MLB

What They Did Over Winter Break: AL roundup

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In the first of two parts, we take a look at each American League team's winter moves and offer a report card on its progress (or lack thereof):

AL East | AL Central | AL West

AL East

Baltimore Orioles
Last Season: 63-98, fourth place in AL East (32.5 games back) Biggest Deal: Signed free agent outfielder Marty Cordova, who had been with the Cleveland Indians, on a three-year contract. Key Adds: Cordova, P Chris Brock, OF Chris Singleton Key Losses: 3B Cal Ripken, OF Brady Anderson, P John Wasdin, 3B Ivanon Coffie See the . Midterm Report Card: Baltimore GM's Thrifty ways resulted in a $3-million per year deal for Cordova? Sure, he rebounded from four consecutive subpar years to hit .301 and slug .506 with the Indians in 2001, but do you really expect him to duplicate that? One good deal was getting Brock, a useful set-up guy in exchange for Wasdin, who isn¿t. But the O's are still in desperate need of a closer, some middle-lineup power and a 3B to replace the retired Cal Ripken. Grade: C
Boston Red Sox
Last Season: 82-79, second place in AL East (13.5 games back) Biggest Deal: Marlins Owner John Henry and TV Producer Tom Werner purchased the team for $700 million from the Yawkey Family Trust... though the Massachussetts Attorney General is investigating. Key Adds: OF Johnny Damon, P John Burkett, P Dustin Hermanson, P Darren Oliver, 1B Tony Clark, INF Carlos Baerga, OF Damon Buford Key Losses: OF Carl Everett, P Hideo Nomo, C Scott Hatteberg, P Bret Saberhagen, OF Troy O'Leary, INF John Valentin, OF Troy O"leary See the . Midterm Report Card: With all of the tumult surrounding the controversial sale of the club, Dan Duquette and the Sox had a ready excuse to remain a passive bystander in the winter meetings. Instead, they had an aggressive winter second only to the Mets, improving their team through both subtraction (Everett) as well as addition of established veterans. Damon wasn¿t great in 2001, but he was better in the second half -- like he usually is. If he can get any kind of start, he¿ll fit in well in Boston. Hermanson and Burkett are serviceable starters. Now they just need to hope for a healthy Pedro and Nomar... and a happy Manny.Grade: A
New York Yankees
Last Season: 95-65, first place in AL East, lost World Series in seven games to Arizona Biggest Deal: Signed free agent first baseman Jason Giambi, who had been with the Oakland Athletics, to a seven-year contract. Key Adds: Giambi, P David Wells, OF John Vander Wal, P Steve Karsay, 3B Robin Ventura, OF Ronell White, INF F.P. Santangelo, P Mike Thurman. Key Losses: OF David Justice, 1B Tino Martinez, 3B Scott Brosius, P Jay Witasick, OF Paul O'Neill, UT Clay Bellinger See the . Midterm Report Card: Whatever George Steinbrenner wants, he gets. Jason Giambi is a better choice than Barry Bonds because of his age and position. Letting go of Tino Martinez after a big year was tough, but Martinez turned 34 in December. Giambi is more than three years younger and hit 62 points higher in a tougher park. Ventura is an improvement over the retiring Scott Brosius at 3B. However, the best deal was getting Vander Wal, an outstanding bench player, for Witasick, whose performance in Game 6 should ban him from all future World Series. Late addition Wells means the Yankees have one too many starting pitchers -- there could be worse problems.Grade: A
Tampa Bay Devil Rays
Last Season: 62-100, fifth place in AL East (34 games back) Biggest Deal: Signed free agent outfielder Troy O'Leary to a minor-league contract. Key Adds: O'Leary, P Kevin McGlinchy Key Losses: OF Jose Guillen, P Bryan Rekar See the . Midterm Report Card: Well, it looks like they¿re off the potential contraction list for now¿not that you would know it from their (in)activity. The best move might be picking up McGlinchy, who was a valuable part of the Braves bullpen in 1999 but has been hurt the last two years. He is only 25, so there¿s still time. Otherwise, though, there's not a whole lot to get excited about on the Gulf Coast.Grade: D
Toronto Blue Jays
Last Season: 80-82, third place in AL East (16 games back) Biggest Deal: Acquired pitcher Luke Prokopec and minor league pitcher Chad Ricketts from the Los Angeles Dodgers for pitcher Paul Quantrill and infielder Cesar Izturis. Key Adds: P Felix Heredia, Prokopec, P Brian Cooper, P Justin Miller, 3B Eric Hinske Key Losses: Quantrill, P Billy Koch, DH Brad Fullmer, SS Alex Gonzalez, INF Cesar Itzuris See the . Midterm Report Card: The Blue Jays are in obvious salary-dumping mode after trading Gonzalez to the Cubs, closer Koch to the A¿s and set-up man Quantrill to the Dodgers. In trimming their redundant positions, the Jays did get some good prospects and Prokopec had a promising start with the Dodgers, but who is going to fill the holes. Holdover Kelvim Escobar will get first crack at the closer job. Grade: C

