Know Your Enemy: Toronto Blue Jays

Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

The Cubs head north of the border this year for the first time since 2008.

Mark these dates on your calendar: September 8, 9 and 10.

That's when the Cubs head north to visit the Blue Jays in the Rogers Centre, and I'd give better-than-even odds that if Jeff Samardzija has a start in that series, it will be in the blue-and-white uniform of the Blue Jays.

I have nothing to base that on other than a hunch, and of course whether the Blue Jays are in contention or not, which they probably think they will be, but...

Toronto spent a ton of money in the 2012-13 offseason and made multiple trades and put their players in snazzy new uniforms that evoked the original era of the Jays, and promptly sank to the bottom of the American League East. And when I say "promptly," I mean it -- the Jays were 10-21 and 10½ games out of first place on May 4. Even the Cubs' record was better than that on that date (okay, so not a lot better, 11-19). Toronto made a run (that included an impressive 11-game winning streak) back to .500 at 41-41 in early July, but sank back to last place.

Have they improved their lot since last year?

I'd have to say "not really." The only real change to their starting lineup is the addition of former Cub Dioner Navarro to catch. They did this primarily because the previous incumbent, J.P. Arencibia, hit a Koyie Hill-esque .194/.227/.365 (59 OPS+) last year. Arencibia has headed to Texas to be the starter there. While you might think Navarro would be an improvement offensively over Arencibia, check out Dioner's splits from 2013:

Home: 125 AB, .336/.414/.595, nine home runs Road: 115 AB, .266/.316/.395, four home runs

So Navarro's great 2013 season was almost entirely Wrigley-produced. Plus, he is a serious defensive downgrade from Arencibia.

Beyond that, the Jays have to hope that:

  • R.A. Dickey returns to his 2012 Cy Young form. It's possible for a knuckleballer, but Dickey does turn 40 just after this season ends.
  • Jose Bautista stays healthy and recovers his power stroke.
  • Brett Lawrie stays healthy and can hit like he did while he was in their farm system.
  • Brandon Morrow can have a full, healthy season.
  • Jose Reyes returns to a level of performance he hasn't had since 2011.

I think you get the idea. This team has too many "if"s to really contend in the tough American League East, where four teams finished over .500 last year and could do so again this year. I mean, all those things could happen, and Colby Rasmus could turn into an All-Star, and Casey Janssen could continue saving games, and...

I'll stop now. The Jays are probably good enough to win the series from the Cubs, and it will be odd to see Shark in that uniform, if that sort of trade ever does happen.

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