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Having the reigning champion Red Sox is a good reason why the AL East is still the best division in baseball.
The competition is pretty fierce for this No. 1 ranking, but the AL East still is the cream of the divisional crop, as it has been for the past handful of seasons. That's what happens when four of the five clubs sport better-than-.500 records.
The Boston Red Sox, of course, get their due for winning it all last year. They are capable of defending their title heading into 2014 with veterans David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester and Koji Uehara in place, and youngsters Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. ready to step in for Stephen Drew and Jacoby Ellsbury, respectively, at shortstop and center field. Catcher A.J. Pierzynski and setup man Edward Mujica have been the only notable newbies to date.
There's still a chance that former Cy Young winner David Price could be moved in the coming weeks, but regardless, the Tampa Bay Rays are consistently dangerous given their pitching depth (even sans Price) and ability to accumulate young, big-league-ready talent. The lineup, led by Evan Longoria, will benefit from having Rookie of the Year Wil Myers around all season long, too.
The Baltimore Orioles might have a better batch of hitters, though, including home run champ Chris Davis, stalwart Adam Jones and youngster Manny Machado. It's no accident that the O's led baseball by plenty with 212 homers. Pitching is their problem, at least until youngsters Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy turn into impact arms, which might not happen before 2015.
Another problem? Baltimore hasn't made a single noteworthy acquisition this winter.
The New York Yankees, on the other hand, have made quite a few of those by spending north of $300 million on Ellsbury, McCann and postseason stud Carlos Beltran. Whether they'll get to see Beltran's October heroics first-hand, though, will depend more on the caliber and depth of the rotation, fronted by what looks to be a declining CC Sabathia and full of holes at the back end—unless they can ink Tanaka.
Plus, if age and injuries continue to get the better of captain Derek Jeter and first baseman Mark Teixeira—and the whole Alex Rodriguez suspension situation proves disastrous—there's a chance the aging Yankees could be in trouble.
Which brings us to the Toronto Blue Jays, who suffered through a spate of their own injuries and issues with the rotation, masher Jose Bautista and speedster Jose Reyes. There's still a lot of talent here, including fearsome Edwin Encarnacion and former Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey, but unless the Jays have a big move or two left in them, they're going to need everything to go right to contend.
Especially in the best division in baseball.
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