This winter has brought quite a few changes in the American League East, but one team that has mostly stayed the same for better or worse is the Baltimore Orioles.
The New York Yankees made a few changes, but not like what we have been accustomed to seeing from them during the winter. New York added third baseman Kevin Youkilis to help fill in while Alex Rodriguez recovers from a sprained ego, err, I mean hip surgery. Even though the Yankees haven’t made too many moves, they have resigned a few of their free agents like Ichiro Suzuki, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera. They will be without catcher Russell Martin, reliever Rafael Soriano, and most likely Nick Swisher, who will probably head elsewhere. The Yanks will get stronger though as players come back from injury like the afore-mentioned Rivera, Derek Jeter, and Brett Gardner.
In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past few weeks, the Toronto Blue Jays have made quite a few moves to put themselves into contention for the 2013 season. Toronto added Melky Cabrera, who was leading the National League in hitting before being suspended for using performance enhancing drugs. The Jays also added shortstop Jose Reyes, a great addition at the top of the lineup.
Pitching is where the Blue Jays made the most headway. Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle were part of the trade with Miami that brought Reyes over.
On top of that, Toronto then traded for reigning NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey, giving them one of the best 1-2-3 punches in all of baseball.
The Boston Red Sox made a few moves, but nothing too crazy like in years past. Boston picked up free agent first baseman/catcher Mike Napoli.
Boston also added starting pitcher Ryan Dempster who will eat up innings and fit in nicely behind Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz. Former Oriole Koji Uehara will help out in the Sox bullpen.
The Tampa bay Rays made some moves, but not immediate-payoff moves. In exchange for top prospect Wil Myers, they shipped off James Shields to Kansas City. Gone also are B.J. Upton, to Atlanta, and Carlos Pena, now a Chicago Cub. (Something tells me the Rays won’t miss his .197 batting average.)
That leads us to the O’s. As of now, Baltimore will be without slugger Mark Reynolds, now a Cleveland Indian, meaning that Chris Davis will most likely be the everyday first baseman. Baltimore re-signed left fielder Nate McLouth who will most likely be the everyday starter, but Nolan Reimold, who spent his 2012 season on the DL with a neck issue, might spend some time there as well. One change was Baltimore shipping out infielder Robert Andino to the Seattle Mariners, but they picked up Alexi Casilla, who will most likely play if Brian Roberts is unable to go.
The AL East is getting stronger, and even though the Yankees and Red Sox didn’t make their normal big moves, they still are talented teams, as are the Rays. With Toronto looking to make their move now, too, Baltimore will have a tough time repeating as a playoff team in 2013. But they still have their core together, making them a force to be reckoned with.
by Andy Mindzak