Being home to one of the better known and somewhat hostile rivalries in baseball, if not all major sports leagues, the AL East has some of the heaviest spending teams in MLB. This usually means that a blockbuster trade will occur every offseason from one of these teams. Since 2000, the Yankees and Red Sox have had one of the top 10 largest payrolls in MLB. Let’s be honest, it’s probably easier to count the number of seasons when the Yankees didn’t have the largest payroll in the league than when they did. However, championships can’t simply be bought. You can probably argue that a big payroll is a contributing factor towards winning a championship but that’s a discussion for another day.
To say the Boston Red Sox had pitching headaches last season is like saying that President Obama gets annoyed by Congressional standoffs. Clay Buchholz doesn’t quite have the stuff to be the ace in the rotation but he’s definitely a viable 2-3 man when he can stay healthy. So in classic AL East fashion, the Red Sox smashed the piggy bank to pick up David Price, as solid an ace as you can find. There might be mixed reactions about the third year opt-out clause but it seems like a good incentive to get the best out of Price in the next few years.
David Price is the biggest signing in the AL East this offseason, will he have a major impact at Fenway in 2016? (Fred Thornhill-Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports)
This move really overshadows the acquisition of some bullpen help in Craig Kimbrel and Carson Smith to support Koji Uehara. David Ortiz’s impending retirement leaves questions about how they’re going to hit next season but this might be one of the better off-season pitching overhauls. Maybe we’ll see some of Boston’s speedsters go for more stolen bases knowing that their pitching staff will keep the pressure on the other side.
The Yankees are the best known team in MLB for throwing down money to get hot free agents or make monumental trades. Since acquiring the services of Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira, big money moves started slowing down since it didn’t seem like the money was making the Yankees any more competitive than they had been.
With that said, the acquisitions of Starlin Castro and Aroldis Chapman are fairly conservative moves by a team that stumbled into the playoffs and handily defeated by a dominant Dallas Keuchel leading the surging Houston Astros. Castro actually addresses a problem issue for the Yankees in their struggles to make contact and generate runs. Didi Gregorius is a fine defensive SS but the Yankees have been accustomed to a productive hitter at SS for so long that they just weren’t built for this. Maybe, similar to A-Rod moving to 3B when joining, Castro will make a transition and play 2B. The Yankees should try to keep Gregorius on the field though.
Starlin Castro should help produce the hits and score the runs the Yankees need. (www.articles.chicagotribune.com)
Aroldis Chapman may seem like damaged goods but the Yankees run a pretty tight ship. So we’ll see if Chapman is deserving of a the benefit of the doubt/second chance because if he can’t keep his personal life under control as a Yankee then there’s no place that will be able to do it. This pick up seems more like taking advantage of an opportunity than addressing a problem. Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances already made up one of the toughest bullpens to get through. Bringing in Chapman means that the Yankees now have all of the closers that racked up more than 100 Ks in the 2015 season into one bullpen. At the very least, the Yankees have trade fodder to address other issues next season if they need to do some gut-check work during the trade windows.
Toronto Blue Jays
BL – The Blue Jays have heavy hitting and practically lapped the rest of the league in run differential for the season. There’s a lot of infield position play by coalition and David Price’s departure from the rotation leaves a hole for a genuine elite ace. Something Toronto needs to be a serious playoff contender. Marcus Stroman and Drew Hutchison are young and either may develop into a solid ace but it’s too early to tell. Troy Tulowitzki probably isn’t the answer at shortstop but maybe Toronto’s trainers can find a way to keep from needing so many days off.
Marcus Stroman could be the ace the Blue Jays need to complement their offense. (www.forums.prosportsdaily.com)
DJ – Toronto was a machine in 2015, but, run hard enough, all machines eventually break down. The Blue Jays did not make it to the World Series, but should be a contender again in 2016. Starting pitching needs to be the focus this offseason. Toronto did get 28 or more starts out of four starters in 2015, however Drew Hutchison struggled. He only pitched 148 innings with a 5.47 ERA. Mark Buehrle was his usual workhorse making 32 starts and pitching 198.2 innings, however he is now a free agent contemplating retirement. David Price only made 11 starts for the Blue Jays, but he was dominant in those starts. R.A. Dickey and Marco Estrada are the foundation for this rotation and the return of Marcus Stroman from injury gives them three solid pitchers. Hutchison could be in the mix for the fifth starter, but this still leaves the Blue Jays short of an ace. Toronto would be smart to look at signing a pitcher like Yovani Gallardo or Justin Masterson. An ace like David Price is tough to come by, but a Dickey, Estrada, and potentially Stroman could be the de facto ace for the Blue Jays.
BL – At the start of the 2015 season, I really thought the Orioles would win the AL East. I can’t explain the early or late season losing streaks. Perhaps Baltimore entered the season a little too cocky and expected things to simply fall into place. Inconsistency at catcher between Caleb Joseph and Matt Wieters could not have been easy for the rotation to deal with. If the Orioles can steady that position up and get some team psychologists to keep the team on an even keel, next season could be a great one for Baltimore.
Matt Weiters needs to return to his All Star and Gold Glove ways to help the Orioles compete in the AL East. (Photo by: Todd Olszewski)
DJ – The Orioles starting pitching ate up plenty of innings in 2015. Ubaldo Jimenez, Wei-Yin Chen, and Chris Tillman all made at least 31 starts and pitched at least 173 innings. However with a combined 4.12 ERA the trio were 34-29. Jimenez led the team with 12 wins with Chen and Tillman contributing 11 wins each. If Baltimore is going to compete for the AL East in 2016, their starters need to find ways to win more games. Any easy way to win more games is for the starters to pitch deeper into games. Jimenez, Chen, and Tillman averaged less than 6 innings per start. The Orioles need the majority of their rotation to pitch at least 6 innings per start in order preserve the bullpen and save those arms for close games and late in the season.
