Saturday, December 7, 2013
AL East: Three questions for each team
By David Schoenfield
Things have happened sooner than normal this offseason, but several of the top free agents are still out there and some big names -- led by David Price -- may be available in trade. Here are three questions for each team heading into the winter meetings. We'll cover the American League today and the National League on Sunday.
Boston Red Sox
What do they need? They filled their biggest hole at first base when they re-signed Mike Napoli on Friday night. The Red Sox also have to decide if they want to hand center field over to Jackie Bradley Jr., a plus defender with a good eye at the plate but who is still working on developing his hit tool. They could slide Shane Victorino over to center field and sign another outfielder, but Victorino was so good defensively in right that he provided excellent value with his glove there.
What will they do at the winter meetings? They could end up being pretty quiet. They've signed Edward Mujica but could be looking for more bullpen help.
Will they trade a starting pitcher? The current five-man rotation wouldn't include Ryan Dempster or Brandon Workman, but you need more than five starters to get through a season and Dempster's contract makes him difficult to trade unless the Red Sox picked up a chunk of his $13.25 million salary.
Tampa Bay Rays
What do they need? The right return for Price. Andrew Friedman will probably talk with 25 other general managers at some point (sorry, he's not going to an AL East rival) to see what he can get for the former Cy Young winner. The Rays will want a major-league ready prospect like they got last year in Wil Myers. That may have been a once-in-a-lifetime kind of deal, however, so the Rays may have to weigh taking lower-level prospects -- but more of them -- this time around.
What about first base? James Loney gave them a good one-year return last year, so now they need to find the next Loney. Trouble is, the first-base market isn't good other than Loney. They could move Matt Joyce there or look to acquire somebody like Ike Davis from the Mets. A Joyce-Davis trade seems like a perfect match of needs.
Who's in the rotation if they trade Price? Without Price, it shapes up as Matt Moore, Alex Cobb, Chris Archer, Jeremy Hellickson and Jake Odorizzi. That's why any trade involving Price may require a starting pitcher as part of the bounty (say, Taijuan Walker from the Mariners).
What do they need? The Orioles were 12th in the AL in rotation ERA, so that's an obvious place to upgrade. The top five on paper isn't horrible -- Chris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez, Bud Norris and Kevin Gausman -- but that's mostly a group of No. 3s. They need an ace, but good luck getting one.
What about left field and DH? Nate McLouth just signed with the Nationals, so they need to do something there. A big hole was DH, where the Orioles hit .234 with a .289 OBP. Orioles second basemen weren't great either, hitting .236 with a .300 OBP, but they'll likely let Jemile Weeks and Ryan Flaherty battle it out. Nelson Cruz is a free-agent possibility for left field or DH, but the Orioles may not want to lose their draft pick to sign a guy with a mediocre OBP and durability issues. A gamble and somebody like Franklin Gutierrez may make sense.
Do they go after a closer? Possibly. Trading Jim Johnson leaves a void in the ninth -- although not a big void considering Johnson blew nine saves in 2013. They have options in Tommy Hunter and Darren O'Day, but both have sizable platoon splits. They're both best in setup roles where Buck Showalter can get matchups, so don't be surprised if the O's sign Fernando Rodney or Joaquin Benoit (they also signed Ryan Webb on Friday).
New York Yankees
What do they need? How about an MVP-caliber second baseman who hit .300 with power and never misses a game? Anybody like that available? OK, the Yankees have to move on from Robinson Cano and they did that by signing Carlos Beltran and re-signing Hiroki Kuroda. They may still have a little money left over to go after one more veteran starter like Bronson Arroyo or, better yet, Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka (if he gets posted).
What about third base? At some point, they'll need a backup plan if Alex Rodriguez's suspension is upheld. Stone-gloved Eduardo Nunez is not the answer, but the free-agent market is weak. Juan Uribe? Maybe. Michael Young is a defensive liability. They tried the Kevin Youkilis experiment last year. You have to think the Yankees will be discussing third-base options with other teams. They could possibly shop Brett Gardner or Ichiro Suzuki, although Ichiro wouldn't bring a quality starter in return.
Who replaces Mariano Rivera? The Yankees could slide David Robertson into the role. He's been a dominant eighth-inning guy with a 1.91 ERA over the past three seasons. But that just opens up another hole. Free agent Grant Balfour has been rumored.
Toronto Blue Jays
What do they need? Starting pitching and more starting pitching. The Blue Jays entered last season as World Series favorites, expecting to have two aces in R.A. Dickey and Josh Johnson. But Dickey couldn't repeat his Cy Young season, Johnson imploded, Brandon Morrow got hurt, and Ricky Romero spent most of the season in the minors. The Jays ended up with a 4.81 rotation ERA, worse even than the Astros.
Who could they go after? The Jays' estimated 2014 payroll is already above what it was in 2013, so there doesn't appear to be room to do much here. So it looks quantity over quality, with the likes of Esmil Rogers, Todd Redmond, Kyle Drabek, Drew Hutchison and J.A. Happ battling for spots behind Dickey, Mark Buehrle and Morrow.
Could they trade Jose Bautista? Sure, they could trade Bautista, signed for two more years at the now-bargain rate of $14 million, and use that money to sign a pitcher. Do they trust Anthony Gose or Moses Sierra to deliver on an everyday basis?