In Decemeber and January myworld posted individual team updates. For the next week and a half, before we head down to Florida for spring training myworld will see if anything has changed in the division after some January transactions. For our first review, the AL East we have had some significant changes. Initially we picked the Red Sox to win the division, but that was prior to their lack of January activity. Since then the Yankees have picked up two starting pitchers and the Rays have signed two lefthanded bats. Now the Red Sox will have to settle for third while the Yankees win the division. Unless the playoffs get expanded to one more team, the Rays will still miss out on the playoffs because of the two superpower teams in the AL West. I’ve put in parenthesis my previous ranking of the team.
New York Yankees (2)
January moves - In three days the Yankees changed this division with the trade of Jesus Montero to the Seattle Mariners for potential future number one starter Michael Pineda. Myworld is not as high on Pineda as others, but he fills a spot in the rotation that is better than what they had. They also signed free agent Hiroki Kuroda. That is an addition of 22 wins and 370 innings to their starting rotation. A.J. Burnett is now surplus. Another transaction was the resigning of Andrew Jones to play left field and possibly DH against left handed hitters. With 13 homeruns last year Jones still has some pop. They also signed a couple ex-Red Sox in Manny Delcarmen and Hideki Okajima. If either of those players make the roster it will be a slap in the face to Red Sox fans, especially Delcarmen, who was raised in the Boston area.
Key Spring Training non-Roster Invitee to Make Team - The Yankees don’t have a lot of lefthanded bullpen options so if Okajima has anything left in the tank he could surprise. He left Japan an unheralded reliever and made the Boston roster and shined there for a couple years. Bill Hall could make it as a utility player, especially for playing third base, since Eduardo Nunez struggled a bit defensively when he played there. Myworld likes Jorge Vazquez to get the part time DH role against lefthanded pitching, but the signing of Andrew Jones may prevent that from happening. Jorge strikes out a lot, but he hits for power and he is the cheap, part time DH alternative the Yankees are looking for, except for the fact that he hits righthanded.
Tampa Bay Rays (3)
January Transactions: They were quite busy signing lefthanded bats to fill their first base and DH positions. Carlos Pena will again try to duplicate the numbers he gave the Rays during their last World Series run. He will provide more power than Casey Kotchman but not hit for the average that Casey did. Luke Scott was another significant signing. When Luke gets hot there is no better hitter in baseball. Unfortunately, when he is not hot there is a lot of quiet in that bat. He is recovering from shoulder surgery so it will be interesting to see how he recovers. Fernando Rodney was also signed to strenghten their bullpen. Fernando is best used when he is not a team’s closer. Jeff Keppinger is also an interesting signing if he can continue to rake lefthanded pitching as he did last year, hitting .290 with a .484 slugging percentage. He also got a little time at shortstop last year, a position the Rays are still a bit weak at.
Non-Roster Invitees - Not a lot there. There has to be some hope that Tim Beckham rakes and addresses their shortstop hole, but that still won’t get him a roster spot to begin the season.
Boston Red Sox (1)
January Transactions - They shopped at the dollar store signing free agents Pedro Ciriaco, Carlos Silva, Chorye Spoone, Jason Repko, Vincent Padilla and a cast of others. If those names don’t sound familiar they shouldn’t. About the only significant move they made lessoned their team’s chances of winning the division, trading shortstop Marco Scutaro for border line prospect Clayton Mortenson. Marco is never going to enter any conversations as one of the best shortstops in the league, but he is better than what they have now, unless Jose Igelias shows he can hit.
Non-Roster Invitees - Most of them are pitchers and with health of their starting rotation taking a big hit last year expect Vincent Padilla to make a move. He is just coming off winning a championship in Nicaragua and he is ready to throw. He only made nine relief appearances last year, but prior to that started 16 or more games in the major leagues for nine years. John Maine is an interesting acquisition. If his shoulder is healthy he could also win a spot in the rotation. The Red Sox will know they are in trouble if both of them win a spot in the rotation.
Toronto Blue Jays (4)
Significant January Transactions - They reacquired Jason Fraser to solidify their bullpen. Fraser pitched much better when he was with Toronto (2.98) than the White Sox (5.09). They will hope they got the Toronto version. Darren Oliver was a free agent pickup that should help the bullpen from the left side. Two free agent signings that could be significant if they still have any gas left in them is the aged Omar Vizquel for a utility role and the soft tossing Nelson Figueroa for the rotation.
Nonroster Invitees - Omar Vizquel has the best shot if he can still pick it with the glove. It may still be a bit early for Anthony Gose but that centerfield job looks pretty enticing, with the much injured Colby Rasmus and Rajai Davis the only competetion in front of him.
Baltimore Orioles (5)
Significant January Transactions: Duquette continues to add players to make the roster better. At least it won’t be a case of players making the team because they had no competetion for the spot. It is still not enough to escape the cellar. They acquired slugger Jai Miller who could make an impact in the outfield if he can avoid the swing and miss. He struck out 176 times in AAA last year, but he hit 32 homers. He also has some massive shoulders. They signed Wei-Yen Chen as another piece to their disappointing rotation, a Taiwan pitcher that pitched in Japan last year. That will be one less spot in the starting rotation for the young Oriole starters to compete for. Wilson Betemit was signed as a DH option, but myworld thinks he will see a lot of time at third base. He is superior defensively than what they have in Mark Reynolds, who they plan on using there. They also signed a number of players from Australia, Brazil, Korea (that one got them in trouble) and even the United States to fill their minor league rosters for a possible mid-season promotion.
Non-roster Invitees - Armando Gallarraga is not too far removed from the perfect game that was taken away from him. The rotation is crowded and his 5.91 ERA will not instill a lot of confidence, but he could make the team as a long man out of the bullpen. Oscar Villareal has put up good numbers in the winter leagues. He hasn’t pitched in the major leagues since 2008. It is too bad he bats left and throws right rather than the other way around. Ronnie Paulino has a chance to make it as the back up catcher to Matt Wieters. The only player he has to beat out is Taylor Teagarden.bff