2009 record: 75-87, fourth in A.L. East
Manager: Cito Gaston
Key additions: SS Alex Gonzalez, RP Kevin Gregg, SP Brandon Morrow, C John Buck, C Jose Molina
Key losses: SP Roy Halladay, SS Marco Scutaro, C Rod Barajas, DH Kevin Millar, RP Brandon League
Outlook: When it is widely known that you are in a rebuilding mode and you happen to play in the American League East, the big dogs begin to drool. The Blue Jays find themselves in such a sticky situation after posting their second-fewest wins since 1996 and jettisoning the face of the franchise in ace Roy Halladay.
But don't pile on the Jays just yet. They may turn things around faster than you think.
Newly installed general manager Alex Anthopoulos was able to get a good haul of prospects for Halladay in the three-team deal with Philadelphia and Seattle that shook up the baseball world last December. While it may take a little bit of time before starter Kyle Drabek, catcher Travis d'Arnaud and 3B/OF Brett Wallace are able to help the big club, they will eventually join a revamped squad that could rise back up the division within the next few years.
As for the current roster, the Halladay-less rotation is young and promising, but unrefined.
It is led by 25-year-old Ricky Romero, who won 13 games as a rookie in '09. Next in line is Shaun Marcum, at 28 the elder statesman of the bunch who is coming off lost season due to elbow surgery. Newly acquired Brandon Morrow, 25, filled in admirably as the Seattle closer two years ago and showed he is ready to be a full-time starter with some nice outings last season, including six strong innings at Fenway Park in July.
Lefties Marc Rzepczyinski and Brett Cecil, 24 and 23, respectively, should round out the rotation. Dustin McGowan, 27, is in the mix after missing a year following shoulder surgery.
The acquisition of closer Kevin Gregg is expected to stabilize a bullpen that was in a state of flux last year. The Blue Jays tied for last in the AL with 25 saves last season. A better bullpen will give the young starters a cushion to fall back on and allow Cito Gaston to limit their innings early on.
If and when some of the starters develop, they will star alongside the likes of Adam Lind, Travis Snider and Aaron Hill, the best bats in the system who are all under the age of 28. Lind and Hill broke out last year, combining for 71 home runs and 222 RBI and spearheading an attack that ranked fifth in the majors in homers, just three behind the Red Sox.
Snider struggled at times last season (.241 batting average in 77 games), but raked at Class AAA Las Vegas and at 22 is ready to make the leap.
Then there's Vernon Wells, whose situation with the team has turned into a bit of a saga. Wells is owed roughly $100 million over the next five years but at 31 already appears to be in decline. If Toronto had its way, his bat would be included alongside the aforementioned trio, but he is coming off another poor season and the contract looks more and more like a gag gift left behind by the former general manager J.P. Ricciardi, who signed Wells to the massive extension in 2006.
It has been reported that Wells is past some wrist issues that bothered him last year and is looking for a return to the form which saw him average nearly 28 homers and 98 RBI from 2002 to 2006.
Time will tell on that front, as it will for the Jays in general. They do not pretend to be contenders in the A.L. East, but the pieces in place should keep the dogs from drooling too much.
What it means to the Red Sox: Perhaps no team has been more of a thorn in the Sox' side over the past few years than the Blue Jays, who always seem to pop up on the schedule just as Boston appears ready to slump.
Toronto is 48-43 against the Sox over the past five seasons. Only New York at 49-43 has a better mark against Boston among division opponents in that span.
Perhaps a down year for the Jays will open the door for the Red Sox to dominate another doormat, such as they have with the Orioles of late (65-25 since 2005).