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Team Checklists: AL East

Posted by Matt Borkowski on November 19, 2008

This offseason is a mixed bag. At first glance, it would seem like a gold mine for GM’s and their teams. There are quite a few high profile free agents available, as well as some nifty trade ideas GM’s can toy with. However, aside from the obvious acquisitions, there aren’t very many mid-level players or promising prospects a team in need could add. This, in addition to a repressed economy and rising player salaries with no chance of stopping now (if by any chance you read every obscure, online sports blog and skim through for mentions of your name, damn you, Scott Boras, damn you to hell), makes it that much more difficult for perennial losers, rebuilding teams, and those in need of quick fixes. Teams looking to pick up need to do so wisely in order to have offseason success. Sidestepping the obvious cliches, preferring to just get to the point of things, I’ll start out with the AL East.
Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox of last year were a bit disappointing. Sure, they made the postseason, but they didn’t exactly do it in style, nor did they last as long as the defending World Series champs were expected to. They can blame it on injuries, but the fact of the matter is that now that Manny is gone, we’re looking at a different team. They could definitely use either A.J. Burnett (18-10, 4.07) or Derek Lowe (14-11, 3.24). Burnett would be interesting, considering his certain strikeouts (231 K), potential innings (221.1 IP), and the fact that he’ll probably rebound from the “down year” he had last year (3.81 career ERA). However, they already have the power pitchers they need in Beckett and Matsuzaka. Lowe is probably the more attractive choice, considering he’s already spent the better part of 8 seasons with the Sox, and overall just seems like a better fit for the team.
Tampa Bay Rays
Seeing as how they’re a team coming out of a World Series with few departures, the Rays don’t really need to do much. They should just concentrate on retaining their free agents (Baldelli, Floyd, Hinske, Miller), and they’ll be set for another run at success.
New York Yankees
The Yankees are obviously set to make a splash this offseason. The only question is what in particular will they actually do, with some combination of C.C. Sabathia, Jake Peavy, A.J. Burnett, Derek Lowe, and Mark Texeira almost certain to be signed with the Yankees for 2009. So far they’ve wasted no time in obtaining Nick Swisher (08: .219 AVG, ..332 OBP, 24 HR, Career: .244 AVG, .354 OBP, .805 OPS). While some say this may not have been the best possible deal for the Yanks, with others reasoning that they were just making the most out of Betemit and Texeira is on the way, let’s look a little bit further into this. I’m of the belief that batting average is not as important as it’s made to be. Swisher is patient, has power, and has upside, which is exactly why Beane drafted him with his first available pick. This does not exactly sound like a precursor to a Texeira signing. Swisher may have risk, but the Yankees have shown they’re willing to take risks. The Yankees have a pattern of acquiring one high profile player each year since Mussina, and with the pitching needed, the confidence in Swisher, and the expensive ten year contract Texeira is looking for, it doesn’t look like it’ll be him.
Now for the pitching. We have Sabathia (17-10, 2.70), Peavy (10-11, 2.85), and Burnett and Lowe as mentioned before. Mussina is expected to formally announce his retirement soon, Pettitte’s return is uncertain, Rasner has been sold to a Japanese team, and Hughes (0-4, 6.62) and Kennedy (0-4, 8.17) were major flops, so basically the only sure spots go to Wang and Chamberlain. With that being said, they have a wealth of pitchers, so they might only really need one. The Yanks have been burned by risky pickups in the past (Carl Pavano, Kevin Brown, Randy Johnson, etc.), and they’ve seen other teams experience the same (Zito, Hampton, etc..), so they definitely need to take the least risky choice. That would be Sabathia. Burnett is a big injury risk, walks too much (over 3 BB/9 in 2008), and could possibly have another down year. Lowe wouldn’t be bad, but they need someone who can and will dominate. For the past few seasons, Peavy has been one of the top ranked starters among fantasy baseball players. He gets wins when provided with decent teams (although wins aren’t important), has good ERA, WHIP, and K. However, let’s take into consideration that not only has he pitched in the NL, he’s pitched in the NL West, which is probably the weakest division offensively. So he might not be the best pick for the AL East. Sabathia is an amazingly ideal fit for the Yankees. He has great stuff and the stats to back it up, is consistent, absolutely eats through innings with a rubber arm, and has shown the ability to pitch anywhere against anyone. He shows next to no downside and a huge ceiling. 
Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays have been a team of blown expectations. Recent attempts to build up the team sufficiently have failed, so they need to rebuild a bit. It would be a good idea to shed the aged and the disappointments. They’ve got some good youngsters. Can someone tell me why aren’t they playing John MacDonald? Things aren’t all bad, however. The pitching was great, but the hitting just flat out stunk. It’s not going to stay that way. But they need to start bracing for not only the current departure of Burnett, but also top MLB starter Roy Halladay in the years to come. Now I’m not seeing Ben Sheets’s name getting mentioned enough. Sheets (13-9, 3.09) is another starter fantasy players love, and when healthy, is a great starter. Providing the Brewers fail to resign him, it might not be a bad idea for the Jays to go after him.
Baltimore Orioles
Ugh. They don’t exactly have much good about them. Markakis is pretty good, but I don’t know if you can base a team around him. He might be better suited in a cleanup role rather than the three hole. The Orioles got some decent players that turned out to do some good from the Bedard trade, but what the O’s need is pitching. Angelos has got money, so why doesn’t he use it?
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