2012 was a year with such great promise. With Ricky Romero coming off a fine season and looking like one of the best young pitchers in the AL, Brandon Morrow seeming poised to have a much anticipated breakout season, Henderson Alvarez ready to build on his impressive debut, and a bevy of young and/or talented starters ready to compete for the final two spots including former 15 game-winner (I know) Brett Cecil, the now ‘healthy’ former top pitching prospect Dustin McGowan, and pitching prospects of a varying readiness and quality including Joel Carreno, Kyle Drabek Drew Hutchison, Chad Jenkins and Deck McGuire.
The offence led by the best hitter in baseball and home run champion of the past two years, Jose Bautista, was no reason for concern considering it had scored the 6th most runs in 2011. Brett Lawrie was expected to produce at the same pace that he had during his torrid debut over a full season and never stop to think about how he was going to be just 22 years old for all of 2012. Colby Rasmus had had time to resolve whatever ills had befallen him at the end of his time in St. Louis and was ready to get back to his success from 2010 when he hit 24 HRs. Kelly Johnson had time to adjust to the AL and would get back to being one of the top second basemen in all of baseball, especially considering he would be even hungrier for a multi-year deal this time around. Edwin Encarnacion was ready to finally put together a full season of success after absolutely demolishing the ball in the latter half of the 2011 season. Yunel Escobar was coming off one of his best offensive seasons and was an elite on-base threat with above-average defence. Even much-maligned DH-turned-LF-turned-1B Adam Lind had spent the offseason working on strengthening his core to ease the strain of playing first base everyday and would finally bounce back to his production of 2009 when he won the Silver Slugger.
Okay, maybe I didn’t drink the Kool-Aid on that last point, but there was reason to be optimistic that there’d be meaningful baseball in August and September for the 2012 Blue Jays. Now with two games left, just about the only thing that worked out from the above was that Edwin Encarnacion put together his much-anticipated breakout campaign. Rather than checking on the wild card standings, I am forced to click on MLBTradeRumors.com’s reverse standings and loathe myself for hoping that the Jays lose their last two games against the lowly Minnesota Twins in order to insure they finish the season in the bottom 9 and secure a protected 1st-round pick.
While the Jays will not necessarily make a play for a free agent who’s been given a qualifying offer by their former team, Alex Anthopoulos would certainly appreciate having the opportunity to do so without risking the loss of his 1st-round pick and the bonus allotment that accompanies it. Of the upcoming free agent class, the following are among the likeliest candidates to be given qualifying offers: Josh Hamilton, Michael Bourn, Melky Cabrera, BJ Upton, Nick Swisher, Mike Napoli, Dan Haren, Edwin Jackson and Jake Peavy. Perhaps only the CFers Upton and Bourn would not represent an area of need for the 2013 Blue Jays. If the big fish have their fill, perhaps AA will find one of the lesser names available for a fair price/term and then having a protected 1st-round pick would prove to be an invaluable asset to him.
Regardless of the draft benefits of losing two otherwise meaningless games, it never seems right to hope for a loss for your team. Therefore, I shall cheer as I always do Tuesday and Wednesday for the Blue Jays to blow out their opponents. If the opposite occurs, forgive me for not shedding any tears.
UPDATE – 10/03:
The fans were hungry for meaningful baseball on the last night of the regular season and for the first time in a while, Jays fans will be on the edge of their seats. With their magic number at 1, any loss by the Jays or win by the Mets will ensure the Jays at best 10th worst record in baseball and the coveted protected 1st-round pick. If it were possible under MLB rules, the following pitchers would be scheduled to pitch for the Jays tonight: Jo-Jo Reyes (starter), Kevin Gregg to work the 6th, Jon Rauch to work the 7th, and Francisco Cordero to work both the 8th and 9th to seal the loss.