Some Hot Stove talk as Baseball’s Winter Meetings take place.


72 days to pitchers and catchers. Why wait? If you think the American League East season begins April 1st, you’re a fool. By the time the Red Sox and Yankees get together at the Stadium on April Fool’s Day they’ll be in mid season form. They’re already in mid off-season form, as well they should be. They started with a lot of ground to make up. While the Red Sox were stealing their manager the Toronto Blue Jays were gearing up, trying to reestablish themselves as division contenders by taking advantage of free agent signings and some fire sale dealing by the Miami Marlins. While no one was paying attention the Blue Jays took the early lead in the American League East. Pitching being what it is, 75% of the game, the Yankees moved into the lead when they signed one year deals with Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda, giving them their full rotation from a year ago, with Pettitte and Kuroda backing up staff ace C C Sabathia while Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova fill it in with last year’s top off season acquisition, Michael Pineda, expected to be ready to go by June, standing by to replace whoever turns out to be the weak link. But no sooner did the Yankees move into the lead than they went into a slump, with two straight losses. Catcher Russell Martin signed a two year deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates, perhaps he missed the pleasure of catching A.J. Burnett, and GM Brian Cashman showed no panic, simply stating the Yankees catcher “Is already here.” Translation, Kevin Romine or Francisco Cervelli. Romine is considered a more complete package, if he can stay healthy. Then they learned Alex Rodriquez may be out until the All Star break following surgery on, now, his left hip. The Yanks made contact with the agent for Kevin Youkilis, who would likely draw a standing ovation at Fenway Park, even in pinstripes. It’s more likely, however that the Yankees will re-sign Eric Chavez and sign Jeff Keppinger to platoon the position until A-Rod returns. That still leaves them in need of a corner outfielder, preferably one that hits righthanded, with two lefty outfielders, Brett Gardner and Curtis Granderson, already on board and one more, Ichiro or Ibanez, likely to re-sign, this in a down year for free agent outfielders. With the Yanks fading the Red Sox started a charge, taking two potential Yankee outfielders off the market by signing Johnny Gomes and Shane Victorino, while also filling a crying need at first base with the acquisition of Mike Napoli. Victorino’s arrival not only fills the Sox outfield, it leaves them with a variety of options, including trading Jacoby Ellsbury, who goes to the last year of his contract showing no desire to re-up in Boston, a nice bargaining chip when seeking some much needed pitching. The Yankees moved back toward the top of the division by working out a one year deal with the best closer ever to inhabit the planet, Mariano Rivera, but they’re still committed to getting under the salary cap while looking at a number of holes that need filling. It isn’t Christmas yet and already the American League East is being hotly contested. 72 days to pitchers and catchers. By the time they report they’ll have a lot of catching up to do. With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.


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