Friday, March 31, 2017

2017 MLB Preview: AL East

With Opening Day just days away, we will be releasing our MLB previews and predictions over the next few days, so keep checking back! Today, we cover the American League East.

American League

EAST DIVISION


1. Boston Red Sox




Key AcquisitionsSP Chris SaleRP Tyler Thornburg1B Mitch Moreland

Key LossesDH David Ortiz

Outlook: Boston made arguably the winter's biggest move, acquiring ace Chris Sale from the Chicago White Sox for a package headlined by top prospect 2B Yoan Moncada. Thornburg was great last season and should help off-set the loss of several veteran relievers. Moreland is a solid signing with very little risk as it's just a one-year deal.

David Price's health is going to be something to watch closely over the first month of the season, but if he can remain healthy the Red Sox should have a fairly easy path to a division title this year. Thankfully for the rest of the division, injuries are always a big part of the game.

Even if Price does manage to pitch for the full season, his elbow issues aren't going to go away. He's likely going to need some kind of major surgery in the near future, and if I had to guess, I'd say he gets shut down at some point this season. Even without Price, I think Boston is the favorite.


2. New York Yankees





Key Acquisitions: CL Aroldis Chapman, OF/DH Matt Holiday

Key Losses: C Brian McCann

Outlook: Just months after dealing flamethrowing left-hander Aroldis Chapman to the Chicago Cubs, the New York Yankees decided to bring back their former closer via free agency. They paid a premium, giving him $86 million over 5 years, but he's one of the game's best closers and can be a difference maker in the post-season. The Yankees are hoping that Matt Holliday can remain a productive player for at least one more season.

The emergence of catcher Gary Sanchez gives the Yankees a potential young star to build around, and with plenty of other young talent expected to arrive in the Bronx before the end of the season, we should get a glimpse of the future of the American League East. Sanchez's performance last season allowed the Yankees to trade catcher Brian McCann this off-season to the Houston Astros. The Yankees are still likely at least a season away from truly contending, but they should be a solid team this season.

3. Toronto Blue Jays



Key Acquisitions: 1B/DH Kendrys MoralesIF/OF Lourdes Gurriel Jr

Key Losses: 3B Edwin EncarnacionSP R.A. DickeyRP Brett CecilRP Joaquin Benoit

Outlook: For the Blue Jays, losing the power hitting Edwin Encarnacion to the defending American League Champion Cleveland Indians is a big loss. However, retaining long-time star Jose Bautista on a one-year deal comes with very little risk, and if Kendrys Morales can hit like he has the past two seasons (.277/.344/.476) he can help off-set the Encarnacion loss.

Lourdes Gurriel Jr. is a 23-year-old highly regarded import from Cuba capable of playing every position but catcher. He's certainly not going to be an everyday shortstop, but could play there in a pinch. His positional versatility should give him plenty of opportunities to show the team he's ready to be an impact player.


4. Baltimore Orioles



Key AcquisitionsC Welington Castillo

Key Losses: C Matt Wieters

Outlook: The Orioles did very little this off-season, as they focused on retaining their own players and didn't bring in a lot of new talent. For a team that won 89 games last season and has some very impressive young talent, it might not be a bad strategy. Unfortunately, their division looks stronger than last season, so 89 wins may be a difficult task to repeat with their current roster.

Replacing long-time backstop Matt Wieters with Welington Castillo is a slight upgrade in my opinion, but both players are very similar regardless. Castillo came at a better price than Wieters, so it really was an easy decision for the Orioles.





Key Acquisitions: C Wilson RamosOF Colby RasmusSP Jose De Leon

Key Losses2B Logan ForsytheSP Drew Smyly

Outlook: The Rays have some solid young players and made a very solid trade this off-season in trading Logan Forsythe to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for top pitching prospect Jose De Leon. Forsythe has been a good player over the past two seasons but is unlikely to be a useful player when the Rays are finally ready to contend again.

Drew Smyly was awful last season so his departure might be addition by subtraction, but he was a solid pitcher prior to last season. Wilson Ramos is expected to miss at least part of this season with a torn ACL, but the Rays maintain a team option on him for next season. If Ramos can return to the player he was prior to the injury, the Rays got a steal at the price they paid him.

Colby Rasmus is unlikely to make a huge difference in the win column, but he's a solid veteran capable of playing all three outfield positions. If he can have a good first half, expect the Rays to trade him by the deadline for some more youth. Given their financial restrictions and the relative strength of the AL East, the Rays had a solid off-season planning for the future.