Actual baseball is looming, which means the offseason is nearing an end. Now, we can take a look and proudly declare who won or lost the offseason before actual baseball does it’s thing and makes us realize how foolish we were. For teams that appear to be attempting to contend, we’ll be looking at whether the moves they made should help them do so. For rebuilding teams, we’ll be looking at whether they are getting enough for the players they are trading away. And then there are the teams that don’t seem to know what they’re doing or otherwise don’t fit into either of those categories, but don’t worry, we’ll address them, too.
Today we’re covering the AL East, but, in case you missed the first two here there are:
For the sake of this preview, let’s assume the Orioles complete expected deals with free agents Dexter Fowler, or another unemployed outfielder, and Yovani Gallardo. Gallardo, who turns 30 later this month and has logged at least 180 innings in seven straight seasons, will add depth to a rotation that has question marks. The best case involves Gallardo pitching like a strong No. 2 and Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy making strides in their development.
The seven-year, $161 million contract Baltimore gave Chris Davis was eye-popping, but they absolutely had to re-sign the slugging first baseman. They have some overlap on the roster with Mark Trumbo, but there is growing sentiment that he can play well enough in the outfield. The question would be -- how much ground can Adam Jones, who will turn 31 this August, cover in center?
Dan Duquette may save the 2016 season with savvy spring moves, but the American League East figures to be more competitive this year. Ultimately, the Orioles should make some summer additions to try and make another postseason run with the Matt Wieters-Chris Tillman-J.J. Hardy-Adam Jones core before undergoing a more thorough rebuild.
Boston Red Sox
After watching the signings of Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval flop last season, the Red Sox were aggressive yet again. They traded some of their organizational depth for Craig Kimbrel to shore up the back end of the bullpen, which was smart given Koji Uehara’s age (41 in April) and recent injury history, but the greatest splash came in early December.
Dave Dombrowski brought an old friend, David Price, in on a seven-year, $217 million contract to anchor a rotation that painfully lacked a No. 1 last season. Much was made of what was supposed to be a deep rotation consisting of Clay Buchholz, Rick Porcello, Joe Kelly and Wade Miley, but they all turned out to be middle-to-back of the rotation options. Miley is gone and the addition of Price slides everyone else down into more suitable slots.
On offense, the Red Sox will rely on the continued development of young players like Blake Swihart, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley, Jr. and Mookie Betts, bounce-back seasons from Ramirez and Sandoval and continued production from stalwarts Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz.
Only three teams scored more runs than Boston in 2015, so the offense figures to be just fine.
New York Yankees
It was an atypical offseason for Brian Cashman, who put down the checkbook and worked out a trio of trades to fortify the roster. They acquired Starlin Castro from the Chicago Cubs for a spare arm, added to an already elite bullpen by trading with the Cincinnati Reds for Aroldis Chapman and went under-the-radar when they landed Aaron Hicks in a deal with the Minnesota Twins.
With that said, the Yankees are playing with fire. They need sustained production from aging stars (that sounds familiar) Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran. Greg Bird, the lone young cog that has shown an ability to hit in The Show, has been lost for the season (right labrum tear). Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury are a really nice outfield combination, but at 32 they are beginning to lose some of their athletic tools.
If Hicks or one of their prospects has a nice start to the season, Cashman should consider moving Gardner for a starting pitcher -- which brings us to the rotation.
They have a number of options for the five-man rotation, but none are without doubts. Masahiro Tanaka’s elbow is a ticking time bomb, Michael Pineda remains an enigma, Nathan Eovaldi hasn’t had an ERA under 4.20 over the last two seasons, CC Sabathia has to learn to pitch differently, Luis Severino is 21 and Ivan Nova is still recovering from Tommy John surgery. Why wasn’t someone else added to the mix?
Tampa Bay Rays
For the second-straight season, the Rays will lean heavily on a young, impressive starting rotation while trying to scratch out runs. They kept the rotation intact this winter, while adding Hank Conger, Corey Dickerson, Brad Miller, Logan Morrison and Steve Pearce to the roster.
Dickerson, 26, hit .312/.364/.567 with 24 home runs in 478 plate appearances for the Colorado Rockies in 2014, and while he doesn’t fit Tampa Bay’s defensive profile his bat could prove valuable. Logan Morrison is already on his third team and the 2011 season (23 home runs with the Miami Marlins) is a distant memory.
Matthew Silverman could have turned some of his rotational depth into an offensive stud this winter, but there is still plenty of time for such a deal if the playoffs seem attainable.
Toronto Blue Jays
It was a ho-hum offseason for the Blue Jays, who made more waves in the front office than on the field. Losing David Price obviously hurts, but they were headed to the postseason well before they acquired the left-hander last summer. They are counting on Marco Estrada (re-signed) and J.A. Happ to help fill the void Price leaves behind at a very, very small fraction of the cost.
The offense will continue to be the most dangerous in baseball without a single tweak. A full season of Troy Tulowitzki should be both thrilling and maddening (he’s played in 140 games just once over the last six seasons).
Toronto’s trade for Drew Storen went under-the-radar a bit, but he shores up the back of the bullpen while allowing John Gibbons to use Roberto Osuna and Aaron Sanchez leading up to the ninth inning. If all three pitch well, that shortens the entire game. Storen, who was none too happy when the Washington Nationals added Jonathan Papelbon, has a career 3.02 ERA and had a 10.96 K/9 in 2015.