5 Questions for the AL East
Will the Yankees finally break through?
The New York Yankees are considered favorites for the World Series this year. They have had the young talent that has developed and started to have Yankee fans believe that they can reach the World Series. But crushing playoff losses to the Houston Astros and as recently as last year a playoff exit to the Tampa Bay Rays have staled a rebuilding process 5 years in the making. The signing of Gerrit Cole last year was a big step in the right direction. However losing Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, and others have left this Yankee team in a retooling process. Luis Severino is progressing through his Tommy John injury and should be ready by June. This off season was built on staying under the luxury tax but improving a pitching staff that was clearly going to lose some starters. Yankees cleverly added Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon on low risk/high reward deals. The bullpen is as strong as any other team and the outfield needed only to resign Brett Gardner as depth and a left-handed bat. The offense stacks up with any in baseball, lead by a healthy Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Gleyber Torres and company. Aaron Judge is clearly the leader on this team, but need to make the next step from superstar to MVP candidate. Staying healthy will go al long way to making that statement. The biggest off-season move was resigning MVP candidate DJ LeMahieu on a 6 year/ $70M deal. All the pieces are in place for them to make a run in the playoffs are they ready? I hope so.
Are The Rays in position to repeat for the Pennant?
The Tampa Bay Rays were surprisingly but equally not surprisingly the best team in the AL last year. With the dominant starting pitching, strong bullpen, timely hitting and one of the best coaches in the game in Kevin Cash, this team rode away all the way to the World Series. They almost defeated the eventual champion Los Angeles Dodgers but came up a little bit short. Is this team still reeling Kevin Cash's decision to pull Blake Snell from Game 6 of the World Series are they ready to move past it? This offseason should have brought some additions to the team to help them get over the hump. However in typical Tampa Bay fashion, this team watch some of his best players go on to larger paydays to get cheaper replacements at same caliber. They will struggle to replace Blake Snell (traded to Padres) and Charlie Morton (signs free agent contract with Braves). They still have Tyler Glasnow one of the better pictures in baseball but is that enough I don't think so. This team is always a threat and always a good team but to me they look like a sub .500 team that didn't get any better this offseason. They are a playoff team in my eyes but I don't know how far that will get them.
Can the Blue Jays return to the playoffs?
The Toronto Blue Jays are a few years remove from a division title in a serious world series run. Young talent like Bo Bichette and Vlad Guerrero Jr. have infused his team with hope that they can get over the hump and get back to the playoffs. This off-season brought in George Springer from the Houston Astros in a big 6 year/$150M deal. The team also added Marcus Semien, Steven Matz, Kirby Yates. These move were nice additions, but I don't think it's enough to get them back to the World Series. Yates will not pay off this season as he will miss the entire season with Tommy John surgery. The starting pitching staff is improved with the trade for Matz from the New York Mets, but still needs some additional pitching. Maybe a mid-season trade to get them over the hump in this top heavy division. They're bullpen is serviable but I don't know if it'll hold up for a full season. This team will hit you all over the ballpark and it'll slug 12-11 game out of you every night but they got to stop runs from scoring to be a serious threat. The should be able to contend for at least a pay in game, and if they get off to a hot start they might not look back.
Are The Red Sox rebuilding or retooling?
Long removed are the Boston Red Sox from the 2018 World Series team that ran through the league. Gone are David Price and Mookie Betts. Red Sox royalty Dustin Pedroia retired in the off-season after battling injuries the last few years. Let's be clear Boston is not rebuilding, this is a good baseball team. I just don't know if they're good enough to contend in this strong division. Eduardo Rodriguez is back after a lengthy battle with COVID but won't be ready to start the season. Chris Sale is coming off Tommy John surgery last March, so they will ease him back slowly. Nathan Eovaldi becomes the new ace and opening day starter. Also newly signed Garrett Richards should pay off right away in Boston. The real question mark is on offense, will JD Martinez remember that he's JD Martinez. His last two years have been awful and not up to his usual standards. Especially in his 2018 run where he was a viable MVP candidate. Xander Boogarts is the real deal and needs to step up more for this offense to take flight. Rafael Devers is another player at the watch this year after an up and down 2020 campaign, will Boston extend his contract or will they watch him walk like Mookie Betts. This team can either fall flat on his face (only held up by a worse Baltimore team), or be a serious contender in this division. I don't feel they have enough pitching, especially in the bullpen, to contend in this division but they will when their share of games and being over .500 ball club.
Are the Orioles' young talent ready for the Show?
So who sticks for this continually rebuilding Baltimore Orioles ball club? Adley Rutschman it's ranked as the #2 prospect in all of baseball and is one of the best young catchers we've seen in a while. And do not forget he is 2 years older than Vladimir Guerrero Jr., so the clock is ticking. He is clearly the best prospect Baltimore has had in a while and fans will come out in the masses to see the new Maryland hero. He will in all likely hood find his way to the majors, which should be this year, and he will infuse the team with a spark and hope. Ryan Mountcastle looks to be the first baseman of the future, but can he live up to the hype? Austin Hays, Tanner Scott, Keegan Akin are all young promising prospects, but will they stick? Scott and Akin should be mainstays in the rotation for years to com. Time will tell what this year is, but we know this not the year for them to contend. This is the year to see what they have at the major league level and to keep improving. They have some nice talent on the roster but not enough to contend in this division.