Giving Thanks: The American League East

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I don’t have a ton of Thanksgiving traditions, but there are a few: I tend to start drinking right around the time the Macy’s Parade ends. I force myself to watch part of the Detroit Lions game because it almost, but not quite, reminds that there was a time in my life when I cared about what happened to the Detroit Lions. I turn the Lions game off ten minutes later and tell someone in my family what I really think about them. And since 2007 I think about what baseball teams have to be thankful for this holiday season and package it all up in a few posts so that the shut-ins and loners in Greater HardballTalkistan have something to read on a day when every other blog goes dark.

So, without further ado, the first of six installments you’ll read today about those things for which teams have to give thanks:

Tampa Bay Rays: The spring, which was very, very good to them, particularly on the road, allowing the Rays to jump out to a decent lead in the AL East. When the weather got hotter and the bats began to wilt, that cushion was nice to have.

New York Yankees: The little guys. At least relatively speaking. If I told you before the season that Jeter, A-Rod, Teixeira, Burnett and Posada were all going to have off years you wouldn’t have guessed that the Yankees would be playing in October. But they did thanks to Robinson Cano — probably too big to be a little guy, but compared to the other infielders, he is — Brett Gardner, Nick Swisher and Phil Hughes. Big contributions from so many guys who were thought of as bit players saved this team in 2010.

Boston Red Sox: Kevin Youkilis. Right now we don’t know if Adrian Beltre will come back. We don’t know if they can land Jayson Werth. But with Youkilis around we do know that they’ll still have an All-Star bat in the lineup and, more importantly, the flexibility to pursue both third base and first base options out on the market to fill the holes. Am I too optimistic about Youkilis’ prospects at third base? Maybe, but I really do think he can handle it alright if Beltre bolts and the Sox find themselves a first baseman.

Toronto Blue Jays: Shaun Marcum, Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow, Brett Cecil and whatever motivation was gained by everyone and their brother picking the Jays to finish in the cellar. The young rotation took a big step forward, Jose Bautista was insane, and even Vernon Wells stepped into the juvenation machine to help Toronto play some damn fine baseball all year. The sort of which, if it had occurred in other divisions, would have had them snagging more headlines than they ultimately did.

Baltimore Orioles: Buck Showalter. I’m still not convinced that Showalter isn’t really just a sophisticated version of Annie Savoy’s garters, convincing the Orioles that their downright respectable second half was all his doing as opposed to chance, metaphysics and regression to the mean. But it probably doesn’t matter either, because the Orioles seem to believe in it. Their fans seem to believe in it. And if the O’s can avoid another awful start in 2011, maybe it doesn’t matter if it was Buck or the fates that put them on the right track late last year.

Tampa Bay Rays trade Alex Colome, Denard Span to the Seattle Mariners

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The Tampa Bay Rays were reported this week to be “open for business” as far as trades go. Normally that means nothing happens until late June or something. The Rays are getting right down to it, though, as they’ve just traded closer Alex Colome and outfielder Denard Span to the Seattle Mariners.

The Mariners, who have played some outstanding ball lately thanks to some outstanding starting pitching, and are looking to bolster other areas as they make a push in the AL West, will likely slot Colome into a setup role in front of closer Edwin Diaz. Span will take over center field, allowing Dee Gordon to, eventually anyway, once he recovers from a fractured toe, cover for the suspended Robinson Cano at second base. If the M’s make the playoffs he’d likely do so in the postseason too, given that Cano will be ineligible for any October play due to his suspension.

Colome has saved 11 games for the Rays, with a 4.15 ERA and a K/BB ratio of 23/8 in 21.2 innings.Span is hitting .238/.364/.385 with four homers and six stolen bases on the season.

Two players are going back to the Rays: righties Andrew Moore and Tommy Romero. Moore was the Mariners’ second round pick in 2015 and made his big league debut last season, pitching 59 innings in 2018 but back in the minors so far in 2018. Romero was a 15th rounder for Seattle in 2017 and is currently plying his trade in A-ball.

The Rays, as expected, are using the 2018 season to acquire prospects. The Mariners, who are unexpectedly strong in the early going, are trying to go for it even harder. Quite a big trade for late May.