AL Central

Chicago White Sox
Last Season: 83-79, third place in AL Central (8 games back) Biggest Deal: Acquired pitcher Todd Ritchie and minor league catcher Lee Evans from the Pittsburgh Pirates for pitchers Kip Wells, Sean Lowe and Josh Fogg. Key Adds: Ritchie, OF Kenny Lofton, OF Brian Simmons, P Ryan Kohlmeier, P Corey Lee Key Losses: Wells, Lowe, 3B Herbert Perry, P David Wells, P Cal Eldred See the . Midterm Report Card: After Disney brass refused to rubber stamp a "sure thing" Jon Garland-for-Darrin Erstad deal, GM Kenny Williams opted to sit on his hands and pray that his youthful roster stays healthy. South Side fans would've preferred to have seen him sign a veteran arm for the starting rotation. But getting Kenny Lofton late and cheap could work out well.Grade: B
Cleveland Indians
Last Season: 91-71, first place in AL Central, lost ALDS in five games to Seattle Biggest Deal: Acquired outfielders Matt Lawton and Alex Escobar, pitcher Jerrod Riggan, minor league pitcher Billy Traber and minor league first baseman Earl Snyder from the New York Mets for second baseman Roberto Alomar, pitcher Mike Bacsik and minor league outfielder Danny Peoples. Key Adds: Lawton, Escobar, Traber, Snyder, OF Brady Anderson, SS Rickey Guiterrez, P Mark Wohlers, P Omar Olivares Key Losses: Alomar, OF Kenny Lofton, OF Juan Gonzalez, OF Marty Cordova, P Dave Burba, P John Rocker, P Steve Woodard See the . Midterm Report Card: Has new GM Mark Shapiro already waved the white flag? The deadliest batting order in the AL needed only a couple stud pitchers to compete, but instead they went in the wrong direction by dismantling their core. Now C. C. Sabathia has little run support (well, they do still have Thome and Fryman). If Escobar realizes his true potential, we might eat crow. But we doubt that. Grade: D
Detroit Tigers
Last Season: 66-96, fourth place in AL Central (25 games back) Biggest Deal: Acquired infielder-outfielder Dmitri Young from the Cincinnati Reds for outfielder Juan Encarnacion and minor league pitcher Luis Pineda. Key Adds: Young, INF Craig Paquette, OF Endy Chavez, P Juan Acevedo Key Losses: Encarnacion, 1B Tony Clark, OF Roger Cedeno See the . Midterm Report Card: Hot-hitting Young is a nice add for a club that ranked near the bottom of the league in runs. Now that Phil Garner has emerged victorious in the Roger Cedeno power struggle, the clubhouse stability will be welcome in Comerica Park -- along with improvment from a young pitching staff and perhaps another powerful bat. A few bonus points are awarded for locking up Jeff Weaver for four years.Grade: B
Kansas City Royals
Last Season: 65-97, fifth place in AL Central (26 games back) Biggest Deal: Signed free agent outfielder Chuck Knoblauch, who had been with the New York Yankees, to a one-year contract. Key Adds: Knoblauch, OF Michael Tucker, P Darrell May, P Mac Suzuki, P Bryan Rekar, P Johnny Ruffin. Key Losses: C Gregg Zaun See the . Midterm Report Card: They needed a leadoff hitter, but was the aging, testy Knoblauch really the answer? We have a difficult time discerning what this ball club's long-range plans are anyway. Grade: D+.
Minnesota Twins
Last Season: 85-77, second place in AL Central (6 games back) Biggest Deal: Staved off extinction. Key Adds: P Mike Jackson, SS Kurt Abbott Key Losses: None See the . Midterm Report Card: Well... they're still here. That in itself may be accomplishment enough for the Minnesota Twins, at least at this point. Let's not forget -- this was a young team who spent much of the season in first place. Plus how do you convince any free agents to sign with your club when you can't even find someone to talk the managerial job? Now the manager is in place, here come the players -- welcome Kurt Abbott and Mike JacksonGrade: C

