Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The A.L. East - MLB Off-Season (So Far...)

The Buck doesn't stop here, why the O's are not worried.
A.L. East

The Baltimore Orioles have been quiet, and I'm sure there is some Baltimore Orioles fans freaking out right now. I know some of the guys on the MLB Network have also brought attention to the fact that their front office has been quiet. They lost Nelson Cruz to a four-year deal in Seattle, Nick Markakis on a deal to Atlanta, and relief pitcher Andrew Miller to the division rival Yankees. The fact of the matter is that the fans really should not be worrying, the fact is sometimes we have to let fan favorites go elsewhere to continue clubhouse operations -- at the end of the day, it does come down to business. Let's not forget that they had plenty of injuries, and had players miss significant time in Matt Wieters, Manny Machado, Chris Davis (missed time due to PED suspension), Nate McLouth, with others -- Having those big 3 bats in Wieters, Machado & Davis will help soften the blow of losing Cruz. Baltimore is really not hurting here, I think they are being smart, they still have a great bullpen despite Miller leaving to New York, while Markakis' offense has slowly been diminishing over the years. They also still have the best defensive fielding team, and a underrated rotation under a really good manager in Buck Showalter.

The Boston Red Sox made two big splashes in Pablo Sandoval & Hanley Ramirez. The Red Sox have become the American League version of the Giants, the every-other year team, I want to say it's their time to strike again, because like the Giants they always find that aura or mystique that drives them. Boston is still vulnerable though (or at least at this moment), they now have an abundance of outfielders, but need starting pitching. They resigned Koji Uehara which is good, and they still have a great bullpen. I feel they should trade some outfield, some prospects to Philadelphia and land Cole Hamels, he would be perfect in that rotation. If they sign Lester on top of a Hamels deal, then watch out for Boston -- but I expect Jon Lester to sign with the Chicago Cubs. I will say it's scary to think that the Red Sox have the two biggest clutch players in recent post-season history in David Ortiz & Sandoval.

In the past, the Toronto Blue Jays sometimes would have me scratching my head. The fact that they tried the exact plan that Miami did with the same players basically in Jose Reyes & Mark Buehrle, and added R.A. Dickey & Melky Cabrera, only for it to blow up in their face in 2013. They even got their old manager in John Gibbons back (another head-scratching move). Then in 2014, it appeared that the team was finally serious in contending last season, as they were competitive for the most part -- they hit some rough patches in second half. Then came this off-season, and suddenly, a surprising & shocking deal that actually favored Toronto; Toronto lands Oakland's stud Josh Donaldson for 4 prospects, a couple days later they trade J.A. Happ to Seattle and land outfield Michael Saunders. About a week or so, before landing Donaldson, Toronto made another steal in acquiring Devon Travis (the Tigers' second baseman of the future) for Anthony Gose, who has speed & defense, but after that, he is just a guy that has a career .633 OPS!

The Tampa Bay Rays are in trouble, the two men that have been keeping the ship cruising, Andrew Friedman (GM) & Joe Maddon (MGR) have jumped ship. It will never be better, I truly believe this, their fans don't show their support. I do think they made the right move in hiring Kevin Cash as manager to take over the franchise, a local Tampa Bay product, and yet another former MLB catcher, which has been proven to work. Looking forward to see if Drew Smyly can keep moving upward, he will certainly get some interesting looks in Fantasy Baseball leagues in 2015. Plus will Wil Myers rebound from last season?

The New York Yankees are not the same franchise when George Steinbrenner was alive -- His sons, suddenly spend money as if they are the Pittsburgh Pirates; All the while the Boston Red Sox have took over as the "Evil Empire" (Yes, Boston -- don't be hypocrites!). Sure the Yankees signed Jacoby Ellsbury & Brian McCann last year. Some insiders feel McCann was already declining before the deal & his numbers from 2012-2014 hint at that, consider the fact he didn't bat higher than .256 during this three-year stretch, and that he is currently (three-year dip included) a .270 career hitter; Had his worst OPS (.692) in his entire MLB career. I had McCann for my Crusaders in the Mid-West Baseball League & traded him, thinking the same thing, plus I had a younger Yan Gomes in the wings to take over. Ellsbury's 2013 season may be his best since 2011, but he had better slugging, more HR (16 to 9) and 17 more RBI to finish with 70 ribbies. Signing 37 year-old Carlos Beltran for a three-year, $45 million deal was a bit too much -- heck, they could have went for a one-year deal with Nelson Cruz, now that I think about it. Beltran's season was so bad that he had only 49 RBI, while he also had the worst OPS (.703) of his career, 127 points lower than the previous season. The Yankees thought they were doing cost-effective salaries around these big signings in Kelly Johnson, Lyle Overbay & Scott Sizemore, but it blew up in their face -- they also had chances to get a strong infielder in Omar Infante (losing out to KC). Not sure why they let David Robertson basically just walk, it would have been great to keep him with the addition of new signing Andrew Miller (a great signing, by the way), plus the emergence of Dellin Betances. I don't think they have a chance to compete with the emergence of Baltimore (in recent years) & Toronto, plus Boston -- then again, there is always Max Scherzer.

I believe the A.L. East is a three-team race between Boston, Baltimore & Toronto, Toronto at best a wild-card. I want to lean towards Baltimore, Jonathan Schoop is only going to get better, the team has faced adversity with injuries & changing closers in the middle of the season -- they are now battle-tested, won a playoff series against a team that went to three consecutive A.L. Championships (Tigers).

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