Now that the NFL is winding down, and in spite of some serious winter storms where I reside, It is less than a month until spring training begins . So, time to give some thought to who went where over the winter among MLB possible contenders. I'll begin with the AL East, starting with B for Blue Jays.
Anyone who watches the Jays at all realizes that the boys in the dugout have a really good time. After their quick playoff exit, one wonders "perhaps too good a time?" The Jays brass might have been thinking along those lines. Gone are Gurriel and Teoscar, two of the Jays talented and popular jokesters. Hernandez especially will be a hard bat to replace, but the pair did have defensive limitations in outfield defense. The Jays paid a ton to bring in Varsho, losing also a prized catching prospect, but he will be a much needed left-handed presence in the line-up, with a big defensive upside and a huge potential on offense. Veteran Kiermeier adds another left-handed defensive presence in the outfield (if not on offense), IF he remains healthy. Kiermeier has been a thorn in the Jays' side as a Ray for years, so it will be nice to have him on the home side. Adding Brandon Belt is a high-risk, high-reward gamble. Belt, yet another left-handed addition in a previously right-centric line-up, is on a "show me" contract after a serious knee injury limited his playing time last year.
On the pitching side, the Jays lost a rock in Ross Stripling and an often used reliever in Phelps. The fine addition of premium starter Chris Bassitt will ease the pain. The Jays have two acquisitions from last year, Kikuchi and White, who remain question marks as to usage, and will have Ryu possibly returning. The Jays bolstered their bullpen, trading with Seattle for Swanson, who will improve their late inning relief pitching, an area of concern last year.
The young, carefree, if not goofball Jays' style seems on its way out. Adding Mattingly as bench boss is just another sign the the Jays mean to be taken much more seriously this year.
B also for Baltimore.
The Orioles were a surprise contender last year and a real thorn in the side of the other AL East contenders, finally falling out of contention late in the season. Have they done enough to improve on, or even equal, last year's Cinderfellah team? Maybe not.. As far as pitching goes, the Orioles lost Jordan Lyles, who overachieved last year, to free agency, and lost Means to Tommy John. They recently brought in Cole Irvin, losing a decent infield prospect only, and added veteran Kyle Gibson. Cole Irvin is a very dependable control starter who throws for a ton of innings. Gibson is at best a wild card. He had some good moments, but could be shockingly poor at times last season. The Orioles still really need another major league-ready starter to compete.
Otherwise the Orioles disappointed the fan base and mostly stood pat. They did add some veteran presence in catcher McCann and infielder Adam Frasier but these are not earth-shaking moves. The Orioles will have their trio of very fine young stars, Henderson, Rutschman and pitcher Rodriguez for the full season, and are likely banking on further additions from their well-stocked larder in the minor leagues. Chances for a post season berth? Definitely, wait and see.
I'll check out the Yankees, Rays and Red Sox next..