What The AL East Teams Are Most Thankful For:
There is little doubt that there are ‘haves and have nots’ in baseball as there are in any sport, but every team has at least one player, person or thing to be thankful for this holiday season. Here is a fun list of what each team in the AL East has to be the most thankful for:
New York Yankees: New York obviously has a lot going for them going forward. With a massive payroll, an All-Star lineup, and a very good farm system, the future is bright for the Yankees. The thing the Yankees are most thankful for though is the willingness of Cliff Lee to maybe come to the Yankees.
As good as the Yankees are, they have some serious holes in their rotation that will prevent them from competing in the tough AL East. Although the Yankees seemingly have unlimited resources, if Cliff Lee doesn’t come to New York, the Yankees don’t have a fall back plan. The starting pitching on the free agent market is extremely thin past Lee. No one else on the market is better than a number 3 starter, and a couple of the better options Carl Pavano and Javier Vazquez, aren’t likely to be welcomed back to New York with open arms. The trade market isn’t any more promising for the Yankees as they don’t seem to be a fit for many of the top arms out there. Zack Greinke has a no trade clause for the Yankees and seems to have little interest in waiving it, and the next couple of quality starters potentially on the trade market are from the Rays (possibly the Red-Sox if Dice K is available) and I don’t see them helping fill the Yankees ‘needs’.
The Yankees need Cliff Lee maybe more than possibly any other free agent in their history (unless another top pitcher comes on the market). He might not come cheap, but the fact that he is listening and is a favorite to sign in NY is promising.
Boston Red Sox: Boston is in a similar position with the Yankees, with money to spend, a great team, and a top notch farm system, but the thing they have to be most thankful for is good health.
Last year the Red Sox missed Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, Victor Martinez, Mike Cameron, Mike Lowell, and Jacoby Ellsbury, Josh Beckett all missed significant time with injury. Despite so many starters missing time, the Red Sox still were competitive all season and finished with an 89-73 record (they would have only been 1 game out in the West). While the Red Sox will be looking to make some changes this offseason, the most important thing to them is getting healthy. Youkilis, Pedroia, Beckett and Ellsbury all are important cogs for Boston as they look to get back to the post season. Luckily, while all those injuries were devastating at the time none should have a long term impact on the Red Sox. Continued good health will be the key for the Red Sox this season, but right now things are looking up.
Baltimore Orioles: The Orioles have a lot of young talented players, but there is little doubt what (who) they are most thankful for, Buck Showalter. Baltimore finished 66-96 last season split between three managers, but more than half of those wins (34) came when Showalter was at the helm.
In 57 games under Showalter the Orioles went 34-23, meaning the Orioles would have 97 games based on their winning percentage under him. That would have been good enough to win the AL East (as well as being the best record in baseball). Showalter also went 14-13 against the AL East (they went 10-35 before he started). Now I don’t think they were legitimately a 97 win team, but they also weren’t a legitimate 66 win team either.
Showalter completely revitalized that team and gives the Orioles hope going forward. They have a number of young talented pieces and Buck seems to be making the most out them. The addition of Showalter could be exactly what the Orioles need, as they look to become an competitive franchise once again.
Toronto Blue Jays: The Jays had the home run king last year as well as one of the best power teams in the league, but they are most thankful for their G.M. Alex Anthopoulos.
The Blue Jays had lost Roy Halladay, Scott Rolen and Alex Rios from the summer of 2009 to the beginning of last season, yet somehow the Blue Jays still managed to win 85 games. What’s even more impressive than their win total is the collection of young talent that Anthopoulos has picked up. The young Blue Jays G.M. was in the unenviable position of having to trade their top player, Halladay, when his value was the lowest. Despite not having the leverage he would have wanted, Anthopoulos made a very good trade for the Blue Jays, and remained active all offseason to rebuild the Blue Jays farm. Combined with his shrewd trades and signings, as well as a top notch draft the Blue Jays ‘rebuilding’ process actually made Toronto a better team than they were before.
Tamp Bay Rays: The Rays won the division and if not for Cliff Lee and those pesky Rangers, very well could have been in the World Series. Things though aren’t all rosy in Tampa as they need to slash their payroll, which will mean the loss of a number of star players including All-Star Carl Crawford. While it looks bleak, I wouldn’t be too worried about Tampa as they have plenty of talent on the way from their bountiful farm system, which needs to be number 1 on their thankful list.
They Rays have already added a number of young players these last couple years, but should add a couple more uber-talents this season with RHP Jeremy Hellickson and OF Desmond Jennings leading the way. Hellickson is the best pitcher in the minors and saw a little bit of time with the Rays last season. He profiles as a potential number 1 and should at least be a 2 or a 3 starter on a playoff caliber team. Jennings is one of the top young outfielders in the minors and he is capable of playing any position. He will likely start by replacing Crawford, but could eventually move over to CF and become the Rays lead-off hitter. In addition to the two stars, I’d expect to at least a couple more arms throughout the season, with LHP Jake McGee likely to start the year in their bullpen. The Rays system is loaded that they can not only absorb their impending losses, but make a couple big trades as well.
As I said, at the top every team has something to be thankful for this holiday weekend, but these are what I think the 5 AL East teams have to be most thankful for. What do you think?