Strengths: Power. These guys sure can slug. Bautista. Encarnacion. Lind. Rasmus. Lawrie. Arencibia. Even Jose Reyes, way better known for his rocket speed, has some pop. Few line ups, if any, feature 8 guys in it at any given time that can turn the game on its head with a long ball. Very quietly, this team has a pretty good bullpen too, featuring quality arms Casey Janssen, Steve Delabar, and Brett Cecil.
Weaknesses: Decline and durability. Brett Lawrie and Jose Reyes are five tool players, but have shown an alarming propensity to get hurt. The incredible Jose Bautista has struggled to stay on the field the last couple of years. Brendan Morrow and his Cy Young stuff can’t put a full season together. You just can’t have that amount of star power in the infirmary and expect to contend. Especially when guys like Mark Buehrle, for years a front of the rotation guy, are starting to noticeably decline, and former Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey’s ERA creeps up over four. It’s like the ugly person at the club who dances really well. They look good from afar, but are far from good.
Off-Season Needs: Blow up the staff. No, they’re not terrible, like Houston Astros terrible. They’re serviceable, but serviceable doesn’t get it done if you want to contend. You may have to wait until the trading deadline approaches, and contenders are willing to overpay for veteran leadership to pull this off. But trade Buehrle. Trade Dickey, who you can get a king’s ransom for at his affordable salary. You can also trade a veteran bat like either Bautista or Encarnacion (or both???) and get some front end prospects, pay up for the best free agent pitcher on the market in the 2014/15 offseason, and now you’re working on a core with real potential.
2014 Outlook: Not good. They finished 74-88 last year. They might improve on that slightly simply by the virtue that I see every other team in the AL East, including the champion Bo Sox, having slight to significant regression (I’m looking at you, Baltimore). But they won’t finish above .500. No chance.