The 2014 season is over, the Winter Meeting have come and gone, and spring training will be here before you know it.
The AL East was not at it’s best in 2014. As a matter of fact, the AL East has been a roller coaster ride for teams for the past few seasons. Since 2010, four of the five teams in the AL East have won the division. The Tampa Bay Rays won in 2010, the New York Yankees won in 2011 & 2012, the Boston Red Sox won in 2013, and the Baltimore Orioles are the reigning division champs.
Another point of interest, is that 2014 is the first time since the 2006 season that the AL East has not been represented by more than one team in the playoffs. There is no obvious team to beat.
The Red Sox won it all in 2013 — after having finished in last place the previous year — only to find themselves back at the bottom again last season.
So, what are we to make of the upcoming season?
First, the Toronto Blue Jays have made some key acquisitions this offseason. The team signed Russell Martin to a five year deal, and made a blockbuster trade to get all-star third baseman Josh Donaldson. Michael Saunders was also added in a trade for pitcher J.A. Happ.
However, pitching is the area where the Blue Jays will struggle. Pitcher R.A. Dickey led the team in wins (14) for the second straight season, but had nearly as many losses (13).
Also, the bullpen is an area that needs to be addressed. Francisco Rodriguez and Raphael Soriano are available free agents, but the Jays are more likely to look at trade options first.
Next — as previously mentioned — the Red Sox have had a few up and down seasons recently. Two last place finishes in three years have made for a busy offseason.
Yoenis Cespedes — a player that was acquired in a trade last season for Jon Lester — was a viable trade option going into the winter. Then, he became even more expendable when the team signed Hanley Ramirez to play left field. Finally, he was traded to the Detroit Tigers in exchange for pitcher Rick Porcello.
The Sox had obvious pitching needs after trading away Lester, Jake Peavy, John Lackey, and Felix Dubront towards the end of last season.
In addition to Porcello, the team signed Justin Masterson, and traded for Wade Miley. The rotation is in much better shape now, but could still use a true ace. James Shields and Max Scherzer are still unsigned free agents, and Cole Hamels is a player that has been mentioned in trade talks.
Pablo Sandoval is a player that the Red Sox were said to have been “all-in” on, and they were. Third base was a glaring hole that needed to be filled, and so the team inked Sandoval to a five year contract.
The Red Sox are a much improved team, but it remains to be seen whether or not they can pull off the same magic they did back in 2013.
Meanwhile, the Baltimore Orioles have lost three key players from their roster. Nelson Cruz, Nick Markakis, and Andrew Miller have all signed with new teams. Cruz led all of baseball with forty home runs last season.
The team will rely on Alejandro De Aza and Delmon Young to fill the wholes left behind by Cruz and Markakis. Chris Davis, Manny Machado, and Matt Wieters returning to full health will also be key to the O’s success.
The Yankees are a team that is known for spending money during the free agency period. However, the team has remained relatively quiet this winter.
The team did re-sign Chase Headley, and also signed free agent reliever Andrew Miller. Meanwhile, former closer David Robertson was lost to the Chicago White Sox, and will be replaced by Dellin Betances.
One of the biggest questions going into the offseason was, “Who will replace Derek Jeter?” Well, that honor has fallen to shortstop Didi Gregorious. Gregorious was acquired in a three-team trade with the Arizona Diaomonbacks; with pitcher Shane Greene heading to Detroit Tigers.
Other concerns for the Yankees include: the pitching staff, getting players healthy, and Alex Rodriguez. Rodriguez is returning from a year-long suspension due to his involvement with performance enhancing drugs.
Lastly, we have the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays have potential in their young pitching, but are in more of a rebuilding mode. Outfielder Wil Myers was traded to the San Diego Padres, and there has been speculation that Ben Zobrist could be on his way out as well. The team also lost Manager Joe Maddon to the Chicago Cubs.
So, it remains to be seen which teams’ moves will pay off. It certainly seems like it could be anybody’s year.