Winter Meetings Update: Rays And The Rest Of AL East

What’s Going On In The American League East

New York Yankees:

(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

The Yankees appear close to signing left-handed starter J.A. Happ who finished the 2018 season with them after a mid-season trade with the Toronto Blue Jays. With the Yankees he made 11 starts going 7-0 with a 2.69 ERA. Overall in 2018, he made 31 starts between Toronto and New York finishing the season 17-6 with a 3.65 ERA logging 177.2-innings.

Heading into 2019, the Yankees rotation now includes three lefties, James Paxton, J.A. Happ, and C.C. Sabathia to pair with righties Luis Severino and  Masahiro Tanaka.

They are still one of the teams rumored to be involved in the Manny Machado disucssions, but appear to be out on Byrce Harper.

Last season New York won 100 games but finished eight games behind the Boston Red Sox. Have they cut into that lead with the Paxton acquisition and the Happ signing?

“Obviously they were an unbelievable team this year, a monster. But we also understand that we feel like we’re very much on level ground with them.” Boone said.  “We’ve obviously got areas that we need to improve to kind of close that gap but we feel like when we’re at our best we’re as good as any team in the world.”

Boston Red Sox:

(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

The Red Sox appear to be attempting to get out from under some salary in order to move forward and upgrade their roster, specifically their bullpen. As it stands now, both Joe Kelly and Craig Kimbrel are free agents and President Dave Dumbrowski was very adamant that the Sox were not in the market to spend big on a closer.

“We’re not going to be overly aggressive with big expenditures for our relief closer at this point,” said the Red Sox president of baseball operations. “Our payroll is pretty high at this point. Without getting specific on him [Kimbrel], we’re not making a big expenditure in that area. Read that as you may.”

It’s rumored that the team was willing to listen to offers on  Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Rick Porcello in order to clear payroll.  All three contracts expire at the end of the 2019 season.

The Red Sox’ payroll will be above the luxury tax threshold of $206MM but they will look to avoid the secondary surtax for payroll exceeding threshold by $20MM and $40MM.

According to Evan Drelich of NBC Sports, Chris Sale whose contract expires at the end of the 2019 season said that he’s willing to discuss a contract extension.  Additionally, Sale underwent an MRI on his ailing shoulder and the results indicated no structural damage.

“I know repeating is tough, but like I said it starts with the players. People are going to talk about hangovers and all that and the banquet circuit. It’s part of it.” Cora said about the difficulty in repeating. “But they’ve been disciplined enough. I saw Nate yesterday. He looks great. Chris, he started throwing. David is doing his thing in Fort Myers. When you hear that, you see that, you’re like, okay, we’re going to be in good shape.”

Toronto Blue Jays:

The Blue Jays have been rumored to be listening on pitchers Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez, but only if they get the right price.

Simply put, the Jays won’t trade either pitcher based on their 2018 numbers, but they will be willing to trade either player is commiserate with their career norms.

Stroman spent much of the 2018 season on the disabled list making just 19 starts posting a 4-9 mark with a 5.54 ERA. Between 2016-2017 he made 65 starts while logging an impressive 405 innings.  He posted a 22-19 mark with a 3.73 ERA. He won’t be a free agent until after the 2020 season.

Sanchez dealt with blister issues in 2017 and suffered an odd finger injury in 2018 after slamming his finger in a suitcase.  He was limited to just seven starts in 2017 but made 20 in 2018 goring 4-6 with a 4.89 ERA spanning 105 innings. His best season came in 2016 when he went 15-2 with a league leading 3.00 ERA. He won’t be a free agent until after the 2020 season.

They also made the surprising move to release shortstop Troy Tulowitzki who missed the 2018 season after having heel surgery and is still due $38MM. He isn’t the first player to be released with a large amount of money due to him in recent years.  Others include Pablo Sandoval ($48MM [Boston]), Hanley Ramirez ($15.25MM [Boston]), and Jose Reyes ($39MM [Rockies]). It should be noted that the Rockies released Reyes after completion of a suspension due to a domestic violence issue.

According to new Manager Charlie Montoyo, who was the Rays bench coach in 2018, the Blue Jays will experiment with the opener.

“Of course being with the Rays we are used to shift a lot. I was in charge of the shifting with the Rays, as you know.” Montoyo said at his media session. “So I consider myself a blend of old school and analytics, and I’ve seen it work with the Rays. But I’m also going to use my gut feeling. I’m going to bring both. The opener, I saw it work, I saw the shifting work. We’re going to be using all the stuff, for sure.

Baltimore Orioles:

The Orioles have a complete minor league system and major league roster to rebuild, but to do that they first had to get their house in order.  That started with the hiring of Mike Elias to take over as the team’s General Manager. After filling other front office positions, Elias began the search for a Manager which appears to have concluded here in Las Vegas with the pending announcement that the teams next skipper will be Cubs’ Bench Coach Brandon Hyde.

The 45-year old Hyde has worked as a minor league manager with the Marlins from 2005-200 and was their bench coach from 2010 through 2012.  He joined the Cubs coaching staff in 2013 with two stints as the team’s bench coach.

Others in consideration for the job included Rockies bench coach Mike Redmond, Nationals bench coach Chip Hale, Royals catching/quality control coach Pedro Grifol, Diamondbacks director of player development Mike Bell, and ex-Indians and Nationals Manager Manny Acta.

Tampa Bay Rays:

Tampa Bay Rays Chasing Cruz
(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

The Rays continue to be involved in many rumors in what for them is considered big game hunting. They have had continued dialogue with free agent pitcher Charlie Morton and outfielder Nelson Cruz. They have been mentioned in discussions with the Cleveland Indians for first baseman Edwin Encarnacion and third baseman Yandy Diaz, the Seattle Mariners for first baseman Carlos Santana, as well as with the Miami Marlins in discussions for J.T. Realmuto.

As of now, nothing has come to fruition and the most significant on field move the Rays have made is acquiring Mike Zunino in a trade that sent Mallex Smith back to Seattle where he had previously spent 71-minutes.

Of course, the Rays have the most disappointing news here in Vegas as Principal Owner Stu Sternberg held an impromptu press conference responding a letter penned by MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred regarding the Ybor Stadium financing. The announcement was that the proposed Ybor Stadium was not moving forward and it’s back to the drawing board.

Nothing that happens to the organization on the field or in regards to the stadium matches the punch in the stomach the organization suffered Monday night when they found out that long time field coordinator Jim Hoff passed away unexpectedly at home in Tampa. He was 73.

“With heavy hearts, we mourn the untimely death of Jim Hoff,” said Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Erik Neander. “Hoffy spent more than 50 years in professional baseball, and served as our field coordinator for the last 17. During his long career, he made a profound impact on countless players, coaches and staff. He cared deeply for all of them, for the organizations in which he worked, and for the game of baseball. Hoffy was a great teacher and an even better person, beloved by all who knew him, and we will miss him terribly. The entire Rays organization sends our thoughts and sympathies to his family.”