of note: The Rays are the team when it comes
to making something out of a low payroll. now if they could just
get people to attend the games.
changes: Wil Myers in… James Shields and Wade Davis out.
(Pitching depth traded for a potential dynamic outfielder still
under long-term control.)
anyone wondering where James Loney ended up? It’s here. Tampa.
the sun shining and calm seas: Keep in mind this club
may have traded away pitchers like Matt Garza a few seasons ago,
and James Shields along with Wade Davis last year. They still
have David Price, Matt Moore and Jeremy Hellickson. Not only do
the Rays have young, quality pitching… they have young quality
pitching that has delivered consistently in the AL East when the
division was loaded. This year the AL East is not the best division
in baseball. (And the Rays still have enough quality starters
that their minor league starting rotation will be better than
some major league rotations. (Hi Minnesota!))
also like an addition I haven’t mentioned yet… Yunel Escobar.
He’s not an awesome shortstop by any stretch of the imagination.
But… he is a stabilizing force. See, the Rays have a tendency
to give guys a glove and tell them to get on the field. And then
their starters on any given night run out to whatever position
needs to be filled and do a pretty darn admirable job. Ben Zorbist
is a good player… but turning in 40-45 games a season at three
different positions (with additional time at a fourth or fifth
place in the field) isn’t always the perfect approach. Someone
like Escobar should allow the Rays to add a bit more consistency
to the lineup card.
in paradise: Losing James Shields and B.J. Upton do provide
some concern. Shields delivered high-innings… and Upton was a
significant presence when you begin looking at the offense that
isn’t generated by the Tampa lineup. There is talent, and reason
to believe others can step up… but if they don’t the Rays will
not only lose the division, they will also find themselves at
home again when the postseason begins.
expectations: Here are two questions I have. (1) Will
Evan Longoria be healthy all season? (2) Does Wil Myers join the
club, and… let’s not go crazy expecting huge numbers… does he
contribute at a rate above an average player?
think the Rays will win the division. Best manager in the game
-- Joe Madden -- and a great pitching staff. Very strong defensively.
Put that into a year where New York and Boston are decidedly and
obviously weak and vulnerable, and you have an AL East for the
Rays to win.
have a roster, filled with a great team attitude, that can overcome
incredible adversity. In my mind though… they can be much more.
And for that, they need to improve their everyday contributions
from the regulars. On that note… back to the two questions I posed.
If Longeria is in, he will likely provide MVP-worthy performance.
And if Myers comes up and plays well, then suddenly the Rays are
not just looking good… they are looking scary.
of note: Let’s see… R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle, and Josh
Johnson… suddenly the Jays have a staff that will pitch a ton
of innings, reduce the stress on the bullpen, and likely even
be one of the best rotations in the American League. All from
guys that weren’t even on their roster last season.
changes: Added Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes,
and R.A. Dickey in trades. Signed Melky Cabrera.
while I know they gave up better prospects than just Travis d’Arnaud,
he is the one I think they might truly watch playing down the
road with a sense of regret.
the sun shining and calm seas: Well… geez… there is the
chance of a full on heat wave from these sunny days.
Reyes in a batting order with Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion
sounds really good. Already mentioned the pitching staff. And
Darren Oliver is back to help keep the bullpen solid. (Not electric…
but solid is good.)
Melky Cabrera stays clean and contributes some decent numbers,
the Blue Jays have the makings of a really good team.
there really isn’t much not to like here. They’ve gone from mid-pack
to postseason contender.
in paradise: I’m concerned because we’ve seen these splashes
in recent years. The end of 2011 and all of 2012 was awful in
Boston. Many of these same players were with Florida last year.
(And because so many of these players were part of the Marlins
in 2012, you can’t simply say something like “yeah, but this time
the Jays got good team guys and veteran presence”… they should
have provided that last year.)
for the most part… this isn’t a building for the future plan.
Buehrle and Dickey are not here for the next three to five seasons.
