Yanks are invincible -- until October

Originally Published: January 7, 2005
By Jerry Crasnick | ESPN Insider
As the Yankees all but wrapped up their courtship of Randy Johnson on Thursday, other big-league teams pressed forward with business of their own. They sold tickets, made plans for the winter caravan, and held bake sales in an effort to raise the money to sign Esteban Loaiza to a two-year contract.

Playing in the same division with the Yankees doesn't necessarily mean inhabiting the same planet. While New York prepared to welcome Johnson to the Bronx through 2007, Toronto was finalizing a one-year, $1.05 million deal with catcher Gregg Zaun and clinging to the hope that Arizona would acquire Shawn Green and make Shea Hillenbrand available in a trade. After the recent signing of Corey Koskie, Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi is in no position to splurge.

The Tampa Bay Devil Rays, who were supposed to spend a few million more this winter to prevent manager Lou Piniella from going batty with anxiety, signed converted shortstop Alex Gonzalez to a $1.75 million deal to play third base. He'll look nice alongside the team's other marquee offseason addition – Josh Phelps.

The Yankees, meanwhile, have added three starting pitchers (Johnson, Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright) who combined for a 49-30 record and 654 innings pitched in 2004. They've signed oldie-but-goodie Tino Martinez and Tony Womack and upgraded their bullpen. And after all the speculation, no one knows for sure whether they're out of the Carlos Beltran chase. As one executive put it, "I don't know what their revenue base is. But if you can spend $205 million, I'm certain you can spend $220 million."

Throw in an active winter by the World Champion Red Sox, who recently cast off 86 years of woe, and the rest of the American League East might want to petition Bud Selig to amend the unbalanced schedule.

Jerry Crasnick

ESPN Senior Writer