There wasn’t even supposed to be a season at all. In September of 2012, hope for an NHL season was bleak. It looked as though the greed from both parties was going to overtake the love of the game and completely wipe out hockey for the year. It looked this way until January 6th, when the magical words were spoken: The NHL and NHLPA had come to an agreement. There would be hockey this year. Even though I was still pissed at the NHL for all it has put its fans through, I was happy. I finally got hockey, and my Leafs, back.
After a week long training camp, we got to see how the teams shaped out. Toronto had made a couple key acquisitions over the summer and I was pretty interested to see how they would work out. There were a few surprises too, with Tim Connolly, among others, not making the team straight out of camp. When I looked at this roster on paper, even after all the crap that happened last season, I thought we had a chance to make the playoffs if we got off to a quick start, and we did just that. In our first game of the season, the Leafs beat the Montreal Canadiens 2-1 on goals from Nazem Kadri and Tyler Bozak, both of whom would end up having an immense impact on the outcome of the leafs season (well, in Kadris case).
After a decent start to the season, the Leafs got their first real test of the year: The Boston Bruins. The Bruins had dominated the Leafs over the past few years, especially last season. The thought was that if the leafs could compete with the Bruins, they could compete with anyone. Well compete they did, losing 1-0 in a game they probably should have won. Things were looking up in leafs nation, and for good reason.
Over the next couple of games, fans started to get increasingly frustrated with Phil Kessel, as he went 10 games to open the season without scoring a goal. Well, he ended the year tied for 7th in scoring with Tyler Bozak as his centerman, so… There’s that.
The next major leafs storyline this season was the emergence of Nazem Kadri. Brian Burke’s first draft pick as GM, Kadri was slated to be the next great player in the Leafs organization. That was back in 2007. Many fans had become frustrated with Kadri, suggesting the Leafs trade him, among others, to Vancouver for star goalie Roberto Luongo. Thank god we didn’t. Kadri was given a real shot with the Leafs this season and boy, did he ever deliver. The 22 year old scored 44 points in 48 games, becoming one of the core pieces in a young Leafs team looking to make a statement.
And so the season went on, and I watched the Leafs clinch their first playoff birth since I was in the fourth grade (I’m going to university next year). There was a buzz that was building around Toronto that I had never really been a part of… You could tell that playoffs in this city just meant so much to the fans that had been deprived of them for so long… It was just special, that’s really the only word to describe it.
As the season wound down, we were left to play our last game of the season against a team that we had pretty much owned all season long: the Montreal Canadiens. The stakes were pretty high for this one. A Leafs win would guarantee them a first round matchup with the Canadiens but a loss would pit us against the big bad Bruins. All Leaf fans with a brain wanted Toronto to win, naturally, so that they could face the easier opponent. Too bad it didn’t work out that way. The team that we had dominated all season long suddenly looked like a different squad, handing our asses to us in a 4-1 win at the ACC.
By the time the start of the playoffs rolls around, I, along with 99% of other Leafs fans, weren’t too confident in the Leafs’ playoff chances. Even though we had played Boston hard all season long, this was still a team 2 years removed from a Stanley Cup win and honestly just a group that was built for the postseason. So, with all that taken into account, the Leafs began their journey to the Stanley Cup.
Game 1 – Toronto (1) @ Boston (4)
If this game didn’t scare the crap out of you (as a leafs fan), I’m not sure what will. The Leafs came out strong, getting an early goal from JVR to put them ahead by 1, but that’s pretty much all they did besides turn the puck over. I think game 1 was one of the worst all around performances the Leafs had all season. They were basically handing the puck to the B’s every time it was on their sticks. Honestly, it just looked like an extremely nervous team that was dealing with the pressures of the playoffs. The only positive that I took from this game was that all the mistakes being made were fixable, and that’s something the Leafs really worked on to get ready for game 2.
