The American League East is normally home to Major League Baseball's biggest spenders, but so far this offseason, the division has kept its pocketbook under lock and key.
The Red Sox and Yankees usually get linked to almost every big-name free agent but this year have opted to step aside and play the role of casual observer.
It has been an abnormally quiet time for the East during the offseason. In previous years, it appeared that money was no object in the AL East but now, all five clubs seem to have taken on a more passive role with most of the focus being put into trades.
"I'm willing to rock and roll, but we've got a lot of money committed already," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman recently said. "Trying to find matches is hard. Hey, listen, the Yankees are open for business. There's things I could do, but I think everybody here would look at [trades] and say, 'Wow, if I did that, I should be a pinata.'
"I could do them, but I shouldn't do them. I'm comfortable where we're at and what we're trying to do. If it takes longer, it takes longer."
While the Angels and Rangers have spent big in the AL West, their eastern counterparts appeared relatively content with the status quo.
Part of that has to do with the players already under contract for the foreseeable future. Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder arguably were the two most sought-after free agents at the start of the offseason, but neither was a fit in Boston or New York because of Adrian Gonzalez and Mark Teixeira.
The remaining elite free agents didn't catch the attention of the top markets, either. That's one reason New York quickly re-signed CC Sabathia to a long-term extension and quietly brought back Freddy Garcia at the end of the year instead of pursuing the likes of C.J. Wilson and Yu Darvish.
Boston, on the other hand, is just one year removed from one of its most eventful offseasons in club history. With a lot money already tied up for 2012, there wasn't a lot of wiggle room for the Red Sox to add more payroll. Every team -- even Boston -- has its limits.
"Well, we have a budget, we've always had a budget," said Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington, who recently pulled the trigger on a deal to bring A's closer Andrew Bailey to Boston. "There's different ways to fit what you need to do into that budget. Some winters, that means being involved in certain free agents and some winters, it means being involved in trades, and some winters it means both.
"This winter, it's really meant both. We're actively exploring ways to make the team better in free agency and through trades. As I said, the offseason certainly isn't over. We've got a lot of time between now and Spring Training, and we're going to continue to look for ways to upgrade the team."
Toronto possesses one of the most impressive young cores of players in the Majors and one of the wealthiest ownership groups in Rogers Communications, but it, too, has decided to sit out the free-agent market this offseason.
General manager Alex Anthopoulos remains steadfast in his dedication to build a team that has a chance to compete not only next season but in future years as well. That means avoiding the long-term contracts often handed out in free agency, putting an added emphasis on player development and obtaining talent that is still under team control.
Anthopoulos did just that when he acquired closer Sergio Santos from Chicago. It was a move that was made with one eye on the present and one eye on the future.
"There's parameters with payroll, and boundaries, or whatever people want to use there, that lends itself to us being a little more aggressive in the trade market and having to be creative," Anthopoulos said. "That's not to say our payroll isn't going up and so on, but it's not a bottomless pit.
"I have what I have available. I'm going to make that work, and we're going to try to put a competitive and world championship club on the field."
Baltimore seems to be following in Toronto's footsteps with its recent strategy. The club went through an exhausting search for a new general manager before coming to terms with Dan Duquette.
Duquette knows what it takes to compete in the AL East, having been a GM in Boston for eight seasons. Acquiring talent through free agency is part of that but right now he's focused on building from the ground up. A big component of that will come from an international plan that Duquette feels will help the club's previous much-maligned efforts.
"When you don't have the resources that the top two clubs have, you have to work harder and you have to work smarter," Duquette said. "You have to do a better job in scouting and player development."
Tampa Bay is the organization that arguably perfected the ability to build without a lot of financial resources. In 2011, the Rays were once again able to compete amongst the league's best and qualify for the postseason for the third time in the past four years.
They're looking to restock again this year, but it won't be easy. Designated hitter Johnny Damon is currently a free agent, and his return to the Sunshine State is uncertain, while the club is also looking for a replacement at first base for Casey Kotchman.
It's not that teams aren't making changes -- Tampa Bay found a new starting catcher in Jose Molina while the Red Sox and Blue Jays have rebuilt their bullpens. But the moves just aren't the type of transactions fans are accustomed to from the always competitive AL East.
Instead of drastic changes it seems like most teams are relatively happy with maintaining the status quo and banking on improved performances from the players already in place. The depth is there for the most part, it's just a matter of proving it on the field.
"We've got a lot of depth and can we add to it?" Cashman asked. "We'd like to, but is it realistic? It's not, necessarily. For me to push through something I'm probably going to have to overpay.
"That's where it's a tough thing to do, especially when you're sitting with a lot of talent, people you actually can slide in to do this job. I'm OK with the balancing act, I'm OK with our decision making ... It's hard to improve on what we already have."