AL East Has Tons of Questions

For the better part of the last decade, the American League East division has not only been the best division in baseball, but it has also been the easiest to predict. The Yankees have won the AL East 13 out of the last 17 years, which is an amazing accomplishment that is really underrated. That kind of consistency is remarkable and it is something we may never see again from the Yankees or another franchise.

The Orioles were the Yankees’ challenger in the late 90s, while it was the Red Sox who challenged the Yankees throughout the 2000s, until the Rays finally won the division in 2008. Up until that point, you could pretty much pencil in the Yankees and Red Sox for the top two spots every season. However, this season nobody will be doing that, and the AL East is as wide open as maybe it has ever been. You could make a case for any of the five teams winning the division.

The Rays, Blue Jays and Orioles have sensed the vulnerability of the Yankees and Red Sox and they have tried to take advantage. The Blue Jays had a monster offseason, as they acquired Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera  Josh Johnson, RA Dickey and Mark Buehrle. The Orioles shocked the baseball world last year when they won 93 games and made the playoffs. They will be bringing the same team back for the most part. The Rays lost ace James Shields, but acquired one of the best prospects in MLB in Will Myers in return for Shields. Also, they signed James Loney and Yunel Escobar to play first base and shortstop.

Meanwhile, the Yankees and Red Sox found themselves in much different positions this offseason. The Yankees had to worry about fending off all this new competition from the other division teams and they had to do it on a restricted budget. The only new additions the Yankees made were Kevin Youkilis, Travis Hafner and Matt Diaz. They chose to retain veterans like Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte and Ichiro Suzuki in the hopes that they could repeat what they did for the Yankees last season. After dumping Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, the Red Sox had a lot of money to spend to try to work their way back to the top if the division. They signed Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino, Stephen Drew, Jonny Gomes, Ryan Dempster, Koji Uehara and traded for Joel Hanrahan.

While the AL East will be a very competitive division, it seems to lack a dominant team. Nobody in the AL East has as good a roster as the Detroit Tigers and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim do right now. Every team in the division has question marks.

The Blue Jays have the most talent in the division, but the paper champions of past offseasons have disappointed, so they will need to prove it first. Being the favorite in the division is something they are not used to and playing with expectations is totally different than playing without them. Injuries are a huge question mark for the Blue Jays as both Reyes and Johnson have big injury histories. Jose Bautista is coming of a wrist injury that limited his effectiveness late last season. Cabrera will have to prove he can still be the same player without steroids. Also, Toronto did nothing to improve their bullpen, which was a huge issue last season.

The loss of Shields is huge for the Rays and they will have to rely on young pitchers stepping up. His consistency over 200 + innings every year will be sorely missed. Matt Moore and Alex Cobb will be counted on for big innings. Moore flashed potential at the end of the 2011 season and over the second half of last season, but he has yet to put it together over a full season. Also, obviously a big question with the Rays is their hitting, and that question remains this season. Evan Longoria staying healthy the full season is a must.

The Orioles had a great year last season, but there are signs that point towards them regressing to the mean this season. The Orioles went an incredible 16-2 in extra innings games and 29-9 in one run games. A lot of that is luck and it may go the other way for them in 2013. The Orioles run differential was a mere +5 last year, while the Yankees led MLB with a +129 run differential. The Orioles should have a solid offense, but their pitching could suffer. Jason Hammel had a career year last year that he is unlikely to repeat. Miguel Gonzalez and Chris Tillman were effective for 105.1 and 86 innings respectively, but they will have to prove it over a full season.

The Red Sox will be a much improved team from their disaster of last season, but I don’t see them seriously competing for the AL East title. Their rotation is still a huge question mark, as Jon Lester is coming off a terrible year and I don’t think Dempster will be able to pitch well in the AL East. Clay Buchholz and John Lackey both have huge injury and consistency issues. On offense, Napoli, Drew, Gomes Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury all have injury histories. Their bullpen should be much improved with the additions of Hanrahan and Uehara.

Lastly, we are all familiar with the questions that the Yankees face. Age is at the top of the list like always. The Yankees will be counting on several veterans like Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Ichiro Suzuki, Hiroki Kuroda and Kevin Youkilis. They will need them to remain healthy and productive. Also, the Yankees will have to adequately replace the production they lost in the offseason when they let Nick swisher, Russell Martin and Raul Ibanez walk in free agency.

As you can see, as talented as all these teams are they all have issues. A lot of them seem to be injury related, as the Yankees, Blue Jays and Red Sox are all relying on players with injury histories. However, what is so exciting is that there is little separating these teams in talent, which should make for a wild pennant race.

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About Matthew B

I am a student at William Paterson University and studying to become a sportswriter. I have a huge passion for the Yankees and love sharing my opinions on them. I can analyze every aspect of the Yankees very well. I am very active on Twitter so feel free to contact me there Twitter: @RAYROBERT9

Posted on February 20, 2013, in Personal Opinion. Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.

  1. I kind of agree with Pecota when it comes to projecting this year AL East, Yanks, Rays, Sox, Jays, and O’s. I combined all of the projected WAR of starting players in the East and the Yanks seem to have better pitching overall and their offense should be much better with runners in scoring postion than last year. The division should be very competitive with all teams having a shot.

