1. Tampa Bay Rays
Notable Additions: RP Roberto Hernandez (Fausto Carmona), 1B James Loney, RP Juan Carlos Oviedo (Leo Nunez), SS Yunel Escobar, OF Wil Myers, SP Mike Montgomery, SP Jake Odirizzi
Notable Losses: SP James Shields, SP Wade Davis, 1B Carlos Pena, 3B Jeff Keppinger, OF BJ Upton, RP JP Howell
The Rays are locked and loaded for another year to be the David who can stand up to the Goliaths of the Major League Baseball. Continuing to have one of the deeper starting rotations in baseball with David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore, Alex Cobb, and Jeff Niemann as their starting five. The Rays shouldn’t have difficulty getting innings out of this bunch. David Price is just coming off of a Cy Young performance in 2012, and his contract will be up in 2013 which leaves a lot of uncertainty for the cash-strapped Rays. The Rays have discussed both trading Price and extending him, however the later would leave little room for a supporting cast around him and Longoria. That evidence leads me to think the Rays will move Price, but they will need to find a team that will be willing to swallow their step price (no pun intended) for a potential rental pitcher. Moving from the rotation to the bullpen the Rays are decent here as well marksman Fernando Rodney handling the closers role, Joel Peralta setting up, and Jake McGee and Kyle Farnsworth providing relief when extra innings need to be pitched.
As far as the Rays lineup goes, it seems to be balanced all the way around. Power threats remain despite the departure of BJ Upton with the likes of Evan Longoria, Matt Joyce, Ben Zobrist, and Luke Scott. In addition to the guys that can drive the ball, the Rays also have a legitimate base stealer in Desmond Jennings, and guys who can just flat out get on base like James Loney and Yunel Escobar despite his down year with the Blue Jays in 2012. Overall, I feel like the Rays should have enough to win the division in 2013 and they will make a deep playoff run due to the youth and depth of their starting pitching staff.
2. Toronto Blue Jays
Notable Additions: SP Mark Buehrle, SP Josh Johnson, SS Jose Reyes, 2B/3B Emilio Bonifacio, 2B Maicer Izturis, OF Melky Cabrera, SP R.A. Dickey, INF Mark DeRosa, C Henry Blanco, C Josh Thole, Mick Nickeas
Notable Losses: C John Buck, C Travis D’Arnaud, C Jeff Mathis, 2B Kelly Johnson, SS Yunel Escobar, SP Adeiny Hechavarria, SS Mike Aviles, SP Henderson Alvarez, RP Jason Frasor, RP Brandon Lyon, SP Carlos Villanueva
Wow. Just wow is all I have to say regarding this team’s transformation from 2012 to 2013. GM Alex Anthonopolos (AA) went out and got the starting pitching the team lacked in 2012 and got it in a big way. He now has power pitcher Josh Johnson, innings eater and perfectionist Mark Buehrle, and knuckleballer R.A. Dickey in conjunction with the talent the Blue Jays already had in house in Brandon Morrow and Ricky Romero. This starting rotation is absolutely phenomenal and I consider it to be one of the top five rotations in the league. The bullpen isn’t too shabby either as they have Casey Janssen closing, Sergio Santos returning in the set up role, and Darren Oliver, Brad Lincoln, and Steve Delabar among other big names to help out in the middle innings. The Jays pitching staff is far from impressive, they are out of this world.
The Jays are no slouch at the plate either with power hitters Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, and Colby Rasmus heading up the middle of the order. In addition, the Blue Jays will have a lot of stolen base potential with Jose Reyes and Emilio Bonifacio on the same team. Not to mention they have a lot of guys who can just purely rake in Brett Lawrie and Melky Cabrera.* The Jays will be an exciting team to watch in 2013 and will give the Rays a bunch of problems at the top of the AL East, however the reason I do not pick them to win the division despite them being so much better on paper is because the game isn’t played on paper, and I feel like the Blue Jays will just have something that won’t allow them to put it together for a division title. However, I do see them with a playoff berth.
