The Yankees and Red Sox have made bigger splashes this offseason, but according to the number-crunchers at Baseball Prospectus, the Rays will be the ones squirting champagne in October.
The Prospectus crew's first 2010 PECOTA projections have the Rays coming out on top of the American League East with a major-league best 96-66 mark. The Red Sox are projected to finish second at 95-67 and the defending champions Yankees third, and out of the playoffs, at 93-69.
Big Rays seasons are projected from Evan Longoria (.275, 36 home runs, 109 RBIs), Carlos Pena (34 homers, 97 RBIs) and Ben Zobrist (.271, 26 homers, 79 RBIs), and pitchers James Shields (15-7, 3.40 earned-run average) and Rafael Soriano (38 saves).
The projections, which will be updated during the spring, are the product of complicated math. Known officially as the Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm, it is Prospectus' proprietary system that projects player performance based on comparisons with thousands of historical player-seasons. Prospectus then projects playing time and uses the projected individual statistics to determine the team's record.
Other projected division winners are the Twins, A's, Phillies, Cardinals and Dodgers.
RAYS SIGN MATT BUSH: Matt Bush, the 2004 No. 1 overall draft pick by San Diego who has had on- and off-field troubles, signed a minor-league deal.
Bush, 24, never got above Class A as a shortstop, was converted to pitcher in 2007 and then had Tommy John surgery. The right-hander was traded to the Blue Jays last year, then released.
He has been involved in several assault and vandalism cases (reportedly including one in Dunedin) and told a judge last year his problems were the result of alcohol abuse, for which he was to take part in a 120-day residential treatment program as part of a sentencing that included probation and community service.
brewers: Outfielder Jim Edmonds, 39, agreed to a minor-league deal after sitting out last season. Milwaukee needs left-handed hitters.
Mariners: Retired pitcher Randy Johnson will throw out the first pitch at the April 12 home opener.
Phillies: Right-hander Jose Contreras, 38, finalized a $1.5 million, one-year contract. He was 6-13 with a 4.92 ERA last year with the White Sox and Rockies. He will be used mainly as a reliever.
rockies: Jason Giambi, 39, finalized a $1.75 million, one-year contract to back up Todd Helton at first base.
yankees: Alex Rodriguez said a longtime "choker'' label bothered him and he was relieved to shed it by helping the Yankees win the World Series last season. "I was so tired of hearing that," he said. "It was exhausting. It was so frustrating to go in every postseason with all the expectations and ambitions to do well, and three, four games (later) we were right back in Miami and to our prospective homes. I'm very relieved."
canadian hall: Former Toronto second baseman Roberto Alomar was voted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and will be inducted during the summer in St. Marys, Ontario. Other inductees: longtime reliever Paul Quantrill, former Twins owner Calvin Griffith and statistical guru Allan Roth.
Information from Times wires was used in this report.