Game 2 – Toronto (4) @ Boston (2)
This one started out like you’d imagine, with Boston going up 1-0 after a number of chances provided to them by Leaf givaways. After the goal, though, something interesting happened. The Leafs began to… outplay… the Bruins? In the playoffs? What? Yeah, so much so that they ended up taking a 2-1 lead on a pair of Joffrey Lupul goals. I really believe that this was the turning point in the series for the Leafs, because from this point forward they were the better team 80% of the time. Anyways, the Leafers ended up taking this one 4-2 to even up the series at 1 a piece.
Game 3 – Boston (5) @ Toronto (2)
Now, the score is a little deceiving here, because the Leafs didn’t play that bad of a game. A couple key turnovers led to a few Bruin goals but other than that, the Leafs played a pretty solid game. It looked like they were a little nervous to be playing their first home playoff game in 9 years, and kind of realized that the pressure that accompanies playoff hockey in Toronto.
Game 4 – Boston (4) – Leafs (3) OT
This game might have been my favorite just because I had the opportunity to head down to Maple Leafs Square, along with 15 000 other Leaf fans, and watch the game outside. Just touching on MLSQ for a second, that might have been one of the best sport experiences I’ve ever been a part of. The fans down there are awesome and I know that if we make it to the postseason again next year, I’ll definitely be heading down for more than just one game. ANYWAYS, back to hockey. The Leafs came out strong, again, scoring 2 goals in the first period to take a quick lead. That didn’t last long. Boston came out gunning in the 2nd, scoring 3 goals to silence the crowd down at the ACC. At the end of the second, MaCarthur decides that he’s going to start scoring again and ties the game at 3′s. The score held up for the third which meant I got to witness probably the most fun, nerve-wracking, and inspirational thing in all of sports: Overtime NHL playoff hockey. There’s nothing better. I thought the Leafs had it won it off a shot by Frattin (I think) but luckily for Boston, it hit the post. A couple minutes passed, with not much going on, until ’that play’ happened. Let me just say, I love Phaneuf, so I’m not going to rip him at all. He knows it was a stupid play. It’s over and done with. Anyways, Phaneuf makes an ill-advised pinch, gets caught, O’byrne decides he feels like shitting the bed as well by just letting Krejci walk in, and Boston scores, giving them a commanding 3-1 series lead in a game that Toronto should have won.
Game 5 – Toronto (2) – Boston (1)
Leaf fans can thank the hell outta James Reimer for this one. He absolutely, 100% stole this game for us, which we needed badly. That save on Bergeron has to be one of the best stops of the playoffs, if not the season entirely. Honestly, I just wanted to make it past game 5 so we could say we did better than the habs, but man, was I in for a surprise.
Game 6 – Boston (1) – Toronto (2)
After learning that Tyler Bozak was going to be out for this one, I really felt like the leafs’ comeback was going to fall short. He was the only player on the entire team that could win a faceoff. This was exactly the kind of situation that made me regret the Leafs trading Steckel for pretty much nothing, and something that the Leafs are going to need to address during the off season. Either way, both teams played an extremely tight game, with the Leafs coming out on top, earning their first playoff win on home ice and forcing an all deciding game 7 in Boston the following night.
Game 7 – Boston (5) – Toronto (4) OT
At the beginning of the playoffs, I predicted that the Leafs would lose in 5 games, so the fact that they made it to a game 7 was enough for me. Something was different though; I actually had confidence in the clear underdog in this series. The game started off by completely shattering my hopes, with a goal off of a terrible Cody Franson turnover, bringing me back to the terrible memory of game one. But again, like from game 2 onward, the Leafs began to outplay the Bruins. Franson made up for his mistake, scoring the next 2 Leaf goals, giving us a 2-1 lead that we actually held all the way to the third. To start the third, the Leafs scored another 2 goals, taking a commanding 4-1 lead with only 10 minutes left to go. Since after game 2, I figured that if we we’re going to play that well, we’d only have to deal with the first 5 minutes of the first period and the last 5 minutes of the third and we’d be fine. That couldn’t have been more true in the most crucial game not only of the series, but arguably of the decade for the Leafs. With 10 minutes to go, Nathan Horton scored a pretty predictable goal, cutting the Leafs’ lead to 2. Personally, I wasn’t too worried, as the Leafs had protected 1 goal leads in each of the last 2 games. Another 8 or so minutes passed until Lucic put yet another goal past Reimer, cutting the lead to 1 with just under a minute and a half to go. Even though there wasn’t much time left on the clock, you could feel another goal coming… You just knew it was coming. Sadly, that was the case, as Patrice Bergeron scored on a screened Reimer from the point. If you told me at the beginning of the series that the Leafs would take Boston to game 7 OT, I’d take that in a heartbeat, but not that night. It felt as though we’d lost even though both teams had an even chance at winning. Long story short, 5 minutes into overtime, Patrice Bergeron scores and finishes what would end up being one of the greatest playoff comebacks in NHL history.