3. Baltimore Orioles
Notable Additions: 3B Danny Valencia, UTIL Russ Canzler, UTIL Alexi Casilla
Notable Losses: 1B Mark Reynolds, SP Joe Saunders
The Orioles really didn’t make a splash in this offseason, however, they are still very much the same team that won a wild card spot last year. The thing about the Orioles is that they are a young team with boppers such as Nolan Reimold, Adam Jones, Manny Machado, and Matt Wieters expected to be around for years to come. As well as guys like JJ Hardy and Brian Roberts continuing to be productive as they age. The Orioles starting rotation however should prove problematic in their chances of pursuing back to back playoff appearances as they lack a truly dominant starting pitcher on their staff. Don’t get me wrong, Jason Hammel and Wei-Yin Chen are solid, but when they square off against guys like Josh Johnson, David Price, and CC Sabathia they will need to be that much better in order to keep their Orioles in the game. I wish I could say their bullpen will provide the starters some relief in 2013, however I don’t think that is the case because with the exception of Jim Johnson, the Orioles bullpen is rather inconsistent and inexperienced, but the same could be said for the White Sox bullpen in 2012 and they did just fine.
4. New York Yankees
Notable Additions: 3B Kevin Youkilis, OF Ben Francisco, 1B Juan Rivera, 1B/DH Travis Hafner, 1B Dan Johnson
Notable Losses: C Russell Martin, 3B Eric Chavez, OF Andruw Jones, OF Nick Swisher, OF Raul Ibanez, SP Freddy Garcia, RP Rafael Soriano
Here they are Next Sox GM readers. The great Yankees of New York will finish 4th this year according to this baseball enthusiast and here is why:
They are old. I mean they may as well refer to Yankee stadium as a retirement home because with geezers like Youkilis, Rivera, Jeter, Hafner, and Ichiro Suzuki headlining the team they sure aren’t trying to get younger. The youth movement for them is not speeding up either as their bench also seems to be made up of older major leaguers or career minor leaguers. Brett Gardner is the one bright spot of the team along with Robinson Cano, but they won’t be enough to lift the Yankees above the younger and more talented Orioles, Rays, and Jays. Not to say that being old is bad, but I simply don’t foresee the older Yankees being able to produce all 162 games and/or stay healthy the whole time as well.
They do have a bright spot as far as pitching goes. CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda should continue to do well and Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes will continue to eat innings. Andy Pettitte is the wild card in the equation, he can be decent or he can fall apart. We shall see with him, however I expect the 2013 Yankees starting rotation to keep their team in games in 2013. In addition, I also expect their bullpen to be able to hold leads as the great Mariano Rivera is returning for one more season and the Yankees also still have David Robertson, Joba Chamberlain, and Boone Logan to shut the door.
5. Boston Red Sox
Notable Additions: C David Ross, OF Jonny Gomes, OF Shane Victorino, RP Koji Uehara, SP Ryan Dempster, SS Stephen Drew, C Mike Napoli, UTIL Mike Carp, RP Joel Hanrahan, MGR John Farrell
Notable Losses: 1B James Loney, 3B Danny Valencia, SS Mike Aviles, OF Cody Ross, SP Daisuke Matsuzaka, SP Vicente Padilla
The Red Sox are in shambles.What once was a great team, is now the laughing stock of the AL East. After their momentous collapse in 2011 to the embarrassment that was 2012, to the transition period that will be 2013, the Red Sox need to find their new identity. The thing that gets me most about this team is that they have good players, just not at the right time. They acquired Shane Victorino, Ryan Dempster, and Mike Napoli this offseason, all good players, but they are getting older and not better. Stephen Drew might have problems adjusting to the tougher AL East, and the Red Sox also must rely on Jacoby Ellsbury remaining healthy and Will Middlebrooks having a great sophomore campaign. The Red Sox dont have a bad rotation, however it is inconsistent, Lester and Buchholz will be expected to pitch to their potential all year long and I just don’t see that happening. John Lackey will be returning this season, but will he come back the same old John Lackey from his Angels years or the Red Sox years? Red Sox fans better hope for the former. The bullpen is solid as they have two closers in Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey, the rest of the bullpen is solid with power arm Daniel Bard and hot-head Alfredo Aceves. Thing is the Red Sox simply won’t have the offense, youth, or pitching to keep up with the beasts of the East.
