The AL East included four of the junior circuit's eight 80-win teams a year ago, and you could make the argument that the Yankees, Rays, Red Sox and Blue Jays are just as strong entering the 2012 campaign. The latest links from the division…
- As Alex Speier of WEEI.com explains, the Red Sox didn't realize they had obtained two future All-Stars when they sent reliever Heathcliff Slocumb to Seattle for Jason Varitek and Derek Lowe in 1997. Speier passes along quotes from Dan Duquette, scout Gary Rajsich and Lowe in this look back at the franchise-altering deal. Rajsich considered Lowe a future above-average setup man at the time. Even then, the scout thought Varitek could be a frontline starting catcher.
- Duquette explained to Speier that Manny Ramirez wasn't a fit for the Orioles this winter. "I thought since I was so generous with Manny last time around, he should have paid me this time around. He didn’t quite see it that way," Duquette quipped, making reference to the slugger's eight-year, $160MM contract with the Red Sox.
- Duquette also discussed the Varitek-Lowe deal in detail.
- The Yankees say there's a competition between Phil Hughes and Freddy Garcia for the final spot in their rotation, but Joel Sherman of the New York Post says the competition is essentially rigged. Hughes will win if the competition is close, and Garcia will head to the bullpen unless a starter gets injured.