Saturday, February 15, 2014

2014 American League East Preseason Preview

***The Division Preview that follows is not betting advice in any way shape or form.  Please do not bet any money based in any part on these predictions.***

Boston Red Sox
Who's New:  
A.J. Pierzynski (C) free agent from Rangers,
Jonathan Herrera (IF) trade from Rockies
Tommy Layne (RP) free agent from Padres,
Burke Badenhop (RP) trade from Brewers,
Edward Mujica (RP) free agent from Cardinals,
Chris Resop (RP) free agent from Athletics
Who Left:  
Jacoby Ellsbury (OF) free agent to Yankees,
Jarrod Saltalamachia (C) free agent to Marlins,
John McDonald (IF) free agent to Angels
Jonathan Diaz (IF) free agent to Blue Jays
Stephen Drew (SS) unsigned free agent
 Quintin Berry (OF) free agent to Orioles,
Jose Contreras (RP) free agent to Rangers,
Franklin Morales (RP) trade to Rockies,
Alfredo Aceves (RP) Free agent to Orioles,
Matt Thornton (RP) waiver claim by Yankees
Brandon Lyon (RP) free agent to Angels
Andrew Bailey (RP) unsigned free agent
Joel Hanrahan (RP) unsigned free agent
Winter Headlines:  
How much will the line up be revamped after World Series win?
What to Expect?:
At the start of the offseason there were questions about how much different this team would be on opening day.  There were several big contributors to the World Series victory who were free agents.  The team did lose Stephen Drew (still unsigned as of this writing) Saltalamachia and Jacoby Ellsbury but they replaced Saltalamachia with the fiesty A.J. Pierzynski.  The starting rotation, which stepped up last year, has returned almost unchanged and Koji Uehara has become the closer that the Orioles had hoped they were getting when they signed him in 2009.  The Red Sox should be a strong contender again this year.  Until someone knocks them off the upper perch in this tight division Boston has to remain the favorite here.
Why Should You Root for These Guys?:
The Red Sox nation (and most of the baseball nation) fell in love with the 2003-2004 Red Sox team.  After watching them suffer through the loss of Aaron Boone's Home Run and overcoming the Yankees to win the World Series, the team that called themselves "a bunch of idiots" is beloved.  This team should be just as beloved.  Although few of the idiots remain this Red Sox group is a professional group.
Why Might This Season Not Turn Out the Way Red Sox Fans Want?:
The Sox will go as far as their pitching rotation will take them and that is the big question.  John Lester seems to be good for 15 or 16 wins every year.  Jake Peavey pitched well for the Sox but can he stay healthy all year?  Lackey is now 35 and although he had double digit wins last year, he also lost 13.  Bucholz had an amazing 12-1 record in only 16 games in 2013 but his arm continues to be a question.  Felix Doubront showed up big in the clutch and had a strong season but can he be consistent?  If the pitchers reach their potential as they did last year the Red Sox could repeat.
Don't Expect Too Much From Him:
David Ortiz had an unbelievable season last year, reaching the 30 HR, 100 RBI mark only a year after having only 23 HR and 60 RBI.  It is obvious the Red Sox success could not have happened without the magic moments Ortiz provided.  The question is how long can it go on. In his 20th professional season, Ortiz appears to still be going strong.  Expect Ortiz to provide leadership and to help Pedroia in guiding the ship but don't expect another 30 HR/100 RBI season.
Expect Great Things From:
Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz have become the face of the franchise.  Despite the magic of the 2004 "idiots" featuring Pedro, Manny, Varitek and Damon, it is Pedroia who has become the lasting monument of success in the Red Sox current run.  Pedroia has already won a Rookie of the Year and MVP award.  Expect him to continue playing at an MVP level.
Is This His Last Chance?:
A.J. Pierzynski is entering his 20th year in professional baseball.  He has been an All Star and a World Series champion.  After eight years in Chicago he moved to the Rangers last year and was a big reason the team made the playoffs.  After one year in the Texas heat A.J. has moved on to Boston with the World Champions.  As great as A.J. is father time has to catch up with him at some point.  Is this the time it happens?
Prediction: 1st in American League East

