A Quick Glance at the A L East
The American League East has gotten a bit crowded lately. There is a huge amount of new money flowing in and out of the coffers of the New York Yankees, but should this have the rest of the A L East up in arms, or even worried at all over the talent and financial windfalls of the boy’s in pinstripes? for one am not worried at all by the recent additions by the old school teams in the east to rebuild from outward signings and additions. That is what mega corporations do, they bring in the best and hope for massive production and results.
I actually think that this season is just par for the course in that the Yankees are rebuilding from within the free agent market instead of through a minor league system. We all know that their minor league system leaves a lot to be desired, so they have to take option number 2 to get the type of bat ,or pitcher they need to compete year in and year out. But you know what I find funny here is the fact that the Yankees actually have reduced their payroll for 2009, and have not ballooned it out of site.
Yeah, can you believe that you spend a total of almost half a billion dollars and you have actually reduced your salary for the coming year. As wild as it might sound, the Yankees actually shed $ 88 million in payroll while only adding $ 62 million. So even in the economical crisis the Yankees have save close to $ 29 million dollars for this coming season’s squad. But that is contingent on the fact that they will not be adding any more parts to the equation between now and Opening Day.
But you can not guarantee anything in the AL East anymore. With teams like Toronto Blue Jay having one of the best pitching staff in baseball, they will be constantly up there based on their arms while the bats begin to stretch out and then come alive for the team. They will again be a team that might be on the outside looking in, but is still a giant slumbering, waiting for his chance to pounce and show his true power to the world.
Former Cy Young winner Roy Halladay will reload and get ready to do combat with everyone and anyone on a 5- day basis in 2009. And just because they lost A J Burnett doesn’t mean there is not another cog waiting to be put into the machine and perform for the Jays. They might have a sleeper starter in Matt Clement, who has signed a minor league deal with the club, and might impress enough to even get a slot in the rotation in 2009
But this is a team you do not take lightly even in the offensive side of the ball. They might be a bit light right now, but that doesn’t mean they will not make a late signing of a bat that can produce for the Jays. They have always been like a pack of wild dogs. One doesn’t do the total damage on you, but little by little they can wear you down until they have you right where they want you in a game.
Then you have the almighty Boston Red Sox. Who would have spent the same for Teixiera if he let them for his serves in beantown. But it was discovered that Tex’s better half did not like the old New England vibe, and you already know that the wife of a player has a true measure of the decisions in these manners. Seriously though, Boston is also under a financial burden to reload almost yearly to keep up with the Steinbrenners’ of the world.
They recently added another member of the old World Champion Florida Marlins when they signed Brad Penny to come aboard and actually make it feasible for Justin Masterson to stay in a setup role for closer Jonathan Papelbon. the arrival of Penny is actually a head scratcher since he has never been a good pitcher against the American League in his career. During the Inter-league series in the past he has gotten a bot rocked, to the tune of 7-11 in the past, and might not be a perfect fit for the Boston rotation.
But that was the Red Sox answer to Tex, bring in more pitchers’ who might put more holes in bats in the A L East. Beside that move, the team did make a minor signing, that might end up being a major one of they do not come to terms with former backstop Jason Varitek soon. Josh Bard might end up as the starter if the old captain can’t come to terms with the team in time for the season. It would be a huge change for the Red Sox, but would also put offense back behind the plate for the Red Sox, which they have not had in the last few years.
Then you take the Tampa Bay Rays philosophy that you do not add wins by adding huge money. So far the team had made two trades that have gone under the radar a bit, but might have fantastic dividends for the team sooner than you think in 2009. the signings will not be the last ones, as the team is negotiating and poking and prodding a number of free agent bats looking for the right fit to the Rays mold in 2009.
Because of the obvious team chemistry, you do not want to just pop a hitter in there without regards to the dynamics the team has established in 2008. To bring in a player who can build on the fundamentals put into place in 2008 would be huge for this organization. The right bat could just gel up the middle of that offensive lineup and explode out of the gate. But the wrong bat could also clog the life’s blood out of the team and they will be then set for a nasty downfall from grace.
The trade of Edwin Jackson for Matt Joyce is actually a great acquisition on both paper and payroll. the team will have the options on the player for the next 6 years, which give them a great player coming into his own during that period. Joyce might come back as one of the best trades in 2008’s off season if he grows in potential and wins the right field job out of Spring Training.
But the signing of Joe Nelson is actually a sign that the Rays are being shrewd, but smart in their Bullpen additions for 2009. They have the right idea of not wanting to rock the boat too much, and will show that the signing is not just for obvious reasons. This signing is also a insurance policy on Troy Percival this coming season. Nelson will come aboard the Rays’ ship knowing that Percival has had a checkered past in 2008 for the Rays.
With Dan Wheeler and J P Howell and Grant Balfour in great roles in setting up the staff, the addition of Nelson is actually a situational one where he can either be inserted into that mix of pitchers’, or be the closer until Percival is fully healthy, or even down for the count again for the Rays. It is a smart signing based on 2008 statistics of a 2.0 ERA as a reliever, but also shows the foresight of knowing that a healthy Percival is only one misstep away from having a 2008 relapse.
So every team in the American League East should be better in 2009, but one will again be the bottom feeder for at least the 2009 season. The Baltimore Orioles have again been deemed the team that will strive to get out of the cellar of the A L East. But you can be sure that they are developing guys in the minors to come up fast that can contribute for years to come and might be building a cheaper edition of a dynasty for a few years.
It is currently hard to fathom such and adventure since they only have 1 true starter in Jeremy Guthrie currently on their roster, but they have a huge ton of raw talent that could develop fast and make a play for the 4th slot late in the season. The Orioles are one team that always have me worried in the AL East. You never know which one will show up and either lay down or kick your butt in a game. Because of this, you always have to be on your guard with them and not lollygag in a game. And they still have the bats like, Aubrey Huff to compete with the big boys in the division.
So here we are a few days away from 2009, and we have a huge season on the horizon. I think that the race from Day 1 in the A L East will one of the best contested races in the league in 2009. you will have to two powers of the “old” East fighting with the two young upstarts the entire season trying to redefine the pecking order of the division. It will be a fight to the finish with one of the best teams maybe looking in on the playoff picture after losing out in the finals weeks of the season.
It is again time for the A L East to make the rest of baseball take a look at their standing every night and wonder who is going to have the staying power to successfully survive the 162-game season without major strife and damage. I might be inclined to put the top three from last season back into the race for the title, but with Toronto nipping at their heels, you never know anymore. But one thing is for sure in 2009, it is a year I will not want to miss for the world. It could even be a year where a .500 club wins the division, and a chance to win the World Series.