AL East Update From a Frigid Hot Stove in February

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2018 AL East Off-Season Update Moiderer's Row

2018 AL East Off-Season Update Moiderer's Row
The AL East. Words that strike fear in the hearts of pitching coaches around the league. And come Hot Stove League-time, usually one of the most interesting, active and aggressive divisions in the game.
This off-season? Like the rest of MLB, not so much. After an initial flurry of trades in November and early December, everything has cooled off. Big time.
So much so that the word ‘collusion’ was actually mentioned by a sportswriter a few weeks back.
The only collusion I can see is that ownership has finally realized that 7 to 10-year deals for guys at or past their prime are not sound business decisions.
That said, let’s dig into the State of The AL East at this moment. Teams are listed in the order of their 2017 finish in the standings.


Boston Red Sox

GM: Dave Dombrowski
Concerns: Third base, outfield depth, replace Big Papi
Notable Acquisitions/Signings: Mitch Moreland (1B)
Red Sox Depth Chart
World Series Odds: 10/1
2017 Finish: 93-69 First place
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After winning the AL East by 2 games, the Red Sox were dispatched from the 2017 postseason tournament in 4 games by the Houston Astros. Like New York, Boston heads into the 2018 campaign with a new, young and inexperienced skipper — Alex Cora, formerly bench coach of the aforementioned Astros. They’ve also added a new pitching coach in Dana LeVangie.
Beantown mainly needs to address their lack of power, find a third-baseman and a 4th outfielder, and hope their starting rotation avoids and long stints on the DL.
J.D. Martinez would go a long way in solving their power and outfield concerns, but talks with the free agent slugger have cooled — although Boston is probably still the favorite to land him. There’s also talk of a reunion with Eduardo Nunez to fill in at third and contribute with the bat.
On January 18th, the club was rumored to have offered a five year/$125M deal — but the buzz was Martinez was seeking huge dollars and a 7-year deal. Sox owner John Henry was said to be leery of long-term deals (after getting stung on the David Price contract), and being extra cautious with the J.D. decision.
The rotation will feature Chris Sale, David Price, Drew Pomeranz, Rick Porcello and a fifth arm to keep Eduardo Rodriguez’s seat warm while he rehabs from knee surgery, probably Steven Wright, who is coming off his own knee surgery recovery.
And WTF? Oyster Bay, Long Island’s own Billy Joel playing in Fenway on August 10th? Piano Man, say it ain’t so! Bad enough they got Brooklyn’s own Neil Diamond, and now this?


New York Yankees

GM: Brian Cashman
Concerns: Starting rotation, second and third base
Notable Acquisitions/Signings: Giancarlo Stanton
Yankees’ Depth Chart
World Series Odds: 5/1 (first place!)
2017 Finish: 91-71 Second place – 2GB
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When GM Ca$hMunny shocked the world with the Giancarlo Stanton trade, the Bronx Bombers became instant favorites by the wise guys in Las Vegas to win the 2018 World Series. I hate hearing that, but love the thought that this club is that highly regarded.
The goal is to keep under the $197M payroll magic number while improving the roster, and the Yankees certainly did that. They’re not done yet, but barring an unlikely trade of Jacob Ellsbury — and/or Yu Darvish’s price dramatically dropping, another major signing is probably not in the cards.
They’d like to add another starter, and secure at least one experienced infielder. We’d love to see the Toddfather back in pinstripes, but that is also a long shot. A year or two would be in the club’s best interest, while a 3 or 4-year deal would be in the player’s best interest. I’d hate to think I bought this t-shirt for nothing (although it is a collector’s item!)
OK, apologies for the shameless merchandising there, but the infield situation is far from critical. They could start the season with Ronald Torreyes at third and Tyler Wade at second — while Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres wait in the wings.
But enough already! Can’t wait until the season gets rollin’. 14 days ’till pitchers and catchers!