Tampa Bay Rays
Who's New: 
Ryan Hannigan (C) trade from Reds,
Logan Forsythe (IF) trade from Padres,
Jayson Nix (IF) free agent from Yankees
Wilson Betemit (3B) free agent from Orioles
Nathan Karns (SP) trade from Nationals
Mark Lowe (RP) free agent from Nationals,
Heath Bell (RP) trade from Diamondbacks,
Grant Balfour (RP) free agent from Athletics,
Brad Boxberger (RP) trade from Padres,
Who Left:
Kelly Johnson (IF) free agent to Yankees,
Ryan Roberts (IF) free agent to Cubs,
Luke Scott (DH) unsigned free agent
Jose Lobatan (C) trade to Nationals
Jason Bourgeois (OF) free agent to Reds,
Delmon Young (OF) Free agent to Orioles
Shelley Duncan (OF) free agent to Diamondbacks
Sam Fuld (OF) free agent to Athletics
Freddy Guzman (OF) free agent to Yankees
Roberto Hernandez (SP) free agent to Phillies,
Jesse Hahn (SP) trade to Padres,
Wesley Wright (RP) free agent to Cubs
Jamey Wright (RP) free agent to Dodgers,
Jesse Crain (RP) free agent to Astros,
Ramon Ramirez (RP) free agent to Mariners,
Alex Torres (RP) trade to Padres,
Fernando Rodney (RP) free agent to Mariners
Winter Headlines:  
What is the price for Price? (David Price was rumored to be on the trade block)
Meyers a Royal Pain (Wil Meyers, traded from the Royals for James Shields last winter, won Rookie of the Year while Kansas City missed the playoffs, again).
What to Expect?:
With this organization there is nothing to do but wait and see what happens.  Every year you can look at this team and say they have lost too many key players to compete with the big guys and yet every year they are right there at the end.  They still have key players like Loney, Longoria, Price and rookie of the year Wil Meyers but they have done little to improve.
Why Should You Root for These Guys?:
When you talk about underdogs this organization is the definition.  No money.  Sporadic fan support (the die hard fans are truly amazing but there don't seem to be enough of them in the area).Constantly losing key players to other teams.  Yet somehow Joe Madden is always managing to find a way to stay in the playoff race.  If you like rooting for the little guy you will never make a better choice than this team.
Why Might This Season Not Turn Out the Way Rays Fans Want?:
The Rays always seem to find a way to stay competitive but if your team is not willing to spend at the right time (ask Orioles fans) it makes it difficult to win.  If the Rays want to finally get over the hill and win it all they may need to take on salary, something ownership has been reluctant to do in the past.
Don't Expect Too Much From Him:
Grant Balfour is returning to Tampa Bay, where he helped the Rays in their World Series push in 2008.  After several successful years in Oakland as the team's closer he is returning home.  Balfour is intense on the mound and, as we saw against the Tigers in the playoffs last year, he can get himself into some trouble.  Balfour certainly is an improvement over the option of Heath Bell as the closer but don't expect the season that Fernando Rodney had a few years ago.  Don't forget the Orioles passed on Balfour after a physical.  Balfour says the shoulder, which has caused problems for him in the past, is fine.  The Orioles said they were concerned about the shoulder but the knee was the real problem.
Expect Great Things From:
There have been three key pieces of this team since the start of their playoff run in 2008 and you can always count on great things from all of them:  Longoria, Price and Maddon.  As long as these three are together you can never count this team out.
Is This His Last Chance?:
Heath Bell was, at one point, the best closer in the game.  That was in San Diego with a bad team.  He moved to Miami for the big bucks and was immediately in a controversy with manager Ozzie Guillen.  The change of scenery last year was supposed to help but Bell was not able to regain the magic that gave him three straight 40 save seasons.  Rays fans should expect Bell to contribute but don't expect 40 saves.
Prediction: 2nd in American League East

