The Boston Red Sox play a large chunk of their games against teams from their division. That’s why it’s always good to keep an eye on what the other members of the AL East are doing during the offseason. The rosters the Sox face this spring and summer will not be the same as the ones they faced in 2019.
Sometimes its easy to keep track of the changes opponents make. Headlines were made for deals like when the New York Yankees gave a $324 million deal to Gerrit Cole or when the Toronto Blue Jays and Hyun-Jin Ryu agreed to an $80 million dollar deal. But those weren’t the only moves that the Red Sox’s division rivals made this offseason. Here are a list of some transactions you might have missed or forgotten about that will impact the 2020 season.
Baltimore Orioles - Signing José Iglesias
After the Orioles traded away Jonathan Villar, they were left with a job opening in the infield. Unfortunately, no matter how many podcast advertisements it runs, ZipRecruiter can’t help you find a starting infielder. The Orioles had to go out and find one themselves and they did just that. We all remember Iglesias as the slick fielding shortstop whom the Red Sox traded to Detroit in a deal that landed them Jake Peavy and Brayan Villarreal. Iglesias’ glove has kept him gainfully employed, but he has never really been a tremendous offensive threat. With a career OPS+ of 84, Iglesias won’t be replacing Villar’s bat. What he will do is improve Baltimore’s loathsome infield defense.
The Orioles ranked 25th in the majors in defensive runs saved by shortstops last season (-8). Villar played 658 innings at short and accounted for zero defensive runs saved and was even worse at second where he logged 733 1⁄3 innings (-11 DRS). Iglesias played for the Cincinnati Reds last season and they finished tied for sixth in defensive runs saved by shortstops (12). Iglesias produced eight defensive runs saved across more than 1,000 innings at the position. Perhaps the Orioles won’t score as many runs with Iglesias in the lineup, but they might just stop opposing teams from scoring as many instead.
New York Yankees - Re-signing Brett Gardner
Just about every transaction flies under the radar when you put up $324 million for a starting pitcher. The one that will probably have the most impact outside of the Cole signing was the resigning of Gardner. The Yankees are pretty loaded in the outfield even without Gardner, but his veteran presence and ability to play multiple positions could be valuable during the grind of the 162 game season, particularly with some starters prone to injury. Gardner is certainly more than capable of holding up to such stress. He has played 140 games in seven-straight seasons and even though last year was his age 35 campaign, he set a career-high with 28 home runs to go with an OPS+ of 117. The Yankees didn’t do a ton outside of signing Cole to fortify themselves for their division title defense, but keeping Gardner seems like a solid move.
Tampa Bay Rays - Take Your Pick
There are a few new faces in Tampa Bay this season. The Rays made two major trades with one netting them José Martínez from the St. Louis Cardinals and the other sending Tommy Pham to the San Diego Padres and returning Hunter Renfroe and top 100 prospect Xavier Edwards. It’s that second deal I’d like to focus on.
Even though Pham was the biggest departure for the roster this offseason, the Rays did well to get plenty in return. Renfroe is nearly four years younger than Pham and even if he doesn’t have the same combination of speed and power, he at least has the power. He smashed 33 home runs last season for San Diego and has had at least 26 in three-straight seasons. Meanwhile, Edwards is the No. 75 prospect in baseball, according to FanGraphs, and could very well be a building block for the future. Leave it to the Rays to turn their biggest departure into one of their better offseason moves.
Those weren’t the only trades from Tampa Bay. Earlier this month, the Rays made a deal that secured them the services of Manuel Margot. That might not seem all that exciting. Margot has had a relatively disappointing career to this point, with an 87 OPS+ across his four years in the majors. However, he’s still only 25 years old and at one point was a top 25 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline. The Rays have proven to be a great organization when it comes to getting the most talent out of their players and maybe Margot will be next in line. They did give up reliever Emilio Pagán in the deal, which doesn’t look great after the right-hander threw 70 innings and posted a 2.31 ERA last year. However, his ERA was at 4.35 the year before that and the Rays may have done the best they could to cash in on a surprisingly good campaign.
Toronto Blue Jays - Trading for Chase Anderson
The Blue Jays had a clear strategy this offseason and it involved revamping the starting rotation. After trading Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez in July and letting Clay Buchholz go this offseason, the Blue Jays had more than a few openings. The biggest move they made was giving an $80 million deal to Hyun-Jin Ryu. But that move didn’t happen until the end of December. The Blue Jays started rebuilding the rotation long before that, making a deal with the Milwaukee Brewers to bring Anderson to town in early November and also coming to terms with Tanner Roark in mid-December. Of the two deals, the one for Anderson deal has the most potential to pay off handsomely.
The 32-year-old right-hander has come back to earth since an exceptional 2017 season when he had a 160 ERA+ across 141 1⁄3 innings, but he’s still been a decent if not very good starter in the last two years. He compiled a 106 ERA+ last year following a mark of 104 in 2018 and he has thrown at least 130 innings in five-straight seasons. Anderson may not be the new ace of the staff, but he is a perfectly solid starter who should bring needed consistency to Toronto’s rotation.