Morosi: Santana could lift Blue Jays' chances to 'conceivable'
MAR 08, 2014 4:31p ET
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Last year, the Toronto Blue Jays were a popular pick to finish first in the American League East. This year, they're a popular pick to finish last. One lousy season was all it took to change the perception of essentially the same group of players.
The reality: The 2013 Blue Jays weren't as good as the expectations suggested nor as bad as they looked during a 74-88 slog. Consider the players who have departed since the start of last season: J.P. Arencibia, Emilio Bonifacio, Rajai Davis, Mark DeRosa, Henry Blanco, Josh Johnson, Darren Oliver and Brad Lincoln. With all due respect to their respective abilities, I wouldn't describe any of them as exceedingly difficult to replace -- aside from what Johnson was supposed to be.
If, before the blockbuster trade with the Marlins, you had told Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos that Johnson would go 2-8 with a 6.20 ERA in only 16 starts, the deal wouldn't have happened. In acquiring Johnson, Mark Buehrle and R.A. Dickey, the Jays validated the notion that they needed three proven, reliable starters atop the rotation to compete in the AL East.
Therein you have the rationale for the Jays' pursuit of free agent Ervin Santana.
"It's not the same players: We're missing Josh Johnson, who was supposed to be a big key to our rotation," Toronto right fielder Jose Bautista said of the 2013-2014 comparison. "One-fifth of your rotation shouldn't be overlooked. That's important. That's why it's so important that we add (Santana)."
Bautista has followed the Santana negotiations closely. The two friends were on the same side of a recent shakeup at the Proformance sports agency. Jay Alou, former head of Proformance's Latin American division, resigned from the agency within the last several days and is now representing clients on his own. Bautista confirmed Saturday that he, like Santana, is now represented by Alou, the son of former major league outfielder Jesus Alou.
One industry source told FOX Sports 1 that Santana has not set a deadline to make a decision and is prepared to wait "days" before signing with a club.
Even with Santana, questions would persist about the Toronto rotation. But if the Jays spend $14 million on a one-year deal for him, as they would like to do, they will buy a chance to dream again. Their chances to contend in baseball's most brutal division will be upgraded from "remote" to "conceivable."
What if Santana repeats last year's showing in Kansas City -- 9-10 with a 3.24 ERA in 211 innings? What if Buehrle delivers his usual 200-plus innings with an ERA near 3.80? What if Dickey adapts his knuckleball to the AL East and lowers his ERA from last year's 4.21 to around 3.90?
What if the injury-prone Brandon Morrow and Drew Hutchison, who is coming back from Tommy John surgery, each give the Jays about 120 decent innings? What if Ricky Romero, who has battled severe control issues since an All-Star season in 2011, continues the progress he showed in Friday's outing?
What if prospect Marcus Stroman, who isn't major league ready yet, refines his changeup and contributes in the second half?
It's not farfetched to predict that three or four of those scenarios will come to pass. And if that happens, well, the Blue Jays have a chance. After all, a visitor to Red Sox camp at this time last year wouldn't have looked at the Boston rotation and declared that team a lock to reach the postseason.
Surely, there must have been something to all of the optimism for baseball in Toronto last year. Right?