New York Yankees: When you lose a player like Robinson Cano, it sometimes takes a few bodies just to replace him, and the Yankees surely answered that call. The Yanks opened their wallets significantly for free agents Jacoby Ellsbury (seven years, $153 million), Brian McCann (five years, $85 million) and Carlos Beltran (three years, $45 million). Hiroki Kuroda was also re-signed for one year and $16 million.
The Yankees originally wanted to reduce their payroll to around $189 million, but that’s totally out the window, as the Yankees have spent money like the Yankees of older. The team brought in Kelly Johnson, who can play some second base, but they seem to have some interest in Omar Infante. Derek Jeter was re-signed, but the team also re-signed Brendan Ryan for some insurance given Jeter’s recent injury history.
Expect a trade of either Brett Gardner or Ichiro Suzuki to alleviate the surplus of outfielders; they’re likely stuck with Vernon Wells. The Yanks should also be in play for Masahiro Tanaka. If everyone stays healthy, the Yankees will again be a dangerous team in the AL East.
Boston Red Sox: The World Series champions may look a bit different in 2014, but they’ve added a few pieces and will be in play for a few others. Ellsbury is gone, but Mike Napoli is back for two years and $32 million. The Red Sox also added catcher A.J. Pierzynski after losing Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
The team is hoping Jackie Bradley Jr. can take over in center field. Boston also added a few arms in the bullpen, Edward Mujica and Burke Badenhop. Shortstop remains a question mark, and the Red Sox are considering bringing back Stephen Drew, but as of now, his price tag is a bit high. The core of the team that led the Red Sox to a World Series victory will all be back, so as a result, Boston is undoubtedly a title contender once again.
Tampa Bay Rays: Rarely do the Rays re-sign one of their high-priced free agents. That trend is likely to continue with closer Fernando Rodney drawing plenty of interest elsewhere.
So what do the Rays do? They find players on the scrap heap who somehow resurrect themselves to make the team competitive. The Rays acquired Heath Bell in a three-team deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Cincinnati Reds, and he appears to be the team’s new closer. Also in that deal, the Rays received Ryan Hanigan and locked him up to a three-year deal. The Hanigan signing is a bit curious, since the team also re-signed Jose Molina and has Jose Lobaton. David DeJesus was locked up for two years, which could be a good move since Matt Joyce’s name has been mentioned in trade rumors.
The Rays right now are in search of a first baseman. The guy who played there last year, James Loney, is a free agent, and the Rays have also discussed Ike Davis.
The major discussion point with the Rays this offseason has been David Price. Let’s be realistic: There’s no way the Rays will shell out the money when Price becomes a free agent after the 2015 season. Based on some of the contracts being handed out, Price will easily earn over $200 million. So the Rays need to make a decision. They have a terrific young pitching staff other than Price including Jeremy Hellickson, Alex Cobb, Matt Moore and Chris Archer. If the Rays make Price available now, they’ll get the most return, since by next offseason, the Rays would be desperate to move him since they know they won’t be re-signing him. Likely every team wants a pitcher like Price, but only a handful may have the prospects to get a deal done.
Baltimore Orioles: It’s been a very quiet offseason for the Orioles. They cleared up some money by trading Jim Johnson to the A’s for Jemile Weeks. They also made some minor moves by re-signing Steve Pearce and Nolan Reimold and adding reliever Ryan Webb. The team has a few good young arms, but they are looking to add another thumper to their lineup that already includes MVP candidate Chris Davis, Matt Wieters, Adam Jones, Manny Machado, Nick Markakis and J.J. Hardy.
Nelson Cruz seems like a logical fit, but the O’s would have to be willing to spend the money. Cruz’s power would fit perfectly into Camden Yards. The team is also searching for a closer after losing Johnson and has reportedly made an offer to Grant Balfour. After declining down the stretch last season, the Orioles are still a few moves away from regaining their 2012 form. In a division that includes the World Series champion Red Sox and the Yankees handing out barrels of money, the Orioles need to keep pace by making a big splash. Cruz and Balfour would immediately keep this team relevant.
