It’s the day before Thanksgiving, and the Red Sox have most certainly stolen the baseball headlines heading into the holiday (we’ll see if that changes in the next 24 hours). Here’s a quick look at the state of the American League East at this point in the offseason. Two teams have made big additions, one seems to be going the other direction, and two are still waiting to make significant noise.
Last year: 96-66
Key players lost: Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz are free agents after playing key roles in what was an explosive offense. The Orioles have also lost Delmon Young, who was a useful part-timer.
Early additions: Shortstop J.J. Hardy signed a contract extension before he hit the market
Not exactly a transaction: Catcher Matt Wieters should be healthy after missing most of this season.
Money issue: The Orioles have a ton of used-to-be-young players who are hitting arbitration.
One key need: Reports indicate the Orioles are trying to bring back Markakis, but right now they have no set right fielder. They could use some power without Cruz and after Chris Davis had a down year.
Worth mentioning: Reliever Andrew Miller pitched in 23 games after coming to the Orioles in a mid-season trade. Not exactly a key part of their full season, but certainly a key piece down the stretch. That’s another free agent to replace.
Last year: 84-78
Key players lost: Derek Jeter’s retirement is the big-picture loss, but Dave Robertson’s free agency might be the bigger issue. The Yankees also came to rely on mid-season additions Chase Headley and Brandon McCarthy. Oh, and Hiroki Kuroda might retire.
Early additions: Lefty Justin Wilson and fourth outfielder Chris Young are on board as role players.
Not exactly a transaction: Obviously the return of Alex Rodriguez will be among the most significant roster changes for next season. Also, Ivan Nova and CC Sabathia should return from injuries, but there’s no not-exactly-a-transaction player move quite like the return of A-Rod.
Money issue: The Yankees are indicating that they don’t plan to go after the biggest names on the market, but we’ll see if they have a big-money surprise up their sleeve for either Jon Lester or Max Scherzer?
One key need: The Yankees have been clear that shortstop is their priority, but a rotation full of uncertainty needs some help too.
Worth mentioning: Nothing to write that hasn’t been written on the blog many times before. If this were any other team, though, I’d probably point out that health and veteran performance will be a huge issue next season.
Last year: 83-79
Key players lost: Melky Cabrera and Colby Rasmus are free agents; Adam Lind and Anthony Gose were traded away.
Early additions: The big signing was the Russell Martin deal, but the Blue Jays have also traded for young infielder Devon Travis, traded for reliever Marco Estrada, and claimed both first baseman Justin Smoak and outfielder Andy Dirks off waivers.
Not exactly a transaction: He was already in place, but the Blue Jays now seem ready to give prospect Dalton Pompey at least a chance to win the everyday center field job. Pompey is Canadian, just like Martin and just like third baseman Brett Lawrie.
Money issue: The Blue Jays freed up some money by trading away Lind and declining a team option on Brandon Morrow. They obviously took on some money by signing Martin. They don’t have any massive arbitration cases to deal with.
One key need: The Blue Jays could use an upgrade at second base, but mostly they just need a bat. And there’s room to add one, even if he’s strictly a designated hitter.
Worth mentioning: Toronto’s been pretty active this winter, and the team wasn’t awful last year. Are they one big move away from contending?
Last year: 77-85
Key players lost: David Price was traded last season; Jeremy Hellickson and Joel Peralta were traded earlier this winter. They’re aren’t players necessarily, but it’s hard to ignore the fact the Rays also lost their manager and general manager.
Early additions: Mostly just some young guys in those Hellickson and Peralta trades.
Not exactly a transaction: Starting pitcher Matt Moore should come back from Tommy John surgery at some point next season. That surely makes up Hellickson, but it doesn’t make up for Price.
Money issue: Catcher Jose Molina has been released despite being owed more than $2 million next season.
One key need: Well, they need a manager for one thing. For years the Rays seemed to be defined by their manager and their crafty front office, but all of that has changed considerably this offseason.
Worth mentioning: After years of holding on and beating up on the big guys without spending a ton of money, the Rays to be in more of a rebuilding mode. They still have a core in place, but it’s clearly an organization in transition.
Last year: 71-91
Key players lost: The Red Sox shipped away a bunch of key players at the trade deadline, including Jon Lester. Craig Breslow became a free agent this winter, but that’s nothing compared to the mid-season losses.
Early additions: The Red Sox signed Koji Uehara to a new two-year deal, but the bigger splash came this week with the one-two free agent punch of Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez.
Not exactly a transaction: The Red Sox have yet to see a full season from Yoenis Cespedes, Rusney Castillo or Allen Craig. They technically aren’t offseason moves, but those mid-season additions could have a real impact next year.
Money issue: It seems the Red Sox are ready and willing to spend. The only question is exactly how far are they willing to go with their payroll?
One key need: At this point, pitching is their only clear need. They’ve thoroughly reloaded their lineup, but their rotation is full of holes and uncertainty. Do they really still have the money to bring back Lester?
Worth mentioning: Right now, the Red Sox seem thoroughly overloaded in the outfield corners, setting up the very real possibility that they could make a fairly significant trade at some point.
Associated Press photo