I literally felt sick after Bergeron scored that goal. It’s been 3 days and I still haven’t watched highlights from the game, and I don’t think I ever will. But when you think about it, this is what sports are all about… I went through every emotion possible while watching this game, and even though it ended up being one of the shittiest feelings ever, I’ll take that any day over another 9 years without the playoffs.
Honestly, I’m just glad I got to watch hockey this year.
With the announcement of a new CBA agreement reached this past weekend, hockey fans all over the world are ready to put their anger behind them and get ready for a new season. Everyone’s excited to be talking about ACTUAL hockey again, including myself, and not about the negotiations between the NHL and NHLPA. As focus shifts back to the ice, teams will have a one-week training camp to get their rosters in order. GM’s all over the league are scrambling to put their teams together, even more difficult with no pre-season games to play and shortened training camps. One GM who won’t be doing anything, however, is Brian Burke, the former GM and president of the Leafs.
Early Wednesday morning, Burke was relieved of his duties as general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs. After four seasons in Toronto, he was never able to take the Leafs to the playoffs, and never above 10th place in the Eastern conference. The GM taking over for Burke, Dave Nonis, has been the Leafs assistant GM since Burke came over from Anaheim back in 2008. This move comes as a shock to many, including Sportsnet analyst Brian Lawton who called the move just plain “weird”.
Burke made it fairly obvious in his press conference he was shocked by the news and disappointed he could never get the job done in Toronto. “There’s sometimes when you get fired and you see the vultures circling and you understand it’s coming,” he said. “You’re not sure when you’re going to drop dead in the desert, but it’s coming and you can see the vultures.” He also compared his situation to being hit by “a two-by-four upside the head”. Needless to say, he was not expecting this, and neither was anyone else. While there was some resentment towards the new owners for firing him, he did call the Maple Leafs the “Crown Jewel” of the NHL, saying that working in Toronto is “About what I expected. It’s the Vatican, it’s the biggest stage in pro hockey- maybe pro sports”. When Burke was asked about the goaltending situation for the leafs, he said “The good news is that’s not my problem anymore. We were exploring options to upgrade at a lot of different positions. I believe that had we not been able to upgrade (in goal), I believe in James Reimer (Maple Leafs current starting goaltender). I’ve said that and I think I’ll be borne out on that one. But it’s someone else’s problem now”. After a concussion to James Reimer early last season, he never really played the same. This has lead to people calling for the Leafs to make a move for a starting goalie, more specifically, Roberto Luongo.
For the past few months, there have been many rumors swirling that the Leafs were interested in acquiring all-star goaltender Roberto Luongo. It’s no secret that the Leafs have had issues in net, and if Burke could pull off this deal, it would certainly give the team a legitimate shot at the playoffs. Luongo, who signed a massive 12-year deal back in 2010, is being pushed out of town by up-and-coming goalie Cory Schneider. With Luongo not wanting to be a backup, and Toronto’s desperate need for a goaltender, a trade with the Vancouver Canucks seemed like a perfect match. There were a couple issues, however, surrounding these rumors. Firstly, Luongo has a No-Trade clause, putting him in charge of the team that he goes to. He’s made it public that he’d like to go back to Florida, the place where his family lives and the team he was with before being traded to Vancouver. It has also been said that Luongo doesn’t even want to come to Toronto, already trying to escape the pressure that surrounds him in Vancouver.
