New York Yankees (2009 Record: 103-59)
-Key Additions: SP Javier Vazquez, CF Curtis Granderson, DH/1B Nick Johnson, LF Randy Winn, RP Boone Logan, OF Jamie Hoffman, OF Greg Golson
-Key Losses: CF Melky Cabrera, DH Hideki Matsui, LF Johnny Damon, C Jose Molina, RF Xavier Nady, SP Chien-Ming Wang, RP Phil Coke, RP Michael Dunn, OF Austin Jackson, SP Ian Kennedy, RP Brian Bruney, OF Jerry Hairston, Jr.
It’s hard to believe, but the Yankees actually controlled their spending this offseason. The reigning World Series champs let some key pieces walk in free agency, namely World Series MVP Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon.
However, they made a great deal with the Atlanta Braves that sent Javier Vazquez back to New York to be the number three or number four starter, which makes the Yankees’ pitching staff one of the deepest in baseball with CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Andy Pettitte and one of either Phil Hughes or Joba Chamberlain. They also addressed their outfield defensive problems by trading for Curtis Granderson and acquiring Jamie Hoffman through the Rule 5 Draft. On paper, it looks like they lost a lot and gained little, but in reality, this team is every bit as good if not better than last year’s team. The Yankees look poised to make another run at the World Series and they are feeling confident as evidenced by manager Joe Girardi already stating that the Yankees are ready to win their 28th ring.
Boston Red Sox (2009 Record: 95-67)
-Key Additions: SP John Lackey, CF Mike Cameron, 3B Adrian Beltre, LF Jeremy Hermida, UT Bill Hall, SS Marco Scutaro, SP Boof Bonser
-Key Losses: LF Jason Bay, RP Takashi Saito, RP Billy Wagner, C George Kottaras, SS Alex Gonzalez, 1B Casey Kotchman, OF Rocco Baldelli
The Red Sox clearly spent this offseason focused on improving pitching and defense. The most telling move was the addition of Mike Cameron, a 37-year-old center fielder who spelled incumbent Jacoby Ellsbury to left field. Cameron’s age is a concern, but he is still one of the top defenders in the league. However, in pursuit of better defense, the BoSox find themselves loaded with corner infielders. There is a logjam at third base with Adrian Beltre, Mike Lowell, and Bill Hall all vying for playing time, while first base will likely be split between Kevin Youkilis and Victor Martinez. The most obvious strength for the Sox this season will be their pitching depth. They arguably have the deepest rotation in the league with Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, John Lackey, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Clay Buchholz. It’s not unreasonable to think that the Sox could win five or six more games this year than they did last year, but pitching and defense is not known to win in the regular season.
Tampa Bay Rays (2009 Record: 84-78)
-Key Additions: RP Rafael Soriano, C Kelly Shoppach
-Key Losses: 2B Akinori Iwamura, RP Troy Percival, RP Mitch Talbot, C Gregg Zaun
Once again, the Rays were very quiet this offseason, relying more on their farm system than the free agent market to improve the team. The departure of second baseman Akinori Iwamura was the biggest lost for this team and that is not even that big of a deal because Ben Zobrist had his breakout season last year. The Rays are still very young but they are maturing as a coherent unit led by All-Star third baseman Evan Longoria. The Rays hope that David Price and Wade Davis will be every bit as good as they are advertised and anchor the pitching staff behind James Shields and Matt Garza. Rafael Soriano is a huge upgrade over the rag-tag closer by committee the Rays had last year and he should be good for an extra two or three wins this season. The one lingering question around the Rays this year will be what they do with outfielder Carl Crawford, who is in the last season of his contract. There is wide speculation that if the Rays are not competitive in July, Crawford could be dealt to a contender. However, the upstart Rays are proving that they are ready to be taken seriously. Remember, they’re only two years removed from being in the World Series.
Toronto Blue Jays (2009 Record: 75-87)
-Key Additions: SS Alex Gonzalez, C John Buck, SP Brandon Morrow, SP Kyle Drabek
-Key Losses: SP Roy Halladay, RP Brandon League, SS Marco Scutaro
The Blue Jays had an eventful offseason behind the departure of longtime ace Roy Halladay. The Blue Jays have clearly entered a rebuilding phase and they definitely have the pieces in place to start that process. They received the Philadelphia Phillies’ top prospect Kyle Drabek in the Halladay deal and they have young players that have the potential to grow into good major league players. Of these young players, the most notable are starting pitchers Ricky Romero and Scott Richmond and outfielder Travis Snider. However, a sizeable recession for this team is all that can be expected. Good things can be expected from this team down the road, but how far down the road is unknown.
Baltimore Orioles (2009 Record: 64-98)
-Key Additions: RP Mike Gonzalez, 3B Miguel Tejada, 1B Garrett Atkins, SP Kevin Millwood
-Key Losses: 3B Melvin Mora, RP Danys Baez, RP Chris Ray, SP Rich Hill
The Orioles actually made some decent moves this offseason by plugging the holes on their roster with seasoned veterans. While some veterans may be too seasoned (Miguel Tejada and Kevin Millwood are both over 35), they provide valuable experience for this young club. The Orioles have an exceptional corps of young players led by All-Star outfielders Nick Markakis and Adam Jones and budding catcher Matt Wieters. There is also a quartet of young starting pitchers for this team made up of Brad Bergesen, Brian Matusz, Charles Tillman and David Hernandez, who should all learn valuable lessons from Millwood. There are no expectations for the Orioles this season and they may be the team that plays spoiler over the course of the season and not be considered an easy win.