by Aaron Rife
Hot Stove Update
One month into the “Hot Stove” MLB offseason and there’s been a lot to talk about. With Winter Meetings just around the corner, let’s catch everyone up on what has happened so far each day with a different division.
Baltimore Orioles: At the end of 2010 the Orioles looked to be a young up-and-coming team on the verge of making a playoff push. At the end of 2011 they look like a team full of failed pitching prospects headed to the cellar of the AL East. Matt Wieters finally had a season that many thought he would have had his first year and J.J. Hardy was a nice find at SS. With a rotation full of 4th and 5th starters they need to figure out which of the prized pitching prospects can improve and cut bait with the others.
- Key FA Losses: Vladimir Guerrerro (DH), Cesar Izturis (INF)
Boston Red Sox: As a fan of a small-market team it’s nice to see a team with a bloated payroll blow it. A year removed from one of their biggest off seasons (Crawford, Gonzalez) the Red Sox might be a little gun-shy when it comes to a big signing. If they don’t resign Big Papi they’ll need a DH. Vladimir Guerrerro would be a nice fit. I can see him just raking balls off and over the Green Monster. They could also use some relief help and a right fielder; I see Cuddyer or Willingham ending up here along with a couple of veteran relievers. New closer Daniel Bard looked good in flashes last year but had stretches where some red flags probably went up about his future as closer. Heath Bell has been linked here but the fact that it hasn’t happened yet makes me wonder if they’re fine with Bard going in to 2012 as closer.
- Declined team options on Dan Wheeler (RP) and Scott Atchison (RP)
- Exercised team option on Marco Scutaro (SS/2B)
- Key FA Losses: David Ortiz (DH/1B), Jason Varitek (C), Jonathan Papelbon (RP), Erik Bedard (SP), J.D. Drew (OF), Tim Wakefield (SP/RP), Conor Jackson (1B/3B/OF)
- GM Ben Cherington replaced Theo Epstein
- Bobby Valentine replaced Terry Francona
New York Yankees: The Yankees don’t need a lot other than pitching and some bench depth. None of the big free agents fit any of their needs unless they’re not confident in Jesus Montero’s ability to hit all season. Wilson Betemit would be a great bench/role player for them and can play 3rd to spell A-Rod on occasion or when injured. Word is out that they are not interested in C.J. Wilson but who really knows? Other good SP options could be Mark Buehrle and Paul Maholm. They could always trade Montero for a front end starter if they aren’t sure in his abilities.
- Restructured the contract of CC Sabathia (SP) and resigned Freddy Garcia (SP)
- Declined team option of Andrew Brackman (RP) and Damaso Marte (RP)
- Exercised team options of Robinson Cano (2B) and Nick Swisher (OF)
- Key FA Losses: Bartolo Colon (SP), Jorge Posada (C/DH), Sergio Mitre (RP/SP), Andruw Jones (OF), Eric Chavez (3B/1B)
Tampa Bay Rays: What a comeback to make it to the playoffs last year. They’ve been winning with smoke and mirrors the last few years and just when you think they’re going to be out of it, they pull off a September for the ages. They didn’t lose a lot during the offseason but have no 1B on the roster. They have Leslie Anderson in AAA that may get an extended look there but they could go out and pick up another one year flyer; someone like Lyle Overbay. Ramon Hernandez would be the best fit as he could spell them at the catcher position as well. DH is another question area. If they wanted to spend there’s a host of guys that could play RF and move Joyce to DH. Kubel, Willingham, DeJesus, Fukudome, Cuddyer, and Ludwick all could fill that void depending on how much they’re willing to part with.
- Traded John Jaso (C) to Seattle for Josh Lueke (SP/RP) and future considerations.
- Signed Jose Molina (C) to 1-year contract
- Declined team option of Kelly Shoppach (C)
- Exercised team options of James Shields (SP) and Kyle Farnsworth (RP)
- Key FA Losses: Johnny Damon (OF), Juan Cruz (RP), Casey Kotchman (1B)
Toronto Blue Jays: The Blue Jays always seem to be ready for a breakout but it has yet to come. Brett Lawrie took Toronto by storm in his short stint and looks to receive regular playing time as his reward. They’ll likely feature Edwin Encarnacion in their DH spot to make room for Lawrie. Their most pressing needs are pitching and 2B and with not a lot of them available, they’d be best served by resigning Kelly Johnson. For some SP help, I can see them giving a one year shot to Erik Bedard (a native of Ontario) and spend on a good reliever. They have a few prospects that are currently blocked so a trade at the winter meetings would also make sense. A lot of small market teams aren’t hesitant to move relievers for position player prospects.
- Acquired Luis Valbuena (2B/SS) from Cleveland for cash considerations
- Declined team option of Jon Rauch (RP)
- Exercised team option of Edwin Encarnacion (3B/1B)
- Key FA Losses: Jose Molina (C), Frank Francisco (RP), Kelly Johnson (2B), Shawn Camp (RP)