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The 2013 edition of the Toronto Blue Jays may be the latest version of a common sports phenomenon: The on-paper favourite. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, because in the case of the Jays this season the names on that piece of paper have the makings of one of the strongest teams Toronto’s seen in a long time.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Toronto’s last playoff appearance, but the lineup assembled by GM Alex Anthopoulos is giving pundits – and fans – reason to believe that the dubious distinction might soon be coming to an end.

“On paper, and I can’t stress this enough, it looks as if the Blue Jays have the best line-up in the division,” says Jamie Campbell, host of Sportsnet’s pre- and post- game show Blue Jays Central. “[But] the Blue Jays of 2013 come with a warning: Yes they look good, but they still haven’t played 162 games.”

After a 2012 campaign that saw them finish 4th in the AL East with a 73-89 record, the Jays completely overhauled their roster during an eventful offseason highlighted by a massive a 12-player trade with the Miami Marlins.

Notable additions include reigning NL Cy Young Award-winning pitcher R.A. Dickey (20-6, an NL-leading 230 strikeouts), veteran left-handed pitcher Mark Buehrle (13-13, 3.74 ERA), and all-star shortstop Jose Reyes (.287 average, 40 stolen bases, 86 runs).

Reyes gives the Jays what Campbell calls an “absolutely dynamic” leadoff hitter who hits for average, can steal bases, and plays solid defence (a .973 fielding percentage with 18 errors last year). “He’s going to be the most exciting player on the Blue Jays this year,” says Campbell.

Somewhat overlooked in all the excitement is the addition of free agent outfielder Melky Cabrera, who was off to a terrific start with the San Francisco Giants last year before being suspended for using performance-enhancing drugs.

Cabrera is expected to hit second behind Reyes, but it’s unlikely he will be able to match the numbers he achieved with the Giants last year. However, Campbell says a reasonable barometer for the 28-year-old would be his 2009 season, when he hit .274 with 13 homers and 68 RBIs.

The newcomers join a core group of returnees that features the 2011 home run champion Jose Bautista, looking to rebound from an injury-plagued 2012 campaign that limited him to just 92 games, and clean-up hitter Edwin Encarnacion, who enjoyed a breakout season last year with 42 homers and 110 RBIs.

Pitching was a significant weakness for the Jays in 2012, as they finished 11th in the AL in both team ERA and strikeouts. This year, the Blue Birds are blessed with a starting rotation that has the potential to be one of the best in the division. In addition to Dickey – who is singlehandedly responsible for the creation of the baseball oxymoron “hard-throwing knuckleballer” – the Jays acquired a proven veteran in Buehrle, who has won at least 13 games in each of his five past seasons.

So are the 2013 Toronto Blue Jays for real or just another on-paper favourite? They begin writing their story on April 2.

How-To: Stream the Jays in Many Ways

On your Smartphone:

Smartphone streaming is available to all Rogers wireless customers through the Rogers Anyplace TV™ app (available for iOS, Android and BlackBerry). Cost is $5/month for ten hours of viewing; overage is $1/hour/month of viewing. The app is free to download and overage charges are waived until Oct. 31st, 2013.

On your Tablet:

Available to all Rogers digital TV customers who subscribe to Sportsnet and Sportsnet ONE. Access and stream the games through the free-to-download Rogers Anyplace TV app for tablets (available for iOS and Android) and watch unlimited with no extra fees or costs. Games are accessible Canada-wide.

On your Desktop Computer:

Available to all Rogers digital TV customers who subscribe to Sportsnet and Sportsnet ONE. Access the games through Rogers Anyplace TV online. Games are accessible Canada-wide.


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