In 2011, despite predictions far and wide that the Red Sox would win everything in sight, the New York Yankees coasted comfortably to another American League East title. The Tampa Bay Rays edged out the Sox for the wild card as part of a memorable last day to the regular season.
As the teams report to their respective spring training camps, I thought it would be fun to take a look at the off season moves they have made and where they stand relative to each other.
It was a quiet off season for the Yankees until a flurry of activity landed them a couple of valuable pitchers in a single day. The Bombers let go of their prized catching prospect, Jesus Montero, in exchange for the powerful, young pitcher Michael Pineda. On the same day, they signed Hideki Kuroda. This nicely filled the gaping hole in their starting pitching staff.
The off season was anything but quiet in Boston. After the September collapse and allegations of misbehavior by several Red Sox pitcher, manager Terry Franconia was sent packing. General Manager Theo Epstein also got out of Dodge but his departure was more on his terms.
The Red Sox signed veteran manager Bobby Valentine in what many of us feel was an effort to regain control over the clubhouse.
Down in Tampa, that ship continues to sail smoothly. In marked contrast to the chaos in Boston, the Rays seem to always be steps ahead in their planning. As an example, they signed the Matt Moore to a multi-year deal. The Rays seem to always be innovating imaginative was to compete with their limit budget.
Last year Toronto make strides as a franchise. I look for them to continue to field an ever more competitive team. The Orioles under Buck Showalter continue to struggle against the big boys. This division is tough from top to bottom. I think the Blue Jays and Orioles could be competitive in another division such as the Central.
So, who the favorite?
With all the comings and goings of players, I think the biggest move was the signing of Valentine to manage the Red Sox. For too long that clubhouse has been a distracted one. The talent is there and I think the new manager will crack the whip and take this team to the division title.
Bobby Valentine may wear out his welcome rather quickly but not this year.
The Yankees might give them a run for their money. Age is the problem with this team. Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez are all time stars but each is past his prime. Sabbathia is nudging past his prime and Rivera is going to show the signs of advancing age at some point.
The Rays are young and have Maddon as their skipper. It seems a perfect fit. Look for these guys to make some noise. The Blue Jays might also take a step forward this year or next. The Orioles seem doomed for the cellar.
Well, that's the way I see things at this very early date. What's your take?