The American League East in 2013


Tampa Bay Rays

My prediction: 93-69

2012 finish: 90-72

Worthy of note: The Rays are the team when it comes to making something out of a low payroll. now if they could just get people to attend the games.

2013 changes: Wil Myers in… James Shields and Wade Davis out. (Pitching depth traded for a potential dynamic outfielder still under long-term control.)

Was anyone wondering where James Loney ended up? It’s here. Tampa.

With the sun shining and calm seas: Keep in mind this club may have traded away pitchers like Matt Garza a few seasons ago, and James Shields along with Wade Davis last year. They still have David Price, Matt Moore and Jeremy Hellickson. Not only do the Rays have young, quality pitching… they have young quality pitching that has delivered consistently in the AL East when the division was loaded. This year the AL East is not the best division in baseball. (And the Rays still have enough quality starters that their minor league starting rotation will be better than some major league rotations. (Hi Minnesota!))

I also like an addition I haven’t mentioned yet… Yunel Escobar. He’s not an awesome shortstop by any stretch of the imagination. But… he is a stabilizing force. See, the Rays have a tendency to give guys a glove and tell them to get on the field. And then their starters on any given night run out to whatever position needs to be filled and do a pretty darn admirable job. Ben Zorbist is a good player… but turning in 40-45 games a season at three different positions (with additional time at a fourth or fifth place in the field) isn’t always the perfect approach. Someone like Escobar should allow the Rays to add a bit more consistency to the lineup card.

Trouble in paradise: Losing James Shields and B.J. Upton do provide some concern. Shields delivered high-innings… and Upton was a significant presence when you begin looking at the offense that isn’t generated by the Tampa lineup. There is talent, and reason to believe others can step up… but if they don’t the Rays will not only lose the division, they will also find themselves at home again when the postseason begins.

2013 expectations: Here are two questions I have. (1) Will Evan Longoria be healthy all season? (2) Does Wil Myers join the club, and… let’s not go crazy expecting huge numbers… does he contribute at a rate above an average player?

I think the Rays will win the division. Best manager in the game -- Joe Madden -- and a great pitching staff. Very strong defensively. Put that into a year where New York and Boston are decidedly and obviously weak and vulnerable, and you have an AL East for the Rays to win.

They have a roster, filled with a great team attitude, that can overcome incredible adversity. In my mind though… they can be much more. And for that, they need to improve their everyday contributions from the regulars. On that note… back to the two questions I posed. If Longeria is in, he will likely provide MVP-worthy performance. And if Myers comes up and plays well, then suddenly the Rays are not just looking good… they are looking scary.

Toronto Blue Jays

My prediction: 86-76

2012 finish: 73-89

Worthy of note: Let’s see… R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle, and Josh Johnson… suddenly the Jays have a staff that will pitch a ton of innings, reduce the stress on the bullpen, and likely even be one of the best rotations in the American League. All from guys that weren’t even on their roster last season.

2013 changes: Added Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes, and R.A. Dickey in trades. Signed Melky Cabrera.


And while I know they gave up better prospects than just Travis d’Arnaud, he is the one I think they might truly watch playing down the road with a sense of regret.

With the sun shining and calm seas: Well… geez… there is the chance of a full on heat wave from these sunny days.

Jose Reyes in a batting order with Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion sounds really good. Already mentioned the pitching staff. And Darren Oliver is back to help keep the bullpen solid. (Not electric… but solid is good.)

If Melky Cabrera stays clean and contributes some decent numbers, the Blue Jays have the makings of a really good team.

Honestly… there really isn’t much not to like here. They’ve gone from mid-pack to postseason contender.

Trouble in paradise: I’m concerned because we’ve seen these splashes in recent years. The end of 2011 and all of 2012 was awful in Boston. Many of these same players were with Florida last year. (And because so many of these players were part of the Marlins in 2012, you can’t simply say something like “yeah, but this time the Jays got good team guys and veteran presence”… they should have provided that last year.)

And for the most part… this isn’t a building for the future plan. Buehrle and Dickey are not here for the next three to five seasons. The window is now. The plan is to get into the playoffs… and there is no Plan B.

2013 expectations: I’ve got the Jays on the outside looking in… only because I think the Yankees could be the Yankees… the Red Sox could be better than expected… the AL East might beat the Blue Jays up over the full season… and all of that combined with the possibility of things not connecting and coming together kind of scares me.

