AL East Week in Review for January 22-28
The drama never ends in the AL East, and that was certainly upheld last week, as everything is back to normal in Beantown, aside from alterations to a trade reported in this space last week, and every team made at least one move, so there is plenty to write about in AL East action.
-Baltimore made only one move last week, though it could be argued as a significant one, as they locked up outfield slugger Jay Gibbons to a four year, $21.1 million contract. The deal, consumated to avoid a salary arbitration hearing, assures that Gibbons will remain an Oriole past this season, when he was due to become a free agent. While resigning Gibbons was not a bad move, the price does seem a bit inflated. About $5.25 million a year for, essentially, a strikeout or home run hitter? He has, to his credit, had two season of .277 batting average, but other than that, it looks like the O's gave out an eight digit salary to a guy the Rays already got, Russ Branyan, except he only got a minor league deal. Gibbons has no plate paitence, he has never had an OBP over .330, but keeps his OPS usually between .781 and .793, excepting for exceptionally good season last year, and his exceptionally poor year in 2004. His slugging percentage is always high, though, and that is what keeps his OPS decent. Still, power hitters are not scarce, and it seems the O's just blew a large amount of money on one.
-This is why I dread writing about the Red Sox. It is always such a soap opera, and this space always is obligated to feature some overblown, media-hyped Red Sox crap that doesn't matter one bit. 'Oh No, Doug stole out World Series ball', 'oh no, Theo left', 'Yea!!! Theo's back', 'Uh oh, Manny wants a trade', 'Oh no, Jonny left'. Meanwhile, the rest of us don't give a damn, yet it is news on the enemy, so it has to be in this space. The melodrama this week? Theo's position when he returns? General Manager. Now isn't that cute. Now on to real news.
-There were slight alterations in the trade reported last week in this space. During the week, it was reported that the original version of the trade was killed when P Guillermo Mota failed a physical. This was later disproven, but the trade did feature some alterations. In the end, Coco Crisp went to Boston, and Andy Marte and Mota went to Cleveland, but the Sox also threw in catching prospect Kelly Shoppach, and the Tribe threw in P David Riske and C Josh Bard. In turn, Cleveland then shipped P Arthur Rhodes to Philadelphia for outfielder Jason Micheals. Boston paid a hefty price for their replacement for Jonny Damon, and that replacment is still a bit worse thatn Damon at this point. Losing recent free agent signee Mota isn't a big deal, especially considering they got Riske in return, and Bard, while probably a bit worse than Shoppach will be, is enough to make the extras in the trade a wash.
However, I think the Indians win this trade slightly because they get a replacement for Crisp in Michaels, who might be slightly inferior to Crisp, but not by extreme proportions. Also, the Tribe got Andy Marte in the Sox move, and considering how they relied on the awful Aaron Boone last year, and their hot corner issues, acquiring a great prospect like Marte is a wonderful move. So I think the Indians come out ahead, not directly in the Sox trade, but combine that with the Phils move, and the Tribe are the big winners. For the Sox, they get what they need, but it comes at a price.
-When people say you need to get good pitchers, that does not mean 'resign some fluke starter from last year at an inflated salary and call it an upgrade'. But that is just what New York did this week, resigning P Aaron Small to a one year, $1.2 million deal to avoid an arbitration hearing. Small, 34, has never before put together a sustained period of major league service, and despite his 3.20 ERA last year, his lifetime ERA is still 4.91. Further, his K:BB was subpar, at 37:24. Sure, $1.2 million is not a lot of money to a team like New York, and it won't be a gigantic waste of money if Small bombs, but in underscores just how bad New York's pitching staff is and how little they have done to improve it.
-Unlike their previous cavalier moves this offseason, the Jays' only move this week was a relatively minor one, as they signed major league veteran P James Baldwin to a minor league contract, with a spring training invite. Baldwin, 34, the former White Sox hurler, has bounced around the majors and AAA affiliates the last few years, and has done so poorly lately that has lifetime ERA has inched over 5 to 5.01. His 1.46 WHIP goes along with his K:BB near 1.8, and he has always had a disturbingly high HR rate. Still, with little to lose, the Jays need veterans on call when A.J Burnett goes down with injury and the rest of the rotation starts sucking wind, so Baldwin can be a good insurance policy if he stays with the team past spring training.