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Toronto's offseason has changed the American League playoff landscape

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Alex Anthopoulos' moves in Toronto could have a ripple effect on the entire American League playoff picture.

Tom Szczerbowski-US PRESSWIRE

Last Tuesday, Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos sent shockwaves through the baseball world, when he finalized a deal that brought Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, John Buck and Emilio Bonifacio to Toronto, in exchange for a slew of prospects (and not even Toronto's best, mind you), Yunel Escobar and Henderson Alvarez.

Toronto wasn't done there, though. The Blue Jays signed Melky Cabrera to a modest, two-year, $16 million dollar deal, to help fortify a lineup that already features Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Brett Lawrie, and now Reyes. The Blue Jays also have J.P. Arencibia as trade bait, as the team prepares for the arrival of top prospect Travis D'Arnaud.

Oh yeah, there's still some hope for players like Colby Rasmus and Adam Lind, too.

Johnson's acquisition gives Toronto something they've lacked for years: a true, top of the rotation pitcher. Yes, Johnson comes with a huge injury risky that simply can't be understated, but neither can his talent: Johnson is one of the most talented pitchers in all of baseball. If Toronto can get 25-35 starts out of him, they'll be thrilled.

Buehrle also gives Toronto something they've lacked in recent years -- solid, dependable innings. Mark Buehrle is not going to strike fear into opposing lineups, but he will give innings. Buehrle has thrown over 200 innings every year since 2001, and has never been worth less than 2.0 bWAR in a given season.

For a team that saw injuries strike nearly every starting pitcher the past year, that's something really, really special, no matter how ordinary it seems.

No, the Blue Jays aren't a perfect team, but at this point, who is? At the least, Toronto's latest moves have placed them easily among the playoff contenders in the American League, and at best, an argument can be made that the Blue Jays, not the New York Yankees, are the team to beat in the AL East.

Toronto's moves have a ripple effect on the entire league's playoff picture -- not just the AL East.

Consider this. The AL West is welcoming one of the least talented rosters in baseball to the division next year, as the Houston Astros' rebuilding effort will now take place in the AL West, rather than the NL Central. While the edge may not be significant, teams like the Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Angels and Oakland Athletics will now be able to chalk a few more wins per year up, as they get to beat up on the Astros -- on paper, at least.

In the AL East, one of the doormats (Toronto) has turned into a contender overnight, making it far more difficult for the East to produce two wild card teams -- and it may even jeopardize the division's chances at even producing one wild card team.

Yes, the Yankees will contend. Yes, the Rays will contend. Yes, the Red Sox probably at least pretend to contend for half the year. Yes, the Orioles probably regress. Yes, the Blue Jays are better.

What's that mean? Well, that means a lot of losses for intradivision games in the AL East, which, in turn, reduces the division's chances at producing multiple wild card teams.

Sure, it's very, very possible the AL East produces at least one, and still possibly two, wild card teams in 2013. But Toronto has opened the door for teams in the AL Central and AL West to sneak into the playoff picture later in the year, as the Blue Jays will be yet another team taking away wins from teams like the Rays and Yankees down the stretch.

Toronto probably isn't done making moves yet, either.

It's a long, long, long way between now and spring training, but Rangers fans, Angels fans and A's fans can at the least be a little happy so far in the offseason, as the path to the playoffs is already that much harder for the Yankees, Rays, Orioles and Red Sox.

Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.