Sunday, January 5, 2014

We are about two months into free agency, but the hot stove is just heating up. Some teams in the AL East look completely different, while others look about the same. Let's take a look at who has taken a step forward and who has taken a step back this offseason thus far.

Boston Red Sox: They have gotten slightly worse. Overall, the defending champions look similar to how they looked last year.

Their pitching remains the same, but they lost their starting center fielder, catcher, and likely shortstop in Jacoby Ellsbury, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Stephen Drew. As of now, replacing those three players are Jackie Bradley Jr., AJ Pierzynski, and Xander Bogaerts. Bradley Jr is a nice looking player, but he is no Ellsbury. Shane Victorino had a great season in 2013, but is likely to regress, so their outfield, as a whole, has taken a step back.

In the infield, they have Mike Napoli, Dustin Pedroia, Bogaerts, and Will Middlebrooks. You can't expect the injury-prone Napoli to have a healthy season again as he played over 115 games for only the second time in his career.

You know what you are getting in Pedroia. Middlebrooks is likely to improve a little bit, but the key is Bogaerts. He could potentially be a lot better than Drew, or he could be worse. Having a young, inexperienced shortstop could hurt them. Behind the plate, going from Saltalamacchia to Pierzynski isn't a downgrade or an upgrade.

Baltimore Orioles: They have taken a step back. After finishing third in the AL East standings with a record of 85-77, many thought the Orioles would finally make a big splash to take that next step. So far, that just hasn't happened. 

They lost their starting left fielder in Nate McLouth, and have Reimold in left field right now. Jason Hammel, who has been one of their best starting pitchers the past couple years, is currently a free agent. They lost Jim Johnson, who I on of the best closers In the league and had 50 saves last season. Brian Roberts is now with the Yankees, but Ryan Flaherty is just as good as him and a lot younger. 

Overall, they lost their closer, a starting pitcher, their starting left fielder, and Roberts. Who did they bring in to make up for those losses? Jemile Weeks.

Toronto Blue Jays: The Jays, who finished last in the AL East this past season, haven't gotten better or worse. 

They have upgraded a little bit at the catching position, going from JP Arencibia to Dioner Navarro. It is a downgrade in terms of power but Navarro had a much higher OBP than Arencibia. 

They have gone from being bad at second base, to being bad at second base. Last season, they had Mark Derosa and Kawasaki. Right now, they have Ryan Goins. They lost Josh Johnson, who signed with the Padres, but he had a terrible season so that isn't much of a loss.

The Jays still need to add a starting pitcher before the winter if over, and it's been looking like one of Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana could be the guy that get.

Tampa Bay Rays: The Rays finished second in the AL East last season. They have gotten slightly better. 

They have gone from Fernando Rodney to Heath Bell at closer. Rodney struggled last season, but he still had a better season than Heath Bell. Bell had 15 saves and 7 blown saves last season with the Arizona Diamondbacks, so right now, they have a question mark at closer. 

Going from Jose Lobaton/Jose Molina at catcher to Ryan Hanigan is a big upgrade. Hanigan struggled last season, but he has a career .359 OBP and will probably have a bounce back season in Tampa. Young players such as Desmond Jennings and Will Myers will likely improve as they have another season under their belt.

New York Yankees: The Yankees who finished third in the AL East last season, improved as much as anyone in baseball. 

They have gone from a lineup of Brett Gardner-Ichiro Suzuki-Robinson Cano-Lyle Overbay-Vernon Wells-Travis Hafner-Eduardo Nunez-Jayson Nix- Chris Stewart, to Ellsbury-Derek Jeter-Carlos Beltran-Mark Teixeira-Brian McCann-Alfonso Soriano-Kelly Johnson-Roberts-Gardner.

They are still waiting for the A-Rod decision and could possibly sign Mark Reynolds. But even now, that lineup looks a whole lot deeper this season than last season. 

Losing the best second baseman in baseball in Cano is a tough blow, but the depth of the current lineup should make up for it. 

Their success this upcoming season weighs heavily on the health of Jeter and Teixeira. 

In the pitching department, they have gone from Andy Pettitte, Phil Hughes, and Mariano Rivera to David Phelps, Michael Pineda, and David Robertson. Signing Masahiro Tanaka or another big name starting pitcher could make the pitching staff better than last year. 

Losing the greatest closer of all time in Rivera is a big loss, but having Robertson step up or signing Grant Balfour or another veteran with closing experience will help lessen that loss.

The Yankees still have some big moves that they will make, and other teams will make some changes, but if the season started tomorrow, here are my AL East standings predictions:

1. Rays, 2. Red Sox, 3. Yankees, 4. Blue Jays, 5. Orioles.

The Yankees could jump to being the AL East favorites, though, if they can add a couple more pieces for the winter is over.


  1. "The Yankees who finished third in the AL East last season, improved as much as anyone in baseball. "


    No way.

    Jacoby is a 2 win upgrade over Gardner, but Gardner is no longer in CF and is not as valuable. McCann is a 3 win upgrade. Losing Cano is an 8 win downgrade. Teix is never healthy and you can't expect him to play more than 80 games. Arod will not be playing this season so 3rd base is another black hole. Jeter's defense at short stop is bad enough they had to get a closer for his position for the 8th and 9th innings. He will be defensive liability for them up the middle. You will not have Cano's ability to turn the double play as quickly or smoothly anymore. Rivera is gone. Boone Logan is gone and replaced with Thorton, that is a huge down grade. Hughes and Pettitte are gone and not replaced. Which Nova shows up? CC gave up the most runs in the ENTIRE MLB last year. He has lost a lot of MPH on his fast ball. Kuroda is good for half a season before he gets too tired to pitch.

    So...... I guess Beltran is the upgrade you speak of??

    The Yankees were a 75-80 win team that played well above their heads last season. You should expect the same results this season.

    Paying 22M for Jacoby, who has played an entire season only 1 time in the last 4 years, instead of paying Cano 24M, will prove to be a dumb move.

    1. Besides Cano, the entire lineup was a black hole last season. They are easily gonna score more runs in my opinion. WAR is overrated. I know its a big if whether players stay healthy, but they are gonna have a better lineup than last season I think.

  2. Boston is improved at Catcher. Saltalamacchia was a good clubhouse guy and popular player but a totally pedestrian ballplayer. Mediocre defensively, a terrible hitter and one of the worst "throw out" percentages in all of baseball. Pierzynski's a clear upgrade.

    1. Salty had a higher slugging percentage and a 41 point higher OBP than Pierzynski. They are both pretty bad defensively. In my opinion, Saltalamacchia is better.