The flurry of activity in the last 72 hours gives us an insight into how different teams are approaching this off-season:
The Blue Jays, formerly owners of a very modest payroll, appear to be darn serious about joining the ranks of the "AL East Goliaths" not soon but now. Whether or not you like each move they've made, adding A.J. Burnett, B.J. Ryan, and Lyle Overbay--and spending top dollar to do so--signals a seriousness the Yankees and Red Sox can't be too thrilled to see.
The Red Sox, meanwhile, have sent a clear message that the Boston team which takes the field in 2006 will not resemble too closely the team which won the World Series in 2004 or the team which settled for the Wild Card in 2005. Gone are Renteria, Mueller, and Millar, in limbo are Damon and Ramirez, in the rumor mill are Foulke and Wells, and so on.
The Marlins have announced to their own fans, and to the baseball world in general, that they have the courage to embarrass the entire franchise, and all of baseball in the process, by making available for trade even the "Fire Sale" sign that hangs on the clubhouse door. Pathetic.
But most intriguing to me is the Yankees, whose approach is...? It's interesting to watch guys with the stature of Burnett, Ryan, Overbay, Renteria, Soriano, Pierre, and Wilkerson, change teams and the Yankees have added virtually no one. (In Algebra, you learn two basic formulas. One is the quadratic equation; the other is that "signing Mike Myers" + "offering Bernie Williams arbitration" = "adding virtually no one".)
Options still exist for the Yankees, such as the Johnny Damon sweepstakes, or second-tier pitchers like Jarrod Washburn who, while not exceptional, could still upgrade NYY's rotation. But so far, two unusual things have happened to the Yankees: they have been rejected by free agents and they have declined to spend "whatever it takes" to improve their team. Did the Yankees, despite their 787-trillion dollar TV deal, actually lose enough money last year to make George Steinbrenner feel frugal? Can George Steinbrenner actually accept the thought of going 8 years without a World Series title and building for a season other than "the next one"?
The A's, rich in starting pitching, have shelled out "real money" to a free agent starting pitcher and the Yankees haven't. The A's are in the driver's seat, with a solid roster and extra trading chips and to date, the Yankees have done nothing to address two glaring needs: starting pitching and centerfield. Oakland is winning free agent bidding wars and the Yankees are getting rejected.
Who woulda thunk it?