Offseason Predictions: American League East

AL East | AL Central | AL West

NL East | NL Central | NL West

By Matt Mirro

The playoffs are red-hot right now and the World Series is just around the corner. But, before too long, the stadium lights will go out for the last time in 2015 and the Hot Stove will burn bright once again. While there are some rumors here and there much of it is speculation at this time. So now it becomes time for us writers to play General Manager and lay out some predictions for each team. Oh yes! It’s that time of the year! What oh what will my dear American League clubs do? Allow me to add a bit of my own speculation. Just to build your obvious anticipation we’ll make this a six-part series. First up? The American League East.

Boston Red Sox

(78-84) Last in the American League East

  • Red Sox Trade Pablo Sandoval:

Oh what a mess it is in Beantown. After adding the prolific bats of Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval before the season many saw the team as having perhaps the best lineup in the game. Instead, the whole situation turned into a mess. Sandoval struggled at the plate while stirring up controversy in the clubhouse (Instagram, am I right?) and aggravating fans with his never-ending weight issues. Hanley proved to be an even worse left fielder than he was a shortstop and not a lot of people thought that was even possible.

N0w, the team is expected to use Ramirez at first base hoping against hope that he can man that position. Sandoval will, as usual patrol third base leaving talented youngster Travis Shaw stuck on the outside looking in. In 65 games Shaw batted .274 with 13 home runs and 36 RBI. Shaw did more than enough to earn a starting spot at either first or third but there is no room. The obvious choice is to trade either Sandoval or Ramirez and, despite both having massive long-term contracts, Hanley’s struggles defensively makes him harder to trade. My guess? The team’s new commander-in-chief, Dave Dombrowski, banishes Kung Fu Panda to whoever will take him, even if it means eating a big chunk of the contract.

  • Red Sox Sign Yovani Gallardo

It’s no secret the Red Sox starting pitching was an absolute mess in 2015. A staff consisting of Rick Porcello, Joe Kelly, Clay Buchholtz, Justin Masterson and Wade Miley simply couldn’t cut it and even with the interjection of talented youngster Eduardo Rodriguez the BoSox were strangled by their lack of quality arms. They need a consistent workhorse who can go out every five days and throw six or seven quality innings. Now, Johnny Cueto, David Price and Jordon Zimmerman are all available on the open market but Dombrowski is too smart to simply chase the sexiest name out there.

I could easily see the Red Sox adding veteran right hander Yovani Gallardo (13-11 3.42 ERA) this offseason. While he’s not the best free agent starter no one will accuse him of being a scrub. Gallardo is talented and the type of right hander that is necessary for the team to succeed in Fenway Park. With a glut of uber-aces up for grabs Gallardo will likely come at a cheaper price, leaving room for the team to make more moves going forward while still seeing an already improved roster.

  • Red Sox Re-Sign David Ortiz

It’s always comforting to know some things will always be the same. David Ortiz has been a member of the Red Sox since I was five years old and to this day remains on the roster. After yet another Ortiz style season (37 home runs and 108 RBI) the soon to be 40-year old will be a free agent, pending the team’s decision on his 2016-2017 option. I believe, and it only makes sense to believe so, that Ortiz will return to the Red Sox once again but not on the same agreement he made with former General Manager Ben Cherington. I cannot see Dave Dombrowski re-upping a 40-year old for two more years, especially when he is tasked with fixing what his processor messed up. I would not be surprised if the Sox decided to decline Big Papi’s option and then bring him back on the new, one-year deal.

Baltimore Orioles

(81-81) Third in the American League East

  • Orioles Sign Neftali Feliz

The Baltimore Orioles are likely to allow premier setup man Darren O’Day to walk in the offseason. The organization is infamously reluctant to grant players 30 years or older multi-year contacts. O’Day is likely to be paid like a relief ace which the Orioles are not willing to do. So, the team will need a replacement, one suitable enough to set up for closer Zach Britton. For that role I’ve pegged Neftali Feliz as a great low-cost/high reward option for the Orioles. The 28-year old former Rookie of the Year has fallen on hard time in recent years, largely due to injury troubles. He posted an ERA over 5.00 last season between the Texas Rangers and Detroit Tigers. Feliz will come at a rock bottom price and his young age fits the Orioles MO when it comes to free agents. I’d bet the O’s are willing to take a chance on the once elite closer.