I have a lot of respect for Toronto, they are obviously part of the equation, there’s no denying that. But there’s a lot of things that can happen. I want to make sure I’m aware of all of the possibilities.
While the most likely case is that Luongo was just saying the right things to the media, not trying to hinder Vancouver GM Mike Gillis’ chances of trading him, there is a chance he’d welcome a trade to the Leafs. To make the trade, you need another partner, though, and that’s where Brian Burke comes in. From his self-imposed trade deadlines, to his ways of building his teams, Burke has always had controversial views on how to build a hockey club. One of his more famous beliefs, however, is his un-willingness to sign (or trade for) anyone with more than 5 years on their current contract or take on any players with back/front-loaded deals. This has lead to scrutiny by many, especially when he was un-willing to sign star free agent center Brad Richards to a lengthy contract. This reluctancy to take on players with these sorts of contracts may have lead to his firing. MLSE’s new owners, Rogers-Bell, bought the team in August of 2012. The thought is that they told Burke to get Luongo no matter what the cost, something that Burke clearly wasn’t comfortable with. This, along with 4 years of no playoffs and his relationship with the owners cost Burke his job.
This is where the story gets a little more interesting.
Dave Nonis, who took over for Burke in Toronto, has a previous relationship with Luongo. After Burke left as GM of the Canucks back in 2004, his assistant General Manager at the time, Dave Nonis, took over. His most notable move as GM of the Canucks? Acquiring goaltender Roberto Luongo, Lucas Krajicek and a 6th round pick for Todd Bertuzzi, Bryan Allen and Alex Auld.
In the 3 days its been since Nonis has taken over, the trade rumors have only picked up steam, with many experts insisting that Luongo is on his way out of Vancouver, and into the pressure cooker that is Toronto. Again, this is a goalie that led a prominent Canadian team to the Stanley cup finals, so would he be able to succeed in Toronto? Many believe that Luongo feels like he needs to prove himself, prove to the hockey community that he can still be the elite goaltender that he- and apparently the Leafs- think he is. It’s said that if you can succeed in Toronto, you can succeed anywhere, a saying that has proven to be true over the past few seasons. The Leafs haven’t had a true number one starting goalie since Ed Belfour all the way back in 2004. The arrival of Luongo in Toronto wouldn’t only bring a true elite-level goalie to Toronto, but it would also bring hope to a fan base starving for playoff action.
Over the past week, the Toronto Blue Jays have underwent a massive transformation. With the acquisitions they’ve made, its pretty exciting when you look at the possible lineup for next season.
1. Jose Reyes (SS)
2. Melky Cabrera (LF)
3. Jose Bautista (RF)
4. Edwin Encarnacion (1B)
5. Adam Lind (DH)
6. Brett Lawrie (3B)
7. Colby Rasmus (CF)
8. J.P Arencibia (C)
9. Emilio Bonafacio/Maicer Izturis (2B platoon)
1. Brandon Morrow
2. Josh Johnson
3. Ricky Romero
4. Mark Buehrle
5. J.A Happ
I love you, Alex Anthopoulos.
AA HAS JUST ACQUIRED R.A FREAKING DICKEY. ADD HIM TO THE ROTATION TOO
Unless you’re a sports fan living under a rock, you’ve heard about the gargantuan trade that sent Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes, Emilio Bonafacio and John Buck to Toronto in exchange for Yunel Escobar, Aideny Hecchavaria, Henderson Alvarez, Jeff Mathis and 3 prospects. Not only is this the biggest trade in Toronto Blue Jays franchise history, but as Buster Olney put it, one of the biggest trades in the history of Major League baseball. Obviously, the “biggest” trade money wise happened last year, with the Dodgers and Red Sox completing a deal that would send $200 million dollars worth of contracts in LA’s direction. The reason the Jays-Marlins deal is considered bigger is not only because of the $120 million in contracts on their way to T.O, but the long term effects that it will have on both franchises.