Toronto Blue Jays: The Blue Jays made all the headlines last offseason by bringing in Jose Reyes and R.A. Dickey, but now it’s completely the opposite. Toronto had a very disappointing year in 2013, and the team is looking to move Colby Rasmus, Adam Lind and potentially Jose Bautista, though they’d really have to be blown away to trade the latter.
Dioner Navarro will replace J.P. Arencibia behind he dish. But that’s been the team’s only major upgrade, and it’s really not that significant of an upgrade. For the Jays, they actually have the talent on the roster. Now it’s just a matter of that talent all playing together to win ballgames like was supposed to be the case last year. Just like the Orioles, the Blue Jays have the displeasure of playing in a division with the Red Sox and Yankees, so they’ll have to work extra hard to win an AL East crown.
Detroit Tigers: No team ever wants to lose a potent bat like Prince Fielder, but in the scheme of things, the blockbuster trade actually works for the Tigers. Moving Fielder not only opens up first base for the defensively-challenged yet offensive juggernaut in Miguel Cabrera, but it also frees up some money to potentially lock up AL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer.
Not having a reliable closer was a problem for Detroit last year, so it added Joe Nathan for two years and $20 million. Rajai Davis was signed to form a left field platoon with Andy Dirks.
Third base right now remains a question. The Tigers have prospect Nick Castellanos who they could hand the reins to, but the team also has Don Kelly and now Steve Lombardozzi -- who was acquired in the Doug Fister trade -- who could play the hot corner. Even without Fielder and Jhonny Peralta, the Tigers are still the team to beat in the AL Central. Just look to the pitching staff of Justin Verlander, Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez.
Chicago White Sox: The White Sox made a splash early in the offseason by signing power-hitting first baseman Jose Abreu for six years and $68 million. But he was a power hitter in Cuba, and that doesn’t necessarily translate to America’s game. The team re-signed long-time first baseman Paul Konerko, so Abreu may spend some time in the minors, but he is viewed as the future at the position.
The White Sox traded for Adam Eaton and lost Hector Santiago in the Mark Trumbo trade, but Eaton figures to be a reserve player. If the front-end of Chicago’s pitching rotation led by Chris Sale can hold up, the team may have a chance to be competitive. But if not, it’s going to be another long season in the South Side.
Cleveland Indians: The Indians were a nice surprise in 2013, so they’ll now try to build on their success with basically the same team, as of now. David Murphy joins the fold as the team’s new right fielder, though he may platoon out there with Drew Stubbs.
The Indians might be trying to move the one year and $10 million left on shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera’s contract. But at this point, they might as well keep him and try to make another run to the playoffs. They likely aren’t players for any of the remaining big-name free agents but could potentially add a veteran starting pitcher if the price is right. Cleveland also seeks a closer and is said to have interest in John Axford.
Kansas City Royals: The young Royals are another year older, and all of a sudden, the pieces look like they are coming together. The trade for Norichika Aoki was a great move as he takes over in right field and atop the batting order. This trade allows Alex Gordon to slide down in the order where he can be more of a run producer.
The deal for Jason Vargas was a bit more curious, considering he’s basically been a .500 pitcher. The Royals signed him for four year and $32 million, which just goes to show that teams are willing to overpay for pitching. But with other starters like Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana -- who pitched last season for the Royals -- available, it’s strange the Royals went right for Vargas.
But even so, this team is poised for success in 2014. Kansas City might look to upgrade at second base, where Emilio Bonifacio is penciled in as the starter. Acquiring a second baseman would allow Bonifacio to become more of a super-utility player, as he can play the infield and the outfield. The Royals might not be on the level of the Tigers just yet, but as for the AL Wild Card, Kansas City should be right in the mix.
Minnesota Twins: The Twins have added two veteran starting pitchers, Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes. Hughes seems like a candidate to resurrect his career in the spacious Target Field, as he is primarily a fly-ball pitcher, which didn’t exactly work in the band-box of Yankee Stadium. As for Nolasco, he’ll be getting ace-type money at four years and $49 million, but he has never shown he can be an ace in this league.