  • Orioles Sign Jaime Garcia

Considering the St. Louis Cardinals glut of starting pitching and his extensive list of injury woes I do not expect the Red Birds to pick up Jaime Garcia’s $11.5 million dollar team option. That will send the 29-year old left hander to the open market where I see him eventually inking a pact with the Orioles. First off, Garcia is under 30 years old which is good for Orioles fans. Secondly, due to his injury history he won’t be a costly add which probably makes him more ideal for Baltimore’s front office than most of the big names available. Garcia represents a suitable replacement for impending free agent Wei-Yin Chen who will most likely sign elsewhere in the offseason.

  • Orioles Trade for Leonys Martin

Well, this one is interesting. The Orioles had a lot of trouble getting production out of their outfield after Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis bolted before the season began. They could use some reinforcements to plug-in around superstar centerfielder Adam Jones. The Texas Rangers, on the other hand, have a glut of outfielders and seem to have found a winning combination with Josh Hamilton, Delano Deshields Jr., and Shin-Soo Choo. That leaves Leonys Martin without a spot. But he does have obvious talent, as a speedster and far above average defender and has shown flashes of being a decent major league hitter as well, although last year might have cost him his shot with the Rangers. Martin could be a real steal for the Orioles as his stock is quite low at this point. He would be a nice addition to the roster, patrolling left field next to Jones.

Tampa Bay Rays

(80-82) Fourth in American League East

  • Rays Sign Casey McGehee

The Tamps Bay Rays need some help. After making some major moves to completely rework their team it’s surprising that they even won 80 games. They struggled with injuries as well with starting first baseman James Loney missing large chunks of the season due to injury. The offense was sluggish at best with Evan Longoria struggling without any ounce of protection in the lineup and some of the younger position players still getting their feet wet. Now the name you see a few paces up may not be the flashy star in the middle of the lineup the Rays need to excel offensively but Casey McGehee is a good fit for Tampa.

First off, he’ll come for Canadian pennies on the dollar which is good for the Rays considering they’re known for being stingy with the wallet. McGehee had a pitiful season last year with the Giants and Marlins but the Rays could really benefit from hiving him on the bench to spell both Longoria and Loney at third and first, respectively. His power will certainly play better in the notoriously small ballparks of the American League East. He may not be a star but he’s the type of bat the Rays will add.

  • Rays Trade Jake McGee

Welcome one McGehee, wave goodbye to another… McGee. Boy, do I love names and their many spelling. Yes, this one is a little interesting but it’d be the prototypical Tampa move. The market for relief pitching is at an all-time high. There is a premium on building late inning bunker busters that could shut down a game as early as the sixth inning. However, relief aces are typically better suited for contenders which the Rays are not (Not at this time, anyway). In his six big league seasons, McGee is a 21-11 with 26 saves, a 2.77 ERA and 319 strikeouts. More than anything he has been consistent and would be a great addition to anyone’s bullpen. Teams like the Cubs, Dodgers, Blue Jays and Tigers would likely pay a pretty penny to add the 29-year old left hander. I’d be surprised if the Rays don’t explore dealing off their best bullpen gunman.

  • Rays Sign Edward Mujica

Of course, trading one reliever will cause them to find a cost-effective replacement t0 serve as McGee’s replacement. Now, the Rays won’t be shopping in the high-priced relief market. They’ll pass on the Tyler Clippards and Darren O’days and try to find the diamond in the rough. That’s where they’ll find Edward Mujica. Once a lock down late inning reliever for the St. Louis Cardinals Mujica had two horrid years with the Red Sox and Athletics but that does not mean he doesn’t have any value. Track record always carries weight in the Show and he’ll come at a bargain price. The Rays will take a flier on the 31-year old right hander hoping that he’ll be what Fernando Rodney and Rafael Soriano were for them in the past.