Last year in 2011, the Marlins went all out. They built a brand new publicly funded park worth $525 million, signed Jose Reyes to a 6 year, $106 million deal and Mark Buehrle to a four year $58 million contract. The fans truly, truly believed that they had a shot at the playoffs, but that clearly wasn’t the case. They finished 69-93, last in the NL east. This prompted Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria to ship out 3 of the clubs top players, including the aforementioned Reyes and Buherle. This has angered an already dwindling fan base, with talk from the fans about boycotting the season… Seriously. The deal is SO lopsided that there’s talk that Bud Selig, commissioner of Major League Baseball might veto the trade, although it seems extremely unlikely at this point. That’s how potentially detrimental this trade could be to the Marlins.
The Jays, on the other hand, benefit immensely from this trade. Crazy stat, before the trade was made, the odds of the jays winning the World Series were 100:1. After the trade? 15:1. Yeah. That’s the type of talent they’re getting back in this deal. What may be even better than this, however, is the fact that apparently the Boston Red Sox, yes, the Boston Red Sox made a pitch for a couple of these players. This is the team that basically stole John Farrell and the rest of the coaching staff. How nice does it feel to FINALLY come out on top over teams with double the payroll that we have? It feels frakin’ awesome. Also, remember when AA said he’d like to have all-stars at each position? Well don’t look now… But you’ve got Lawrie at 3rd, Reyes at short, Encarnacion at first, Bautista in right and if Rasmus can produce like he should be able to, there’s a potential all-star right there. Also, in my opinion, this makes the Jays one of the most dynamic offensive tams in the AL. When you look at the combination of speed they have on the bases to the number of power hitters they have in the lineup, it’s a scary thing to see for opposing pitchers. You’ve got guys like Davis, Gose, Reyes, Bonafacio, Lawrie and Rasmus who can all run, then you’ve got Bautista and Encarnacion, JP, and I guess you could include Rasmus again, waiting to knock them in. In addition to the hitters we acquired, Josh Johnson and Mark Buherle puts this rotation up there to Tampa Bay standards. Going in to this offseason, all Jays fans knew that starting pitching was a priority, and we believed that we might end up starting the season with an Edwin Jackson or Shaun Marcum. The fact that AA could swing a deal that brings two top tier pitchers to Toronto is a dream come true.
Another thing I love about this trade is that it shows the fan base that they won’t be lied to. Last year, in free agency, Jays fans wanted to go after the big names such as Fielder, Reyes, Buherle, etc. What the organization basically said was that once the fans start showing up to games, then they’ll spend money. Well, the fans showed up last season, and the organization definitely rewarded them with this deal. I honestly can’t remember I saw a Toronto fan base, including myself, this excited about am upcoming season.
“Alright, I’m pissed off!!! Plain & Simple”- Giancarlo Stanton
“Its a good day to be a bluejay!”- Jose Bautista
Yeah. Pretty much sums it up.
Over the past few days, there have been rumblings of Vince Carter wanting to return to where it all started… Toronto. Now, if you’re a Raptors fan, there are many feelings/memories associated with the name Vince Carter. The guy who scored the first basket at the Air Canada Center, the guy who lead the team to their first playoff series win in franchise history… The guy who stopped trying when he wanted out of Toronto. As a professional athlete, that’s one of the worst things you could possibly do, not only to your team, but to your fans as well. Lets go back to the 1998 draft when Toronto acquired the 6’6 guard out of UNC from the Golden State Warriors.
On June 24th, 1998, possibly the greatest Raptors trade of all time went down. Toronto traded their 4th pick, Antwan Jamison to the Golden State Warriors for a then 21 year old Vince Carter. Toronto had been in operation since 1995, not being able to win more than 30 games in each of their three previous seasons. In the shortened 50 game 1999 season, Carter was able to win rookie of the year, helping the team win almost 50% of their games. The next season, Carter really put Toronto on the map. He averaged 25.7 points a game, making the all star team and winning the annual Slam Dunk contest with his famous between the legs 360 dunk and his “Honey Dip” slam. This was also the first time the Raptors would appear in the playoffs, losing in 3 games to the New York Knicks.
