- Joe McDonald, ESPN Staff Writer
- 0 Shares
If the New York Yankees are suddenly the favorite to win the A.L. East just because they signed relief pitcher Rafael Soriano, as ESPN New York columnist Wallace Matthews wrote, then it also must be obvious that the New York Jets are going seriously punish the New England Patriots on Sunday.
To even consider the notion that Yankees general manager Brian Cashman suddenly has had more success this offseason than Red Sox GM Theo Epstein, making New York a better club than Boston, is simply not the case.
Epstein traded for slugging first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and signed free-agent outfielder Carl Crawford and reliever Bobby Jenks this winter, making the Red Sox -- and not the Yankees -- the favorites to win the most competitive division in baseball.
The Red Sox dealt with major injuries to key players in 2010 and were still able to win 89 games. Pitchers Josh Beckett, John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka were not at their best last season, and Boston’s bullpen was suspect.
But that was last year.
On paper, the Red Sox are clearly the better team with a stronger lineup and a far superior pitching staff.
And if it’s Soriano who tips the scale in the Yankees’ favor, consider the fact that in his new role as set-up guy for closer Mariano Rivera, Soriano will match up against Red Sox Daniel Bard, who has a similar role with Jonathan Papelbon.
Even if the addition of Soriano allows the Yankee starters to work only six innings, having Jenks in Boston’s bullpen does the same for the Red Sox.
While Rivera has the edge over Papelbon, Bard is comparable to Soriano in that set-up role.
From an offensive standpoint, yes, the Red Sox were among the league leaders last season in batting average, runs scored, home runs and slugging percentage, and that was with Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Victor Martinez, Mike Cameron and Kevin Youkilis missing significant amount of time.
If there’s one GM who should be pumping his chest this offseason, it’s Epstein. There’s no denying the fact that the Yankees are a solid club and the addition of Soriano will help their cause. But, on paper, it’s obvious the Red Sox should be the favorites to win it all in 2011.
Either way, it’s a fun discussion to have and once the season begins, it’s going to be a special one for each club. It's January and anybody can look good on paper. It's what happens during the season that counts.