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Yanks, Tigers, Tribe most improved heading into 2009

Posted Jan 07 2009 2:49pm

Here's the consensus from a half-dozen scouts, general managers, and other officials concerning which teams could improve in 2009 according to the Boston Globe:

1. New York Yankees: Money doesn't buy them a championship, but it's almost always bought them the postseason. They might have ensured that with the signings of CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Mark Teixeira, and I doubt they're through. There's still room to do something about center field by dealing one of their outfielders, Xavier Nady, Johnny Damon, or Melky Cabrera. We doubt it will be Damon, who was instrumental in recruiting Burnett and Teixeira.

Their up-the-middle defense is suspect, so they certainly are not flawless.

2. Detroit Tigers: So many prognosticators selected them to win in '08 (I was one of them) and couldn't have been more wrong. But there's optimism, especially from manager Jim Leyland, who said, "I like our team a lot. I never saw last year coming because of the talent we have on the field. We have that talent still."

They have improved their defense with Brandon Inge returning to third and Adam Everett at shortstop, with Carlos Guillen moving to left. Leyland feels Justin Verlander is a much better pitcher than he showed, as is Jeremy Bonderman. Armando Galarraga exceeded expectations with 13 wins. They will incorporate a power arm in Edwin Jackson, obtained from Tampa Bay, hope Nate Robertson bounces back, and Dontrelle Willis finds himself.

"They need to find bullpen help," said one NL scout. "Fernando Rodney as a closer and depending on Joel Zumaya for a healthy season is sketchy at best, but this team is better than last place."

3. Cleveland Indians: On paper, they addressed two huge needs in closer Kerry Wood and set-up man Joe Smith. Mark DeRosa should stabilize their third base situation.

Travis Hafner must rebound from a horrible season (.197, 5 homers, 24 RBIs in 57 games) and there are rotation issues. Cliff Lee had a great year, but is it reasonable to assume he'll have another? Look for GM Mark Shapiro to pluck a low-cost veteran starter (Carl Pavano?) off the free agent heap.

"I don't know if they're the Tampa Bay Rays of 2009," said a National League GM, "but if they can add another starting pitcher, this could be a team that rebounds in '09 and maybe gets back to what they were in 2007."


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