  2. My AL east picks go: yankees, rays, blue jays, orioles, Red Sox .. I think that the rays and yanks are the most consistent teams in this division

  3. Must read everybody. According to Wally Matthews Hal Steinbrenner has ditched the $189 million plan. I will believe when I see it but lets hope it true! http://espn.go.com/new-york/mlb/story/_/id/8968271/new-york-yankees-hal-steinbrenner-shows-spirit-boss

  4. Maybe the Yanks will reload next year!

    • Randy is a GM want to be, he is a bookkeeper and was the leader of the Tampa Cartel when he told King George that he was walking because Randy and his other Arm-chair GMs would over rule Cashman on things they thought, they knew better!
      The top of the line 2nd basemen seem to have a short shelf life as far as being stars go. They are stars until about 32/33 then, they fall off the cliff, just the history of the beast and why it is…who knows?
      I would trade Cano now, signing him for a 5 to 10 year contract will have him end-up as Jeters and A-Rods…too much money for so little return.

  5. Signing Cano for $250 mil/ten years would be a massive mistake! Forget free agents. Bring up the prospects. Otherwise, why tease us about all the news about them???????

    • Herb, I don’t see the Yanks offering Cano 250 mill/ten, more like a max of 200 for 8. I would give him their best offer right now, if he doesn’t take it, then trade him to the Nats or Dodgers for prospects.

    • 10 yrs @ 250 is too much but i think they should offer 7 yrs @ 175. And yes, they will start giving some opportunities to prospects.

      The question is will they have the patience to stick with the kids. Since Girardi has taken over, he has not been patient with young position players. Gardner has earned playing time but they tried making him a 4th OF or a platoon player several times until he proved he could play every day. Other than that, the ONLY young position player to get ABs is Nunez and they’ve shown very little confidence in him.

      • fishjam, it’s tough to have patients with prospects when you are in a pennant race, plus these guys aren’t Harper or Trout. I think the Yanks like Nunez especially his bat. It has been tough for prospects to break into the Yankee line-up because their line-up has been too good. Many prospects break into the majors as back up players, which will be the case this year with the Yanks. Next year the prospects will have their chance. I don’t see any starter losing their job this year unless it’s due to injury.

        • Doug – I have been advocating for years that the yankees should look to break JUST 1 young player into the lineup every year. Going with 1 young player per season is not going to hurt the team’s pennant hopes. When you try to start multiple young players, then you are playing with fire. Remember when they had the great idea to go with Hughes, Joba and IPK in the rotation at the SAME time? That was insane.

          And if they try to start 3 rookies net yr just to get under $189, they will struggle also. But a veteran team like the Yanks can very easily carry 1 rookie batting 8th or 9th every yr. Nunez should have been given more of an opportunity last year, especially when they lost Gardner’s speed and energy. Hopefully they give Nunez a lot of time this year between DH and SS.

          • fishjam, in theory adding one rookie a year sounds good, but it doesn’t always work out that way. I like the idea of platooning two rookies in LF next year, it would be good if they played Nunez alot more this year.

      • fishjam…
        There seems to be very little chance for a rookie, unless he hits it off right away…as you said, little to no patience what so ever! I wondered, who was holding the kids back? My 1st thought was Cashman because, it is the same now as it was with Joe T, neither Joe will show any confidence in the kids. Then I said to myself; “Self, both are old players and the first Joe got fired (One of many reasons) for not following the orders or Cashman…play the kids!”…so I think it has to be the Managers, not the GM.
        Either way, it is not the bast way of using ones assets to the best of their ability!
        If I have a right handed rookie hitting at a .310 clip and an older right hander hitting .250…me I use the rookie! Joe G goes for the experience, I go for the win, until the rookie shows me he is not ready for prim time he plays when the time for his skill set is needed just as with everyone else!

        • Ken….Did you enjoy your conversation with Self? Haha…..I think it’s a general reluctance to take chances on young kids by the entire organization. After all, it was Cashman who traded their best 2 position player prospects (AJax & Jesus) on the last 3 years just when they were ready to come up.

          • Very Nice conversation, indeed! I agreed with everything self said, I don’t know maybe it’s because he is almost right…or not!

            I liken AJax to Sorieono(sp), to much of me first attitude and didn’t want anything to do with the Yankees! He thought he should have been in the majors a long time ago and did everything he could to make himself trade bait!….Again, let me say, this is the word around…no proof or facts!

            What have you heard about Jesus? Has he gotten things to gather yet?

  6. Grandy out 10 weeks with fractured forearm in todays game, Wow the Yanks are snake bit. Who plays LF, Musteleir, Diaz, or Rivera?

    • The too many home runs crew rejoices again. Can’t wait to here form those idiots this year.

      • Amusing…how do you explain the Giants and the Tigers playing in the World Series last year with well below average home run production? How do you explain the 97 Yankees hitting only 161 home runs while scoring the second most runs that year and a lot more runs then last year?

        Hitting a lot of home runs makes it easier to win in the regular season. The Yankees can easily mitigate the loss of hitting home runs by giving up less themselves. It is hard to fathom being 4th in runs allowed while being 3rd in both doubles and home runs allowed.

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