The Rays and Red Sox begin a four-game set at Fenway Park tonight that could very well determine the AL Wild Card. Here are some items about both clubs, plus the rest of the AL East...
- Trades and middling draft results have robbed the Red Sox of pitching depth, opines ESPN's Jim Bowden (Insider subscription required). With more good arms in the system, Bowden argues that Boston could have had reinforcements ready to step in when Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz hit the DL, or could've used those young prospects to acquire a more reliable starter than Erik Bedard.
- The Blue Jays will at least check in on Jonathan Papelbon this winter, writes MLB.com's Gregor Chisholm, though Chisholm notes that it isn't Alex Anthopoulos' style to sign relievers to expensive, multiyear contracts. Chisholm also looks at Frank Francisco and Adam Loewen's respective futures in Toronto as part of the mailbag piece -- Chisholm thinks Francisco will leave, while Loewen is out of options and will probably only have a spot on the team if the Jays cut Mark Teahen.
- Mariano Rivera is a Yankees legend today, but Wallace Matthews of ESPN New York looks at how 20 years ago, the Sandman wasn't even the most regarded prospect in his own family. "If you turn the clock back and you ask who was the best Rivera in our system, it was Ruben," says Brian Cashman. "Mariano was just known as Ruben’s cousin.''
- Writing for USA Today, Patrick DiCaprio looks at how Orioles reliever Jim Johnson fits the prototype of a closer. Johnson could very well finish games next season given that Baltimore seems to have lost patience with Kevin Gregg, though we've also heard that the O's have explored converting Johnson to a starter. You can keep track of Baltimore's late-game situation all winter long at MLBTR's sister site, Closer News.
- Robert Andino has finally gotten the chance to show he belongs in the Majors, writes Brittany Ghiroli for MLB.com. The versatile infielder has definitely earned a roster spot with the Orioles for next year.
- The Rays' somewhat surprising performance in 2011 makes it clear that they will be contenders again in 2012 and possibly for years to come, writes Rob Neyer.
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