Jul 13, 2012; Toronto, ON, Canada; Toronto Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista (19) following his at bat against the Cleveland Indians at the Rogers Centre. The Indians beat the Blue Jays 1-0. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY SportsThink back to when Alex Anthopoulos took over as Toronto Blue Jays GM in October 2009. If someone told you back then that on Opening Day 2013 that the Blue Jays opening day starting pitcher would be R.A. Dickey and that the Blue Jays 2-3-4 hitters were Melky Cabrera, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion you would have thought AA was the worst GM of all time. You also would have thought the Blue Jays would be lucky to crack 60 wins in the AL East with those being the players they would be counting on to win with.
A lot can change in 3 plus years.
Jose Bautista, the Blue Jays franchise player, 2 time home run king, 3 time all-star, the modern Hank Aaron himself was a bench player as recently as 2009. He was also a career journeyman since his big league debut in 2004. In 2009 After the Blue Jays traded Scott Rolen and gave Alex Rios away on waivers to the Chicago White Sox, Bautista started getting playing time. He hit 10 homeruns that September so the Blue Jays kept him on the team for 2010 to see if it wasn’t a fluke. It wasn’t. Bautista had a breakout year in 2010 hitting 54 home runs and got himself a 5 year 65 million contract extension the following offseason.
Edwin Encarnacion was a career journeyman as recently as the beginning of the 2012 season. He had always shown a lot of power between his big league debut in June of 2005 with the Cincinnati Reds to the end of the 2011 season with 117 homeruns despite a lack of playing time and injuries. The power was also all he had shown as his bat was to inconsistent for regular playing time. It didn’t help that Edwin was a liability in the lineup because of his terrible defense at 3rd base. Mid 2011 the Blue Jays took Edwin out of the field and made him their DH. He showed some improvement after being made DH so the Jays brought him back for 2012. In 2012 Edwin finally broke out offensively hitting 42 home runs and was consistent for the entire season with a 384 on base percentage and 941 OPS. He got himself a 3 year 27 million contract extension with the Jays mid-2012 and will now be counted on as a key part of their success for the next few years.
Melky Cabrera started his big league career in July of 2005 as a fourth outfielder for the New York Yankees. For the most part he stayed in that role with the Yankees. He was traded to the Atlanta Braves after the 2009 season and was awful for them hitting 4 home runs with a 647 OPS in 2010. Melky signed with the Kansas City Royals after the 2010 season and finished fourth in hits in the AL with 201 in 2011. He followed that up by becoming the NL batting champion in 2012 for the San Francisco Giants with a ridiculous 346 batting average. Due to his PED suspension in 2012 the Blue Jays were able to sign him to a cheap 2 year 16 million dollar contract. If Melky’s success the last 2 years is because of talent and not PED’s like the Jays are betting on they’ve got themselves a pretty good number 2 hitter to set the table for Bautista and EE.
R.A. Dickey made his big league debut all the way back in 2001. At the start of 2010 he was a 35 year old journeyman who looked like he had no chance of making a career out of baseball. The New York Mets gave Dickey a minor league contract in 2010 and he started the season in the minor leagues. Dickey eventually came to the big leagues in May and had a breakout season with 2 complete games, 174.1 innings pitched, 104 strikeouts, a 2.84 ERA and 1.19 WHIP. He followed that up with 2 great seasons in 2011 and 2012, winning the CY Young in 2012. The Blue Jays acquired Dickey and gave him a contract extension this offseason in the hopes that he’ll be able to continue being a dominate starting pitcher.
If all these players performed like stars from the beginning of their careers the Blue Jays definitely wouldn’t have been able to acquire them or have them all under team friendly contracts. Let’s just be happy they picked their careers off of the ground at the right time for the Blue Jays to take advantage.