Man, what an offseason it’s been for the AL East. We’ve seen everything from monster blockbuster trades to big free agent signings. All the while, the team who used to be a part of it all, took a backseat to the whole madness and instead opted for less noise. It’s true, the offseason still has plenty of life left in it, but let’s breakdown some of the division rivals offseasons.
Many are wondering if the Orioles are a one-hit wonder, or if they are here to stay. They have plenty of young talent due to their futility throughout the past decade and a half. Names like Manny Machado, Dylan Bundy will soon be staples who excel alongside Adam Jones, Matt Wieters and Nick Markakis. The O’s prospects are looking good, for sure.
As for the offseason signings, they didn’t dip into the free agent market as much as one would think. In fact, they lost corner infielder Mark Reynolds after he was non-tendered by the team (later signed by the Cleveland Indians) in November. Other than that, they’ve been relatively quiet, however, perhaps the biggest news here is that they are going after big-name free agents and actually have a chance at signing them.
Tampa Bay Rays
With such a deep farm system that includes a ridiculous amount of good pitching, and Joe Maddon manning the ship, the Rays will always be in contention. As is always the case with the Rays, once a player gets a little too expensive they pass and call up the next guy. This year, it was BJ Upton, who darted to Atlanta via free agency, and James Shields who was traded to the Royals, after spending their entire careers with the Rays. The Shields trade netted them OF Wil Myers, RHP Jake Odorizzi, LHP Mike Montgomery, and 3B Patrick Leonard, but the Rays also gave up RHP Wade Davis in the deal. Both pitchers the Rays received in the deal are top-tier talent. The catch is obviously the talented Myers, who was Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the year after hitting 37 home runs with a .313/.387/.600 slash line.
They also lost Carlos Pena after he signed with the Houston Astros, however, they picked up James Loney ,after he wasn’t re-signed by the Boston Red Sox, to take over first base duties. The Rays acquired shortstop Yunel Escobar from the Miami Marlins to help finally shore up the left side of the infield. They also retained the services of reigning Cy Young award winner, David Price, by avoiding arbitration and signing him to a one-year deal.
The Jays have their hand firmly in the cookie jar this year and are hoping to pull out something very sweet come October. They made the two biggest splashes of the offseason by sending C Jeff Mathis, SS Yunel Escobar, IF Adeiny Hechavarria, OF Jake Marisnick, RHP Henderson Alvarez, RHP Anthony DeSclafani, and LHP Justin Nicolino to Miami in exchange for C John Buck, SS Jose Reyes, IF/OF Emilio Bonifacio, RHP Josh Johnson, LHP Mark Buehrle, and $4 million.
They didn’t stop there, they also added RHP R.A. Dickey, C Mike Nickeas, and C Josh Thole from the New York Mets for C Travis d’Arnaud, C John Buck, OF Wuilmer Becerra, and RHP Noah Syndergaard. It’s a ridiculous amount of turnover for a team that is aiming to contend for at least the next few years. The pitching staff alone now includes Dickey, Johnson, and Buerhle to be accompanied by Brandon Morrow and former all-star Ricky Romero. Also, the lineup now has a superstar talent in Reyes to set the table for Jose Bautista. Seemingly overnight, the Jays upgraded their entire team at the expense of a few of their farm hands. All told they gave up the #1, #2, #3, #5, and #8 prospects in their system in order to acquire the Major League talent they have this winter. They also added former Yankee, Melky Cabrera to the team via free agency. The Jays, on paper at least, are looking pretty formidable in 2013.
What an absolute mess the Red Sox were in 2012. Between the bad pitching, especially a porous bullpen, they just couldn’t get it together. They traded away Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, and Adrian Gonzalez to the Dodgers last season to help free up money for this offseason. They weren’t world beaters in the market this offseason, but they did pick up some good pieces in positions of need. For instance, Joel Hanrahan, who was acquired from the Pirates, helps solidify the back end of the bullpen and will likely supplant incumbent closer Andrew Bailey. Meanwhile, after losing OF Cody Ross to free agency, the Red Sox added outfielders Jonny Gomes and Shane Victorino to play on either side of Jacoby Ellsbury. They also added Stephen Drew, to take over the revolving door that is shortstop. Their biggest “get” was catcher Mike Napoli, who will persumably step in to provide power and protection for David Ortiz.
The Red Sox didn’t lose much outside Loney to the Rays, Mark Melacon to the Pirates, and Ross to the Diamondbacks. They also get John Lackey back from injury, after spending the entire 2012 season on the shelf.
While the Yankees didn’t add many pieces this year, and didn’t go for the big splash they’re known for, they are still very well in the hunt for the playoffs. The Blue Jays are the biggest newcomers to the fray. The O’s lost a little power with Reynolds leaving, but they still have a good bullpen and a underrated starting pitching staff. They’re a scrappy team, much like the Yankees were in the mid-to-late 90′s.
The Rays have set out a blueprint as to how to win in the AL East without a ton of money: draft well and get some value out of your top players before losing them to free agency. Meanwhile, the Red Sox still have plenty of question marks surrounding their team. The Sox didn’t add much to their starting staff other than Ryan Dempster, who is aging and didn’t look too good with the Rangers last season.
All in all, you can’t win a title in the offseason, but you can certainly build the best product as possible, and the Jays are the winners so far this offseason. It’ll remain to be seen if they translate that into wins and a playoff berth (See: 2012 Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim).
Special thanks to MLBdepthcharts.com for compiling transactions