Hot Stove Preview: AL East
The Rays have an enviable surplus of starting pitching thanks to a farm system bursting at the seams with talent. With
Strong across the board, the upstart pennant winners' most glaring flaw --exhibited during the World Series -- was a weakness against left-handed pitching. They hit just .246/.330/.396 against southpaws, with the third-lowest OPS in the league. They have vacancies in right field and designated hitter with
They'll consider bringing back Baldelli, a former first-round pick for whom they have great affection. The fatigue caused by his mitochondrial disorder prevents him from being a full-time option, but he's a lefty-masher (.296/.347/.494 career) who could figure into the mix both in right field and at DH. He'd probably need a platoon-mate, but as we saw in October, the Rays don't lack for candidates, including switch-hitters
On the open market the best fit might be with
Boston's trading chits start with a pair of inexpensive center fielders,
Foremost is the catching situation; free agent
They'll aggressively pursue a deal to acquire one of the Rangers' young catchers, either
If they can get Teagarden for a lesser prospect than Buchholz they should pull the trigger. Offering Varitek a short-term deal (two years, $20 million) to mentor Kotteras might be politically palatable, but it would still be drastically overpaying. For that money they'd probably do better to sign 37-year-old
The Yankees' top asset is money, including more than $75 million in 2008 salaries coming off the books via the free agencies of
In missing the playoffs for the first time since 1993, with an offense that slipped from an AL-best 6.0 runs per game in 2007 to a mid-pack 4.9 last year, the Yankee lineup looked increasingly outmoded. With Giambi and Abreu both free agents, they have holes at first base and right field, and it's imperative that they get younger at one position if not both. Further down the wish list is upgrading center field;
They'll pursue the biggest of big game, namely
If the Yanks can only go nine figures on one player it should be Teixeira, given the need for youth and the dearth of A-list first basemen in the free-agent pool. Otherwise they face unappealing solutions like
With the trade for Swisher, the Yankees are buying low on a player who offers good power and plate discipline and is coming off a year in which he suffered a 52-point drop in his batting average on balls in play despite no real change in his line drive rate. Brian Cashman suggested at his press conference that the team sees Swisher mainly as a candidate to fill the first base gap with occasional forays into the outfield corners, and that the pursuit of Teixeira is a much lower priority than signing multiple starting pitchers including Sabathia. That may simply be posturing to avoid being seen as desperate suitors in a thin market, or it may reflect very real budget constraints for the richest team in the game.
Their outfield makes for a strong foundation now that the deadwood has been cleared.
Despite 86 wins and the fourth-best run differential in the majors, all the Jays got was this lousy T-shirt commemorating the
Notwithstanding Ricciardi's intransigence, there's a lot to suggest that the Jays should consider selling rather than buying this winter. Overbay might make an adequate stopgap for a team like the Mariners, who played
The O's are loaded with veterans entering the final year of their contracts, many having rebounded to pushed their values higher than they might ever be again.
If the Jays should look beyond 2009, the same goes doubly for the 68-win Orioles, who employed the fifth-oldest lineup in the league, one in which only Jones and
The Orioles would dearly love to pursue Maryland native Teixeira, and given their past history of signing free agents who are headed toward their twilight to long, expensive deals, the
Along with moving the aforementioned players going into their final contract years the Orioles should consider investing in their defense, which ranked ninth in