Tampa Rays

GM: Erik Neander
Concerns: First base, bullpen
Notable Acquisitions/Signings: Denard Span
Ray’s Depth Chart
World Series Odds: 50/1
2017 Finish: 80-82 Third place – 13GB
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After dealing franchise cornerstone third baseman Evan Longoria to the San Francisco Giants, speculation that the Rays would go young picked up steam. Rotation ace Chris Archer was even rumored to be available but that talk has cooled off. Yet it is entirely possible that could change and the club could go on a selling spree before the season begins, as reducing payroll is among their top priorities of the off-season.
The Rays look to open the season with a rotation of Archer, Jake Odorizzi, Blake Snell, Nate Eovaldi and either Matt Andriese or Jake Faria.
And yes, you read that right. That was former pinstriper Nasty Nate Eovaldi — who will definitely toss a 2-hit shutout against the Yankees this season, just because.
Free agent pitcher Alex Cobb is still on the market, but the cost-conscious Rays are highly unlikely to re-sign him.
While Yankee pitchers in particular are happy to see Longoria out of the division, the Rays still have some bats that are certified PIA’s for New York — like Corey Dickerson, Steven Souza Jr., Brad Miller and Kevin Kiermaier.
The Rays made the AL East a little more interesting with a stretch of good baseball that brought them to within 6 games of the division lead in early August before fading. Not much more is expected from Tampa in the 2018 campaign.


Toronto Blue Jays

GM: Ross Atkins
Concerns: Outfield, defense, backup catcher
Notable Acquisitions/Signings: Josh Donaldson, Curtis Granderson, Randal Grichuk, Yangervis Solarte, Aledmys Diaz.
Blue Jay’s Depth Chart
World Series Odds: 28/1
2017 Finish: 76-86 Fourth place – 17GB
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It’s hard to read who the Jays are — are they going for it or biting the bullet to reload? Throwing $25M at Josh Donaldson for 1 year doesn’t sound like they’re exactly rebuilding, but other non-moves could suggest just that. Then again it was reported the Jays were aggressively pursing Marlin’s outfielder Christian Yelich — and would have probably landed him if they were willing to part with stud prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
The club will not re-sign slugger Jose Bautista. Troy Tulowitzki’s production has been declining and he can’t stay healthy. And Russell Martin’s offensive numbers are going in the wrong direction as well. Expect to see increased playing time from outfielder Teoscar (Yankee Killer) Hernandez, while the club is hoping Justin Smoak’s breakout 2017 season wasn’t a mirage.
Toronto’s starting rotation will feature Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, J.A. Happ, Marco Estrada and Joe Biagini. If the team can stay healthy (they lost over 1,400 total player games in 2017 due to injuries), they can make some noise in the AL East this season.
Granted they do not match up well with the Yankees or Red Sox, but division rivalries make for hard-played games. Take this squad lightly at your own peril.


Baltimore Orioles

GM: Dan Duquette
Concerns: Pitching, defense and right field
Notable Acquisitions/Signings: None yet
Oriole’s Depth Chart
World Series Odds: 50/1
2017 Finish: 75-87 Last place – 18GB
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This could be an interesting year for Oriole’s fans as the club has some big decisions to make — starting with Manny Machado. General consensus about the 2018 Bird’s is that they have a solid offense on paper, but the not the pitching to seriously contend.
If the team is out of contention early, a full-blown rebuild has to start.
They have trade chips of some value in Jonathan Scoop and Adam Jones. Moving Chris Davis would be next to impossible with that contract, as well as the $26M remaining on Mark Trumbo’s contract.
The Bird’s will trot out Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy, Gabriel Ynoa, Alec Asher, and who knows in front of an offense that is as dangerous as they come.
The club has to move Machado by the July 31st trade deadline or risk getting only a compensatory draft pick for him. The trade deadline is always nuts and some team on the cusp of contending may give up a boatload of prospects for the slugging third baseman. It’s pretty much guaranteed that won’t be the Yankees, who would prefer to pick him as a free agent in the off-season.
No offense to newcomers Tampa and Toronto, but when the Yankees, Red Sox and Orioles are competitive in the AL East, there ain’t nothing like it. And here’s hoping Buck Showalter not only lands on his feet after whatever shakes out, but finds a way back into the Yankees organization.

No matter which way this season goes, it’s almost guaranteed to be one for the books — for the expectations alone if nothing else. Buckle up, let’s play ball and let’s go Yankees!

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