American League East Musings
As the calendar moves closer to the start of 2013, here are some of my current thoughts on the AL East:
Toronto Blue Jays: Either General Manager Alex Anthopoulos was recently diagnosed with an incurable brain tumor and only has one more baseball season to live, or he wholeheartedly believes the Mayans are right about the world ending on December 21, 20..blah blah blah because he sure as hell doesn’t believe in a Toronto Blue Jays future beyond 2014.
After having traded a gaggle of prospects for the likes of Hanley Ramirez, Mark Buehrle, and a few other players from the Miami Marlins it seems Anthopoulos is at it again. He is on the verge of trading their top prospect, Travis d’Arnaud, and a few other players for R.A. Dickey and Josh Thole. To top it all off though, he designated promising first base prospect Mike McDade for assignment last week and ended up losing him to the Cleveland Indians.
Way to protect your assets there Alex – or are you more concerned with your job since you haven’t produced a single playoff berth for the Jays since you were promoted to General Manager in October in 2009 and the team’s record under you has progressively gotten worse with each passing season?
Tampa Bay Rays: Let’s go ahead and call the Rays the anti-morons of baseball, as I don’t think there has been a single move they have made over the last several years that I didn’t like. I know, I know…love affair much, right? Regardless though, they managed to trade James Shields and Wade Davis to further secure the future of their organization well beyond the next few years. Not all prospects end up developing into useful major leaguers, I believe less than 15% do, but the Rays have a good, strong track record of finding and developing prospects that help their teams.
I’ve said this before, and I’ll keep saying it until someone listens and showers me with praise for being so right, but if the Rays were able to secure a new ballpark – one worthy of playing baseball in – in downtown Tampa or were relocated to another market that would support them, then they would be perennial World Series contenders because of how well run they are. Imagine what a little bit of extra money would do for them.
New York Yankees: What can be said about the New York Yankees? Well, for starters how about they are showing a great deal of fiscal restraint for the first time in over 10 years. Don’t think for one second they are doing it for the good of baseball though – nope. They are doing it to get under the imposed luxury tax threshold of $189 million dollars by 2014. The penalties for repeat offenders will be going up dramatically and in very anti-Yankee fashion they are making it a point to do everything they can to avoid paying those penalties.
Since 2003, when luxury tax penalties were first put in place, the Yankees have paid a total of $225.1 million dollars in luxury tax penalties – and yes, that does include the $18.9 million dollar penalty recently incurred for the 2012 season.
Don’t go thinking that the Yankees won’t be a competitive team in 2013 though, they still have a formidable lineup – with or without the lifeless Alex Rodriguez – and their rotation should get a boost from a healthy Michael Pineda and a potential bounce back season from Ivan Nova. I still don’t predict they’ll win the division though and they could find themselves out of the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
Baltimore Orioles: The 2012 season was certainly one to remember for the Orioles and their fans, but no one should expect them to repeat that success in 2013 without a clean bill of health – over an entire season – for key players such as Nick Markakis and Nolan Reimold and a repeat of their “holy crap they’re using voodoo!” success in one-run and extra-inning games. For a team that had such a magical run in 2012 and a team that fell just one game short of playing in the American League Championship Series, they sure do appear to be resting on their laurels and not doing much more than bringing back the same team they had from last season.
That’s not to say they won’t finish with a winning record, but without all of those unprecedented (at least in the modern era) successes in one-run and extra-inning games they are probably looking at around 85 wins in 2013. They could still use another big bat (a la Josh Hamilton or Mike Napoli) to put in the middle of their lineup and while I’m probably more of a believer in their starting rotation with Jason Hammel, Wei-Yin Chen and Chris Tillman anchoring those first three spots than most people are, it still wouldn’t hurt to add a high quality veteran (a la Dan Haren or Ryan Dempster) to the mix – oh wait, those players are all pretty much spoken for on the free agent market…
Unless General Manager Dan Duquette can pull off a trade or two acquiring a quality bat like Mike Morse from the Washington Nationals or even Kendry Morales from the Los Angeles Angels, they could find themselves sitting squarely in fourth place and watching the playoffs at home in 2013.
Boston Red Sox: If there’s one thing that the Red Sox have done well this offseason it’s sign players that fit that old Red Sox mold, circa 2002, to contracts that won’t absolutely kill them long-term. Kudos to them for learning from their recent history of mistakes. However, it will still all boil down to starting pitching and I still don’t believe the Red Sox are strong enough in that area to overcome it with what they’ve acquired on offense – even with a strong 2013 season from Jon Lester.
I know many Red Sox fans and analysts are expecting the team to take some huge leap in 2013 and contend for the division or the playoffs, but that’s simply not going to happen. They won just 69 games in 2012 – partly due to injuries, partly due to a shoddy clubhouse atmosphere and partly due to Bobby Valentine, but they aren’t going to have a more than 20 game improvement in the win column. Who do they think they are, the 2012 Baltimore Orioles?