Sometimes, the sum of all the parts is less than the whole. This year the Jays are essentially the same team they were last year, just without the lofty expectations. Might that mean there's some value in betting Toronto on MLB futures boards?
2013 Quick Review
It's almost hard to believe now, but Toronto went off as a 2/1 favorite to win the American League East last spring, and at MLB odds of about 5/1 to win the American League pennant. But the Jays stumbled out of the gate and never recovered, eventually finishing 14 games under .500.
Lead-off hitter Jose Reyes turned an ankle in April, missed 10 weeks, and ended up playing just 93 games. Every Blue Jay regular missed at least 20 games, and only two starting pitchers made more than 20 starts. The injuries started early, and continued until the team had fallen out of playoff contention.
In the end the Blue Jays came up 15 wins short of their season OVER/UNDER of 89.
Toronto didn't do a whole lot this off-season, but did it upgrade at catcher, replacing JP Arencibia with Dioner Navarro, who hit .300 with 13 homers in just 89 games last year with the Cubs.
Despite the fact that several key members of the everyday lineup missed portions of last season Toronto ranked fourth in the Majors in home runs with 185, ninth in scoring at 4.4 runs per game and 15th in team OBP at .318.
The Jays could be very dangerous offensively this year if everybody stays healthy and productive. Toronto can go Reyes-Melky Cabrera-Jose Bautista-Edwin Encarnacion-Adam Lind-Brett Lawrie- Colby Rasmus-Navarro one through eight. Together those guys missed over 400 games last year. Imagine what their RPG might be if those eight are in the lineup together for a full season.
The Blue Jays pitching staff ranked 25th in team ERA last year at 4.25, and a dismal 28th in quality starts with just 67, which put a lot of pressure on the bullpen. That bullpen responded by ranking ninth in ERA at 3.37 and going 39-for-58 on save opportunities, while throwing more innings than every other pen but one.
The big problem for Toronto is that it's just not clear its starting rotation will be any better this year. Knuckleballer RA Dickey posted a 4.21 ERA last year, a run and a half higher than in his Cy Young season of two years ago with the Mets; two man Mark Buehrle gave up 223 hits in 204 innings; three man Brandon Morrow got hurt and only made 10 starts; and JA Happ posted a 4.56 ERA.
No doubt about it, the rotation is the weak point of this team.
2014 Blue Jays Futures
Last year Toronto was among the favorites to win the American League championship and the World Series. Heading into this season the Jays are being thought of strictly as second-tier material.
With two weeks to go before camp starts at Dunedin the best price we could find on Toronto winning the pennant was the +2000 offered at TopBet, while the best price on the Jays winning the Series was the +4000 listed at 5Dimes.
Of course, Toronto's chances of winning anything are dampened a bit by playing in the best division in baseball. But if the Jays can keep their starting lineup healthy, and if they can add another decent starting pitcher – perhaps AJ Burnett or Bronson Arroyo – and if they can get another good effort from the bullpen, they might be worth a shot at 20/1 to win the American League.Toronto tips off its 2014 campaign with a three-game series at Tampa April 1-3.