They could use another starter… I wish I saw depth on the bench or in the minors. It isn’t there. This club is loaded and ready to go. If they stay on the field and play well, there is something here. This club has all the parts to win the division and be very tough to knock out of the playoffs.

New York Yankees

My prediction: 84-78

2012 finish: 95-67, Division winner

Worthy of note: The Yankees will begin the season with Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez on the disabled list. Aging or not… that is a significant chunk of the regular lineup (and payroll) to have out.

2013 changes: Yooooouuuuuuuk!

Hey… sure… they signed him to play third, and he’ll probably be playing a lot of first… and he is drawing all sorts of eye rolls from long-time Yankee fans -- but really, what else is there to talk about?

Travis Hafner?

Ok… see… Travis Hafner… that got your attention.

The Yankees did nothing in the offseason but age. Mariano Rivera… an amazing player, headed to the Hall of Fame… gets a one-year deal so he can finish out his career. Andy Pettitte… Robinson Cano… Ichiro Suzuki… Hiroki Kuroda… Curtis Granderson… are you noticing the trend?

The Yankees didn’t spend much for anything that wasn’t already on their roster.

With the sun shining and calm seas: A lot is riding on the rotation, and honestly it could deliver. C.C. Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, Phil Hughes… you get the idea. They’re not young though (even Hughes gets into the area of veteran… though at 26 he is part of the future here).

And if they can weather the early season struggles, then you suddenly have players like Granderson and Teixeira on their way back. (That’s the “almost like making a trade” reinforcement line you here being written.)

Trouble in paradise: Wow, this roster is thin. I suppose you don’t realize it when the Yankees roll out and win 90-plus every year. Winning hides a lot. And I’ve been claiming they are getting old for years. And yet… this season… wow is it apparent.

And the reality is… I don’t know that Kuroda and Pettitte will combine for 50 or more starts this season.

Here’s the crazy thing… they supposedly didn’t attempt to build depth because rumors are swirling that they want to drop their payroll for next year. So lots of one-year contracts. Now…

In Boston, they overspent for players like Mike Napoli (go by the original offer… three years and 39 million and not what they ended up with) and Stephen Drew. Still, most of those contracts begin to clear out with the idea being to shift to younger players. (And even those players that will be around can be utilized in the outfield (if Ellsbury leaves) or at DH (if Ortiz is spending more time injured than playing).) Next year they might move Middlebrooks to first to make way for Xander Bogaerts (if Jose Iglesias works out). So short-term contracts there work out as players drop.

I see absolutely nothing to indicate the Yankees won’t have to spend once again to just field a team. There is no Mike Trout, Bryce Harper… or even a Jackie Bradley, Jr., Wil Myers or Jose Iglesias… possibility for the Yankees.

2013 expectations: The Yankees will always have names. We’re in the last part of this preview and I’ve barely mentioned Ichiro… haven’t had to focus at all on Cano. Think about that… four huge contracts and important players out… and Ichiro and Cano are still there.

But even when healthy, these players are mostly well beyond their primes. They’re contributors now, and not a group of game changers. And that matters.

If the rotation stays healthy and they can get 150 starts out of five guys, they will be above .500 and maybe even in the conversation during the final four weeks of the year. I think they will have a winning record… the Yankees always burn me when I predict an iceberg in their path… but I highly doubt anyone will be talking about them in September.

Quite honestly, they are probably more likely to finish last in the AL East than they are to be third. But I’ve seen stuff like this before. And the Yankees still manage to win games. I don’t know how. They just do.

Baltimore Orioles

My prediction: 81-81

2012 finish: 93-69, playoff wild card

Worthy of note: 29-9 in one-run games in 2012. 29-9… twenty-nine and nine… 29 wins and only 9 losses in games decided by a single run.

2013 changes: Umm.


Hold on.

Well… Nate McLouth is back on a pretty decent deal of one-year and only $2 million. That’s exciting, right?

Honestly… only the addition of Jair Jurrjens holds much promise for any level of excitement.

With the sun shining and calm seas: They could have a winning record. But this club barely outscored their opponents in 2012. (They scored 712… opponents 705.) It was that stunning success in one-run games and extra innings that got them to the playoffs.

