There was plenty of high-priced talent switching teams this off-season, but little has changed with respect to the power brokers in the majors. The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox both added and lost some big-ticket players, but in the view of Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi, they remain the front- runners in the American League.
"I don't ever see the balance of power changing unless one of those teams have a just gawd-awful year," Ricciardi said.
"They will always have the ability to attract free agents. They will always have the ability to put good guys in those uniforms. I think you have to have a run like Minnesota and Oakland, where your own players come up and you're able to put a little pressure on (the top teams). But then again, Minnesota and Oakland don't play in our division so that's a big plus on their part."
For most observers, the plum addition of the off-season was five-time Cy Young Award winner Randy Johnson by the Yankees. Despite his 41 years, Johnson is still considered among the elite pitchers in the game and is coming off a year when the left-hander won 16 games with a 2.60 ERA for an offensively challenged Arizona Diamondbacks.
Ricciardi, however, points out the same cannot be said for Johnson's new teammate, right-hander Kevin Brown, who turns 40 this year and appears to be on the downside of an injury-plagued but at times dominant career.
"It's going to be interesting to see how guys like Brown and (free agent acquisition) Jaret Wright perform there," Ricciardi said.
While the Yankees acquired an ace in Johnson, the Red Sox lost one in Pedro Martinez, who will be pitching in New York for the National League Mets.
"Losing Pedro will be a big blow for them," Ricciardi said. "I know last year going into a three-game series and knowing you had to face Pedro and (Curt Schilling) was ominous."
Still, Ricciardi knows he can pick as many holes in the two lineups as he wants and it's not going to change the fact that they're still the cream of the crop.