Thinking About the Competition

Yes, the Yanks have made some big additions already this offseason, and figure to make more by opening day. But, let's look at what the other AL East teams have done or will do this offseason.

The Red Sox's main target is Mark Teixeira. At the minimum he'll get an eight year $160mm contract wherever he signs. If Boston gets him, then he plays 1st, Youkilis moves to 3rd, and Lowell gets the boot. A lineup featuring Teixeira, Youkilis, Pedroia, Ortiz, Drew and Bay is scary. The Sox currently have a major hole on their team with team captain Jason Varitek being a free agent. He wants "Posada money." With Boras as his agent, he just might get it. However, Theo Epstein most likely won't go past a 2 year deal or $10mm a year. If he gets away, expect Boston to make a push to trade for Taylor Teagarden or Jarrod Saltalamacchia. And if the Dodgers' Russell Martin hits the trade market in order to reel in some starting pitching, expect the Red Sox to pounce. The Rockies could shop veteran Yorvit Torrealba and he might be a last resort for the Sox. Also don't be too surprised next year if David Ortiz performs poorly, as he had one of his worst seasons in recent memory this year, batting .264 with 23 homeruns, although he only played 109 games. The Sox have a threatening rotation headed by World Series legend Josh Beckett, the young cancer-survivor Jon Lester (as much as I hate the Sox, that guy is an inspiration) and Daisuke Matsuzaka. The BoSox also have knuckleballer Tim Wakefield back, and a bunch of promising young arms (Michael Bowden ,Justin Masterson, and Clay Bucholz). Although the Sox are public enemy #1, you have to give respect to their few players who are just complete class acts. I root against David Ortiz, Jon Lester, Mike Lowell, and Jason Bay, but those are the kind of guys you want in your clubhouse. Anyways, the Red Sox are pretty solid all around and their only major potential problems are the inconsistent Beckett( 5.01 ERA in 06, 3.27 in 07, and 4. 03 this past year) another poor season from Ortiz, and a lack of leadership from behind the plate.

Tampa Bay:
The Rays are really good. I mean really good. Their two major offensive stars before last season were BJ Upton and Carl Crawford, who both had sub-par seasons in 08, but Tampa still won the pennant. Imagine if they go back to their career norms? They'll have Evan Longoria for the whole season, defensive whizz Jason Bartlett at short, the poweful Carlos Pena at 1st and 08 surprise and former Yankee Dioner Navarro behind the plate. O and I forgot that they have a rotation featuring Scott Kazmir, James Shields, and Matt Garza (not one of them had an ERA above 3.70). They also have the young David Price, who is, to put it simply, filthy. He'll be pretty good. And most likely they'll have Andy Sonnanstine in the rotation too. Troy Percival, Dan Wheeler, JP Howell, Grant Balfour, and Chad Bradford make up a strong bullpen. The Rays are really just looking for a powerful corner OF/DH type and are looking at Milton Bradley, Jason Giambi, Bobby Abreu, and Garrett Anderson as possibilities. With the mass number of those kind of guys available, they should be able to find someone at a discount.

The Jays will miss AJ Burnett, but their rotation won't fall apart without him. With Roy Halladay, Dustin McGowan, Jesse Litsch, and Shaun Marcum their rotation isn't that bad. If the Jays go out and sign a #2 or #3 kind of guy (Oliver Perez, Derek Lowe, or Randy Wolf) their rotation could be very strong. The Jays' offense is lacking. Vernon Wells and Alex Rios don't exactly instill fear in opposing pitchers, and an infield of Lyle Overbay, Joe Inglett, John McDonald, and Scott Rolen isn't something to be proud of. Look for JP Ricciardi to try and add a a bat by opening day. I wouldn't be surprised to see them make a strong run at Rafael Furcal. i see them as a dark horse in the Manny Ramirez sweepstakes. Manny's main suitors, the Dodgers and Angels, are focusing on a shortstop and Mark Teixeira respectively. If the Angels get Teixeira, count them out in the Manny sweepstakes. The Dodgers only have so much money to spend and if they are to sign a shortstop, a starting pitcher, and a closer, they might not have the money needed to make a strong offer for Manny. The Jays, with Burnett coming off the books, might surprise us and sign him, as they could really use his offense.

Baltimore: The rebuilding O's aren't really a threat to anyone. At least not in 09. With Jeremy Guthrie as their only proven starter they won't be able to compete with the strong pitching of New York, Boston, Tampa, and Toronto. The O's are looking to shed some payroll and we should expect the Brian Roberts trade rumors to pop up again soon. They already traded away veteran catcher Ramon Hernandez for Ryan Freel in an attempt to free up a couple million dollars from the payroll and to give top prospect Matt Wieters a shot at the big league level. Look for teams to start asking about 1B/OF Aubrey Huff either this winter or mid-season. Huff hit 32 homeruns with a .360 OBP and a .552 SLG in 08. Right now there are a lot of free agents who fit that same niche, but once those guys are signed a market for Huff could develop, and as he enters his walk year, expect an offensively starved playoff contender to swing a deal for him when the trade deadline starts to loom. The O's are supposed to be in the Teixeira bidding, but no one expects them to offer enough money or years to compete with the offers he will get from Anaheim, Boston, and the surprising 8 year/ $160mm deal he was offered by Washington.

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