MLB Preview: Taking a Closer Look at the AL East
Spring training is less than a month away and it is time to take a look at where the teams in the AL East are standing.
The 2013 season is shaping up to be a great one, as the Boston Red Sox are looking to bounce back from an abysmal 2012 season, the Toronto Blue Jays have traded for several key free agents and the New York Yankees, with their unquenchable thirst for championships, are in the mix as always.
New York Yankees
The good news for the New York Yankees is that they still look like the strongest team in the AL East and could well go on to win their third straight division title. The bad news is that the moves they've made this offseason have done little to solve their postseason woes.
The team let go of Raul Ibanez, who established himself as a fan favorite last season with several late-inning home runs, but hasn't been able to find a replacement. However, the Yankees' DH problem could be solved once Alex Rodriguez returns from injury midway through the season, with the addition of Kevin Youkilis, who could play third base or be the designated hitter.
Not many people disagreed with the decision to let Nick Swisher go to the Cleveland Indians as the outfielder is only .169/.283/.305 in the postseason. However, Swisher's departure has left the Yankees without a right-handed hitting outfielder and while GM Brian Cashman says the Yankees are still shopping there has to be cause for concern.
Once again it looks like the Yankees will have to hope that Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano can reverse their postseason trend if the Bombers want a shot at bringing a 28th championship to the Bronx.
Boston Red Sox
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While Farrell certainly knows the Red Sox organization after being their pitching coach from 2007-2010, his credentials as a manager are less than stellar. In his two seasons in Toronto his record was only 154-170.
The Red Sox's biggest free-agent signing this offseason was the outfielder Shane Victorino. While the three-time Gold Glove winner is certainly a good addition to the lineup, it doesn't look like the Red Sox are strong enough to improve their record by 30 wins, which is what they'll need to compete for the division title.
Toronto Blue Jays
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The Toronto Blue Jays have taken a high risk, high reward approach to the 2013 season. In November, the Blue Jays made headlines, along with the Miami Marlins, when the two teams conducted a blockbuster trade that sent SS Jose Reyes, SP Josh Johnson, SP Mark Buehrle, C John Buck and CF Emilio Bonifacio to Toronto.
A month later, they traded for Cy Young winner R.A Dickey, a move that solidified the Blue Jays' intention of going for the "win now" approach.
While the Blue Jays certainly have to be taken seriously now that their roster contains so many big names, it's important to remember that many of these players were integral parts of the Marlins team that finished 69-93 last year. Big names are no guarantee for success.
The Baltimore Orioles gave the Yankees a hard time in the division title race last year despite spending less than half of what the Bronx Bombers do.
The 2012 season was quite the turnaround for the Orioles as they improved their record by 24 wins and finished with their first winning record since 1997. The Orioles' turnaround was marked by excellent play in the late innings. Before losing to the Yankees in Game 1 of the ALDS, the Orioles had a winning streak of 16 in extra inning-games.
The Orioles have been very quiet on the free-agent market, making no major deals except re-signing Nate McLouth and trading for Yamaico Navarro and Trayvon Robinson. If the Orioles are to compete for the AL East crown, it will have to be with a roster largely similar to that of last year.
Tampa Bay Rays
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Getting Longoria back for a full 162 games is like signing a new player. He will be imperative in the Rays' hunt for the postseason in 2013.
The big question mark this season is going to be whether David Price is traded or not. The Cy Young winner is on a one-year, 10 million dollar contract. That's a very large number for a team that only had a payroll of 65 million for last season.
The Rays are fully capable of winning 90 games for the 2013 season but if Price is traded mid-season then Tampa will have to hope for several September slumps on the part of their AL East rivals.