AL East Weekly Roundup: Looking At Roster Depth And 2013 Rebound Candidates
By Dereck Violante
This week’s edition of the AL East Weekly Roundup we will take a brief look at each teams search for roster depth as spring training continues as well as players from each team that need to rebound from a difficult 2012 season in order for their team to be successful.
The Orioles rumored signing of former Braves pitcher Jair Jurrjens finally came to fruition when he was finally offered a minor league contract in mid February with an invite to spring training. Looking to sure up some rotation depth manager Buck Showalter and the Orioles front office are hoping the low risk signing of Jurrjens can work out as he attempts to return to form that he showed in 2011 as he went 13-6 with a 2.96 ERA with 90 strikeouts and 44 walks in 152 innings pitched. So far this spring the 27 year old right-hander has not pitched the way he would have hoped, managing a 9.00 ERA, 4 BBs, and no K’s in 3 innings of work. In other news out of Baltimore, left fielder Nolan Reimold is looking to have a better season than 2012, when a herniated disc shut him down for the year in April last season after he hit .313 with 5 homers and 10 RBI, in just 16 games played. Finally healthy, Reimold could have a solid 2013 as the Orioles’ starting left fielder if he can hold off Nate McLouth, who the Orioles turned to late last season to sure up left in Reimold’s absence. Orioles manager Buck Showalter was recently quoted as saying “(Reimold) can be a big player for us this year, something that a lot of people have forgotten about.” Look for Reimold to get some at bats at DH as Showalter will try to keep everyone healthy this year, and he could wind up as a big wild card for the Orioles this season.
After finding the left-handed bat they were looking for to spell Jonny Gomes in left field, newly acquired LF/1B Mike Carp is looking to impress as he tries to beat out Lyle Overbay for one of the last roster spots available. The good news for Carp is that he has a leg up on Overbay by already being on the Sox’s 40 man roster. Looking to bolster their pitching even more the Sox also signed Ryan Rowland-Smith to a minor league deal, although the 30 year old left handed pitcher is not with the team as he is currently pitching for his native Australia in the World Baseball Classic. Rowland-Smith has not pitched in the majors since 2010 when he went 1-10 with a 6.75 ERA in 109.1 innings pitched for Seattle Mariners. Looking to rebound from a disastrous 2012 is the once dominant Daniel Bard. Bard was demoted in June of 2012 after being converted to a starter last season. Bard is hoping to turn things around this season “The ball’s coming out of my hand free and easy, I couldn’t say that for the first or second half of last season, so that’s it,” he recently said. The Sox are certainly hoping he returns to form as well as he was one of the most dominant and feared setup men in the AL East as recent as 2011.
With the Yankees’ aging roster and now a much weaker outfield due to Curtis Granderson‘s broken forearm, the question is where do they turn to for budget friendly contracts. So many rumors and speculation have been mentioned recently about a possible reunion with left fielder Alfonso Soriano as Cubs GM Theo Epstein is willing to pick up as much as $26MM of the $36MM left on Soriano’s contract for the next to years. Yankees GM Brian Cashman has shot that rumor down time and again citing internal options such as veterans Juan Rivera and Matt Diaz or up-and-comers Zoilo Almonte and Melky Mesa to replace Granderson for the next 10 weeks as he recovers. New York is also taking a long look at old friend Chien-Ming Wang who had a spectacular game against Australia in the WBC, holding them scoreless over six innings of work. The Yankees are also hoping to see out fielder Brett Gardner bounce back from his injury riddled 2012, after he was limited to just 16 games last season. Gardner averaged 155 games played and 48 stolen bases to go along with incredible defense between 2010 and 2011 and New York will need Gardner as much as ever without Granderson patrolling the outfield.
Tampa Bay Rays
As discussed previously on Rays Colored Glasses and reported on twitter by Jon Heyman, the Tampa Bay Rays could be in the market for a catcher and/or outfielder looking to sure up the last of the 25 man roster. Also previously discussed was the interest of Rays pitcher Jeff Niemann by the Colorado Rockies who could turn out to be a viable trade partner if all stacks up. The question is whether the Rockies have what Tampa Bay needs either behind the plate or in the outfield. The Rays are a team that makes a series of moves geared towards finding players at the nadir of their value, but two of their prime bounce-back candidates in Luke Scott and Roberto Hernandez (formerly known as Fausto Carmona). Hernandez was limited to just 3 games and only 14.1 innings pitched last year due to various issues from injuries to visa and legal problems due to his identity fraud case. He could be a big X-factor for Tampa Bay if he can regain his form as he is just a few seasons removed from his 13 win, 3.77 ERA season in 2010. Luke Scott is another player looking to reclaim his old form as he also battled injuries the last few years and is just three seasons removed from his best numbers as well when he posted a .284/.368/.535 triple slash line with 27 HR and 72 RBI in 2010 for Baltimore. Having both Hernandez and Scott even close to where they were just a few short seasons ago could provide a huge boost to the Rays this year.
Toronto Blue Jays
Continuing to overhaul their, 2013 roster the Toronto Blue Jays recently claimed first baseman Lars Anderson to add some depth. Anderson is hoping to find a permanent home after spending time with four teams in the last seven months and three teams in the last three months. Anderson, 25, has hit just .167 in 48 big league at-bats, but he owns a .259/.355/.416 line in 1509 Triple-A plate appearances, so he still could have some potential.Toronto also acquired reliever Michael Schwimer from the Philadelphia Phillies. Armed with a great slider and a solid low-90’s fastball, Schwimer pitched decently in limited action for the Phillies, going 2-1 with a 4.46 ERA but a 9.4 K/9 and a 4.2 BB/9 in 35 appearances and 34.1 IP. Toronto is no doubt looking to solidify their bullpen after the free agent departures of Jason Frasor (Texas Rangers), Brandon Lyon (New York Mets), and Carlos Villanueva (Chicago Cubs), so an opportunity could be there for Schwimer with a strong spring. And finally, all eyes will be on 1B/DH Adam Lind who has been in decline since his monstrous 2009 season where he hit .305/.370/.562 with 35 HR and 114 RBI in 654 plate appearances. Last season, he only managed .255/.314/.414 with 11 HR and 45 RBI in just 353 plate appearances, but he did hit 26 home runs as recently as two years ago. Whether Lind increases his production or not could make the difference for the Blue Jays in an AL East race that looks to go right down to the wire.
Every one of these bounce back candidates has the potential to have a solid season and some of them even have the potential to win Comeback Player of the Year. All these players are looking forward to a fresh start, and time will tell which of them come through for their teams and just how much a big bounce-back season could change the landscape of the division.