Did Tim Kurkjian really just say the AL East is one of the worst divisions in baseball?
So having three teams with 90+ win season in 2012 didn’t mean anything. And one of those teams that didn’t reach 90 is now moving towards “favorite” status because of their insane offseason doesn’t mean anything? And the other team that didn’t reach 90 wins can’t have as bad a season as last year, right? Right??
New Additions in the Division
Notable Blue Jay Additions: Melky Cabrera, Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, John Buck, RA Dickey
Let’s start with the team who have surprised pretty much everyone in the league with their offseason aggression, the Toronto Blue Jays. What’s interesting here is that they mirror last offseason’s surprise, the Miami Marlins, who aren’t usually aggressive either. They’re both small market expansion franchises, both won two World Series each, and are on the opposite ends of baseball geographically. And now, they’ve exchanged a lot of their players.
Prior to this blockbuster deal, the Jays traded for the much-maligned Melky Cabrera, who is returning to the AL East after a torrid season with the San Francisco Giants. A drug-related suspension marred Cabrera’s season, and questions of how much the PEDs affected his game is the big question for the 2013 season.
Most recently, 2012 NL Cy Young winner, RA Dickey, agreed to signing an extension that will complete a trade between the Blue Jays and the Mets. Dickey had an amazing season last year, but there is something here that should concern some Blue Jays fans. While playing in the AL, Dickey’s ERA never dipped below 4.6. However, Dickey also threw for significantly less innings, and his workhorse role for the Mets may be a big factor for his new team.
Notable Red Sox Additions: Manager John Farrell, Jonny Gomes, Mike Napoli (???), Shane Victorino, Ryan Dempster, Stephen Drew
Really, anything is better than last season. That being said, there are some big questions with these latest signings. Victorino and Drew saw their numbers fall last season, Gomes has only played a full season once, Dempster struggled once he started facing the AL, and Napoli is still going through contract negotiations over health issues. But hey, John Farrell is a good choice…if you like managers who have a record of 154-170.
But the Red Sox have spending room now. They’ll have a healthy David Ortiz, a healthy Dustin Pedroia, and a pitching staff that is coming off a what was hopefully a fluke year. They’ve filled holes in the outfield, while giving space (via Johnny Gomes’ spot) for prospects to develop and eventually take over roles. The Drew acquisition is pretty huge because it almost serves as a placeholder until Xander Bogaerts (the shortstop of the future/the Sox number one prospect) takes over Jose Iglesias’ (the abysmal hitter) spot.
Napoli, Victorino, and Dempster could go either way, but hopefully this won’t turn into an Adrian Gonzalez-Carl Crawford-John Lackey situation. The Sox will take the Gonzalez, but not so much the Crawford and Lackey. Oh yeah, what are they going to do with Cody Ross?
Notable Yankee Additions: Kevin Youkilis
I decided to use a picture of Youk in a Red Sox jersey to make it sink in a little more. This is the first former big name Sox player to go to the Yankees since Johnny Damon. It will be interesting to see him play at Fenway, but the “boo’s” and “Youuuu’s” will be nearly inseparable.
The Yankees have stood pat this offseason, not making many moves. The Youkilis acquisition filled a hole that Alex Rodriguez’s decaying body left behind. Other holes – Russell Martin and Nick Swisher not returning – will get filled from within the system, specifically Cervelli and Brett Gardner/Ichiro. Just imagine the outfield of Gardner, Ichiro, and Granderson. Almost every ball is catchable.
The remaining spot to the Yankees need to address is the DH position, which isn’t too difficult to find. At the same time, with the moves made by the Blue Jays, the Bronx Bombers have to address it quickly.
Notable Rays Additions: James Loney, Yunel Escobar, and lots of prospects, including Wil Myers (above).
Out goes Carlos Pena, BJ Upton, and James Shields, in comes a new wave of Rays talent. Like the Yankees, the Rays weren’t all that active in the buyer market, letting players go elsewhere rather than signing them to long contracts. This means a bunch of younglings and determining who is and who isn’t MLB-ready.
One player who is certainly MLB-ready is Wil Meyers, who came over from the Kansas City Royal in the James Shields trade, and he should be the future in Tampa Bay. With Evan Longoria healthy and a team that constantly overachieves behind the fantastic Joe Maddon, the Rays should contend again.
…Unless they don’t. Is that lineup really good enough to contend with the rest of the AL East?
Notable Orioles Additions: Uh….
So the Baltimore Orioles either A) have no money to spend B) are confident in their team that won the Wild Card last season or C) both. No one of that much significance (e.g. role players) joined the Orioles this offseason…yet. They’ve been looking at players such as first baseman Adam LaRoche and pitcher…er…whatever Fausto Carmona goes by now.
But do they need to add anyone? They’ve got a pretty good outfield with Adam Jones and Nick Markakis out there, and some great young players in Matt Wieters and Manny Machado. A LaRoche couldn’t hurt for sure, and it would be really interesting to see this team to continue to contend.
The divide between young teams (Rays, Orioles) and old (everyone else) is clear, and with so much uncertainty in new acquisitions and player health, it’s hard to predict the AL East…except that the Yankees will probably be near the top. Damnit.