New York Yankees

(87-75) Second in American League East

  • Yankees Sign Darren O’Day

The Yankees bullpen was one of the best in baseball last year. With Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller manning the final two innings and Justin Wilson and Shreve following behind them. But late in the year the pen looked tired, worn out and manager Joe Girardi was in serious need of a reliable seventh inning arm, particularly a right hander. The Yankees and General Manager Brian Cashman tried to acquire another lockdown arm before the trade deadline but found the price to be far too steep.  So, it only makes sense that Cashman would pursue another bullpen piece in order to really sure up the late innings.

That’s why Darren O’Day is the perfect target. We’ve already detailed the Orioles’ hesitation to give lengthy contracts to players over thirty and a high quality arm like the 32-year old O’Day will likely force them out of the running to retain their consistent submarine hurler. Since joining the Orioles in 2012 O’Day has been one of the game’s best setup men, going 23-8, striking out 283 batters while posting a stunning 1.92 ERA and even picking up 12 saves. The Yankees have seen O’Day quite a bit in recent years and more times than not they’ve been flabbergasted by his underarm motion. I’m sure it wouldn’t hurt to take a weapon away from their rival, Andrew Miller can attest to that.

  • Yankees Sign Jeff Samardzija

Jeff Samardzija (Can we just call him “Shark” for now? Spelling his name is exhausting) had anything but a great year with his hometown Chicago White Sox (11-13, 4.96 ERA) but that won’t stop him from garnering a huge market in the offseason. The Yankees are expected to be one of the right hander’s main suitors, especially when you consider Jim Hendry, the former Cubs general manager who drafted Shark, is now a major decision maker in the Bronx.  Despite Samardzija’s poor 2015 campaign the Yankees seem like a good fit. They’ve made it a point to avoid getting tangled in long-term pacts with big money free agents and the heavy starting pitching market will lower the asking price for Samardzija.

Pitching coach Larry Rothschild has a stunning reputation for unlocking the potential in struggling starters. Just ask Nathan Eovaldi who seemed to finally put it together in 2015 under Rothschild’s tutelage and Brandon McCarthy who rode his success under the pinstripe pitching coach straight to a big deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers. I’d bet Samardzija is at or near the top of the Yankees’ shortlist. A side note, an acquisition of Samardzija would probably be a prelude to another move. I’d predict the front office would look into dealing off right hander Ivan Nova to make room in the rotation.

  • Yankees Get Younger

This one was needed to add a few moves. Surprisingly, the Yankees have been headed towards a youth infusion for the first time in a long time. As a close observer I do not believe it is likely the team will pursue free agent second baseman like Daniel Murphy or Howie Kendrick or even Ben Zobrist. It seems more likely that the Bombers will use a platoon of prospect Rob Refsnyder (.302 average with two home runs and five RBI in 16 games) and 27-year old former top prospect Dustin Ackley (.288 with four homers and 11 RBI in 23 games in pinstripes) as second base. That’d mean they’d move on from Stephen Drew and Brendan Ryan who provided little production as the platoon in 2015.

It’s very likely any starting pitching the team adds (Which many think they will) will require a move as they have depth in that area. Expect under-30 year olds like Masahiro Tanaka, Luis Severino, Michael Pineda and Nathan Eovaldi to be their starting five in 2015. It’s very possible, and I’d bet on it, that they opt to use a six man rotation which they did for a time in 2015. After that they’d have to choose between C.C. Sabathia, Ivan Nova, Adam Warren, Bryan Mitchell and any other acquisition like… oh, I don’t know… Jeff Samardzija? Backup outfielder and 30+ year Chris Young will probably move on, leaving prospects Slade Heathcott, Mason Williams and, eventually, Aaron Judge to take his place.

