A busy offseason means a competitive season

Katie Linder, Staff Writer

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After an offseason that was highlighted by several blockbuster trades and hundreds of millions of dollars given to free agents, it seems like the race for the 2013 World Series title is wide open.

After signing the top free-agent pitcher on the market, Zack Greinke, for six years and $147 million and a late-August trade with the Boston Red Sox for Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, and Nick Punto, many are pegging the Los Angeles Dodgers as the team to beat in the National League West.  With a lineup powered by Matt Kemp, who signed an eight-year, $160 million contract extension before the 2012 season, Hanley Ramirez, acquired in a trade last summer from the Miami Marlins, Andre Ethier, Gonzalez, and a (hopefully) healthy Crawford, the Dodgers look like a force to be reckoned with.  That’s not even including their rotation, headlined by two former Cy Young Award winners in Greinke and Clayton Kershaw.

On the American League side of the baseball world, it would seem like either the Los Angeles Angels or the Toronto Blue Jays have the edge over the other teams.  The Angels flashed their money around for the second straight offseason when they signed Josh Hamilton to a five-year, $125 million contract that shocked Hamilton’s former team, the Texas Rangers.  With Hamilton manning right field, Rookie of the Year winner and American League MVP runner-up Mike Trout in left field, Albert Pujols at first base, and 2012 Homerun Derby participant Mark Trumbo at DH, not to mention a rotation highlighted by ace Jered Weaver, the Angels look serious this year.

No matter how good the Angels look on paper, most baseball experts and fans are pointing to the Toronto Blue Jays to go all the way.  Toronto, long known for trading away talents like Roy Halladay before they can leave via free agency, managed to pull off one of the biggest trades in recent history during the off season. The Miami Marlins sent Josh Johnson, Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, and Emilio Bonifacio to Toronto for a package consisting of mostly prospects.  Reyes and Buehrle were in the first year of their respective contracts at the time of the trade.  Toronto wasn’t done there.  Not long after, the Blue Jays acquired reigning National League Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey from the New York Mets for a package centered around prized catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud.

Even though the Blue Jays have a plethora of talent ready to go for the season and most baseball experts are picking them to win the World Series, nearly everyone that they acquired, with the exception of Dickey, is coming off of a sub-par season.  Johnson, who led the National League in ERA in 2010 and was an All-Star in 2009 and 2010, has been considered the ace of the Marlins’ staff for years.  However, he went 8-14 with a 3.91 ERA last season after making only nine starts in 2011.  Both his effectiveness and health will be a question in the upcoming season.

Reyes, coming off a stellar 2011 with the Mets in which he won his first career batting title, signed a six-year, $106 million contract with the Marlins in the 2011 offseason.  He batted only .287, a significant drop from his .337 clip of 2011.

Buehrle, who pitched both a no-hitter and a perfect game in his time with the Chicago White Sox and made four All-Star teams, signed a four-year, $58 million contract with the Marlins in the 2011 offseason.  Buehrle went 13-13 in 2012 with a 3.74 ERA.

Though the Blue Jays inherited players who are undoubtedly talented, it’s unclear whether they will perform at a level that will meet expectations.  None of the players they inherited, save Dickey, performed at a level that their old teams expected, which ultimately led to the trades.  Even if they perform at the level that most people are projecting, they will still have a long way to go to compete with the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, and Orioles in what is shaping out to be a very competitive American League East.

A fun fact to keep in mind: dating back to the 2008 World Series, only one winner of the World Series led MLB for the most wins, the 2009 Yankees.  Winning the most games doesn’t give a team an advantage when October rolls around.

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