BALTIMORE ORIOLES Moving in/moving out:Ramon Hernandez will take over the catching duties after landing a hefty four-year, $27.5 million contract, Jeff Conine signed for a year to play wherever the O's need him, and former Boston first baseman Kevin Millar landed a one-year pact to pick up a moody clubhouse. Cubs castoff Corey Patterson probably will start in center. And the O's now have the best pitching coach in the business: former Atlanta rocker Leo Mazzone. They lost closer B.J. Ryan to Toronto.
Lowdown: The Orioles have had it hard this winter. White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko turned down huge money to stay in Chicago for less. Jeromy Burnitz was close to a deal, but turned his back on the O's at the last second. Star shortstop Miguel Tejada complained, demanded a trade, then retracted the demand. If Patterson works out, if Conine and Millar can be productive at first, if the O's keep Javy Lopez as a designated hitter, and if Chris Ray or newly acquired LaTroy Hawkins can close, the Orioles haven't lost any ground. Any way you look at it, though, they sure haven't gained any.
GRADE: Scuffling just to fall further behind -- C.
BOSTON RED SOX Moving in/moving out: The Sox took advantage of the Marlins' payroll chopping and landed potential ace Josh Beckett in a trade; they also got third baseman Mike Lowell and reliever Guillermo Mota in the deal. Boston took San Diego for a ride, too, getting second baseman Mark Loretta while giving up only backup catcher Doug Mirabelli. The Sox shored up the bullpen by signing free-agent relievers Julian Tavarez and Rudy Seanez. They traded disappointing shortstop Edgar Renteria to the Braves for infield prospect Andy Marte. But they lost center fielder Johnny Damon to the Yankees, and a bunch of other stalwarts from their '04 title team -- including Millar and Bill Mueller -- left in a wild, uneven offseason.
Lowdown: The Yanks' offer for Damon just proved to be too rich, so now the Sox have to find a replacement in center, a good leadoff man, and (after trading away Renteria) a shortstop. Manny Ramirez is staying, it seems, but the Sox still are looking to deal lefty David Wells. For this offseason to be successful, Lowell will have to have a bounceback year at third, and the combination of Kevin Youkilis and free-agent pickup J.T. Snow must be good at first. And, of course, there are still those center-field and shortstop problems ...
GRADE: Some big holes remain to be filled -- C.
NEW YORK YANKEES Moving in/moving out: The Yanks lost setup man Tom Gordon, so they signed free-agent Kyle Farnsworth (three years, $17 million). They needed a boost in center, so they went out and bought Damon (four years, $52 million -- ouch). They shored up their bullpen with the signings of Octavio Dotel and lefty Mike Myers.
Lowdown: Strangely under control most of the winter, the Yankees did well in replacing Gordon, strengthening their bullpen, and finding a top replacement for Bernie Williams in center. They still have a lot of ifs in their rotation, and there's no telling how Jason Giambi will hold up as an everyday first baseman. A new starter would have helped, but the market was thin, and the Yanks smartly didn't overpay for someone -- for once.
GRADE: No new starters, but they filled holes well -- B.
TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS Moving in/moving out: The Rays have been a little slow, but they're moving some. They recently swapped their long sought-after closer, Danys Baez, and one-time All-Star reliever Lance Carter to the Dodgers for a couple of much-needed starters. Earlier, they picked up discarded third baseman Sean Burroughs in a trade with San Diego for disappointing starter Dewon Brazelton, and signed Japanese reliever Shinji Mori. Nothing franchise-shattering, but these are, after all, the Devil Rays.
Lowdown: It's all about baby steps for the Rays. They had a surprisingly good second half last season (39-34) and now have new ownership, a new manager (Joe Maddon), a lot of new faces ... and, alas, some of the same old problems. They may still trade shortstop Julio Lugo or outfielder Aubrey Huff to get more starting pitching and bullpen help (someone has to close now that Baez is gone). Then they'll hope guys like Carl Crawford, Jorge Cantu, a healthy Rocco Baldelli and up-and-coming shortstop B.J. Upton can hit enough to stay close in the division.
GRADE: Still young, but coming -- B.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS Moving in/moving out: The biggest movers of the winter, the Jays signed what they needed: another top-tier starter (A.J. Burnett) and a stopper (lefty B.J. Ryan). They traded for power in third baseman Troy Glaus and a good hitter in first baseman Lyle Overbay. All the action came at a price, of course. Burnett cost the team $55 million, Ryan $47 million.
Lowdown: The Jays overpaid, sure, but they now have arguably the most reliable rotation in the division (Roy Halladay, Burnett, Ted Lilly, Gustavo Chacin and Josh Towers) and some of the power they lost when Carlos Delgado left after the 2004 season. Toronto won 80 games last year and came awfully close to winning a lot more than that (the Jays were a horrific 16-31 in one-run games). These moves could -- no, they should -- put the Jays into wild-card territory, at least.