Over the next few seasons, Carter would prove to be the franchise player that the Raptors initially envisioned, averaging over 23 points over the next 3 seasons, doubling the value of the Raptors and most importantly, making Toronto relevant in the NBA for the first time.
The next season would be the beginning of the end, in some ways. While Carter still had a productive season, averaging almost 25 points per game, he only played in 60 games. The team didn’t do very well without him, making it to the playoffs but losing in the first round. The next season, Carter got injured again, sending the Raptors into a free fall down the standings. From this point on, things were never the same in Toronto. Rumours began to surface about Vince’s desire to be with the Raptors and after a new coaching and managerial staff came in, Carter was dealt to the New Jersey Nets. Now, you’d think that when you deal your franchise player away, you’d get something of value in return. Instead, the raptors traded away the best player in franchise history for Alonzo Mourning, Eric Williams, Aaron Williams, and two future first round picks. Clearly, this is one of the most lopsided trades in recent memory… In favor of the Nets. To make matters worse, Alonzo Mourning didn’t even report to Toronto. This left a bad taste in many Raptors’ fans mouths as Carter left without leaving anything for the organisation that gave him everything.
Over the rest of his carrer, he could never really re-capture the magic that he had in Toronto. He is now 35, nearing the end of his career and has expressed his desire to return to the Raptors.
“If (Toronto) gave me the opportunity, I don’t even think I’d let them finish the question. Yes. I’m in.” Carter said. “Could I see it? Absolutely, I’d leave that up to the franchise. It all started in Toronto, I’d be a fool to ever forget that.”
This is what makes it so hard to hate the guy. He broke our hearts back in 2004, but has since managed to make amends for what he’s done. In several interviews, he’s praised the city of Toronto, the fans and the organization. Personally, I’d love to see him finish his career with the Raptors. Carter saying he would like his jersey retired, however, is a little too much for now.
Since I wrote about the Jays options concerning pitchers in free agency, might as well talk about the batters! I know that Toronto’s not really in need of that much more offense, but there are some solid options when you look at the players set to hit the market on midnight saturday. If the Jays are going to go after batters, here’s who I believe they should take a look at:
1. David Ortiz- How nice would it be, after this whole John Ferrell fiasco, to get David Ortiz to suit up for the Blue Jays next year. That would be like the ultimate payback to Boston, who basically stole half our managerial staff just a few weeks ago. I have no clue if Ortiz would ever even consider coming to play at the Dome, but I’d certainly like seeing him hit a few out against his former team, for the Jays no less.
2. Josh Hamilton- I dont necessarily believe that the Jays NEED Hamilton, but if you have the opportunity to go after someone with his talent level, you do it. Toronto already has a backed up outfield, especially with Rajai Davis returning on a 1-year deal. If we did end up getting Hamilton, it would make other players expendable. This could end up being a good thing, as we could wind up possibly grabbing a starter to fill out rotation. People that would become moveable include Rasmus, Sierra, Davis and Gose. Personally, the only 2 out of these 4 that I would trade are Davis and Sierra, but I definitely think it’s a scenario you have to take a serious look at, only if you think Hamilton can stay healthy.
3. Marco Scutaro- Although it’s unlikely that he’s going to leave the Giants, Scutaro would be an excellent addition to the lineup He just finished helping them to their second world series in 3 years, winning the NLCS MVP along the way. As some of you may remember, Scutaro was a member of the Jays from 2007-2009, putting up some decent numbers in the brief time he was here. He could wind up being a valuable asset to Toronto, as he can play 3rd, short, and 2nd. These are areas (excluding 3rd) that the Jays aren’t overly confident about, as our starting shortstop is Yunel Escobar and second baseman being Mike Aviles. Personally, as I said before, I think Scutaro is staying in SanFran, but we’ll see.
