When someone thinks about Major League Baseball, usually the first division to come to mind is the American League East. Once someone thinks of the American League East, they think of the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. This is for good reason too because these are two of the most historic franchises in all of sports. But times are definitley changing and so is the AL East. The Yankees and the Red Sox are still going to generate a great deal of buzz because of who they are, but there is a very good chance that neither of those teams will be in the race to win the division when September rolls around.
Lets start with the Baltimore Orioles who finished the 2012 season with 93 wins and earned a wild card birth. This ball club has seen vast improvements since Buck Showalter took over the helm during the middle of the 2010 season, and they exceeded expectations last season. The Orioles are a young squad that is loaded with talent like young third baseman Manny Machado, their center fielder Adam Jones, and catcher Matt Wieters. All of these players are age 27, or under, and could be the corner stones for the Blatimore Orioles franchise for years to come. But what do young players need to get them through the grueling MLB season? The answer is a solid group of veterans which the Orioles have in outfielders Nick Markakis and Nate McLouth, as well as short stop JJ Hardy. The biggest question mark with this club is going to be starting pitching with the lack of big name pitchers that they have on their roster.
Next, lets move to the team up north which had one of the greatest offseasons in recent years, the Toronto Blue Jays. This franchise has been the bottom feeders of this division for many years, but it is amazing what one offseason can do for a club. The Miami Marlins executed their patented fire sale to perfection in November by sending every one of their notable players besides Giancarlo Stanton to the Blue Jays. The Blue Jays received All-Star shortstop Jose Reyes, Miami’s two best pitchers in Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle, as well as catcher John Buck and outfielder Emilio Bonifacio. Maybe moving this group of players to Canada will help them play to their potential because it did not work out in Miami. The Blue Jays were not done yet however. They aquired 2012 Cy Young award winner R.A. Dickey to be the ace of their rotation. Do not forget about Brandon Morrow whos numbers would have matched up against any other top AL pitcher last season if it was not for injuries. Lets take a step back and look at this project starting rotation. R.A. Dickey leads it off, followed by Brandon Morrow, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, then Ricky Romero who has a lot of talent. This starting rotation is as good as any other in the bigs and I think it will carry Toronto this season.
Finally, lets move to the Tampa Bay Rays who finished the 2012 campaign with an impressive 90 wins. Usually if a team wins 90 games their headed to the playoffs, but not in the grueling AL East. The Rays were on the outside looking in at the playoff picture with the inability to win key games down the stretch. A lot of teams got better in the offseason, but the Rays were not one of them. They lost key players in reliable starter James Shields via a trade with the Kansas City Royals as well as their starting center fielder BJ Upton to free agency. With that being said, they still have a decent starting rotation and the main reason for that being year in and year out Cy Young candidate David Price. He is their big game pitcher and the one they turn to in a must-win ball game. But do not overlook the rest of their rotation. Although they might not have any other aces on the staff, pitchers like Jeremy Hellickson and Matt Moore have proven they can be successful in the bigs. The question with the Rays is going to be if they can produce enough runs to stay in contention. They have All-Star third baseman Evan Longoria who will produce, but outside of that they are going to need help. Players like Desmond Jennings, Yunel Escobar, and Ben Zobrist will need to step up.
So here it is, the 2013 AL East and I have not even talked about the New York Yankees or the Boston Red Sox. The Sox were down last year and finished in last place of the division, but I expect them to play better this season while still finishing in last place. The Yankees are the Yankees, and they will do whatever it takes to be a World Series contender in the 2013 campaign, which probably means throwing around millions of dollars which they are not afraid to do. New York, Baltimore, Toronto, and Tampa Bay all have legitimate chances to win this division, and it will be very interesting as to who comes out on top.