We’ll take a look at every division in baseball, but it’s hard not to start here. The division is always fun to watch, and it was full of intrigue in 2014. Here’s what took place over the last month or so, culminating in a whirlwind today:
- Acquired third baseman Danny Valencia from Royals in exchange for righty Liam Hendriks and catcher Erik Kratz
- Acquired first baseman Brett Wallace from Orioles in exchange for cash considerations
- Acquired lefty Andrew Miller from Red Sox in exchange for lefty Eduardo Rodriguez
- Acquired utilityman Jimmy Paredes from Royals in exchange for cash considerations
- Acquired cash considerations from Blue Jays in exchange for first baseman Brett Wallace
- Acquired lefty Drew Smyly, infielder Nick Franklin, and shortstop Willy Adames from Tigers and Mariners in exchange for lefty David Price
- Acquired infielder Kelly Johnson from Yankees in exchange for infielder Stephen Drew and cash
- Acquired lefty Eduardo Rodriguez from Orioles in exchange for lefty Andrew Miller
- Acquired outfielder Yoenis Cespedes and 2015 compensatory draft pick from Athletics in exchange for Jon Lester, Jonny Gomes, and cash
- Acquired righty Joe Kelly and first baseman/outfielder Allen Craig from Cardinals in exchange for righty John Lackey, lefty Corey Littrell, and cash
- Acquired player to be named later from Cubs in exchange for lefty Felix Doubront
- Acquired lefty Edwin Escobar and righty Heath Hembree from Giants in exchange for righty Jake Peavy
- Acquired infielder/outfielder Martin Prado from Diamondbacks in exchange for catcher Peter O’Brien
- Acquired infielder Stephen Drew and cash from Red Sox in exchange for infielder Kelly Johnson
- Acquired lefty Chris Capuano from Rockies in exchange for cash
- Acquired third baseman Chase Headley and cash from Padres in exchange for infielder Yangervis Solarte and righty Rafael De Paula
- Acquired lefty Jeff Francis and cash from Athletics in exchange for a player to be named later
- Acquired righty Brandon McCarthy from Diamondbacks in exchange for lefty Vidal Nuno
- Acquired lefty David Huff from Giants in exchange for cash
The Yankees were somewhat quiet buyers, the Red Sox were incredibly loud sellers, and there were multiple inter-division deals. It was decidedly not business as usual in the AL East, but plenty of business was done … except, that is, in Toronto.
Despite long being rumored to be looking for additions to the rotation, bullpen, and/or infield, the Blue Jays (as they did in free agency) largely stayed quiet. Several players actually expressed frustration with the inactivity, but GM Alex Anthopoulos said that clubs were asking for big league players in return and that nothing ended up making baseball sense. He indicated that the August market could hold some possibilities, but at this point, it seems likely that the Jays will sink or swim with their current alignment.
The Orioles, likewise, were known to have a rather similar list of possible needs, and were expected mostly to pursue new arms. Baltimore ultimately did just that, steering clear of a starting pitching market filled with big swaps but ultimately landing the most sought-after reliever who remained available. It cost the club one of its better prospects — Rodriguez, probably the best pre-MLB player to change hands today — but will give the team a high-leverage weapon as it tries to hold onto precious wins. But as with Toronto, if the team comes up just short in a year in which the division seems so tantalizingly open, it will be fair to ask whether one more piece would have made the difference.
The Yankees took something of a different approach, adding a bevy of potentially useful veterans who struggled in the season’s first half and were playing on fairly sizable contracts. Among them, only the most recent addition — Prado — comes with team control beyond the present season. Buried by by other, larger deals, the Prado swap not only completes an infield makeover for this year but also gives the team plenty of flexibility moving forward.
Reaching the bottom of the division, one finds some fairly atypical selling clubs. The Rays, of course, have been roaring back on the field, even if the playoff picture largely remains the same. Perhaps the failure to climb the ladder drove the club’s decision to move this year’s biggest trade chip in Price. While the return does not feature the kinds of prospects that one might have expected, it delivered plenty of long-term value back to Tampa. And it left the club, notably, with plenty of talent still in the fold for 2014. A nice run from Smyly, and perhaps even a late-season boost from Franklin, could play a role in continuing the Rays’ rise in the standings. None of the teams ahead of them appears poised to run away with things, but it will be interesting to see how the clubhouse responds to the trade.
In a series of moves that were every bit as bold as Tampa’s big stroke, the Red Sox parted with the club’s two best pitchers, two other members of the World Series-defending, Opening Day rotation, a dominant set-up man, and a just-signed veteran shortstop (and what a journey it’s been for Drew). But this was no traditional roster blow-up; instead, Boston returned mostly big league pieces that changed the team’s makeup dramatically but gave notice that it intends to contend next year. Adding power bats to the corner outfield and young arms to the current and near-future rotation — the team now has an impressive array of young arms and other prospects — the Red Sox look primed to add yet more more pieces in free agency and aim for another title run. GM Ben Cherington said that the team will be a player for veteran pitching in free agency, and reports even indicated that the team could have its sights set on a reunion with Lester. It remains to be seen whether Boston would have been better served by pushing its clock further back and perhaps bringing in more upside, but if Cespedes and Craig can return to their 2012 levels of production, Boston will be right back in the thick of things in 2015.