at this point. I do know if the Jays go out and get another quality starting pitcher however, the Tigers might need to make a move themselves. The competition between the two teams starting a little early. One of those players could be Anibal Sanchez.
It will be interesting to see how the rest of this off-season plays out, but right now the baseball world finds itself looking north of the border, and being impressed by what they see. Toronto, our old rival, has effectively stolen the thunder from the Tigers signing of Torii Hunter, much like we stole the division from them in the last weekend of the 1987 baseball season. I’m all for the Jays becoming a rival again, it’s not like there is going to be a hockey rivalry with the Leafs and the Wings right now. (How is Bettman still a commissioner?)
Bring the baseball rivalry back. With the way these two organizations are attacking the off-season right now, it could be a lot of fun when these two teams get together on the field eh?