AL West

Anaheim Angels
Last Season: 75-87, third place in AL West (41 games back) Biggest Deal: Signed free agent pitcher Aaron Sele, who had been with the Seattle Mariners, to a three-year contract. Key Adds: Sele, P Dennis Cook, P Kevin Appier, DH Brad Fullmer, INF Clay Bellinnger Key Losses: 1B Mo Vaughn, P Brian Cooper See the . Midterm Report Card: After stumbling through the Winter Meetings by bungling the Erstad-for-Garland deal at the last minute, the Angels recovered nicely. Sele is a great fit for the young improving rotation and they got something for Vaughn, which is more than they got all of last season. Another bat would help, but this team did well in taking its lesson from the World Series champs: pitching does win. That said, Fullmer is a decent bat and all they gave up was Cooper, a decent pitcher whom the Angels simply didn't seem interested in. And who knows, maybe Clay Bellinger was the real key to the Yankees' success.Grade: B+
Oakland A's
Last Season:102-60, second place in AL West (14 games back), Wild Card team lost ALDS in five games to N.Y. Yankees Biggest Deal: Acquired outfielder David Justice and cash from the New York Mets for pitcher Mark Guthrie and minor league pitcher Tyler Yates. Key Adds: Justice, P Billy Koch, C Scott Hatteberg, 2B Randy Velarde, 1B Carlos Pena Key Losses: 1B Jason Giambi, P Jason Isringhausen, OF Johnny Damon, INF F.P. Santangelo, OF Ron Gant, Guthrie See the . Midterm Report Card: No team has lost more through free agency than the A¿s, who lost not only MVP Jason Giambi to New York but closer Jason Isringhausen to St. Louis and OF Johnny Damon to Boston. Still, not all is lost: getting Koch from Toronto could be a coup and even better -- they didn¿t deal him to Los Angeles for problem child Gary Sheffield. The other part of that dead deal — OF Jermaine Dye — has been re-signed. Justice, if healthy, will be a solid DH.Grade: B
Seattle Mariners
Last Season: All-time record 116-46, first place in AL West, lost in ALCS to Yankees in five games. Biggest Deal: Acquired third baseman Jeff Cirillo from the Colorado Rockies for pitchers Jose Paniagua, Dennis Stark and Brian Fuentes. Key Adds: Cirillo, P James Baldwin, P Shigetoshi Hasegawa, C Ben Davis, INF Alex Arias, P Wascar Serrano, OF Ruben Sierra, INF Desi Relaford Key Losses: P Aaron Sele, P Brett Tomko, P Jose Paniagua, OF Jay Buhner, 3B David Bell See the . Midterm Report Card: Few teams have more quality arms than the Mariners, who used some of the extras to fill some offense holes. Cirillo isn¿t a power hitter, but could bounce back from a subpar 2001 by Coors Field standards. Davis is a catcher starting to enter his prime and could platoon with Dan Wilson. The best news could be the return of Boone -- provided 2001 wasn¿t a fluke. Hasegawa will fill in Paniagua's role in the bullpen and Baldwin will take over for Sele in the rotation.Grade: A-
Texas Rangers
Last Season: 73-89, fourth place in AL West (43 games back) Biggest Deal: Signed free agent pitcher Chan Ho Park, who had been with the Los Angeles Dodgers, to a five-year contract. Key Adds: Park, OF Juan Gonzalez, OF Carl Everett, P John Rocker, 3B Herbert Perry, P Todd Van Poppel, P Dave Burba, P Hideki Irabu, P Steve Woodard, P Hector Carrasco, P Dan Miceli Key Losses: P Darren Oliver, P Rick Helling, OF Rickey Ledee, OF Ruben Sierra See the . Midterm Report Card: Well, at least they¿re willing to gamble. Not only is Carl Everett clubhouse poison, but he hit a whopping .257 last year and was never healthy. And now they've re-acquired Juan Gonzalez, whose ongoing back problems makes him less than dependable. It says something when Chan Ho Park is considered the most sure thing among this bunch -- and he was 5-7 with a 4.83 earned run average away from Dodger Stadium in 2001, 4.66 over the past five years. Not exactly staff-ace material. Add in overpaying for Todd Van Poppel and the human stain that is John Rocker... Grade: D -Capsules by Michael Lazarus and Richard Schwartz.

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