The window is now. The plan is to get into the playoffs… and there
is no Plan B.
expectations: I’ve got the Jays on the outside looking
in… only because I think the Yankees could be the Yankees… the
Red Sox could be better than expected… the AL East might beat
the Blue Jays up over the full season… and all of that combined
with the possibility of things not connecting and coming together
kind of scares me.
could use another starter… I wish I saw depth on the bench or
in the minors. It isn’t there. This club is loaded and ready to
go. If they stay on the field and play well, there is something
here. This club has all the parts to win the division and be very
tough to knock out of the playoffs.
finish: 95-67, Division winner
of note: The Yankees will begin the season with Derek
Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez on
the disabled list. Aging or not… that is a significant chunk of
the regular lineup (and payroll) to have out.
sure… they signed him to play third, and he’ll probably be playing
a lot of first… and he is drawing all sorts of eye rolls from
long-time Yankee fans -- but really, what else is there to talk
see… Travis Hafner… that got your attention.
Yankees did nothing in the offseason but age. Mariano Rivera…
an amazing player, headed to the Hall of Fame… gets a one-year
deal so he can finish out his career. Andy Pettitte… Robinson
Cano… Ichiro Suzuki… Hiroki Kuroda… Curtis Granderson… are you
noticing the trend?
Yankees didn’t spend much for anything that wasn’t already on
the sun shining and calm seas: A lot is riding on the
rotation, and honestly it could deliver. C.C. Sabathia, Hiroki
Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, Phil Hughes… you get the idea. They’re
not young though (even Hughes gets into the area of veteran… though
at 26 he is part of the future here).
if they can weather the early season struggles, then you suddenly
have players like Granderson and Teixeira on their way back. (That’s
the “almost like making a trade” reinforcement line you here being
in paradise: Wow, this roster is thin. I suppose you
don’t realize it when the Yankees roll out and win 90-plus every
year. Winning hides a lot. And I’ve been claiming they are getting
old for years. And yet… this season… wow is it apparent.
the reality is… I don’t know that Kuroda and Pettitte will combine
for 50 or more starts this season.
the crazy thing… they supposedly didn’t attempt to build depth
because rumors are swirling that they want to drop their payroll
for next year. So lots of one-year contracts. Now…
Boston, they overspent for players like Mike Napoli (go by the
original offer… three years and 39 million and not what they ended
up with) and Stephen Drew. Still, most of those contracts begin
to clear out with the idea being to shift to younger players.
(And even those players that will be around can be utilized in
the outfield (if Ellsbury leaves) or at DH (if Ortiz is spending
more time injured than playing).) Next year they might move Middlebrooks
to first to make way for Xander Bogaerts (if Jose Iglesias works
out). So short-term contracts there work out as players drop.
see absolutely nothing to indicate the Yankees won’t have to spend
once again to just field a team. There is no Mike Trout, Bryce
Harper… or even a Jackie Bradley, Jr., Wil Myers or Jose Iglesias…
possibility for the Yankees.
expectations: The Yankees will always have names. We’re
in the last part of this preview and I’ve barely mentioned Ichiro…
haven’t had to focus at all on Cano. Think about that… four huge
contracts and important players out… and Ichiro and Cano are still
even when healthy, these players are mostly well beyond their
primes. They’re contributors now, and not a group of game changers.
And that matters.
the rotation stays healthy and they can get 150 starts out of
five guys, they will be above .500 and maybe even in the conversation
during the final four weeks of the year. I think they will have
a winning record… the Yankees always burn me when I predict an
iceberg in their path… but I highly doubt anyone will be talking
about them in September.
honestly, they are probably more likely to finish last in the
AL East than they are to be third. But I’ve seen stuff like this
before. And the Yankees still manage to win games. I don’t know
how. They just do.
finish: 93-69, playoff wild card
of note: 29-9 in one-run games in 2012. 29-9… twenty-nine
and nine… 29 wins and only 9 losses in games decided by a single
Nate McLouth is back on a pretty decent deal of one-year and only
$2 million. That’s exciting, right?
only the addition of Jair Jurrjens holds much promise for any
level of excitement.
the sun shining and calm seas: They could have a winning
record. But this club barely outscored their opponents in 2012.
(They scored 712… opponents 705.) It was that stunning success
in one-run games and extra innings that got them to the playoffs.
them credit… they are a scrappy bunch that apparently doesn’t
wilt or read the papers. Still…
in paradise: I mentioned 29-9 in one-run games. They
also went a ridiculous 16-2 in extra-inning games. It defies logic.
