Transactions In The American League East

The MLB experiences the bulk of its roster turnover during the winter months. This off-season’s largest signing came in late February, when the Philadelphia Phillies signed Bryce Harper to a thirteen-year, $330 million dollar contract. In regards to transactions in the American League East, the most noteworthy deals came two off-seasons ago, when the Red Sox signed J.D. Martinez to a five-year, $110 million dollar contract, and when the Yankees acquired Giancarlo Stanton in a trade with the Miami Marlins.

Although the American League East took a step back in terms of acquiring star-power this winter, there were plenty of deals that will affect the division in 2019. Here is a look at each team’s most notable move.

Boston Red Sox – re-signed first baseman Steve Pearce (one-year, $6.25 million)

Pearce came to the Red Sox in June 2018 in a trade with Toronto for a minor league infielder. He quickly became a fan favorite after a socking a home run over the Green Monster in his first Fenway at-bat. He went on to post a .901 OPS in 50 games for Boston. More importantly, he was a postseason standout and was awarded World Series MVP. In the Fall Classic, he hit three home runs, including two in the series-clinching Game 5. He is set to platoon with fellow first baseman Mitch Moreland. Pearce can also play the outfield. He logged 38 at-bats between left and right field and 64 more as a DH.

Other noteworthy moves: signed right-handed pitchers Erasmo Ramirez and Jenrry Mejia

New York Yankees – acquired starting pitcher James Paxton from Seattle Mariners in exchange for 3 minor leaguers.

This was the most notable transaction in the American League East division this off-season. Paxton threw just north of 160 innings in 2018 and started 28 games. Both were personal bests. He has always had trouble staying healthy, but when Paxton is on the mound, he is royally effective. He threw three complete games last season. One of them was a no-hitter in his native country, Canada. The southpaw joins a loaded starting staff in the Bronx, with Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ, and C.C. Sabathia by his side. Paxton has his best chance at starting 30 games this year, especially considering how lethal his bullpen is behind him.

Other noteworthy moves: signed RP Adam Ottavino, re-signed SP J.A. Happ

Tampa Bay Rays – signed starting pitcher Charlie Morton (two-years, $30 million)

The 2017 World Series hero is a player, like Pearce, who is hitting his prime later than most. Entering his age-35 season, Morton was named an All-Star for the first time in 2018 and has posted a record of 29-10 in his last two seasons, to go along with an ERA in the mid-3s, a WHIP below 1.20, and 364 strikeouts.

Other noteworthy moves: signed OF Avisail Garcia, traded for C Mike Zunino

Toronto Blue Jays – signed starting pitcher Clay Buchholz (one-year, $3 million)

This signing was one of the sneakier ones and occurred earlier this month. Buchholz, who is a two-time All-Star, has spent the bulk of his career with the Red Sox. He left Boston, after nine years with the club, in late 2016 when he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies. He started only two games for Philadelphia due to an elbow injury. He returned to action last season for the Arizona Diamondbacks and put together his best season since 2013. In sixteen games he started in 2018, he threw one complete game, accumulated a 2.01 ERA, and limited hitters to a 1.03 WHIP.

Other noteworthy moves: signed starting pitcher Matt Shoemaker, signed right-handed pitchers David Phelps and Bud Norris

Baltimore Orioles – signed shortstop Alcides Escobar (Minor League contract)

The Orioles made close to zero notable transactions this off-season. Although this was the least, most notable transaction in the American League East, this deal makes sense in several ways. Before acquiring Escobar, the Orioles were projected to start rookie shortstop Richie Martin, who has never played an inning in the majors. Still, Martin may outplay the veteran and earn the starting nod, but at least the O’s now have some insurance at the position. Escobar is durable (nine-straight seasons of at least 530 plate appearances) and has experience playing with an exceptional team (Royals 2014-’15). Bringing those qualities to a rebuilding team in need of leadership will fare well.

Other noteworthy moves: signed starting pitcher Nate Karns. 

Porcello Wins His 20th Game

Friday night proved to be a great culmination for Rick Porcello’s season. Going into 2016, Porcello was one of the major question marks for the Red Sox. The answer to the question has been a season of dominance for him. That dominance has now produced a 20-win season.

Porcello shut down one of the league’s best offenses Friday night, limiting the Blue Jays toPorcello two runs and six hits in seven innings. He also struck out seven while only surrounding one walk. Backing him up, the Red Sox offense slugged their way to a dominant 13-3 win at the Rogers Centre.

The win Friday makes Porcello the first Red Sock to have a 20-win season since Josh Beckett in 2007. If Porcello can offer the same postseason dominance Beckett had in ’07, it could be the same result for the Sox; a World Championship. With the number 20 under the “win” column, Porcello should be the frontrunner for the AL Cy Young Award.

Porcello’s Cy Young Résumé

Porcello’s year has been great to say the least. While not an All-Star, he was the first pitcher in the majors this year to reach those 20 wins, including being 13-0 at home. He also adds an ERA of 3.21 and leads the majors in strikeouts-walk ratio. You can make an argument for Chris Sale or even Toronto’s J.A. Happ, but it is really tough to argue against Boston’s bona fide ace.

More importantly than the 20th win for Porcello, this was a big game for the Red Sox. In such a crucial series, this was a statement win for them. They knocked out Toronto’s #2 starter in Marco Estrada after just 2 and 2/3 innings. While squandering some chances early, the Red Sox blew the game open with a six-run seventh inning to take it from a 5-2 game to an 11-2 game. With this win, the Red Sox can not relinquish first place by the time they leave Toronto on Sunday.

With each milestone a Red Sock gets, the fate of the team still remains the key focus. Whether it is a new record for David Ortiz, Mookie Betts’ MVP-caliber season, or Rick Porcello’s Cy Young campaign, it is all about the playoff picture at this point. Given what has happened the last two years, it is refreshing that the playoffs are what the Red Sox are focusing on. However, Friday night was for Rick Porcello, who put an exclamation point on a terrific season so far.