New York Yankees
Who's New: 
Yamaico Navarro (IF) free agent from Orioles, 
Kelly Johnson (IF) free agent from Rays,
Brian McCann (C) free agent from Braves, 
Brian Roberts (2B) free agent from Orioles, 
Scott Sizemore (2B) free agent from Athletics,
Jacoby Ellsbury (OF) free agent from Red Sox,
Carlos Beltran (OF) free agent from Cardinals, 
Masahiro Tanaka (SP) free agent from Japan,
Robert Coello (RP) free agent from Angels, 
Matt Thornton (RP) free agent from Red Sox,
Chris Leroux (RP) free agent from Pirates
Who Left:
Reid Brignac (SS) free agent to Phillies,
Robinson Cano (2B) free agent to Mariners, 
Chris Stewart (C) trade to Pirates,
David Adams (IF) free agent to Indians,
Brent Lillibridge (IF) free agent to Rangers, 
Alberto Gonzalez (IF) free agent to Padres
Kevin Youkilis (3B) free agent to Japan, 
Mark Reynolds (3B) free agent to Brewers
Luis Cruz (IF) released
Travis Hafner (DH) unsigned free agent
Curtis Granderson (OF) free agent to Mets, 
 Melky Mesa (OF) free agent to Royals,
Brennan Boesch (OF) free agent to Angels
Fernando Martinez (OF) free agent to Astros
Vernon Wells (OF) released
Andy Pettite (SP) retired, 
Phil Hughes (P) free agent to Twins, 
David Huff (SP) traded to Giants, 
Jayson Nix (OF) free agent to Rays, 
Lyle Overbay (OF) free agent to Brewers, 
Mariano Rivera (P) retired,
Mike Zagurski (RP) free agnt to Indians,
Joba Chamberlain (P) free agent to Tigers,
Boone Logan (RP) free agent to Rockies,
Chris Bootcheck (RP) free agent to Phillies,
Winter Headlines:  
No Mo, Pettite.  (Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettite retire)
Jeter says his legs are rested.  (Derek Jeter says he is ready to come back)
How's first, who's at second, I don't know's at third. (Teixeira is recovering from an injury, Cano is gone and A-Rod is suspended for the season.  The delay in reaching the decision made it difficult to find a third baseman replacement)
What to Expect?:
Yankees fans should keep their expectations low for this season but stay excited for the near future.  The addition of Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran will certainly help an offense that struggled last year.  The problem this year is the number of questions that remain.  The biggest question is the infield but the rotation and bull pen are questionable as well.  Sabathia struggled last year and there have been concerns that his velocity is down.  Kuroda is getting older and although he is a great pitcher his won-loss record is not that great.  Only once in his career has he had a winning record (16-11 in 2012).  The team spent huge money on Tanaka but there is no guarantee that he will be able to adjust to the new surroundings.  True, the Yankees have added a lot of big names but with each one comes a question. The health of McCann and Ellsbury is unsure and the team seems to be overloaded with outfielders and overloaded with questions in the infield.  With five outfielders (Gardner, Ichiro, Beltran, Soriano and Ellsbury) that means someone will be on the bench.  For star players used to playing every day this could turn out to be a disaster.  On top of all of this is the hovering presence of Alex Rodriguez.  A-Rod swears he will be at Spring Training to work out with the team, continuing the distraction he has already caused.
Why Should You Root for These Guys?:
This is not the evil empire.  This is a group of guys who are likable, professional and many are veterans looking to win their first World series.  Ichiro, Beltran, and McCann have all come close before but have never been able to make it over the hill.  Jeter, clearly near the end of a legendary career, would like nothing more than to win another title.
Why Might This Season Not Turn Out the Way Yankees Fans Want?:
The biggest question is the infield.  With an over crowded outfield (Soriano, Carlos Beltran, Ichiro,Brent Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury) will the Yankees employ a defensive shift of six outfielders and Jeter at Short?
Don't Expect Too Much From Him:
Mark Texeira is clearly one of the best First Basemen (and defensively is probably the best) when he is healthy.  The past two seasons have been frustrating for Tex as he has battled through wrist problems that caused him to miss considerable time.  The rumor is that the surgery he had to repair a wrist tendon was a success and it would be nice to see him perform at full strength.  The best approach is to take a wait and see attitude before you pencil him in for an MVP.
Expect Great Things From:
Nothing that Derek Jeter does will surprise me again.  I will be honest, I don't like the Yankees.  To be even more honest, for a very long time I hated Derek Jeter.  I used to feel that he was over rated, over hyped by the New York media and not the legend he was built up to be.  And I will admit that I was 100% wrong.  Derek Jeter is one of the classiest players this sport has seen in years.  He may have had a lot of success at a very young age but he was succcessful because he is one of the hardest working people in sports.  Jeter was the first Yankee to get 3000 hits.  He has never won an MVP.  He has made 13 All Star Games, won five gold gloves, five silver slugger awards and been one of the great ambassadors of the sport.  None of that matters to Jeter.  The only number that matters to Jeter is 6.  He has won five World Series titles.  The only thing he focuses on when he is on the field is the fact that he hasn't gotten number 6 yet.
Prediction: 3rd in AL East

