Shane Victorino, Wil Myers Among Key Newcomers in AL East
With the deep pockets of the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, the typical American League East offseason is an arms race, and this year proved no different.
Except this time the Yankees and the Red Sox were not the teams making the biggest waves in the offseason.
The Toronto Blue Jays made headlines when they pulled off a megadeal with the Miami Marlins that saw shortstop Jose Reyes and hurler Mark Buehrle, among others, join the team. The Canadian franchise wasn’t done either, adding defending NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey in a separate trade.
Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Rays pulled off a big deal with the Kansas City Royals. And while the plucky Baltimore Orioles didn’t make any major moves, some off their shrewder decisions could have major consequences.
The following is a list of the players each AL East team added this offseason that will have the biggest impact on their teams.
All statistics via ESPN.
Baltimore Orioles: Jair Jurrjens
The Orioles’ signing of Jurrjens to a minor league deal this offseason could be the shrewdest move of any AL East team.
Jurrjens had a rough 2012 for the Atlanta Braves, pitching in just 11 games with an ugly 6.89 earned-run average. But the right-handed hurler has enjoyed success in the past.
Jurrjens was an All-Star for the Braves in 2011 and pitched to a 14-10 record with a 2.60 ERA in 34 games in 2009.
While it may be unrealistic to expect him to return to that level in 2013, if Jurrjens bounces back this year it could prove quite beneficial to an Orioles rotation that needs the help.
Baltimore Orioles: Alexi Casilla
Baltimore picked up the infielder off the waiver wire from the Minnesota Twins in the offseason. While Casilla may not be a splashy addition, he does fill a need for the Orioles.
In just 106 games last season Casilla stole 21 bases. The injection of his speed into the Baltimore lineup is much-needed, and look for the Orioles to take advantage of his fast feet.
Casilla may not be the most noteworthy name in the offseason hustle and bustle, especially in the cutthroat AL East, but he serves a purpose for the O’s.
Boston Red Sox: Shane Victorino
Victorino had a bit of a down year in 2012, setting career lows in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.
But the new Boston outfielder should benefit from playing in Fenway Park and will enjoy the lineup protection of playing with David Ortiz and Co.
Victorino’s 2012 campaign was split between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Between the two teams, he still hit 11 home runs and 55 RBI.
Look for the Flyin’ Hawaiian to turn things around in a Red Sox uniform and prove the three-year, $39 million contract he signed was a wise move by Boston.
Boston Red Sox: Mike Napoli
Napoli originally signed a three-year, $39 million deal with Boston in the offseason, but after a hip issue was discovered in his physical, the first baseman agreed to a new one-year contract.
Napoli had a solid 2012 with the Texas Rangers, hitting 24 home runs and batting in 56. The native of Hollywood, Fla., should benefit from playing more games at first base and the cozy confines of Fenway Park.
Expect Napoli to prove to be a solid offseason addition for Boston.
New York Yankees: Kevin Youkilis
You know it's a slow offseason in New York when Youkilis is the big addition, but he will prove to be invaluable for the Yankees.
Youkilis signed a one-year contract with the Yankees in the offseason to fill in at the hot corner for injured third baseman Alex Rodriguez.
The Greek God of Walks will certainly have the chance to earn his contract this year. Youkilis was traded from Boston to the Chicago White Sox during last season, and put up good, but not great, numbers.
In 122 games between the two teams Youkilis had 19 home runs and 60 RBI.
Playing in the stacked Yankees lineup, the Cincinnati native should come up big in 2013 and prove to be one of the shrewder offseason moves by AL East teams.
New York Yankees: Travis Hafner
The former Cleveland Indian agreed to a one-year deal with the Yankees in the offseason to serve as a designated hitter. After a bit of a down year in 2012, Hafner could enjoy a career revival in pinstripes.
In just 66 games last season, Hafner hit 12 home runs and 34 RBI. He’s struggled with injuries the last few years, but will benefit from being an under-the-radar player in the all-star Yankees lineup.
If Hafner can remain somewhat healthy for the 2013 campaign, expect him to have a resurgent year and prove to be a bargain signing for the Bronx Bombers.
Tampa Bay Rays: Wil Myers
Yes, Myers has yet to play a major-league game. But Andrew Astleford of Fox Sports Florida says it’s a matter of “when” and not “if” Myers plays in a Tampa Bay uniform this season.
The minor-league outfielder was the centerpiece in an offseason deal that saw former Rays pitchers head to the Kansas City Royals.
Myers is one of the top prospects in all of baseball. While he may not have the immediate impact of some of the players on this list, he could be the most prudent investment by any AL East team this offseason.
Tampa Bay Rays: James Loney
The new Rays first baseman saw his production dip last season, but expect a resurgent 2013 campaign from Loney.
Loney split last season between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Red Sox and batted just .249 with six home runs and 41 RBI.
But Loney is just 28 and under the tutelage of Rays manager Joe Maddon, he could return to his 2008-10 form, when he hit at least 88 RBI in three straight seasons. Loney should add some much-needed spark to the Tampa Bay lineup in 2013.
Toronto Blue Jays: Jose Reyes
In his first and only season with the Miami Marlins, Reyes enjoyed a strong year, batting .287 with 40 steals. There is no reason to anticipate a dip in production, so expect for the shortstop to continue his stellar play up north.
With sluggers Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion providing lineup protection, opposing pitchers will be kept honest against Reyes.
Look for the speedy infielder to use that to his advantage as he adapts to a new league on the fly.
Toronto Blue Jays: R.A. Dickey
It’s not every offseason that you are able to acquire a defending Cy Young winner, and that’s why Toronto’s trade for Dickey may be the single best move of any AL East team this winter.
Last season for the New York Mets the knuckleballer pitched to a 20-6 record and a 2.73 earned-run average with 230 strikeouts.
The transition to the AL East is never a simple one, but Dickey could make it look easy with the Blue Jays' revamped offense and defensive support he will undoubtedly enjoy.
Toronto Blue Jays: Mark Buehrle
Buehrle joins a deep Toronto rotation that was bolstered by several offseason moves, namely the megadeal with the Miami Marlins.
The Blue Jays lefty is nothing if not consistent. Last year was his 12th straight season of at least 200 innings. In 31 starts, Buehrle pitched to a 13-13 record with a 3.74 ERA and 125 strikeouts.
With the type of lineup protection he will enjoy in Toronto, expect Buehrle to be a serious boon to the Blue Jays rotation.