Home MLB MLB offseason so far: AL East

MLB offseason so far: AL East

by Matt Smith

We end our review of the offseason so far by looking at the five teams in the American League East.

New York Yankees

It’s been a relatively quiet offseason up to this point for the Yankees. 

The batting lineup was set once the team picked up right-fielder Nick Swisher’s 2012 option and they quickly addressed the one major potential roster problem by agreeing a new five-year contract with ace CC Sabathia.  The prospect of him leaving was unthinkable for the Yankees and, owing to their riches, it didn’t seem likely that they would let it happen. 

The Yankees have also re-signed Freddy Garcia on a one-year deal, but they continue to be linked with other starting pitchers, as entrusting the other three rotation spots to A.J. Burnett, Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova could be risky for a variety of reasons (in order: erratic, injury risk and potential sophomore slump, although I think Nova should have another good season).  

New York have highly-rated prospects that could be used in a trade – DH Jesus Montero and pitchers Manuel Bañuelos and Dellin Betances –however they should be reluctant to part with them unless a real ace was available (i.e. Felix Hernandez).  Another modest one or two year contract with a veteran starter, as the Yankees completed with Garcia and Bartolo Colon last year, would make more sense otherwise.

Tampa Bay Rays

One year ago, the Rays saw a host of regulars departing as free agents and yet they still managed to put together a roster that made it back to the postseason. With the Yankees remaining strong and the Red Sox intent on making amends for their late season collapse, it’s not getting any easier for the Rays to stay in contention even though there have been less departures over this offseason compared to last.

In terms of the free agents, Johnny Damon is a possible candidate to return on another one-year deal, while the Rays could also re-sign free agent first baseman Casey Kotchman to a relatively cheap deal, although really they would be hoping to find someone who can make a much bigger impact at a prime offence-first position.

The latest young pitcher to come off the Rays’ production line, Matt Moore, signed a new contract with the Rays that will allow them to keep him at a reasonable price for years to come.  The question now is whether the Rays will deal from their pitching depth to acquire a bat or two.  They haven’t done so yet, but James Shields’ name continues to be mentioned as a possible trade target and Tampa Bay might also make Wade Davies available.

Veteran Jose Molina has been brought in at the catching position and currently he is slated to share time with youngster Jose Lobaton. 

Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox’s infamous September collapse has been deconstructed numerous times over the last couple of months.  Regardless of the real reasons for the meltdown, General Manager Theo Epstein and Manager Terry Francona have both left, being replaced by Ben Cherington and the high-energy Bobby Valentine respectively.

The players largely remain.  In the cases of John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka, both will miss significant time in 2012 after undergoing Tommy John surgery (Lackey is ruled out for the season, while Matsuzaka may be available at the tail-end of the campaign) and while Red Sox fans won’t exactly ‘miss’ either of them, their absence and the injury red flag attached to Clay Buchholz does make the rotation a source of concern if there are no additions.

Former set-up man Daniel Bard is expected to move into the rotation and that will mean the sharp end of the Red Sox’s bullpen will be completely new for 2012.  Former closer Jonathan Papelbon has joined the Phillies as a free agent, so the Red Sox made a trade with the A’s for their closer Andrew Bailey and also traded infielder Jed Lowrie to the Houston Astros in return for Mark Melancon.

David Ortiz has accepted arbitration with the Red Sox, although they will attempt to come to an agreement on a new two-year contract before getting to an arbitration hearing. Infielder Nick Punto and catcher Kelly Shoppach have been added to the Boston bench, but otherwise the batting lineup is unlikely to see many new additions following the team’s significant investment in Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford one year ago.

Toronto Blue Jays

Based on the rumours, the Blue Jays have spent much of the offseason on the verge of making a major addition.  At one point they were considered favourites in the Yu Darvish stakes, they were consistently linked with Gio Gonzalez before the A’s traded him to the Nationals, and they continue to be one of the main names linked to signing Prince Fielder.

With the Blue Jays reportedly not keen on agreeing to a contract at the length that Fielder will probably command, it looks like they will go 0-for-3 on those names and I suspect that they would only act in this offseason if they could get a guy they really wanted.

So fans in Toronto may be left with not much more than the current trades for closer Sergio Santos, outfielder Ben Francisco and catcher Jeff Mathis, plus second baseman Kelly Johnson returning after accepting arbitration.

However, I wouldn’t completely rule out a swoop for a big name just yet.

Baltimore Orioles

Unfortunately, I cannot sugar-coat the Orioles’ position. The batting additions made a year ago didn’t really pan out and the desperately disappointing development of their pitching prospects (most notably Brian Matusz) has meant that it will still take several years before this organization gets anywhere close to getting back on track.

It’s partly for that reason that so many potential candidates reportedly turned down the opportunity to take over from Andy MacPhail as the team’s President of Baseball Operations, before former Red Sox GM Dan Duquette finally decided to take the plunge.  So far the team has added left-handed pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada and outfielder Endy Chavez, with rumours of Adam Jones being the subject of trade talks refusing to go away.

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