Baltimore Orioles
Who's New:  
Johnny Monell (C) trade from Giants,
Jemile Weeks (2B) trade from A's,
Chris Marrero (1B) free agent from Nationals,
Alex Gonzalez (IF) free agent from Brewers
Quintin Berry (OF) free agent from Red Sox,
Xavier Paul (OF) free agent from Reds,
Delmon Young (OF) free agent from Rays
Aaron Laffey (SP) free agent from Brewers
Brad Brach (RP) free agent from Padres,
Edgmer Escalona (RP) free agent from Rockies,
Francisco Paguero (RP) free agent from Giants,
Ryan Webb (RP) free agent from Marlins.
Who Left: 
Dan Johnson (1B) free agent to Blue Jays,
Alex Liddi (1B) free agent to White Sox,
Yamaico Navarro (IF) free agent to Yankees,
Brian Roberts (2B) free agent to Yankees,
Chris Snyder (C) free agent to Nationals,
Tyler Teagarden (C) free agent to Mets,
Wilson Betemit (3B) free agent to Rays
Nate McLouth (OF) free agent to Nationals,
Michael Morse (OF) free agent to Giants,
Jason Priddie (OF)free agent to Rockies,
Chris Dickerson (OF) free agent to Pirates
Jairo Asencio (P) free agent to White Sox,
Scott Feldman (P) free agent to Astros,
Jason Hammel (SP) free agent to Cubs
Jim Johnson (RP) trade to A's,
Francisco Rodriguez (RP) free agent to Brewers
John Rauch (RP) free agent to Royals
Winter Headlines:  
Johnson traded. Balfour walks away from deal. K-Rod goes back to Milwaukee. Who will close?
The Brian Roberts era ends. (Longest tenured Oriole goes to the evil empire)
What to Expect?: 
I try to stay neutral when I write about baseball but as an Orioles fan I am sure that my bias comes through on occassion.  In the interest of being objective I will tell you this: this team could be really bad. It would be difficult to say you should have high hopes this year.  The thing that benefits the Orioles is the fact that the rest of the division is not great.  The Orioles offense is powerful with Wieters, Jones, Davis and Machado.  The rotation (theoretically) is set for the first four spots with Mike Gonzales, Chris Tillman, Bud Norris and Wei Yin Chen. The team is hopeful that Dylan Bundy will blossom into an ace but that is yet to be seen and how much he will contribute this season is questionable.  The question of who will close games also becomes a major issue as well after the debacle of the offseason.  Although this is not a terrible team, if the starting pitching does not come through this will not be a contending team and things could get very ugly very quickly.
Why Should You Root for These Guys?:
Orioles fans have suffered for a long time. (Trust me on this one). Since the departure of Cal Ripken there have been few bright spots in the lives of Orioles fans.  The 2012 playoff run was amazing but the fall off last year was disappointing. This core group of Orioles players (Jones, Wieters, Markakis and Machado) are excellent players and deserve to join the Orioles list of legends some day.
Why Might This Season Not Turn Out the Way Orioles Fans Want?:
Although the organization, under the previous leadership of Andy McPhail, did a good job of building this organization, they seem to fail in getting the team the help they need when they need it.  The hall mark of the great Orioles teams was always great pitching.  The pitching staff is now the weak link.  If the Orioles do not get a legitimate leader for the rotation and a solid closer they will likely fall to the bottom of the division.
Don't Expect Too Much From Him:
Manny Machado had an amazing start to his career.  As a late season call up in 2012 he was a big reason for the Orioles playoff appearance.  Last year I told you not to expect too much from him because I feared he would not be able to live up to the glimpses we saw. I was wrong.  He was spectacular all year until he got injured.  Machado is working towards recovery but a recently published article said he may have to learn to run again.  Machado may not have much of an impact on the season if he does not recover.
Expect Great Things From:
Adam Jones is one of the best Centerfielders in the game but playing in Baltimore he sometimes gets overshadowed.  Orioles fans know how good he is and hopefully the rest of the country will soon pick up on it.  Jones has continuously grown as a player and as a clubhouse leader.
Is This His Last Chance?:
Buck Showalter is managing his fourth team.  He started with the Yankees in 1992 and led them to the playoffs in 1995.  He was then fired after the playoffs and the Yankees went on to win four out of five World Series.  Showalter moved on to the Diamodbacks and helped create that organization managing the team for the first three years.  He left at the end of 2000 and the Diamondbacks won the 2001 World Series.  He moved on to Texas and managed four years there.  Showalter appears to have a shelf life of about four years.  He is now starting his fifth year (fourth full year) with the Orioles.  There are rumors that he has become slightly upset with the ownership over what he perceives as their lack of aggressiveness in the free agent market and unwillingness to spend the money that the competition is willing to spend.  Showalter may run out of patience.
Prediction: 4th in AL East

