Archive for Other Teams
Over the last 15-20 years or so, no division has been as consistently tough as the AL East. The Yankees and Red Sox have dominated the top two spots, and in recent years both the Rays and Orioles have become more serious threats. The AL East has produced 15 of the 21 AL wildcard teams since the system was introduced in 1995, giving you an idea of how many great teams it’s housed. How is the division competition looking heading into 2014? Here’s a breakdown.
Notable Additions: RHP Ubaldo Jimenez, OF Nelson Cruz, RHP Ryan Webb, RHP Suk-Min Yoon, OF/DH Delmon Young
Notable Losses: RHP Scott Feldman, RHP Jason Hammel, RHP Jim Johnson, OF Nate McLouth
This isn’t a loss in the sense that he was on the team and now he’s not, but it’s certainly worth mentioning that third baseman Manny Machado will start the season on the DL following offseason knee surgery. He should return sometime in April.
The Orioles played the market well and landed both Jimenez and Cruz on favorable contracts. They sorely lacked an ace and while Ubaldo might be the most unpredictable pitcher in the game, he can be absolutely dominant for long stretches of time. Baltimore got a weak .245/.293/.405 (87 wRC+) batting line out of their DHs last season, so Cruz and even Young should help correct that problem. Between Cruz, Chris Davis, and Adam Jones, the O’s have three guys who could legitimately hit 30+ homers. They hit 24 more homeruns than any other team last season and added yet another power hitter this winter.
Even though Johnson always seems to blow games against the Yankees — he blew four of his last nine save chances against them and also took a loss after entering a tie game — the Orioles are worse off in the late innings without him. Webb is underrated and I’m sure Tommy Hunter will be fine in the ninth inning, but Johnson was a very good workhorse reliever and that will be missed. Baltimore is better than they were last season because of Jimenez and Cruz, though I’m not sure if they’re good enough to make a serious run at a wildcard spot. I guess it depends on how long Machado is out, which Jimenez shows up, and how the bullpen shakes out without Johnson.
BOSTON RED SOX
Notable Additions: RHP Burke Badenhop, LHP Chris Capuano, RHP Edward Mujica, C A.J. Pierzynski
Notable Losses: RHP Ryan Dempster, SS Stephen Drew, OF Jacoby Ellsbury, C Jarrod Saltalamacchia
I assume the Red Sox will not re-sign Drew at this point, which means they lost three key up-the-middle position players this winter. Grady Sizemore has had a great spring, but replacing Ellsbury with him is the poor man’s version of replacing Robinson Cano with Brian Roberts. Jackie Bradley Jr., last spring’s MVP, is the backup plan there. Pierzynski takes over for Salty, and rookie Xander Bogaerts will replace Drew. He’s a stud and appears poised to be a force for years to come.
Boston has earned some leeway after winning the World Series, but they lost a lot of good players this winter and are counting mostly on internal solutions to replace the lost production. That’s dicey, especially when talking about prospects. If Bogaerts or either of the center fielders don’t produce, the Sox will be left scrambling. Luckily for them, the pitching staff is deep and stalwarts like Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz are still around to anchor the lineup. The Red Sox have a great farm system and a ton of money, so they have the wherewithal to address any needs at midseason. That said, they won the division by 5.5 games last year and the gap appears to have closed a bit.
TAMPA BAY RAYS
Notable Additions: RHP Grant Balfour, RHP Heath Bell, C Ryan Hanigan
Notable Losses: RHP Roberto Hernandez, RHP Fernando Rodney, DH Luke Scott, RHP Jamey Wright
The Rays will be without Jeremy Hellickson for a few weeks following offseason elbow surgery. They still have David Price and Alex Cobb to front the rotation, but Matt Moore is having a real problem throwing strikes this spring. Like 15 walks in 14.1 innings problem. Chris Archer had a strong rookie season and rookie Jake Odorizzi will replace Hellickson for the time being. Tampa always seems to crank out quality young starters, but with Moore struggling and Odorizzi projecting as more of a back-end arm than anything else, their staff seems more vulnerable than it has been at any point in the last five of six years.
