The Red Sox are up, the White Sox are down. The O's got a C, the A's a D.
The marks are in, and several American League teams may not want to look at theirs. All in all, it was mostly a rough winter for the junior circuit, with some AL teams handicapped by tight payrolls (Oakland, Chicago), one by a by tightwad owner (Minnesota) and another done in by illogical spending (the Royals).
Without further ado, the winter reports cards are in for the AL:
Baltimore Orioles Peter Angelos should have stuck to the asbestos litigation business. He blew it big-time (even for him) when he rejected a trade last July for Miguel Tejada that would have netted the young and talented duo of Ervin Santana and shortstop Erick Aybar (the Angels are still breathing a sigh of relief over that one). Moreover, Angelos didn't even entertain the idea of rebuilding through a Tejada trade this winter. Angelos seems to enjoy perpetuating mediocrity. On the plus side, rather than waste a ridiculous amount of money this winter, as usual, the Orioles concentrated on one of their greatest areas of need, the bullpen, and did pretty well with most of the contracts by comparison. In all, they signed seven players for $76 million, not terrible by today's standards. Grade: C.
Boston Red Sox Widely ridiculed for their stunning, $51.1 million posting price for Daisuke Matsuzaka, Boston's big international gambit turned out to be the best move anyone made this winter. They wound up securing Matsuzaka for $103 million, or $23 million less than the Giants paid for Barry Zito, nor even counting the $5 million to $7 million or so they will earn through marketing/branding opportunities. Julio Lugo is a better offensive player than Alex Gonzalez, and J.D. Drew is an upgrade over Trot Nixon, assuming they get that contract done someday. Grade: A.
Chicago White Sox It's hard to criticize Ken Williams, one of the best and most underrated GMs in the game. But he must have had marching orders to cut, and he must think more of pitching pickups John Danks and Gavin Floyd than some others do. Even if they turn out to be everything he hopes, it's hard to imagine them outdoing Freddy Garcia and Brandon McCarthy in 2007. Williams does have a knack for finding undervalued pitching, and towering reliever Andy Sisco, acquired for spare part Ross Gload, might be the latest example. Grade: C-.
Cleveland Indians No one trades for a talented one-plus player (service time terminology) anymore, but the Indians did it when they extricated Josh Barfield from the Padres, who put a low premium on second base and loved third-base prospect Kevin Kouzmanoff. David Dellucci has become a very useful player and may be a bargain at $11.5 million for three years. And while they were at it, Cleveland rebuilt its bullpen, which badly needed it. They didn't exactly break the bank but still should be much better in 2007. Of course, part of the reason is that no one underachieved like they did in 2006. Grade: B.
Detroit Tigers As far as Gary Sheffield is concerned, one GM noted, "I like the trade more than the extension.'' But GM Dave Dombrowski and manager Jim Leyland know Sheffield as well as anyone and figured they somehow needed to bribe him into not complaining -- though by adding two years and $28 million to make it three years at $41 million, the attractiveness of Sheffield's contract is severely diminished. Sean Casey at $4 million is a much better idea. As is keeping that youthful rotation intact. Grade: B.