The AL East just got a little more interesting. The Tampa Bay Rays agreed to one-year contracts tonight with free agents, Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon. Ramirez is set to make $2 million this season while Damon will make $5.25 million. After losing Carlos Pena and Carl Crawford, the Rays will use Ramirez and Damon as stop gaps for the 2011 season. Damon hit .271 with 8 HRs and 51 RBIs for the Tigers last season. Ramirez hit .298 with 9 HRs and 42 RBIs for the Dodgers and White Sox. Damon and Ramirez clearly aren’t what they used to be, but should still be serviceable for the rebuilding Rays. I’m assuming Damon will play left field while Ramirez will be the team’s designated hitter. They may even rotate, who knows. Ramirez was a Type A free agent and Damon was a Type B, however neither of their respective teams offered arbitration, so the Rays will not forfeit draft picks. Great move for the Rays.

It’s crazy that they can pay $7.25 million and get two of the better hitters from the last decade. This move will definitely pay off for the younger hitters on the Rays.

Before I give you the details of this next trade, let’s just say that the Jays’ front office looks like the smartest group of baseball minds. The Jays agreed to trade outfielder Vernon Wells to the Angels for slugging catcher, Mike Napoli and ex-Yankee outfielder, Juan Rivera. Wells has failed to live up to the hype of his seven-year, $126 million contract he signed in 2006. Wells played well last season, posting a line of 31 home runs, 88 RBIs, while hitting at a .273 clip, but he is not worth $20 million+ per season. The Jays have virtually sold high on Wells, making the Angels pick up the remaining four years, $86 million left on his deal. Wells has the option to opt out of his contract after this season, but I doubt he’ll leave $65 million on the table. In return, the Jays will receive Napoli and Rivera. The duo combined for 41 home runs last season. Rivera is owed only $5.25 million this season before hitting free agency while Napoli just passed through his third-year of arbitration. The Jays made the best trade of the off-season.

While Manny and Damon really aren’t huge additions for the Rays, the Jays getting rid of Wells’ ugly contract is great news for the future of the franchise. The team has essentially freed up $20 million for the next four seasons. For the Angels, this may mark the end of a disappointing off-season. They shored up the bullpen by signing Scott Downs and Hisanori Takahashi, but they missed out on the big fish of the free agent class. I still have no idea what they are doing by taking on Wells’ monster contract when their outfield is already full. Peter Bourjos is a very promising young center fielder for the Angels and taking on Wells’ contract makes no sense to me. With all of the freed up money and only $14.5 million committed for 2012, expect the Jays to spend and contend in the AL East in the near future.