It got them to 93 wins last year… and I think the numbers catch
up to them in 2013.
improved Boston… an improved Toronto… and let’s just say they
were to go a still decent 22-16 in one-run games and 10-8 in extended
time… differences from 2012 to 2013, and all of that certainly
drops the Orioles from the 90-plus club and likely out of playoff
point isn’t whether or not they are good, getting better, and
potentially a decent team for this and the next few years. I think
they could be. But they don’t have as much quality or depth as
several other young teams… and considering the details involved,
I’m simply saying that 93 wins was the exception.
expectations: Many people point to winning close games
and say the Orioles must have great pitching.
one-run and extra-inning wins are signs of a bullpen performing
at a high level… and in Baltimore in 2012, the bullpen did deliver.
But the Orioles got more than 540 innings out of their bullpen
last year, and relievers are notoriously inconsistent. (That’s
about 3.1 innings per game out of the bullpen. Their starters
didn’t average 6 innings per game. You know how Boston struggled
in 2012? They were around 515 innings for the bullpen.)
didn’t make many changes… they basically stood still with their
roster. And, I think several teams are going to race past them
as a result.
of note: Brought back fan-favorite David Ortiz… who somehow
managed to be re-signed for two years and something like $26 million
despite the fact that he won’t be with the club when the 2013
season starts. Yup… Boston spent $13 million a year for a designated
disabled list spot.
changes: It’s hard to argue with signings like Mike Napoli
or Ryan Dempster in general. And when you look at free agents
or trades such as David Ross, Jonny Gomes, Koji Uehara and Joel
Hanrahan… it sounds good.
then you see $39 million to Shane Victorino and suddenly the curtain
flies open to reveal someone, pulling the levers, that seems woefully
overwhelmed. That’s not fair… and I know that… but even in short-term
deals, after last year’s freeing of massive dollars this club
is still going to end up with one of the top-ten payrolls in the
the sun shining and calm seas: Best bullpen in baseball.
got this club with a losing record and showing small gains. But
honestly… there are some interesting things going on. And if they
throw the paycheck out the window and don’t care, this club could
be about 10 games higher in the win column, and threatening legitimacy
for mention in playoff talk when Labor Day hits. (Note… I am NOT
saying they will make the playoffs. I am saying a pace to win
85 games, where you don’t have to go 18-2 over the final 20 to
do it, will at least make it so you aren’t an afterthought.)
run correctly… and this is where John Farrell may work wonders…
the bullpen could turn several games into 5-inning affairs. Uhera
coming into a game in the sixth inning, followed by some combination
of Junichi Tazawa, Andrew Bailey and Joel Hanrahan is very impressive.
And while I don’t expect miracles from Daniel Bard… if he’s in
the pen by mid-season, well… if Boston isn’t remotely close to
playoff potential they will be involved in a ton of trades. Because
this staff of relievers is as talented a group as any in baseball,
and they are deeper than anyone else.
that payroll comment.
Drew isn’t with the club as the season opens. He’s returning from
a concussion. So Jose Iglesias is getting his shot. If Iglesias
does well, the Red Sox have a $9 million dollar bench player in
Drew. If they’re willing to do that… and do it because players
like Jackie Bradley, Jr. and Iglesias are contributing… then the
youth movement is going very well, and that is good news for this
in paradise: I don’t believe this club is a winning team.
Simple as that. I’m ok with the moves they’ve made… and very interested
to watch them play this year.
don’t believe Jackie Bradley, Jr. and Jose Iglesias were the plan
for 2013. I believe a strong spring training from Bradley, David
Ortiz on the disabled list, and Stephen Drew recovering created
a perfect storm for the regular season and what is happening.
short… what is going on is being allowed to happen, and that’s
great. But it is not the plan. And I don’t know that this organization
is ready to adjust on the fly. I could be wrong… but I do wonder.
expectations: Have you seen the pitching staff Pawtucket
is going to have? Nice. Allen Webster and Rubby de la Rosa are
I mentioned Xander Bogaerts a few moments ago.
going into 2013 not expecting much… and there is the chance that
the team could deliver a pretty good run.
the future… well, unlike a team such as New York, Boston is in
position to be very good if things work out.