We looked at what the Rays have done thus far this morning. Now let's take a look at the entire American League East has done so far and see what predictions we can make.
Off-season needs: Second Base, Starting Pitcher, Closer
The Blue Jays blew 25 saves last season and pitched themselves into the ground with unsuccessful seasons from Brett Cecil, Brandon Morrow, and Kyle Drabek. If the Jays can add a fresh face to the rotation, and find a competent closer, they will have had a successful week. For second base, the Jays traded for Kelly Johnson during the regular season and have offered him arbitration. If he accepts, Toronto need not look further for an infielder.
Acquired White Sox closer Sergio Santos for RHP prospect Nestor Molina
Acquired Angels back-up catcher Brad Mills for AAA reliever Jeff Mathis
The Blue Jays found their closer where nobody was looking. With new management and a new head coach, the Chicago White Sox entered the Winter Meetings prepared to sell off their assets and start over - but not everyone knew that. With the closer market strapped this off season, the Blue Jays made a steal, finding their new closer in Santos. He's 28, a former shortstop in the Toronto system, and in his rookie year saved 30 games in 36 tries with a 13.1 K/9. The Jays sent a 22 year old pitcher who had a killer year in A ball, and could be major league ready in a year, but not with much upside - think #4 starter. Whatever the With Sox saw in Molina, I hope it's worth it. Santos signed a 3yr / $25 mil extension last September.
2B Kelly Johnson accepts arbitration to stay in Toronto
Trade prospects to White Sox for John Danks or Gavin Floyd
A few years ago the Blue Jays farm system was in shambles, now it's the cream of the crop. Chicago, in their rebuilding effort, are a good match to trade with Toronto again. The White Sox claim to want a "Ubaldo Jimenez" package for one of their starters, but no team seems that desperate quite yet. To ship off at least one during the winter meetings, they might be willing to settle on 3/4 of a Jimenez-like deal, in which case the Blue Jays would be all ears.
I am expecting Kelly Johnson to accept his arbitration, or structure a new deal today, as the second base market is not in high demand this year.
Off-season needs: Starting pitching, Designated Hitter
After failing to sign Cliff Lee last year, New York barely got by in terms of pitching. CC Sabathia took the lead, rookie Ivan Nova stepped up, A.J. Burnett did his thing, and then NY turned to former CY Young, now ancient Bartolo Colon and former southsider Freddy Garcia. Luckily their bullpen was stacked with Rivera/Robertson/Logan/Ayala and the offense had no holes in it.
Re-sign Freddy Garcia 1yr / $4 mil
No surprises here. He was productive enough for New York's standards, and he comes cheaply - loving his home in New Yankee Stadium.
New York fills the DH role with Nick Swisher
Roy Oswalt signs a two year deal with an option
If the Yanks are taking aim at a serious acquisition, they need to hit the target. They seem unwilling to spend this season, but there are plenty of pitching options to pursue. Once C.J. Wilson and Mark Buehrle are off the board, at least a famous face like Roy Oswalt would be a logical signing. The Colon experiment will not work twice, but if Oswalt is healthy, he is worth it. Last year saw him allow a lot of hits, but only 10 homeruns, so Yankee Stadium may still be kind to him. All of that said, this signing will likely happen after the Winter Meetings.
The only trade rumors out there for New York are connected to Gio Gonzales, or the White Sox Danks and Floyd, all of which sound unreasonable given the asking price in a trade. The Yankees need their prospects, now is not the time to give them up.
Off-season needs: Starting Pitching, Relievers, Left Field, Back-up Catcher, Designated Hitter
Oh how the Orioles need starting pitching. Really, they have problems everywhere. Mark Reynolds will likely move over to first base, and JJ Hardy fills short stop. The outfield has Nick Markakis and Adam Jones, and Matt Wieters is an excellent backstop. After that, who is a lock? The O's could look for more solutions at second and third base, but the bigger issues are left field, the DH and pitching.
Acquired catcher Taylor Teagarden from Texas for minor reliever Randy Henry
This was an easy solution for the O's. Texas had three catchers and adding a reliever to the depth is a plus. The trade involves one more to be named later from Baltimore, but that move should be of little consequence.
Sign RHP's Tsuyoshi Wada or Hisashi Iwakuma from Japan
Acquire RHP Jair Jurrjens from Atlanta for SS Robert Andino, OF Nolan Reimold
Wada pitched a 1.51 ERA wit h16 wins and 168 strikeouts in Japan last season, and Iwakuma pitched a 2.42 ERA despite injury. Both are free agents with interest in coming stateside and the O's could use an easy acquisition.
Jurrjens is a 25 year old pitcher with some upside. If he pitches like his 2009 or 2011 self, the O's could find a workhorse with a low ERA that the Braves are willing to trade. His upside is truly no higher than a #3 starter, and his velocity is dipping, but things are getting desperate in Baltimore. The Braves have an opening at short stop and could use outfield depth, so Andino and Reimold, both 28 and controllable, are an easy fit for the Braves. It would probably take more players, but the option is out there.
The Orioles will continue to have rumors swirl around their number one and two starters Guthrie and Matusz, but I believe they will keep their pitching strengths. If the O's add a couple arms and if Zach Britton achieves his potential, they will improve that league worst 4.68 ERA from 2011.
