With Spring Training set to start in just a handful of days, it is time to look at what moves were made by the clubs in the American League East to prepare for the upcoming season. Each team listed below will be given a grade based on the moves that they made during the off-season...
Boston Red Sox: B-
The defending World Series Champions were relatively quiet during the off-season. The re-signing of Mike Napoli, who hit to a .259 batting average and 23 home runs during the Red Sox title run, will definitely help in the lineup.
Napoli has a solid glove at first base which also helps the Red Sox. The only notable free agent that the Red Sox signed was catcher A.J. Pierzynski. Pierzynski, at age 36, is looking at Boston to be a place where he can wind down his career. The Red Sox let 28-year-old Jarrod Saltalamacchia go as a free agent, knowing that, as of late, Pierzynski has played better both at the plate and behind the plate in his career.
The Red Sox also cleaned out their bullpen pitchers who had struggled as of late, including Andrew Bailey. The Boston Red Sox will keep a majority of the players that helped them accomplish the ultimate prize last season and upgraded at the catcher position. This makes the Red Sox a contender once again for the AL East crown. The biggest loss for the Red Sox will be Jacoby Ellsbury who signed as a free agent with the New York Yankees.
Tampa Bay Rays: A-
The biggest thing that the Rays accomplished during the off-season was to avoid arbitration with some of the club's biggest contributors. By securing a place for David Price and Jeremy Hellickson alongside Alex Cobb and Chris Archer, the Rays have one of the best starting rotations in the division.
The addition of Heath Bell as closer also strengthens the bullpen. The lineup was already decent with almost everyone who played over 100 games hitting above .230. The Rays look like they are heading in the right direction and are poised to be a factor come October.
New York Yankees: A+
The Yankees reloaded this off-season as they usually do with aging stars. The free agent signings of Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, Hiroki Kuroda and Kelly Johnson boost the team to heights that it wasn't able to reach last season.
The Yankees lost second baseman Robinson Cano in free agency and don't have anyone who would be able to completely fill that vacancy fielding wise but their signings should account for Cano's batting stats.
Baltimore Orioles: C-
The best thing that the Orioles did during the off-season was to re-sign Chris Davis, Troy Patton, Tommy Hunter and Bud Norris. The Orioles willingly traded away the best closing pitcher in the league in Jim Johnson for a struggling second baseman who only played in seven games last season.
The Orioles have a stockpile of outfielders sitting in their minor league system and no one seems to know why. The starting rotation looks a bit shaky and the bullpen is full of starting pitchers that never panned out.
The encounter with free agent Grant Balfour may be looming over them at the end of the season with Tommy Hunter looking likely to take the closing job. Chris Davis, Matt Wieters, Adam Jones and company all better have career seasons if the Orioles look to get back into the playoffs.
Toronto Blue Jays: D
The Blue Jays still have a group of stars that they signed prior to last season that failed to get Toronto out of last place. The lack of moves made by Toronto suggests that they plan to stick with the same plan they had last year.
The club refused to resign J.P. Arencibia and instead replaced him with Erik Kratz, who has played 128 games in four seasons and hit to a .219 batting average. This is a slight statistical upgrade over Arencibia, however Kratz is six years older than Arencibia. Unless the Blue Jays shockingly come to life, they will remain the cellar dwellers in the AL East.
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