This offseason, the Toronto Blue Jays grabbed all the headlines with a pair of franchise-altering trades, the first of which netted them every major league player of any value that the Miami Marlins had not named Giancarlo Stanton. The additions of Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, and Emilio Bonifacio through that trade and R.A. Dickey and Melky Cabrera through other acquisitions has given the Blue Jays an entirely new look and for the first time in way too long, realistic hopes to win the American League East next season. But one of the teams standing in their way is the Tampa Bay Rays, and as the Rays look to crush the Blue Jays’ dreams, they’ll utilize a pair of players all too familiar to Blue Jays fans. The Blue Jays may have acquired the Miami Marlins, but the Rays acquired the Blue Jays’ middle infielders from last season, shortstop Yunel Escobar and second baseman Kelly Johnson. And while the Blue Jays were willing to part with Escobar and Johnson, trading Escobar to Miami before the Rays acquired him from there and letting Johnson leave through free agency, the Rays are convinced that both of them are set for breakout seasons in 2013. Both Escobar and Johnson are 30 years old (although Johnson turns 31 later this month) and should be in the primes of their careers, but the Blue Jays let them go after enigmatic seasons in 2012. Escobar managed just a .253/.300/.344 line (75 OPS+) with 9 homers and 5 stolen bases in 145 games, a season that was most notable because Escobar got suspended for writing a gay slur on his eye black, while Johnson managed just a .225/.313/.365 line with 16 homers and 14 stolen bases in 142 games. But the Rays have reason to believe that both of them can rebound in a big way next season.
Armed With Toronto’s Former Middle Infielders, Rays Look To Stun Blue Jays
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