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With the Holiday Season upon us, it’s a perfect time to offer up a “STATE OF THE AL EAST” report. Now, some teams have been naughty (Blue Jays trading Halladay), while other have been nice (Yankees welcome Ganderson), but this Christmas, every team is hoping their new presents are the perfect gift for next season. Now let’s begin, before I use any more Christmas references.
Curtis Granderson, Nick Johnson, Javier Vasquez
Melky Cabrera, Ian Kennedy, Hideki Matsui, Austin Jackson, Arodys Vizcaino (top prospect)
Much of the talk has been about the Yankees acquiring Curtis Granderson as part of a three-team deal with the Diamondbacks and Tigers. They lost part of their bullpen with the departures of Ian Kennedy and Phil Coke, but gained an All-Star who will be patrolling center field in Yankee Stadium. The team also traded and signed two former players, who were once part of the same deal. Nick Johnson return to the Bronx after six years, where he was originally traded for Javier Vasquez. Vasquez will put pinstripes on for the first time since Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS. Remember that whole Red Sox comeback in the ALCS? Both Johnson and Vasquez are coming off strong seasons, with Vasquez coming in fourth in the NL Cy Young voting this past year.
However, it’s the status of Yankee Veterans that has taken much of the discussion. Andy Pettitte re-signed with the team for one year, after a season where notched 14 wins. He’ll look to add to his 229 wins, which is fourth best among active pitchers. The real major loss was Hideki Matsui. The World Series MVP will now be playing in Anaheim, leaving a hole in New York. The Yankees have a couple of their outfielders testing free agency, such as Xavier Nady and Shelley Duncan, but there has been talk of OF Johnny Damon rejoining the team if he lowers his financial demands. With a payroll over $200 million already, the Yankees have spent the money to win another title now, even if that means sacrificing the future (sorry Arodys Vizcaino and Austin Jackson).
John Lackey, Marco Scutaro, Mike Cameron, Jeremy Hermida
Alex Gonzalez, Takashi Saito, Billy Wagner, (Jason Bay?)
It’s not official, but it appears the Jason Bay era is over before it officially began. Anything can happen in the AL East, but with Mike Cameron coming aboard, it appears that the Red Sox are ready to let Bay walk and they’re not even looking at Matt Holiday. Alongside Cameron, the Sox have made one of the biggest acquisitions already by snagging John Lackey. He comes to a rotation already stacked and makes Boston a dangerous team for opposing hitters. Even after losing Takashi Saito and Billy Wagner, the Boston bullpen already seems poised to keep runs down and have a productive season.
There are concerns over two positions in Beantown: third base and shortstop. Marco Scutaro seems to be a short-term option, but his previous injuries add concern. It seems weird that the team didn’t re-sign Alex Gonzalez and instead let him go to Scutaro’s old team, the Blue Jays. For third base, Boston tried sending Mike Lowell away, but his injured thumb rescinded the trade and brought him back to Boston. Now, Boston might be stuck with him, but a trade for Adrian Gonzalez is still rumored, as is the singing of Adrian Beltre. Still, Red Sox fans should be happy knowing that Victor Martinez will still be with the team and the Sox could look forward to the Boof Bonser era beginning (just kidding).
Akinori Iwamura, Ramon Ramirez, Greg Zaun
It’s not what the Rays haven’t done, but what they have. They have stayed the course. By keeping Carl Crawford, they are keeping the heart of a team that is only a year removed from an appearance in the World Series. With Crawford, B.J. Upton, Evan Longoria, Carols Pena, Ben Zobrist, Jason Bartlett, and Dioner Navarro still batting for Tampa and Matt Garza, James Shields and David Price still pitching, Tampa will be competing for the AL East Crown. Year-in, year-out the talk is all about the Yankees and Red Sox, but Tampa Bay could be looking at another surprise run in 2010. In the words of John Locke (from Lost, not the philosopher), don’t tell them what they can’t do.
Roy Halladay, David Dellucci
Toronto seems to be throwing in the towel for 2010 already, but they will be looking good for the future. Roy Halladay was more then just their ace, he was the face of the franchise and meant a lot to Toronto baseball fans. So when he took out a full page spread in the newspaper to thank the fans, it was a great gesture, but was also the sign that the team will be starting over again. The Blue Jays landed some top prospects with Kyle Drabek, Travis d’Arnaud, Michael Taylor and Brett Wallace and could build a team that can compete down the road. By the end of 2010, many of the components of the Halladay trade could become part of the regular lineup.
Otherwise, the Blue Jays have done nothing much. They gained a shortstop with Alex Gonzalez in basically a swap with Boston, where Scutaro now resides. They have picked up several guys off waivers who have minimal experience in the majors. New GM Alex Anthopoulos has a blank slate to work with and will look to return the team to its glory days of the early 90′s. He will find it difficult however, since he is playing with the Sox and Yankees and their ever expanding payrolls. Still, with the success of the Rays the past two seasons, anything can happen down the road with a strong farm system, so say it with me: “Your 2011 AL East Champion Toronto Blue Jays.” Anything can happen.
Kevin Millwood, Garrett Atkins, Mike Gonzalez
For the most part, the Orioles have not made any significant move this offseason. That is not good news for a team that has finished last in the AL East over the past two season. They have also not won 70 games since 2006. Kevin Millwood is the biggest addition and will most likely become the team’s ace, with a rotation including Jeremy Guthrie, Brad Bergesen, and Brian Matusz. In other words, if there was one team in the AL East you wanted to play, it would be the Orioles. Millwood did have his lowest era since 2005 and has over 120 strikeouts in eight straight seasons, but he can’t pitch everyday to the dismay of Orioles fans.
Veteran Melvin Mora will most likely be gone from the team, after a season that saw home run and RBI production drop dramatically. In is place, the Orioles signed Garrett Atkins. Atkins was once a top hitter for Colorado, with his best year coming in 2006, but he was offensively challenged last season. His nine homeruns were the least he had since 2004, a season where he only played 15 games. It’s hard to see Baltimore fighting for the AL East crown next season. With the Yankees and Red Sox getting better and the Rays sticking with the team that went to the 2008 World Series. Odds are the Orioles will probably be sitting at the bottom of the AL East again.
There is still a long way to go with the MLB offseason. The Yankees still have an outfield issue and the Red Sox might have a hole at third. Expect more money to be thrown around and new players to come to the east coast. For Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays fans, it’s good to know you’ve got a strong chance next season. For the Blue Jays and Orioles fans, it appears that you have gotten coal in your stockings. See you at Spring Training.