Tampa Bay Rays
BL – They’re not the Miami Marlins, but the Tampa Bay Rays haven’t been really great to their fan base over the years by consistently trading away some great pitching and fielding talent. I’m continually surprised that Evan Longoria is still there. It’s not in quite as dramatic a fashion as the Marlins’ fire sales after every World Series win but the Rays are consistently bleeding themselves into talent anemia. Chris Archer can anchor a rotation and a bullpen boasting a scrappy closer like Brad Boxberger means there’s development potential here. Manager Kevin Cash needs to pick a direction for the batting lineup then adjust the rest of the team accordingly.
Kevin Kiermaier’s Gold Glove defense is just as vital as his bat for the Rays to be successful. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/ Getty Images)
DJ – Tampa Bay needs a leadoff hitter. The Rays had 22 different players bat leadoff in 2015. Combined these players hit .258. Only Brandon Guyer played at least 50 games batting leadoff, and he hit .274 with a .379 OBP. The logical choice for the Rays would be to move Guyer or Kevin Kiermaier there permanently. Guyer hit .265 overall in 2015 with a .359 OBP, 10 SB, and only 61 SO in 332 AB. Kiermaier hit .263, with a .298 OBP, 18 SB, and 95 SO in 505 AB. The stability at the top of the lineup could trickle down the order. Tampa Bay has to manufacture runs to support the pitching staff. Evan Longoria and Logan Forsythe provide the power. If Guyer and/or Kiermaier can get on ahead of them, the offense could combine with the pitching staff to balance the Rays overall team approach.
BL & DJ
Baseball season is in full swing and for the first time since I really started paying attention to baseball the game is without a familiar face. I am the resident New York Yankees fan here, and I believe we are without the greatest player of my lifetime. I am talking about Number 2, Derek Jeter, Number 2. It should be a sad time, baseball without the core four or the fantastic five or whatever they call them all, but I am excited about the future.
I have been a fan of the Yankees since I could walk. I knew the greats and knew where they played and what the uniform looked like. I have met Don Mattingly and gotten his autograph. Unfortunately, this was the late 80’s and early 90’s and the Yankees were about as good as the Marlins have been for the last 10 years. It was not until I moved to enemy territory that the organization brought up a promising young shortstop from Kalamazoo, Michigan. I started following more intently, the Yankees started winning, and Jeter started wooing us all. It was good, but all good things yada yada yada. It is 2015 now and we are moving forward.
Derek has left the Stadium and we are stuck with Arod for another couple of year but we still have talent and potential. Our most tenured homegrown talent is Brett Gardner and we have patched together the rest of the team, as is Yankee fashion. Our new shortstop is Sir Didi Gregorius, a knighted player who played well for half a season for those jerks in Arizona (still sore over the 2001 World Series). He has big spikes to fill and still must earn his pinstripes but he has the potential for greatness, as does every other player out there. This is why they play 162 and hope the baseball gods smile and keep them healthy so they may become as iconic and loved as The (hopefully not last ever Mr. Cashman) Captain, Number 2, Derek Jeter.
Have you been sued by Alex Rodriguez yet? No? Just wait, he is getting to you.
While this is funny to say, it is also extremely said, as we all watch Alex Rodriguez and his legacy crumb into ashes. You can say he is a cheat who deserves what he is getting, or you could say he is being singled out by Major League Baseball while there are countless other players who are or were using during the times ARod has both admitted and been accused of using PEDs. Regardless which camp you fall in, it should not escape anyone that everything this man has worked his entire life for is vanishing before his eyes. Yes he still has the $353 million he has earned on the field, not to mention all the endorsement deals and investments he has made away from the diamond. However, all this man knows and loves is baseball. When all this is done and he is retired from playing, do you expect any team to approach him and offer him a job within their organization. He is more likely to set up a booth next to Pete Rose at a trade show signing autographs than he is to be working within baseball in any capacity.
I would not wish the purgatory that Alex Rodriguez is going through and will go through, even if his suspension is lifted, on anyone. He will be out of baseball, either through a ban or through simply not being hired back, like Pete Rose, Barry Bonds, or Shoeless Joe Jackson. I do not see this saga ending well for ARod regardless of the out come of his lawsuits against anything that moves. I see him being out of the game he loves and away from the spotlight he has enjoyed for so long.
Beyond the confession of the PEDs he used while he was playing in Texas, I do believe Rodriguez did, at the very least look to gain an advantage at holding off the impact of playing professional baseball since he was 18 for just a little longer. I see him fighting a losing battle, and I believe he is guilty simply because the other players took the penalty without fighting back. Yes he has more resources than they do, but they did not even take their case to arbitration. If they were innocent, then the players would at least have a punchers chance of being cleared. Since none of them fought back to clear their names, it tells me they are guilty. Also based on this I find it hard that after nailing everyone else for their transgressions, Major League Baseball decided to add Alex Rodriguez in just to get him out of the game. I just cannot believe baseball and the people who run it, would be daft enough to threaten their biggest PED bust just to settle a score.
Is Rodriguez alone, unfortunately no. He is not the only player to seek to gain an unfair advantage. However, he should pay the price, even if not all the players who are guilty are not found out and punished. If it is wrong or against the rules, then it is wrong. The entire saga with ARod is a sad episode for Major League Baseball. For everyone who loves baseball they cannot wait until this unfortunate episode has passed. Hopefully Alex Rodriguez will be the final chapter in the steroid era in baseball and the the greatest sport can return to focusing on the game and not those who try to cheat it.