5 years ago, Kenny Williams pulled the trigger on a shocking trade that would see Nick Swisher leave the Oakland A’s in exchange for White Sox prospects Gio Gonzalez, Fautino De Los Santos, and Ryan Sweeney. After a tumultuous 2007 season which saw the Sox finish fourth in the division, only ahead of the lowly Royals, Kenny Williams needed to make a splash for the team and for the fans; and Williams thought energetic, fan favorite, slugging outfielder Nick Swisher was the man for the job.
Nick Swisher was just coming off of a decent 2006 showing for the Oakland A’s, he hit twenty-two home runs, drove in 69 runners, and maintained a very, very good .381 on-base percentage. Swisher was what the Sox needed after a disastrous 2007 season, a guy who could get on base, and a guy who could drive in the runners who were on base before him. With the Sox in dire need of offense Williams dealt Gio Gonzalez (for the second time), one of the White Sox top pitching prospects, Ryan Sweeney, a promising outfielder, and RHP Fautino De Los Santos. Sox fans were elated to see their GM improve the big club on paper and make the team competitive again considering the team had won the World Series in 2005, and ninety games in 2006.
Swisher would join the Sox, and would embrace Chicago, even beginning a Nick Swisher brand for Chicago called “Dirty 30.” However, despite Swisher putting up improved numbers with the White Sox, he struggled with high expectations from the White Sox faithful and was put in the doghouse by then manager Ozzie Guillen. As he began to lose at-bats due to a sub-par average and expectations began to wear down on the usually happy-go-lucky Swisher, his performance suffered more. After making the playoffs in dramatic fashion in 2008, and being eliminated by the Cinderella Rays in four games, Williams decided that Nick Swisher was not a fit in Chicago, and promptly traded him to the New York Yankees in exchange for utility man Wilson Betemit, and minor-league relievers Jeff Marquez and Jhonny Nunez.
Meanwhile in the Bay area Gio Gonzalez struggled as a starter until 2010 when he blossomed into a decent middle of the rotation starter for the A’s, and continued to improve into 2011. He would be valuable to the A’s rotation and to their future as in the 2011 offseason Gonzalez was dealt to the Washington Nationals for a slew of high-end prospects that were considered major league ready. Tommy Milone and Derek Norris currently contribute to the A’s major league team, with Norris slotted to be the everyday catcher and Milone starting to pitch like a top-end starter. The other two pitching prospects Cole and Peacock are expected to be major league ready very soon and will surely contribute the A’s quest to win the World Series based on a small budget and smart, thrifty personnel moves.
Ryan Sweeney also proved to be useful to the A’s. He proved to be a very capable fourth outfielder who could get on base. This allowed him to stick around the A’s big club for four years before also being dealt with closer Andrew Bailey for slugging Red Sox outfielder Josh Reddick and two Single-A prospects. In Reddick’s first season with the A’s he has proved his worth, hitting thirty-two bombs, bringing in eighty-five runners, and compiling a respectable .305 on-base percentage. In a couple of seasons Reddick could be the new face of the A’s, and it was partly because of Ryan Sweeney that made the deal that brought Reddick to Oakland possible.
Back to the White Sox, the Swisher deal that brought back Wilson Betemit, Jeff Marquez, and Jhonny Nunez did virtually nothing. In Betemit’s one season with the Sox, he saw the plate 45 times, enough said. Marquez, made it to the big leagues long enough to sign a baseball for me, but when he got in, in that one game…barf, two runs in one inning and he was gone again. He made it back to the Yankees in 2011 for three games and hasn’t tasted the bigs since. Nunez came up to the Sox in 2009 for five and two-thirds innings and gave up six runs, he was sent down as well and hasn’t seen major league action since. Case and point, neither Nunez nor Marquez are with the Sox anymore and when they were they were atrocious.
Ultimately this trade will go down as one of Kenny Williams biggest mistakes, and as one of Billy Beane’s biggest victories. Not only did he fleece Kenny Williams, but he later used the pieces he received in the Williams fleecing to also dupe Nats GM Mike Rizzo and rookie Red Sox GM Ben Cherington. This trade also goes to show you how bad the Chicago faithful is to their players, Nick Swisher, though having a subpar season for his standards, still did relatively well, after he was dealt to the Yankees he never had a season with an on-base percentage lower than .350 and had been a key piece to their 2009 World Series championship.