Even after potential Blue Jays blockbuster, O's might still have brightest future in AL East

With one trade, the Toronto Blue Jays have filled holes and become instant contenders in the American League East.

The Blue Jays have rolled the dice big-time by trading prospects - including three pitchers - to the Miami Marlins for $160 million worth of proven players, a deal that needs approval from Commissioner Bud Selig.

It's always a gamble to raid the farm system and add payroll, especially for any team that isn't the Yankees.

But the acquisition of pitchers Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle, and infielders Jose Reyes and Emilio Bonifacio puts the Blue Jays in the thick of things in the AL East for the first time in two decades.

With Johnson and Buehrle joining Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow in the rotation, the Blue Jays are solid. They've added pitching to their hitting.

Johnson, if healthy, is a potential Cy Young candidate. Buehrle is coming off his 12th consecutive season of at least 200 innings.

Reyes is a shortstop, potential batting champion and a legitimate leadoff batter that will hit in front Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista and Colby Rasmus in a lineup that hit 198 home runs last season. Encarnacion is the most underrated power hitter in the AL.

The Blue Jays picked a good time to become relevant. The Yankees and Red Sox aren't dominant, and the balance of power is shifting.

At this point, the Orioles, Rays and Blue Jays are the three best in the division. The Yankees are aging and the Red Sox are caught in the middle of rebuilding and reloading.

And who in the AL East has the best future? At this point, it is the Orioles and their young pitching.

The Red Sox have questions in the outfield, at shortstop and in the bullpen. The Yankees have to deal with a thin rotation and ownership that wants to cut payroll.

The Rays have tons of pitching, but with a limited budget, will they ever have the run production to support the arms?

The Orioles' nucleus of Matt Wieters, Adam Jones, J.J. Hardy, Chris Davis, Nick Markakis and Manny Machado is going to be productive for a long time.

The rotation is loaded with pitchers that could each be better next season. The Orioles don't need to spend money this winter to compete with the Blue Jays.

They need to stay the course, find a left fielder, add a pitcher and keep the defense strong. They could be the pick to win the AL East next season.

But the Blue Jays will be a factor. The new players might work perfectly. If not, the Blue Jays will be dealing with payroll inflexibility for years, making it even better for the Orioles.