Give them credit… they are a scrappy bunch that apparently doesn’t wilt or read the papers. Still…

Trouble in paradise: I mentioned 29-9 in one-run games. They also went a ridiculous 16-2 in extra-inning games. It defies logic. It got them to 93 wins last year… and I think the numbers catch up to them in 2013.

An improved Boston… an improved Toronto… and let’s just say they were to go a still decent 22-16 in one-run games and 10-8 in extended time… differences from 2012 to 2013, and all of that certainly drops the Orioles from the 90-plus club and likely out of playoff contention.

My point isn’t whether or not they are good, getting better, and potentially a decent team for this and the next few years. I think they could be. But they don’t have as much quality or depth as several other young teams… and considering the details involved, I’m simply saying that 93 wins was the exception.

2013 expectations: Many people point to winning close games and say the Orioles must have great pitching.

They don’t.

Those one-run and extra-inning wins are signs of a bullpen performing at a high level… and in Baltimore in 2012, the bullpen did deliver. But the Orioles got more than 540 innings out of their bullpen last year, and relievers are notoriously inconsistent. (That’s about 3.1 innings per game out of the bullpen. Their starters didn’t average 6 innings per game. You know how Boston struggled in 2012? They were around 515 innings for the bullpen.)

They didn’t make many changes… they basically stood still with their roster. And, I think several teams are going to race past them as a result.

Boston Red Sox

My prediction: 75-87

2012 finish: 69-93

Worthy of note: Brought back fan-favorite David Ortiz… who somehow managed to be re-signed for two years and something like $26 million despite the fact that he won’t be with the club when the 2013 season starts. Yup… Boston spent $13 million a year for a designated disabled list spot.

2013 changes: It’s hard to argue with signings like Mike Napoli or Ryan Dempster in general. And when you look at free agents or trades such as David Ross, Jonny Gomes, Koji Uehara and Joel Hanrahan… it sounds good.

But then you see $39 million to Shane Victorino and suddenly the curtain flies open to reveal someone, pulling the levers, that seems woefully overwhelmed. That’s not fair… and I know that… but even in short-term deals, after last year’s freeing of massive dollars this club is still going to end up with one of the top-ten payrolls in the game.

With the sun shining and calm seas: Best bullpen in baseball. Not kidding.

I’ve got this club with a losing record and showing small gains. But honestly… there are some interesting things going on. And if they throw the paycheck out the window and don’t care, this club could be about 10 games higher in the win column, and threatening legitimacy for mention in playoff talk when Labor Day hits. (Note… I am NOT saying they will make the playoffs. I am saying a pace to win 85 games, where you don’t have to go 18-2 over the final 20 to do it, will at least make it so you aren’t an afterthought.)

If run correctly… and this is where John Farrell may work wonders… the bullpen could turn several games into 5-inning affairs. Uhera coming into a game in the sixth inning, followed by some combination of Junichi Tazawa, Andrew Bailey and Joel Hanrahan is very impressive. And while I don’t expect miracles from Daniel Bard… if he’s in the pen by mid-season, well… if Boston isn’t remotely close to playoff potential they will be involved in a ton of trades. Because this staff of relievers is as talented a group as any in baseball, and they are deeper than anyone else.

Now… that payroll comment.

Stephen Drew isn’t with the club as the season opens. He’s returning from a concussion. So Jose Iglesias is getting his shot. If Iglesias does well, the Red Sox have a $9 million dollar bench player in Drew. If they’re willing to do that… and do it because players like Jackie Bradley, Jr. and Iglesias are contributing… then the youth movement is going very well, and that is good news for this club.

Trouble in paradise: I don’t believe this club is a winning team. Simple as that. I’m ok with the moves they’ve made… and very interested to watch them play this year.


I don’t believe Jackie Bradley, Jr. and Jose Iglesias were the plan for 2013. I believe a strong spring training from Bradley, David Ortiz on the disabled list, and Stephen Drew recovering created a perfect storm for the regular season and what is happening.

In short… what is going on is being allowed to happen, and that’s great. But it is not the plan. And I don’t know that this organization is ready to adjust on the fly. I could be wrong… but I do wonder.

2013 expectations: Have you seen the pitching staff Pawtucket is going to have? Nice. Allen Webster and Rubby de la Rosa are there.

And I mentioned Xander Bogaerts a few moments ago.

I’m going into 2013 not expecting much… and there is the chance that the team could deliver a pretty good run.

But… the future… well, unlike a team such as New York, Boston is in position to be very good if things work out.

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