Updated: Feb 26, 2021
As has been for what feels like decades now, the division continues to be the New York Yankees to lose. Despite losing seasoned veteran Masahiro Tanaka from their rotation, Corey Kluber will certainly help offset the loss. However, there was a presense about Tanaka that helped calm the waters after any rocky stretch - especially in the playoffs. Even if Kluber starts off slow, the Yankees and their fans should remain patient as his focus is winning a championship. The baby bombers we saw in 2017 are growing up, the veterans who helped them have moved on. It’s time for Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and Gleyber Torres to prove they are the next core - with DJ LeMahieu as the savvy veteran who you expect to see in the biggest spots in the playoffs. The major priority of the offseason may have taken a while to resolve, but bringing DJ pack on a team friendly deal might prove to be the steal of the Hot Stove season. The Yankees also welcome back Brett Gardner on a 1-year deal and offered an invite to Jay Bruce to help solve their left-handed bat issue. But look for the Yankees to make a mid-season acquisition to get another bat for the short-porch.
Looking at the pitching staff, after ace pitcher Gerritt Cole, Kluber is critical to the success of the franchise. A top fight #1 starter had been missing but just like any sport, he needs someone behind or beside him to help. Another longtime mainstay gone was Gardner - who gives way to an outfield made up of (from left to right) Clint Frazier, Aaron Hicks and Judge with Giancarlo Stanton likely to see some time in the outfield but generally as a DH. Jameson Talllion and Jordan Montgomery are question marks. Domingo German projects to be a solid player if he can regain form, and there is little evidence to say he shouldn’t aside from lack of experience.
The Tampa Bay Rays had a great run in 2020. The problem is, Tampa now has to play a whole season without Blake Snell and will put the excellent Tyler Glasnow at the top of the rotation but won’t have a ton behind him. Tampa is about to slide into the part of the cycle where they play well, overachieve but ultimately fall flat by just missing the playoffs or have an early exit.
More intriguing than the Rays, would be the Toronto Blue Jays. The team finished two games over .500 but those 60 games gave more experience to Vladimir Guerrero Jr, Bo Bichette, Gurriel Jr and even Cavan Biggio. The Jays didnt do anything dramatic pitching-wise in the off-season but grabbing Matz gave some needed depth. An outfield of Gurriel Jr and Springer is now a legitimate threat in the East. If the Jays continue making the right moves, they should surpass the Rays for second in the division.
The Boston Red Sox are seventh in payroll which is incredible given their status as an afterthought in the division. Gone are Mookie Betts and as off a week ago Andrew Benentendi via off-season trades. One day the Red Sox will recover, but Xander Boegarts, JD Martinez (who will likely be a source of trade speculation for a second straight season) and Nathan Eovaldi are taking a huge chunk of the Boston payroll forcing them out of relevancy.
The 2020 New York Mets finished 26-34, with a core that is young. By plate appearances, the top six Mets were all 28 or younger - and nearly all had at least 200 plate appearances. The pitchers who saw the most work were deGrom (68 IP), Rick Porcello (59 IP) and then David Peterson with (49.2) - there is a large drop off before you get to the next set.
The good news is Marcus Stroman and Carlos Carracco add to a rotation that sorely needed experience. The days Jacob deGrom (and eventually Noah Syndergaard) will be the days you expect to win, and then Stroman and Carracco are games you can put together with offense. While the Mets missed out on top free agent Trevor Bauer, this was hardly a lost off-season.
While the Mets did not add any blue chip free agents (despite going after Springer and Bauer), adding James McCann was important to the pitching staff. The biggest off-season move this year was the trade with the Cleveland Indians to acquire Fransico Lindor without having to gut the farm system. With Pete Alonso, Lindor and Jeff McNeil, the infield has top tier potential. The Mets are hoping the down 2020 year for Alonso was jsut a fluke and he can return to his 2019 Rookie of the Year form. Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo can excite in the outfield but beyond that, J.D. Davis is someone that you wonder - can he be relied on for a whole season and if he comes up in big spots, will he contribute?
The Atlanta Braves are the favorites to repeat atop the NL East - they have an incredible offense and the pitching staff will keep them in most games.
The Philadelphia Phillies still have Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins. Two underrated moves are re-signings of Didi Gregorious and J.T. Realmuto. Those four names mean Philly is in EVERY game they play - but Aaron Nola is a solid number one starter but behind him are Zack Wheeler and Zach Eflin. They’ll be a team that can win a series here or there and will avoid sweeps - but against top tier opponents - they seem like a team that will lose two out of three.
The Washington Nationals have an incredible top of their rotation, with future Hall of Famer Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasbrug as formidable as any 1-2 punch in the league, it helps one forget that Juan Soto continues to carry the franchise.
Does anyone expect the Miami Marlins to make a dent in the NL East? . They finished a game over .500 with a -41 run differential. They have a young talented roster but, this is a year expectations will likely knock them down as it tends to happen with young and upcoming team.