Off-season needs: Starting Pitching, Relievers, Closer, Right Field, Designated Hitter
With so many starters lost to injury last season, the Sox were scraping by and eventually came to a halt. The offense trailed off in September, and the pitchers could not pick up the slack. In the rotation seems to be set for John Lester, Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz (assuming he returns from injury). Turning to journeymen and relievers will not pick up the slack... or will it?
It appears fireman Daniel Bard has an interest in being a starting pitcher. Perhaps he has a repertoire of pitches he's been developing? If he has the desire, Boston has the opportunity, and the idea has not been met with much opposition. Bard has great talent, and he's under team control. For the cash strapped Sox (can you believe I'm saying that?) it may just work.
Re-signed starter Andrew Miller to a non-guaranteed 1 yr contract.
Picked up SS Marco Scutaro's 2012 option
Scutaro might be 35, but his glove is worth the $6 mil option alone. Add in his .299/.358/.423 slash line over 113 games last year and you have yourself quite a shortstop. This puts Jed Lowrie on the trading block, but the Sox will likely keep him for his flexibility to play the infield. RHP Andrew Miller was up for arbitration, so the Sox were smart in this non-guaranteed signing. If they don't like what they see, they dismiss him before opening day. He helped the Sox teeter along last year going 6-3 with a 5.54 ERA with 40 earned runs in 17 games, and most fans still have a bad taste in their mouth from his performance.
Sign Michael Cuddyer to a 3 year deal with a club option
David Ortiz accepts arbitration to return as designated hitter
Acquire closer Andrew Bailey from Oakland for RF Josh Reddick & prospects
With Jonathan Papelbon signed to Philadelphia, the Red Sox need to take a page out of the Blue Jays hand book and trade for a young closer. The best option out there is Andrew Bailey. Billy Beane and the Athletics are likely to ask for more than the White Sox did for Sergio Santos, but the A's gaping hole in the outfield (all three players are free agents) may be enough to get this deal done. The Sox could lead the trade with current right fielder Josh Reddick and follow up with enough prospects to make it worth Oakland's while.
To then fill right field, the Sox would turn to Carlos Beltran first and Michael Cuddyer second. As things shake out, Beltran is more likely to expect a long term deal and too high a salary. Cuddyer will demand a pretty penny as well, but at slightly more affordable levels. The Twins are making a hard push to get Cudds back, offering 3 yr / $25 mil. The Red Sox can trump that easily.
David Ortiz had a high price this off season, so the Red Sox offered arbitration. Ortiz has been hoping for two years and $12-14 mil each year, and since the courts may get close enough to that price, Ortiz should accept and be back in Boston.
Off-season needs: MLB First Base, AAA First Base, Catcher, Designate Hitter, Reliever
The Rays lost Casey Kotchman and Dan Johnson to free agency, ending their depth at first base. Catcher Kelly Shoppach and designated hitter / mohawk extraordinaire Johnny Damon are also free agents, so they all need replaced - and adding a few relievers never hurt anybody.
Acquire reliever Josh Lueke for back-up catcher John Jaso
Signed catcher Jose Molina
Signed AAA first baseman Juan Miranda
As we mentioned this morning, the Rays have been exceptionally busy for this early in the off season. Jose Molina was a brilliant signing for his defense, and if he can play 80 games the Rays have their starting catcher. given their depth for back-ups, the Jaso trade was also a smart move, landing the Rays a young and controllable reliever.
Juan Miranda was a great free agent acquisition falling through the cracks. The moment I saw his free agent status this off-season, I had a gut feeling he'd be ours. He is 28 and has huge upside to hit for power. He's dabbled in a few games for the Yankees and Diamondback the last couple seasons, but never got consistent playing time. While not the immediate solution for first base, Miranda can effectively replaced Dan Johnson with a lot more potential.
Acquire Yonder Alonso from the Reds for RHP Wade Davis, SS Reid Brignac & prospects
Rays wait out the market on a designated hitter
The Reds have 2010 MVP Joey Votto at first base. They need pitching, and they have constant injury woes at short stop. Enter Tampa Bay, with their eight pitchers (James Shields, David Price, Jeff Niemann, Wade Davis, Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore, Alex Cobb, Alex Torres) and four short stops (Reid Brignac, Sean Rodriguez, Tim Beckham, Hak Ju Lee). It's a match made in heaven. Will Cincinnati settle for less than James Shields? Than seems to be the issue, but I trust the right combination could get this deal done.
Other than that, the Rays have met their quota. They would need to be overwhelmed to give up offense producers like B.J. Upton or Sean Rodriguez at this point, and will not be high bidders on the DH market. Like last year, their best course of action may be to let the hot stove cool down and find a great deal (remember, Manny Ramirez / Johnny Damon was the original signing and quite a steal).
Other interesting options continue to be trades for Logan Morrison or Gabby Sanchez in Miami, but that's impossible to predict until the Albert Pujols discussion is over. If Pujols does choose Miami, they would be far more likely to trade either 1B option to the Rays, potentially for Jeff Niemann or Wade Davis alone.