Monday, December 25, 2006

American League East Flotsam and Jetsam

Miscellaneous thoughts and observations about the American League East.

Baltimore – this will be the second year the pitching staff will be under Leo Mazzone. I would look for some serious improvement over last year’s performance. Look for Erik Bedard to have a breakout season that sees him finish in the top 5 for the AL Cy Young. The questions on this team include whether highly touted Hayden Penn will be a valuable contributor or another bust. It will be interesting to see if outfield prospect Val Majewski gets playing time (an option made much more unlikely by the signing of Jay Payton). The biggest question mark, however, continues to be first base where Kevin Millar displays the glove and bat of the red rock ‘em sock ‘em robot. There is a rumor that Atlanta would trade first baseman Adam LaRoche in exchange for closer Chris Ray. The Orioles would have Danys Baez ready to take over at closer and that trade would give Baltimore a pretty potent line-up.

Boston – the big question mark for the Red Sox is who will be the closer? Mike Timlin and Brendan Donnelly appear to have the best shots at the job but both are better suited to being set-up men. Curt Schilling and Tim Wakefield have also closed in the past but either one as closer is a real long-shot. Chances are the Red Sox will trade for a closer using Wily Mo Pena, Mike Lowell or Eric Hinske as bait. The official signing of JD Drew may be holding up a possible trade. Wily Mo Pena to the Nationals for closer Chad Cordero is a possibility though not one I’d be excited about. I think Pena could put up Alphonso Soriano type power numbers if given 500 AB (along with Soriano type strike-outs) and I think Cordero may have problems with the pressure that comes with being the closer at Fenway Park.

New York – the two big questions for the Yankees are who will be the 5th starter and who will play first base. Right now Carl Pavano is penciled in as the 5th starter but the words “injury prone” doesn’t begin to describe the disaster that has been Carl Pavano in New York. Andy Phillips is penciled in as the starting first baseman (with Jason Giambi the DH). It is very possible that Melky Cabrera will be dealt to fill one of these two holes. The Yankees have to wait to see what Roger Clemens decides before doing anything. Look for the Yankees to toss a boat load of cash at the Rocket to get him to sign.

Tampa Bay
– the Devil Rays will be dangling Rocco Baldelli as trade bait and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him traded to Atlanta for pitcher Chuck James. The move I would like to see the Rays make is to sign Victor Zambano to a minor league deal. That would certainly rub it in the Mets face.

Toronto – with the signing of Frank Thomas – the Blue Jays have one of the most powerful middle of the line-ups in all of baseball (Vernon Wells, Thomas and Troy Glaus). The two areas of concern for Toronto have to be the back-end of the rotation and keeping players healthy. Right now Shaun Marcum and Casey Janssen are penciled in as the 4th and 5th starters – that won’t get Toronto into the playoffs. Troy Glaus, Frank Thomas, AJ Burnett and Roy Halladay all have injury troubles and if two of those four players go down – so do the Blue Jays.

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