After getting great production from one-year gems like Casey Kotchman and Jeff Keppinger, the Rays doubled down on James Loney and re-signed him to a three-year, $21M contract this offseason. That is the largest free agent contract the team had handed out since the current ownership group took over in 2005. Full seasons of Wil Myers and David DeJesus should boost an offense — DeJesus isn’t great, but remember, he’s replacing Sam Fuld — that ranked third in baseball with a 108 wRC+ last summer. Going from Rodney and Wright to Balfour and Bell is probably an upgrade, especially in terms in 2014 performance. Rodney and Wright are 37 and 39, after all. Tampa improved this winter after winning 92 games a wildcard spot a year ago, so of course they’ll be right back in the thick of the race this year.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS
Notable Additions: C Dioner Navarro
Notable Losses: C J.P. Arencibia, OF Rajai Davis, RHP Josh Johnson
It’s unbelievable the Blue Jays did nothing this winter, isn’t it? They made all those moves last offseason and were such a colossal disappointment in 2013, yet nothing. They signed Navarro, who was nearly out of baseball three years ago. GM Alex Anthopoulos appeared to be playing the board a bit with the pitching market, presumably hoping to grab Jimenez or Ervin Santana on a cheap contract, but instead came up empty. The rotation includes the reliable Mark Buehrle and R.A. Dickey, the unpredictable Brandon Morrow, J.A. Happ, and righty Drew Hutchison fresh off Tommy John surgery.
I guess the good news for Toronto is that their offense is dynamite, at least when healthy. Edwin Encarnacion might be the most unheralded great hitter in the game (82 BB, 66 XBH, 62 K in 2013) and Jose Bautista is still a force, so the middle of the order is set. Colby Rasmus has a ton of power and others like Melky Cabrera, Adam Lind, and Brett Lawrie will contribute from time to time. Jose Reyes is dynamic but also prone to injury, and sure enough an MRI revealed a minor hamstring strain just yesterday. He might not be ready for the start of the season. Ryan Goins, who is slated to be the regular second baseman, will move over to replace Reyes to short if need be. He might be the worst everyday player in baseball. In the conversation, at least. The Blue Jays are banking on health and steps forward from guys like Hutchison and Rasmus to improve the team, and even if they get that, they still might only be the fourth or fifth best team in the division.
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On paper, I think you can argue the Yankees are anywhere from the best to fourth best team in the division. They’ve obviously upgraded but so have the Rays and Orioles, all while the Red Sox lost some key pieces. The top four teams in the division are more scrunched together this season, which means the race will be more tougher and more exciting deep into the season. Injuries and unexpected performances, both good and bad, will play an even bigger role in determining the AL East this summer. The division is again very good and there are four teams to be reckoned with. (Sorry, Blue Jays.)
Just one more day of workouts left until the Yankees start playing real, live Spring Training games. Here’s the news from Tampa.
- Chad Jennings has the day’s workout groups. Ivan Nova threw a bullpen session while Michael Pineda headlines the guys who threw live batting practice. John Ryan Murphy caught Pineda and said he was “jumpy” while facing hitters for the first time in camp. “I’ve seen him better than he was today,” he added.
- Vidal Nuno (Tuesday vs. Florida State), Nova (Wednesday @ Pirates), David Phelps (Thursday vs. Pirates on YES) and Adam Warren (Friday @ Tigers) will start the team’s first four exhibition games. All are expected to throw about two innings. No word on when Masahiro Tanaka or any of the other guys will make their Grapefruit League debuts. [Jorge Castillo, Jennings]
- Derek Jeter, meanwhile, will make his spring debut in Thursday’s game. He didn’t play in his first game until the middle of March last year. Jeter also said he expects to travel to Panama for the two exhibition games against the Marlins next month. [Mark Feinsand, Castillo]
- Nik Turley, who was held out of workouts this weekend due to some tightness in his pitching arm, will be shut down for a full week “just to make sure (he’s alright),” said Joe Girardi. “All the tests came back fine.” [Jennings]
- Following tomorrow’s workout, the Yankees will hold their annual team-bonding exercise. It’s expected to be a pool tournament. [George King]
This is your nightly open thread. The Nets are playing tonight and the Olympics closing cermonies are on as well. I’ll miss ‘em, I’ll admit it. Talk about anything and everything right here. Have at it.
Happy Friday everyone. Spring Training is fully underway now that position players are in camp and in just a few days, the Yankees will open their slate of Grapefruit League games. Here’s the latest from Tampa.
