The Boston Red Sox have shaken up the entire landscape of the American League East with a series of moves that positions them as the hands-down favorite to win the division.
In one business day, the Red Sox made two trades and one free agent signing which netted the team one of the best left-handed starters in the game in Chris Sale, a premier right-handed set-up man in Tyler Thornburg, and a lefty-swinging first baseman with power in Mitch Moreland.
Translation: The rest of the AL East should begin preparing for the Wild Card.
Red Sox President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski has proved for a second time in two years that he is not afraid to make the boldest moves of the offseason even if it means sacrificing talent from the farm system.
The deal that will sting the most is the package sent to the Chicago White Sox for Sale. The Red Sox had to part with two of their top prospects, infielder Yoan Moncada and right-hander Michael Kopech, as well as two Single-A prospects, outfielder Luis Alexander Basabe and pitcher Victor Diaz.
Moncada in particular was regarded as the number-one prospect in the minor leagues according to MLB.com, and is often compared favorably to Robinson Cano but with speed.
While imagining Moncada penciled into a deep and talented Red Sox lineup may haunt Red Sox fans forever, Dombrowski made these deals without having to touch his core group of young position players already established at the major-league level.
This is a devastating blow for opponents who have to look forward to that group, plus a rotation which now includes Chris Sale, Rick Porcello, and David Price, and a formidable end-game that consists of Tyler Thornburg and Craig Kimbrel. So how does this impact the rest of the AL East?
New York Yankees
For the New York Yankees, it may mean preparing a more aggressive offer for Aroldis Chapman. According to Andrew Marchand of ESPN.com, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has offers on the table for both Chapman and Kenley Jansen. The figures are unknown at this time.
Yankees GM Brian Cashman said that he has offers on the table to both Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen. Since… https://t.co/MRoLzYuzca
— Andrew Marchand (@AndrewMarchand) December 6, 2016
However, a long-term deal for one of those two might be as far as the team goes in their quest to keep pace with the Red Sox in the immediate future. Cashman has insisted that building towards an “uber team” in 2019 is his primary goal, and might be the only course of action that can create a team good enough to go head-to-head with their Beantown rivals two years from now.
Toronto Blue Jays
The Jays have been aggressive this winter in an attempt to replace the offensive output of Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista. So far the Jays have signed switch-hitting designated hitter/first baseman Kendrys Morales and first baseman/outfielder Steve Pearce. In addition, the Blue Jays signed 23-year-old Cuban infielder Lourdes Gourriel, younger brother of Yulieski Gurriel, to a seven-year contract worth $22 million.
However, even with Morales, Pearce, and Gourriel as offensive contributors, the fearsome presence that Bautista and Encarnacion brought to the lineup will be sorely missed, to the point that the Jays’ recent string of playoff runs may come to an end in 2017.
The Orioles always seem to outperform their expectations, and 2016 was no different. But how long can the Orioles expect their offense to carry the team, especially if Mark Trumbo signs elsewhere?
The Orioles pitching staff has always been their biggest weakness, and after the Red Sox’s latest haul, there is no way the Orioles pitching, which ranked 19th in team ERA at 4.22, can match up against Sale, Porcello, and Price. The Orioles’ window to win is closing fast, and the Red Sox may have moved that process along even quicker.
Tampa Bay Rays
It’s tough to gauge where the Rays are at after a year that saw the club finish 68-94, good for last place in the AL East. The Rays hold one of the most sought-after trade chips in Chris Archer but appear reluctant to move the talented starter. Everything would have to go right for the Rays to be competitive, which includes a bounce-back season from Archer and their newly acquired catcher, Wilson Ramos.
However, after seeing the prospect haul the White Sox received for Sale, the Rays may be tempted to begin their fire sale sooner rather than later.
Empire Strikes Back
The Yankees were once known as the “Evil Empire” under the regime of the late George Steinbrenner, but it now looks like that title may belong to Dombrowski and the Red Sox.
On Tuesday at the Winter Meetings, Brian Cashman went as far as to say, “Boston is the Golden State Warriors of baseball now. They’ve got their Durant and Green and Thompson and Curry.”
Regardless of what you call them or what analogy you use to describe them, Dombrowski has positioned the Red Sox miles ahead of their competition with little time spared.