Baseball season is upon us and all 30 clubs are going through Spring training, making adjustments for the upcoming season. In the American League East, Boston and Toronto will be competing for the division crown with Baltimore looking forward toward a possible wildcard. New York will be looking to make some major strides after going through a youth movement a few seasons ago while Tampa will be on the outside, looking in from the division cellar.
Boston Red Sox – 2016 saw the Red Sox make the postseason for the first time in three seasons. Taking the division crown following a 93-69 record, Boston will be eyeing a deep postseason run in 2017 following an early exit last year in the American League Division Series (ALDS) to the Cleveland Indians four games to none.
The Sox have spent the past three years putting together a young roster with loads of talent, but Boston President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski has made moves indicating that the clubs want to win now rather than later. During the offseason Boston left fans scratching their heads by trading away long time starting pitcher Clay Buchholz, who ended the 2016 campaign with a 81-61 record, 3.96 ERA, and 899 strikeouts, to the Philadelphia Phillies for minor league 2B Josh Tobias. Boston also added starting left hander Chris Sale to the rotation after trading two top prospects, Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, to the Chicago White Sox to get him. The 2017 campaign for Boston should be a successful one, but the pitching rotation remains a question mark. Via ESPN, starting ace David Price received news that he won’t need elbow surgery but there is no time table for when he’ll be ready to go.
Toronto Blue Jays – The Jays have improved upon their win totals the past 5 season and are coming off consecutive trips to the American League Championship Series. During the offseason, the Jays revamped the offense with notable reinforcements in switch-hitter Kendrys Morales and outfielder Steve Pearce to better support their returning pitching staff who’ll need a repeat of the dominant performance from a year ago if Toronto wants to make the postseason for the 3rd consecutive season.
Baltimore Orioles – Despite projections to finish in the division cellar nearly every offseason since 2012, the O’s have found a way to defy those odds and stay among the better half of the league in that span. Since finishing dead last in 2011, Baltimore has made the postseason 3 times and hasn’t finished worse than 3rd place in the AL East division. The Os enter 2017 following an 89-73 season that ended with a disappointing 5-2 loss to Toronto in the AL Wildcard round.
2017 should be much of the same old, same old for the Orioles, who are led by a fantastic bullpen and a underrated offense that has been nearly perfect for them the past five seasons. 1B Chris Davis, who’s had a mediocre career, has become a key player for the Baltimore offense and Mark Trumbo has set a career high in home runs since joining Baltimore last season. Expect the Os to be in the thick of things entering October.
New York Yankees- The Yankees are a team of transition, hanging around the .500 mark for the past 4 seasons and 2017 should be no different. New York is working out of their old ways of signing old players and instead developing their own home-grown talent. Guys like Greg Sanchez, who became one of the league’s best young power hitters during his rookie campaign in 2016 with a .299 average, 60 hits, 34 runs and 20 home runs. Greg Bird, Aaron Judge, and Luis Severino are also young prospects who have fit well into what the Yankees are trying to do. New York also acquired minor league shortstop Gleyber Torres from the Chicago Cubs for bullpen pitcher Aroldis Chapman who later resigned with the Yankees five months after they traded him.
The rebuild will continue as New York’s youth develops into a solid unit in 2017. As long as the Yanks finish at or above .500, then the 2017 campaign should be deemed a successful one.
Tampa Bay Rays – 2016 saw the Rays finish with less than 70 wins for the first time since 2007. Looking back at their 68-94 season a year ago, Tampa Bay refrains from the use of the words ‘bad luck’, admitting that anything that could’ve gone wrong, did go wrong. Suffering from the likes of an untalented roster, the Rays consistently found themselves falling behind on the scoreboard thanks to a leaky defense, spotty rotation, a burned out bullpen and poor offensive support. The nightmare continued when Kevin Kiermaier as well as other key players went down due to injury. Needless to say, 2016 was bad and 2017 doesn’t look much brighter as indicated by Tampa Bay President of Baseball Operations Matt Silverman via the Tampa Bay Times, “We don’t and we can’t and we won’t, as people say, ‘go all in’. That means you’re trading away your future.” Tampa Bay made little to no moves during the offseason and some of their best talent is still developing through the farm system. Don’t expect the Rays to compete for at least a few more seasons.