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A new season on the horizon for the Jays


Is Russell Martin the upgrade the Jays are looking for? Martin became the team's newest catcher for the 2015 season.

Joel Luxford | Interrobang | Sports | March 2nd, 2015

As we move through the dead of winter, I thought it would be comforting to visualize the thought of spring air, the smell of freshly cut grass and the soon-to-arrive baseball season. With spring on the horizon, pitchers and catchers were scheduled to report on February 22 for the Toronto Blue Jays.

This season appears to be a “make or break” one for general manager Alex Anthopoulos. After bringing in high priced players such as Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle two years ago, the Blue Jays yet again failed to make the playoffs in 2014, stretching that to a streak of 21 consecutive seasons.

But there is hope on the horizon. The Blue Jays made some significant strides this winter to improve the team’s chances in 2015.

Let’s recap some of the Blue Jays most significant off-season moves:

Blue Jays sign free agent C Russell Martin to five-year $82 million contract

The Blue Jays recognized a weakness at the catcher position and made a significant upgrade by signing the Toronto-born Russell Martin. With Martin, the Blue Jays get a superior defensive catcher compared to former incumbent Dioner Navarro, particularly in the pitch framing department. Martin also has an on-base percentage that is 40 points higher than Navarro, which will lead to him getting on base more often and scoring more runs.

Blue Jays trade 2B/3B Brett Lawrie and three minor- leaguers for 3B Josh Donaldson

While this move came as a shock to many, the acquisition of Josh Donaldson could be the single most important move the Blue Jays made this off-season. In terms of advanced stats, Wins Above Replacement (WAR) analyzes a player’s contributions in both offensive and defensive categories. This analysis is compared to the league average and helps determine how many extra wins that player can contribute to your team during the season. In 2014, only two players had a higher WAR than Donaldson: Trout and Kershaw.

Blue Jays trade LHP J.A. Happ for outfielder Michael Saunders

The Blue Jays shipped out the 32-year-old left-handed Happ for the enigmatic Michael Saunders. In Saunders, the Jays received a high-upside outfielder to replace departed outfielder Melky Cabrera. Saunders – a native of Victoria B.C. – gives Blue Jays fans one more Canadian to cheer for this season.

However, on February 25 Saunders tore the miniscus in his left knee. He will undergo surgery and rehab, expected to take five months.

As the spring approaches, a few questions will need to be answered to determine if this season will be the one in which the Blue Jays finally breakthrough and make good on their promise of making the postseason.

First, can rookie Dalton Pompey handle full-time duties as the club’s starting centre fielder?

Second, can the black hole that still exists at second base be filled by a platoon of veterans Maicer Izturis and Munenori Kawasaki?

Third, does Toronto have a deep enough bullpen to overcome the sixth worst ERA from last season?

There are a number of question marks surrounding the 2015 Toronto Blue Jays, but the most important one will be if this is the year where the Blue Jays finally make the playoffs.
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