Toronto Blue Jays
Who's New?: 
Dan Johnson (1B) free agent from Orioles,
Erik Kratz (C) trade from Phillies,
Dionner Navarro (C) free agent from Cubs,
Chris Getz (2B) free agent from Royals,
Who Left: 
Ramon Hernandez (C) free agent to Royals
Mark DeRosa (2B) retired,
J.P. Arencibia (C) free agent to Rangers,
Rajai Davis (OF) free agent to Blue Jays,
Ryan Langerhans (OF) unsigned free agent
Josh Johnson (SP) free agent to Padres,
Chien Ming Wan (SP) free agent to Reds,
Ramon Ortiz (SP) unsigned free agent
Brad Lincoln (RP) trade to Phillies,
Justin Germano (RP) free agent to Rangers
Darren Oliver (RP) unsigned free agent
What to Expect?:
In last year's preview I told you that it was possible the Jays made too many changes at once to be able to win immediately.  I still feel that this (along with key injuries) was the key reason Toronto struggled.  A year ago the Jays made some major trades for some major names and had high expectations.  Most of those names are back this year and have had a year to work together.  Jays fans should be cautiously optimistic for a playoff run since this division is so close.  Realistically though the team may not have enough to compete.
Why Should You Root for These Guys?:
This is a likable group of players, some of whom have been in Toronto for a very long time.  Jays fans have seen Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Brett Lawrie grow over the last few years and the Jays organization is clearly putting all of their efforts into putting a competitive team on the field.  They went for broke last season and went broke but they appear to believe in those moves and we will have to see if it works better this year.
Why Might This Season Not Turn Out the Way Blue Jays Fans Want?:
This was still a last place team last year.  As hard as the ownership has tried to put a winner on the field, last year was a disaster.  Buehrle, Johnson and Dickey were not what was expected and Bautista's injury plagued year was unfortunate.  This division is extremely close but the Jays and Orioles are on the outside looking in.
Don't Expect Too Much From Him:
R.A. Dickey had a great 2012 season but 2013 was not a good follow up.  You can expect Dickey to make solid contributions but don't expect another Cy Young.
Expect Great Things From:
Jose Bautista has quietly become one of the best hitters in the game.  If Bautista stays healthy expect him to lead this team.  The Jays will fly as high as Bautista's health allows.
Is This His Last Chance?:
Mark Buehrle has been one of the best pitchers of the last fifteen years but his last few years have been below his normal expectations.  Granted, he had last place teams behind him but he is also in his mid 30's.
Prediction: 5th in AL East

*-Please be aware that these predictions are based on the rosters as set in the middle of February.  There are still several key free agents unsigned which could alter these previews.  Also, injuries during spring training could alter my outlook.  Check back next week for the AL Central Preview and continue following to see my final predictions at the start of the season.

Major League Baseball went to a divisional format to start the 1969 season.  From 1969 through 1993 there were two divisions (East and West) in each league.  From 1994 to the present there have been three divisions (East, Central, West) in each league.  How many times has the World Series Champion come out of the American League East?

Answer to Last Week's Trivia Question:
Congratulations to Hope and partial credit to TJD on last week's trivia question.
When Jimmy Fallon revived the Abbott and Costello characters they were played by Jerry Seinfeld and Billy Crystal.


  1. Love the presentation format. Very professional.
    Did you know that Quintin Berry played for Reading?
    Tampa; What a turnover of a roster.Even though Tampa is not one of my favorite AL teams( I root for the tigers and Orioles) when Tampa is in the playoffs I root for them. IMO Maddon is the best manager in baseball. It is amazing how Tampa turns out good teams year after year.
    One of the individuals I will watch during this season will be Grant Balfour and his health.
    The other individual I will watch is Doug Fister with Washington. Dave Dombrowski has made many good moves. Will this be one of his bad trades?

    My guess on the trivia is 7. 5 for the Yankees and 2 for the Red Sox.


    1. I'm glad you like the new format this year. Check back for my take on the Fister move next week with the AL Central preview. To clarify the trivia question. I was looking for the total number of World Series victories for the AL East between 1969- present. This would include teams who were in the AL when they won but don't necessarily still have to be in there now.

  2. It'll be interesting to see what happens this season. I'm going to guess 8 for the trivia question.


Have questions about something in this or a former post? Have a suggestion for a future post? Want more information on a specific team, player, season or game? I welcome the feedback, so feel free to leave a comment in the box or email me at baseballeras (at) gmail (dot) com.