Minnesota’s real problem is its offense. Joe Mauer will be moving primarily to first base, which could keep his legs healthier, but he has no protection in the batting order. Josh Willingham has some pop, but it would surprise no one if he’s traded either this offseason or during the season. The team’s fate is really in the hands of a core of youngsters still trying to get their feet wet in the bigs. That’s not exactly a recipe for success.
Houston Astros: Spending $30 million on Scott Feldman isn’t the type of deal that’s going to resurrect the Astros from inferiority. Neither is the trade for Dexter Fowler, especially giving up pitching prospect Jordan Lyles. It will again be a collection of no-names in Houston as they patiently wait for their big-time draft picks for reach the Major Leagues. Most likely, the Astros will be right up there again for the top slot in the 2015 MLB Draft after another poor season in 2014.
Texas Rangers: Prince Fielder playing in the Ballpark at Arlington looks to be a score, and moving Ian Kinsler permanently opens up second base for super prospect Jurickson Profar.
J.P. Arencibia and Geovany Soto should split time behind the dish after both signed deals, and the team also locked up young lefty Martin Perez for four years. Right now, the Rangers are looking to add an impact outfielder after losing David Murphy to the Indians.
Texas is heavily in play for Shin-Soo Choo, but the asking price right now is very high. Scott Boras reportedly wants a contract for Choo similar to the seven-year, $153 million pact Jacoby Ellsbury signed with the Yankees. That was a gross overpayment for Ellsbury, and it would be the same for Choo. But signing Choo could give Texas that one final offensive piece to join a very strong starting pitching staff. The Mariners have sent a boat load of money; the Angels have plenty of talent; and the A’s just seem to win, so the Rangers can’t just sit around as these other teams get better.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: The Angels lost two impact players this offseason in Mark Trumbo and Peter Bourjos. But 2011 World Series hero David Freese takes over at third base, and through the Trumbo trade, the Angels acquired two young talented starting pitchers in Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs. Instead of overpaying for a Matt Garza/Ubaldo Jimenez/Ervin Santana type, the Angels were able to save some money on their starting rotation.
Maybe now they can use that savings to add another outfielder to go along with Mike Trout and Josh Hamilton. Joe Smith was signed to a three-year, $15 million deal, which is a hefty deal for a setup man, but that just goes to show how desperate the Angels were for bullpen help. Let’s see if this is this year that the star-studded Angels finally put all the pieces together.
Oakland Athletics: The A’s have been wheeling and dealing since the offseason started. The speedy Craig Gentry provides some outfield depth, Nick Punto gives a bit of infield depth and Drew Pomeranz is a great pickup for Brett Anderson. With Luke Gregerson and Jim Johnson joining Ryan Cook in the bullpen, the A’s will have no problem replacing Grant Balfour.
The team lost Bartolo Colon but added Scott Kazmir to a pitching staff that includes several electric arms. It’s becoming commonplace in Oakland: A team not expected to do anything winds up competing for the division title each year. The AL West is shaping up to be a competitive division, but if the A’s keep doing what they do, they’ll again be in the mix in September.
Seattle Mariners: Where on earth did the Mariners come up with $240 million? That’s the sum they’ll pay prized free-agent Robinson Cano for the next 10 years. I could have sworn that 10-year contracts would be a thing of the past following the Alex Rodriguez conundrum the Yankees are faced with, but I guess I was wrong.
Cano immediately becomes the new face of the franchise in Seattle, but the Mariners did not stop there. The team signed Corey Hart and traded for Logan Morrison. Both having experience playing first base or a corner outfield position. Simply based on the amount of need this team had after last season, it’s difficult to imagine the Mariners fixing all their problems in one offseason. Signing Cano though shows other free agents that the Mariners will open their wallets to get a deal done. The team has a few trade candidates in Justin Smoak and Dustin Ackley, and these players are still young enough where the team would get a significant return. The Mariners right now can either give some of their younger players another year to develop, or they can continue shocking the league and go all-in right now.
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