Have you ever heard that saying 'keep your friends close and your enemies closer'? Well, I plan to just that from now going forward (famous last words), but this time I really mean it, REALLY. What are our compatriots in the American League's Eastern Division doing? I'll bottle it up for you, the reader, every Sunday with a brief recap, and, of course, my opinions. Now that we can get that out of the way, let's get to the meat.
The AL East Week in Review for January 15-21
The Blue Jays continued their active offseason last week, as did the Red Sox and Orioles, who both consumated significant trades, however the Yankees mostly stayed on the sidelines last week.
-The Black and Orange resigned a few key players, and picked up a Cubs castoff in a rash of moves earlier this week. First off, Baltimore signed former Cubs CF Corey Patterson to a one year, $2.8 million contract, and it will be interesting to see where he fits into the outfield mix of Jay Gibbons, Luis Matos, and David Newhan. His most likely competition for the CF job, Matos, is just as mediocre as he, though one would think the O's would give the edge to the guy they are familiar with. Matos hasn't even come close to the promising .811 OPS he put up in 2003, while Patterson also hasn't come close to his 2003 OPS of .839. The problem with Patterson is that he won't take a walk. He is allergic to just letting Ball Four go by, and that contributed to his piss-poor effort last year that got him exiled from Chicago. So in the end, if Patterson can put up a decent season like he did in 2004, and he can effectively push Matos out of a job in the spring the $2.8 mil might be worth it. But as it stands now, that contract seems a bit inflated.
-In those other two signings, the Orioles just kept two members of their pitching staff aboard for one more year, signing pitchers Bruce Chen and Erik Bedard to one year deals worth $3.8 and $1.4 million, respectively. I like the dollar amount on Bedard. Not a lot of money, especially in this offseason, for a young guy who put up an ERA of 4 last year, along with a decent strikeout rate. If he can continue to improve like he has over the last three years, than the O's have got themselves a coveted bargain in an AL East race that could come down to such things. However, the bad side of this was the ridiculous $3.8 million blown on Brice Chen. Despite the lefty's good year last season, he has never been this good for any sustained period of time before. He has bounced from team to team, usually between the majors and Triple A, and occasionally peppering in some fluke seasons. And the Orioles brass took the bait.
-The big move of the week, however, was the one that sent pitchers John Maine and Jorge Julio to the Mets for Kris Benson. While Benson's contract may be inflated, the Orioles can take on such deals and make a few of their own, and should New York take on part of Benson's contract, ever the better. For a team lacking in quality starting pitchers, this was a good move to make. Benson has improved for three straight years, ala Bedard, and although he costs a pretty penny more, at least the O's can say they didn't sign him to that contract, unlike Sidney Ponson. So if you throw out the salary figures, this move is pretty decent. And since we don't know how much of Benson's contract the Metsies are picking up, we must. Essentially, the Mets get a decent starter for two below average relievers. I like the move on the O's part and think that if Bedard does what I expect and Chen does a bit better than what I expect, the O's have a good little rotation awaiting, especially when you count new pitching coach Leo Mazzone.
-The Red Sox have had an interesting little week, haven't they? After all, how many teams can you think of that resigned a player, traded that player, overpayed one starter, and brought back a former GM, all in one week?
-First off, the Red Sox began their active week by signing Guillermo Mota to a one year, $3 million deal. Although this might seem a lot for a guy that pitched to a 4.70 ERA last year, I think it will prove to be a decent contract, if not in Boston. Why not in Boston? Well, because the Red Sox and Indians on Saturday agreed to a tentative deal that would send Mota and prospect Andy Marte to the Indians for OF Coco Crisp, thus filling the CF void left by Jonny Damon when he signed with New York. This deal is good for both teams, in terms of what it accomplishes for them. It is much easier, for example, for Boston to get what they want through free agency or trades than Cleveland. The Sox do lose a major prospect in Marte, but they fill the CF void with a nice, young player, who can fill in for Damon decently and at much less money. They do also piss away bullpen help in Mota, and that hurts because of the lack of quality arms this offseason, so I think Cleveland ultimatly comes out ahead, but Crisp is a nice pickup for the Sox, better than a Jeremy Reed acquisition. Meanwhile, in a minor move, the Sox designated P Tim Bausher for assignment.
The most talked about move of the week, however, had nothing to do with on field activity. Former Red Sox GM Theo Epstien, who quit almost three months ago as the Red Sox's GM, returned in an unspecified capacity Friday. Epstien, whose departure in late October reeked of a power struggle, probably came on too late to engineer the Crisp trade, and it is unclear how he and Lucchino will share power. I don't know how to feel about this. I mean, I don't care about this whole soap opera, but I am going to dread listening to the mainstream media blabber about how all is well now that 'the Boy Wonder' is back. The Sox and Epstien are such drama queens. This is playing out like some middle school romance, and I already have to put up with enough of that crap every day. Resume your job and shut up, and that goes for the sensationalistic media too. I don't want to hear about it anymore. End rant.
-The Sox made one more move this week, signing starter and former Hernando High standout Bronson Arroyo to a three year, $12 million contract, a "hometown discount", yet still, even at a discount, waaaaaaay too much money. This would be okay if this were a team like the Orioles signing him, but it isn't. It is the Boston Red Sox. They can do better. $2-3 million would be a more appropriate sum for a Arroyo, who is a fifth starter in disguise.
-The Yankees made no news of note this week.
-The Blue Jays were also little worker bees this week, resigning three key players. First Baseman Lyle Overbay, P Scott Downs, and SP Ted Lilly all agreed to one year deals last week, worth $2.525 million, $705k, and $4 million, respectively. I like the Overbay signing immensely. It is relatively cheap, yet it will give the Blue Jays some offensive punch. Overbay had a nice little run with Milwaukee the last two years, hitting for an .800+ OPS both seasons, and comes relatively cheap. Now Toronto's only problem will be getting rid of some of their infield depth. Downs, meanwhile, is a nifty little pitcher who put up a 4.31 ERA in 26 games, 13 starts, for the Jays, and is the ultimate Canadian team player, having played for the Expos before joining the Jays last year. This is a nice, cheap little signing, and it certainly compares favorably with the Burnett and Ryan signings. Last, and probably least, is the Blue Jays' move to keep Ted Lilly on the roster. When they were able to get him on the cheap a few years back, it was a good move, but $4 mil for a guy who put up a 5.56 ERA last year is a little much. But two of three ain't bad, and overall, it was a good week for Toronto.