I've been thinking for a while about doing a regular Around the AL East bit here at OTM, but have never gotten around to it for reasons that defy explanation. Enter a Saturday night with no social obligations, a wife who has to work early Sunday morning, and a cat firmly dug into my thighs. Here we go!
If the Orioles' GM search were a soap opera script, the producer for Days Of Our Lives would turn it down as unrealistic. The sheer brain power that has rejected Peter Angelos' overtures could design a true zero emissions vehicle, solve this whole 'gravity' problem, invent a zero calorie muffin that doesn't taste like a combination of sawdust and poo, and harness the transcendental powers of cat fur to power us through the extra-verse and into the next world. Instead though, they'll devote their energies to figuring out why college relievers aren't worth a crap while celebrating freedom from the tyranny of the word "Orioles" on your resume.
After a month plus worth of public humiliation, Baltimore may have finally discovered a candidate willing to work with two iron shackles strapped to his ankles. Figuratively speaking. Either that or they've discovered the legal miracle that is Rohypnol. In either case they may soon have a new General Manager in Dan Duquette. Those of you born before the Roosevelt administration may remember Duquette. (Teddy.) Formerly the GM of Montreal and Boston, Duquette was the abrasive new school guy whose 'new school' faded while his abrasiveness only grew with age. He was a man of many great ideas, but the ones in name only often ended up out-weighing the others. I'll save you from a complete recital of Duquette's resume here, except to say the last entry is dated 2002. While it probably stretches the truth to claim Peter Angelos burned through everyone who held a job in Major League Baseball between now and 2003, that he settled on Duquette makes one wonder.
In the end though it probably makes little difference. Duquette will be an brightly colored frosting on a stale, tasteless cake. No matter who sits in the GM's chair, the Orioles are run by Angelos and, as eighteen years has proven, no amount of losing is going to change that.
There isn't a whole lot going on in Toronto right now. Well, other than some Leafs talk, eh. There was some discussion of potentially pursuing David Ortiz, but the Jays recently picked up the $3.5 million option on their most-of-the-time DH, Edwin Encarnacion. Encarnacion is no David Ortiz at the plate, but he's a reasonable approximation in the field. Probably that's why neither plays any defense beyond arguing with their wives or playing the new video game, Zombie Defender: Grosser Than Gross (you can actually call the parents of the people's heads you're about to blow off).
If you squint with sunglasses on, Ortiz might make some sense up in the Frozen North, but that vision gets harder to conjure with Encarnacion back in the fold. It's still not out of the realm of the possible. Indeed, the longer he sits on the market, the more likely you are to catch Ortiz drinking a Molson rink side. But, unless Alex Anthopoulos is planning to deal Encarnacion to Anaheim for Dan Haren and a mason jar full of formaldehyde and Tony Reagins' testicles, this one is probably going to have to stay as fictional as Herman Cain's presidential chances.
The most productive off-season award goes, so far, to the Yankees. It's a revocable trophy, but considering the state of the team's major league pitching staff, you can expect the Golden Goat (it was on sale, OK?) to remain at Disneyland: Bronx for the foreseeable future. The reward hasn't gone unearned. They Yankees started by re-upping their abdominous ace, C.C. Sabathia to a five year deal with a one year vesting option. Sabathia used his opt-out clause to add a fifth season at $25 million and a vesting sixth season at the same $25 million salary, but with a $5 million buy-out clause.
The deal is huge, yet the feeling here is that Sabathia let the Yankees off easy. As the most valuable pitcher set to hit the free agent market, Sabathia could almost certainly have done better than $122 million over five years. Last year Cliff Lee was the same age as Sabathia is now and Lee got five years at $120 million. While there is a chance the Yankees could have become fed up with negotiations and the trappings of free agency and pulled out of the bidding, the combination of the Red Sox, Angels, and Rangers plus the interest of countless other teams would have re-lit that candle and forced the big moneyed Yankees to actually dig a bit deeper. Sabathia had the Yankees over the proverbial barrel with the opportunity to re-define the market for starting pitching. He didn't, and the Yankees are lucky for it.
Sabathia's signature isn't the only one GM Brian Cashman collected so far this off season. Cashman also nabbed himself, which sounds gross but isn't, at least not in this context. Cashman re-signed for three more seasons as the Yankees General Manager, continuing in the post he's held since 1998. It's always hard to separate the GM from the rest of the front office when handing out praise and especially so when it comes to the Scrooge McDuck Yankees, but an awful lot of winning has occurred since Cashman took the reins, so he must be doing something right. In that same spirit, I urge him to re-sign Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia to expensive, long term contracts.
While the Jays are waiting in the brush to pounce, the Red Sox are trying to figure out which way is up, and the Yankees are putting the band back together, the Rays just are. Oh sure, they dumped first baseman Dan Johnson, fresh off a season saving two out homer in the bottom of the ninth inning ("Thanks so much, Dan, don't let the door hit ya where the good... aww, just get out.") but Johnson wasn't part of their or anyone else's long term plans. The Rays off season will be successful if they can hold on to their front office and field staff. GM Andrew Friedman's name has been mentioned in conjunction with just about every opening in baseball and probably a few outside the sport as well (it says here John Henry should hire him to run his soccer team). There is still a chance Friedman could escape to a city with actual baseball fans, but the chances shrink every day it doesn't happen. You know, until next year.
The same could be said of Joe Maddon, whose horn-rimmed glasses, occasional dyed hair, and in-dugout intensity recall the lost lovechild of Norman Schwarzkopf and Drew Carey. Maddon seems to be at the top of just about every team's managerial want list, but his contract runs through next season so the Rays can deny other clubs permission to interview him. Considering their golden image, they'll probably send Maddon along with a bouquet of roses and the secret formula of Coke (sugar, caramel color and malted battery acid!). Like Friedman, it's hard to see Maddon bolting Tampa, at least at this point.