Standing still no option

KEN FIDLIN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:47 AM ET

Things are all too quiet on the baseball trade front.

There is a prevailing sense that once Johan Santana finds a home, whether it's back in Minneapolis or in Boston or New York, the pent-up pressure in the off-season market will suddenly result in a flurry of trades and free-agent signings.

Look for most of the aggressive action to involve American League teams.

The big deal between Florida and Detroit that turned an already strong Tigers team into an AL Central beast didn't relieve the pressure, at least not immediately, but now that rival teams have had a few days to digest that development, don't be surprised if some AL GM's aren't getting itchy trigger fingers.

Before Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera came to Detroit for, essentially, prospects, the Tigers, with their potent lineup and strong pitching staff, were already a perceived factor in the race to be one of the AL's four post-season teams.

Now they're going to be awfully tough to beat. Coupled in the Central with the reigning division-champion Indians, they will no doubt make a tough 1-2 argument next season.

Meanwhile, you know that Boston and New York are going to be right where they always are in the AL East. Somebody, probably the Angels, will win the West, with Seattle making a case to be not that far off the pace.

So, now we already have six strong contenders without even bringing Toronto into the discussion.

What we're saying here is that the powerful teams in the American League continue to force the middle level teams into making moves to get stronger right now if they don't want to be left standing at the starting gate.

The plan with the Blue Jays was to hang tough with most of last year's star-crossed players, get everybody healthy and take another shot at Boston and New York.

Now, you have to think that J.P. Ricciardi has seen the bar being raised in December and, while on the surface everything seems calm, you can bet he's leaving no stone unturned to find a way to stay competitive with the Yankees and Red Sox.

In the American League, standing still is not an option.

Meanwhile, over in the National League, there is not one shred of competitive urgency to make the kinds of trades or acquisitions that you see in the American League all the time.

Within days of the start of the American League season, there are going to be teams that have already played their way out of contention.

In the National League, who's going to run off and hide?

Not one team won more than 90 games last year and with everybody still more or less marking time in the offseason talent hunt, don't expect much of an improvement.

For the past four years, the American League has killed the NL in inter-league play, winning 554 and losing just 452. The American League has won 10 of the last 11 All-Star Games and the 11th was a tie. And in the World Series, the American League champ has swept the NL in three of the past four years. The one exception was St. Louis' upset of the Tigers two years ago.

To this point in the off-season, it doesn't look like the NL is even slightly motivated to level the playing field. And why would they be? All a team has to do is get lucky and win somewhere between 85 and 90 games and it has a shot.

In the AL, 85 wins gets you a "thanks for coming" and "best wishes for next year."

The indication last week was that Toronto might try to improve by stocking up on arms to supplement a pitching staff that was surprisingly strong last year. Despite the fact that the Jays were "built to slug" as manager John Gibbons liked to say, they were an offensive disappointment, largely (but not totally) due to injuries.

"We've had a lot of things on the go recently," Ricciardi said this week. "But if, in the end, we don't get anything done, we're still comfortable with what we've got."

Comfortable, but hardly safe.


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