Competing in the meat-grinder that is the American League East is enough of a challenge on its own for the Toronto Blue Jays, but Shohei Ohtani’s decision to join the Los Angeles Angels is the latest way the rest of the league keeps getting tougher, too. The Japanese sensation’s somewhat unexpected decision announced Friday by his agent Nez Balelo at Creative Arts Agency immediately deepens the pool of legitimate wild-card contenders in the Junior Circuit. Ohtani bolsters a lineup that also includes Mike Trout, Justin Upton, Albert Pujols and Kole Calhoun and deepens a rotation that features Garrett Richards, Matt Shoemaker, Tyler Skaggs and Parker Bridwell. By no means are the Angels an instant threat to depose the defending World Series-champion Houston Astros in the AL West, but they and fellow division rivals Seattle and Texas – two of the very disappointed runner-ups for Ohtani – all are good enough to compete for wild-card spots. The Minnesota Twins, a young team that surprised its way to a wild-card this past season, should pile up wins in an AL Central sure to be dominated by Cleveland as Detroit, the White Sox and Kansas City each take steps back on reset or rebuild. And the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees aren’t going away any time soon in an AL East that will include tough games against Baltimore and Tampa Bay, too. All of which leaves Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins and his staff with lots of work to do at the winter meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., next week to strengthen a team facing an increasingly daunting hunt. Atkins can fairly point to roster upside simply with better health – starting, first and foremost, with Aaron Sanchez, who is due to resume throwing imminently – but the AL’s worst offence needs more help than Aledmys Diaz, the intriguing and versatile infielder who is the club’s only add of consequence thus far. Ohatni’s decision may partially loosen the bottleneck that’s largely held up the winter’s business to this point, and once the ongoing Giancarlo Stanton drama gets settled things should really start moving.
Blue Jays left with lots of work to do in wake of Ohtani decision
Sportsnet | Dec 8