Additions: Matt Clement, Mike Maroth, Ken Takahashi, Michael Barrett, Raul Chavez, Brandon Fahey, Kevin Millar, Jason Lane, Dirk Hayhurst, Adam Loewen, Rod Barajas (option exercised). Midseason: Jose Bautista
Subtractions: A.J. Burnett, Gregg Zaun, Brad Wilkerson. Midseason: Matt Stairs, David Eckstein, Shannon Stewart, Kevin Mench, Frank Thomas
It was a quiet offseason for the Blue Jays, a team that won 86 games last year and might've had the talent to win 93. Can the in-house talent push them into contention in 2009?
Let's start with the offense. The Jays ranked 11th in the AL last year with 4.41 runs per game. Better health should lead to some changes for '09; this year's offense projects to score 4.63 runs per game. That, unfortunately, still would've ranked 11th in the AL. I upgraded Snider's projection by using his PECOTA numbers and that brought us to 4.76 runs per game.
Did you know the Blue Jays led the AL last year with 610 runs allowed? If they could score 770 runs and duplicate last year's run prevention, they'd project as a 98 win team! I don't know how to statistically account for the Jays' high quality of competition, however.
How did Toronto manage to allow only 610 runs in 2008? The league's best pitching and second-best defense blended to produce this result. The defense was particularly stellar at third base and right field, and Scott Rolen and Alex Rios haven't gone anywhere. More Marco Scutaro and less Eckstein shouldn't hurt. And Hill seems healthy. So maybe the Jays can repeat on defense.
The rotation is once again fronted by Roy Halladay. But after that Burnett is gone, Jesse Litsch will regress, Dustin McGowan may not contribute, and Shaun Marcum is out for the season. Non-Halladay Blue Jays starters had a 4.00 ERA in 2008. It's hard to see David Purcey, Casey Janssen, Scott Richmond, Brad Mills, and Clement pulling that off, even if there is some promise in the group. The bullpen returns the same key players, so that should be a strength again. Had Scott Downs' elbow not started barking it might've made sense to try him in the rotation.
It would've been perfect to sign Jason Giambi to DH, as he would've been an improvement over Lind and wouldn't have upset the team's excellent defense. Instead the Blue Jays' hopes rest on excellent performances in the rotation behind Halladay. Even at a still-solid 715 runs allowed this club would win 86 games and miss the playoffs.
Bottom line: The Blue Jays could have been a sleeper with the addition of a decent starter and a bat, but they chose to stand pat this winter.