With both the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees bolstering their already talented rosters, many have already condemned the other three teams in the AL East as being competitively irrelevant. While the Tampa Bay Rays may be depleted from a talent standpoint, both the Toronto Blue Jays and the Baltimore Orioles may have just enough to become intriguing contenders within their division. As we have seen time and again, the team with the most talent does not always necessarily win the division at the end of the season, whether this is due to untimely injuries or certain players going cold at the wrong time. Regardless of who the consensus favorite is to win the AL East by seasons end, this will still be a brutally tough division that will see the eventual victor be particularly well prepared to go far in the postseason.
5. Tampa Bay Rays
Over the past two seasons, the Rays have purged their roster either through trades or during free agency. Most notably, the losses of prolific starting pitchers Alex Cobb (now with the Orioles) and Jake Odorizzi (now with the Twins) has all but confirmed everyone’s belief that the Rays are tanking in an attempt to become postseason contenders in a few years. Sit tight Rays fans, because the next few years are going to be especially brutal as the on the field product will be akin to watching a glorified minor league a ffair.
4. Toronto Blue Jays
Last season, the mostly underwhelming Toronto Blue Jays actually possessed some of the most efficient pitchers in the majors. Averaging an ERA of 4.34 (9th in MLB last season) and a WHIP of 1.24 (2nd in MLB last season), the Blue Jays clearly had the arms to stifle opposing offenses but lacked the tenacious bats needed to persevere in their brutal division. If Marcus Stroman can stay healthy (3.09 ERA last season) and J.A. Happ can be the strikeout machine that he was last season (8.79 K/9), the Blue Jays could potentially compete for a coveted Wild Card spot by the end of the season.
3. Baltimore Orioles
Before acquiring starting pitchers Andrew Cashner (3.40 ERA last season) and Alex Cobb (3.66 ERA last season), it appeared that the Orioles were doomed to be a team that was once again overly reliant on their impressive power bats to stay afloat in the AL East. Although the Orioles should by no means be the favorites to win their division, they now have an adequate rotation that is backed up by a gifted bullpen that is still elite even with closer Zach Britton out for at least the first half the season. Add to that Manny Machado going into a contract season and the Orioles could potentially shock the baseball world as they did when they won the AL East in 2014.
2. Boston Red Sox
One of the worst teams in the majors last season when it came to hitting the baseball out of the ballpark, the addition of consummate power hitter J.D. Martinez (45 HR, 104 RBIs, .690 SLG last season) will help immensely in the Red Sox becoming the deadly scoring unit that they were in 2016. With a starting rotation that is incredibly productive and consistent at the front end, the Red Sox will assuredly make the Yankee’s aspirations of winning the AL East especially difficult.
1. New York Yankees
Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. Most individuals will stop there and assume that the offensive production of these two power swinging athletes will be more than enough to carry this team to win a division title. However, first-time manager Aaron Boone will still have to strengthen a starting rotation that was solid but not elite last season. If Michael Pineda can post an ERA below four and Sonny Gray can become the reliable front end starter that the Yankees expected him to be when they traded for him last year, this is a team that could not only win the AL East, but could very well become the clear favorites to win the World Series when all is said and done.