AL East spends big while Rangers, Red Sox make risky moves

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AL East spends big while Rangers, Red Sox make risky moves

Josh Carlton

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Rangers spring training

 

Can you feel it, baseball fans? That horrible feeling that lasts from October to March? Well, for those of you still mourning the end of the 2013 season, there’s some good news and some bad news. Baseball season hasn’t officially started, but Spring Training has. During the offseason, there were some big splashes, one of the biggest being a foreigner making history in the pitching market. Here’s a breakdown of which teams struck gold and which ones lost out.

Winners

New York Yankees – With future Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera gone and Derek Jeter about to hang up his spikes at the end of the season, the Yankees needed to give their fans something to look forward to in the coming years. And before you say the only reason they have these players is because of the cash flow, think about the dynasty that is Bronx baseball. Who wouldn’t want to play for this franchise? In a lineup that now boasts power-hitting catcher Brian McCann, veteran outfielder Carlos Beltran, and the speedy Jacoby Ellsbury, they also snatched up the Japanese pitching sensation Masahiro Tanaka, just to make sure they weren’t playing against him. Though  he is unproven in the MLB, the Tanaka signing shows that this team will not stop spending until it sees the end of October.

Baltimore Orioles – Some may disagree, but the Orioles have been slowly adopting a philosophy the Tampa Bay Rays have been using for years: sign small contracts, win big. Though they slightly broke the bank with the Ubaldo Jiminez signing (4 years/$48 million), they filled a need with a solid right-handed starter and have also gone out and found themselves a bomber in outfielder Nelson Cruz. If first baseman Chris Davis can capitalize on his stellar 2013 season, expect the Orioles to compete in the extremely difficult American League East this season.

Atlanta Braves – With the Chipper Jones era in the rearview mirror, the Braves are looking forward and capitalizing on their youthful resources. They went ahead and locked up two solid right-handed pitchers in reliever Craig Kimbrel and starter Julio Teheran. Then they took care of their own by extending outfielder Jason Heyward to a two-year contract, and breakout first baseman Freddie Freeman to an eight-year deal. If the Upton brothers can find their grooves again, look for the Braves to be the NL East’s answer to the LA Dodgers.

Losers

Texas Rangers – Usually this team would be a contender no matter what. But after last year, Ron Washington’s squad isn’t the sure bet it once was. During the offseason, Texas went out and got themselves an overpriced outfielder in Shin-Soo Choo. The guy hasn’t exactly been the model of consistency with his run production fluctuating each season, but he consistently gets on base. One could argue that designated hitter Prince Fielder will be the star Texas needs him to be, but after a dip in power during the 2013 season, it’s starting to look like the Tigers got the better end of the deal with second baseman Ian Kinsler. Not to mention almost their entire starting rotation is either injured or unproven and signing down-and-out pitchers like Tommy Hanson won’t help their cause. Essentially, only time will tell if the Rangers can beat out the Oakland A’s and Los Angeles Angels for the American League West, but they’re going to need some pitching, stat.

Boston Red Sox – The reigning World Series Champions didn’t do much this offseason other than re-sign choke artist catcher Mike Napoli and give journeyman pitcher Chris Capuano a shot. Overall, it’s been quiet in Beantown. That being said, this team still has all the potential in the world, considering they still have the core lineup that knocked it’s way into the postseason. So they’re not necessarily in the “losing” category, but they did give the aging catcher A.J. Pierzynski a one-year deal for an outrageous $8.25 million that left everyone scratching their head. The one interesting move the Red Sox did make was signing outfielder — and ex-Indians star — Grady Sizemore to a minor-league deal. If Sizemore can make a case for a comeback, the Red Sox might have proven smart to keep a low-profile player in the free-agent sweeps.

Chicago Cubs – Oh, poor Chicago. Fans need their team to bounce back and, unfortunately, this may not be the year. Though the Cubs are technically still in “rebuilding” mode, they virtually made no moves in the post-season. They lost out to the Yankees with Tanaka who they badly needed and are still banking on guys like shortstop Starlin Castro to be difference-makers. The Cubs do still have some promise on their depth chart, but is it enough to help them achieve a .500-plus record next season? Probably not, but there’s always the promise of success in 2015.