Toronto Blue Jays

(93-69) First in American League East

  • Blue Jays Sign Mike Aviles/Cut Maicer Izturis

With Troy Tulowitzki and Devon Travis entrenched as the core of the Blue Jays’ middle infield it’s fair to say Toronto has shortstop and second base pretty much locked down for the foreseeable future. However, both players have proven to be particularly injury prone and depth always works as the best insurance policy. While Ryan Goins is a more than suitable backup infielder he represents the only viable bench option who can swing the bat and play on the dirt. So, the Jays will add 8-year veteran infielder Mike Aviles (Who was a Blue Jay for all of ten minutes following the John Farrell trade before being flipped to the Indians) to add some extra ammo off the bench. In 98 games with the Cleveland Indians in 2015 the 34-year old Aviles batted .231 with five home runs and 17 RBI. While he may be at the end of his rope as a starter he’d made a great bench guy and his experience is always an added plus.

To make room for Aviles I’d see Maicer Izturis and the likely candidate to be cut. The 35-year old began his career with the Montreal Expos back in 2004 and played very sparingly in 2015 and provided little production when he was in the game. Izturis has a three million dollar club option which will certainly be declined in favor of the one million dollar buyout option. Swapping Izturis for Aviles is a cheap and efficient way of strengthening an already strong squad.

  •  Blue Jays Sign Alex Avila

Dioner Navarro was clearly unhappy when the Blue Jays signed Russell Martin to serve as the team’s starting catcher, even going as far as requesting a trade. So it’s fair to assume, although I normally try to refrain from doing so, that Navarro will sign elsewhere this offseason. There’s always a market for a power hitting backstop and it’s reasonable to think he’ll land a job as a starter. That will put the Jays in need of a backup catcher who can handle the bat better than R.A. Dickey’s caddy, Josh Thole. That’s where Alex Avila comes in. Avila is likely to leave the Detroit Tigers this offseason after a series of injury riddled seasons. Avila has struggled with concussions in the past but his talent with the bat may return once he gets regular time again.

Avila wouldn’t garner a large contract at all and could serve as a backup first baseman as well as the backup catcher. He’ll probably be a cheaper alternative to Navarro’s $8 million dollar contracts. Avila won’t become Johnny Bench after a move to Toronto but he certainly won’t be the first player to pad his offensive stats north of the border. Just ask Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion how it all worked out for them.

  • Blue Jays Say Move on From R.A. Dickey

Three years ago, the Blue Jays traded touted prospects Noah Syndergaard and Travis d’Arnaud to the New York Mets for the 2012 National League Cy Young Award winner, R.A. Dickey. It’s fair to say the Mets have won that deal as d’Arnaud has cemented himself as the Mets starting catcher and Sydergaard put up a strong rookie campaign in the middle of the juggernaut Mets’ rotation. Both are currently playing in the World Series against the Kansas City Royals. Dickey, on the other hand, has been anything but stellar despite some isolated memorable moments.

In three years with the Jays Dickey wasn’t horrid but he certainly wasn’t fantastic and the Blue Jays paid for fantastic. He started 101 games, posting a 39-37 record, a 3.95 ERA (4.46 FIP) along with 476 strikeouts. Toronto has a $12 million dollar team option on Dickey as well as a one million dollar buyout. While some Blue Jays faithful believe the organization should retain him I cannot see the team retaining for such a hefty price, especially when there are plenty of other big contracts on the roster. It’s more realistic that the Jays take the one million dollar buyout option and send the 40-year old knuckleballer supreme to the free agent market where there is a possibility he returns for another stint, under a more reasonable contract.

However, I see it more likely that the Jays try to build their rotation around Marcus Stroman. They’ll probably focus their efforts and resources on re-signing starters David Price and Marco Estrada. Aaron Sanchez, who worked out of the bullpen most of the season, will likely be chosen to return to the rotation and even talented rookie closer Miguel Osuna is a candidate to be the team’s number five hurler. Onward from Mark Buehrle and R.A. Dickey. Forward with the future.

 

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