- Chad Jennings has the day’s workout groups. Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, and Ivan Nova were among those to throw live batting practice. Kelly Johnson spent time working out at first base, which is important because he has 18 career innings at the position and is slated to serve as Mark Teixeira‘s backup this year.
- Joe Girardi confirmed Tanaka will be allowed to face AL East clubs in exhibition games. The team typically tries to hide their stop starters from rival clubs, but they feel it’s important for Tanaka to face MLB caliber hitters. [Jennings]
- Teixeira said he is “probably a week to ten days” away from facing live pitchers in batting practice. He won’t get into a Spring Training game until early March, as expected. [George King]
- Slade Heathcott, meanwhile, still has not started hitting or fielding drills after having offseason knee surgery, so he’s behind the other position players. [Jennings]
Here is your open thread for the night. The Knicks are playing and the Olympics are still going on as well. Talk about those games, Spring Training, or anything else right here. Have at it.
The biggest news out of the Winter Meetings today was not a transaction, though there were a few of those. Home plate collisions were banned by MLB on Wednesday, so now players have to slide into home like every other base. There will be fines and/or suspensions for anyone who breaks the rules, and that includes catchers who block the plate. They’ve got to sweep tag, etc. MLB has signed off on the plan for 2014 but MLBPA has yet to do the same. If they don’t, MLB can unilaterally apply the rule change in 2015. It was bound to happen eventually. Baseball is a safer game now.
Here is your open thread for the night. The Knicks are the only local team playing and from what I understand, they aren’t worth watching. Catch up on Netflix or something. Enjoy.
The Cardinals traded David Freese (and a reliever) to the Angels for Peter Bourjos (and a prospect) this afternoon, both teams announced. This is notable because the Yankees were discussing Freese with St. Louis recently, but talks didn’t advance because New York didn’t have much to offer. There was some belief they could revisit talks later in the offseason, but forget that now. Even if Alex Rodriguez does not get suspended, the Yankees need to look for a capable third baseman just because he’s such an injury risk.
This isn’t exactly Yankees related, but Manny Ramirez has signed a minor league with the Rangers. He was playing in Taiwan earlier this year, but he recently opted out of his contract to pursue big league opportunities. Unsurprisingly, the Yankees didn’t have any interest. They sure could use some right-handed thump though. Oh well.
The Yankees were rained out this afternoon, so I figured I would post the open thread a little earlier than usual. The Braves and Dodgers are on TBS and the Mets are playing the Cubs right now, plus you’ve got NHL (Rangers!) and NBA playoff action going on this afternoon. No sense in waiting when everyone wants to talk about those games now. Later tonight, the ESPN game will feature the Tigers at the Rangers (Fister vs. Holland). That should be fun. Talk about any of that stuff and more right here. Go nuts.
Nine games against the Blue Jays, eight wins. That’s pretty awesome considering how Toronto was crowned the offseason champs while the Yankees were widely picked to finish last following their slews of injury. If they finish off the sweep behind CC Sabathia tomorrow, they will have won their first seven home games from their division rivals to the north. Dominance.
Here is your open thread for the night. MLB Network will air a game later tonight, plus you’ve got NHL and NBA (Knicks!) playoff action. Talk about any of that and more here. Have at it.
Another game against the Rockies means another 8:40pm ET start, so here’s an open thread to hold you over until the regular game thread. The Mets are playing and ESPN is showing Red Sox-Twins, plus you’ve got NHL (Rangers!) and NBA playoff action. Talk about any and all. Enjoy.
Got two small updates on former Yankees. First, Nick Johnson has decided to call it a career according to Sweeny Murti. The 34-year-old retires as a .268/.399/.441 (126 wRC+) hitter with a 15.7% walk rate, though injuries — specifically to his right wrist and hand — derailed his career. More than anything, this gives me a chance to post Johnson’s batting line with Double-A Norwich in 1999: .345/.525/.548 with 123 walks, 88 strikeouts, and 37 hit-by-pitches. Yes, 37 hit-by-pitches.
Second, Freddy Garcia has signed a minor league contract with the Padres according to multiple reports. Garcia, 36, should do quite well in Petco Park given his extreme fly ball ways. Plus it’s a minor league deal, so tough to complain about that. The sweaty one posted a 4.29 ERA and 4.35 FIP in 254 innings with the Yankees over the last two season. Good luck in San Diego, Freddy, see you in the World Series.