4. B.J Upton- Snagging B.J Upton in free agency would be a great move for Toronto. Unlike Hamilton, Upton has speed. Not just speed, but power as well. Upton would probably certainly replace Davis, making him and other outfielders (which I named already) expendable. Also, this is a guy who’s played on Tampa Bay his whole career, so he knows the AL East well. People need to understand this… Coming to the AL East, if you haven’t been here before, is insanely difficult. There’s at least 2-3 teams in this division every season competing for a championship. This is why it’s so vaulable when teams can find players that can handle the pressure and know what it’s like to be going up the Yankees, RedSox, Rays and Orioles on a regular basis. If I could go after any free agent this year, it’d probably be Upton.
5. Nick Swisher- Yeah I know… Another outfielder, right? Wrong. This is a guy who has lots of experience at first base, making Adam Lind expendable. Typically, teams expect good numbers from their first basemen, but that wasn’t the case this season. Swisher would be a huge upgrade over Adam Lind, as he would add another dangerous bat in this lineup. Swisher is also a switch hitter, which is a huge bonus, as he can hit well from either side of the plate. Also, as I said before, finding players that can play in the AL East are a commodity, and this is definitely a guy who knows how to play in this division. He put up big numbers for the Yankees this past season, so why couldn’t he do the same with Toronto?
There are many options out there right now, but I don’t know that any of them are even realistic. Lots of players dont like coming to Toronto because of the turf, which would definitely bug the 3 outfielders I mentioned in this post. In my opinion, I still believe the trade route would be the way to go. We only have so much time to find out what will become of our prospects, and now might be the time to start shipping some away.
Going in to 2013′s free agency period, it’s clear that they Jays have some serious holes to fill, particularly in the starting rotation. This has been the teams weak spot over the past couple seasons, especially in the 2012 campaign. Looking at some of the free agent starting pitchers, there ARE a couple solid options for the Jays to look at. Here are my top 10 options to fill in the rotation (in no particular order):
10. Edwin Jackson
9. Kyle Lohse
8. Brandon McCarthy
7. Shaun Marcum
6. Carlos Villanueva
5. Zack Greinke
4. Scott Feldman
3. Bartolo Colon
2. Joe Blanton
1. Brett Myers
As you can see, there’s no pure ace in this crop of free agents (excluding Greinke), and there rarely is. What this group does have is some solid arms that could back Morrow and Romero as they try to lead the rotation, and team, to the playoffs. Some of these names might look familiar to some Jays fans, including Villanueva, Marcum and Edwin Jackson. Villanueva, as most of you know, has been part of the Jays organisation since coming over from the brewers in 2010. He came over as a little known reliever, and leaves as a legit middle to end of the rotation starter. He’s asking for multiple years and more money, something that AA isn’t ready to do right now. Another familiar face is Shaun Marcum. Marcum was drafted by the jays in 2003, debuting in the 2005 season and sticking around until 2010 before famously being traded to Milwaukee for Brett Lawrie. He’s already expressed his interest in returning to Toronto, and he’d be a great addition to the team. In 2012, Marcum went 7-4 with a 3.70 ERA in 21 appearances. I think any Jays fan would welcome him back with open arms if we had the opportunity. Lastly, Edwin Jackson is a viable option for a middle of the rotation spot. Jackson was involved in that 3 team deal that had him as a member of the Jays for about 10 minutes before being shipped off to St. Louis for Colby Rasmus. Jackson has been an above average starter his whole career, winning 10 games for the league leading Washington Nationals in 2012.
Going back to what I said about no true aces, as I noted, I kinda lied. Zack Greinke is a top of the line, front end starter that could take a team all the way. I don’t really consider him an option, however, because of what happened a couple years ago. The Jays were set to make a deal with the Royals that would have sent Greinke to the Jays. The only catch was that Greinke had a no-trade clause, and he declined to come to Toronto. The reason this is relevant is because if he declined a trade just a couple of years ago, what would make him want to come here now? I don’t really think there’s a chance he’d come to Toronto, but he is the best pitcher on the market.
The rest of these guys would just be here on a short term basis, filling the holes until the likes of Sanchez, Nicolino, Syndergaard, etc. make it to the show. These guys could prove to be the quick (and temporary) fix that could finally get this team into the playoffs.