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American League

2018 Season Preview: AL East

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New York Yankees

The Yankees surpassed expectations last season and came within one game of the World Series.  GM Brian Cashman made arguably the biggest move of the offseason by acquiring NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton from the Miami Marlins for Starlin Castro and prospects.  The other big offseason decision made by Cashman was replacing long-time manager Joe Girardi with broadcaster and former player Aaron Boone.

newsday.com

The baseball world knows about the years that Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez had last season, but Didi Gregorius turned out a tremendous offensive year as well.  Luis Severino turned into the ace that those in the Yankees front office expected him to be.

  • Team Strength: Bullpen

The Yankees have many strengths, but the depth in the bullpen is what sets them apart from the rest of baseball.  The Yankees have an abundance of power arms including Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, and Chad Green.  Cashman added former Yankee David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle during last season from the White Sox.

The Kansas City Royals started the trend of establishing dominant bullpens as the blueprint to success in baseball.  The Yankees bullpen will be the reason they win well into October.

  • Team Weakness: Managerial Inexperience

The Yankees do not have many glaring weaknesses on the roster.  Back of starting rotation depth could become an issue, but the organization has a plethora of young talent at its disposal should the team decide to make a mid-season upgrade.  Manager Aaron Boone has no coaching experience and is making the transition to managing straight from the broadcast booth.

Boone’s background as a player and his family pedigree in the game should prepare him for the grind of managing in New York.  However, there is no substitute for experience.

  • 2018 Outlook: 1st in AL East

New York is one of the most complete team’s in MLB, and a division title is certainly in the cards for the Yankees.  The lineup and strength of the bullpen will take them deep into October.

Boston Red Sox

The Sox’s 2017 Season was basically a repeat of their 2016 Season: Great regular season combined with an early postseason exit.  The Red Sox finished last in the AL in home runs in 2017 and failing to replace David Ortiz could be attributed to the problem.  President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski negotiated well into February with free agent, slugger J.D. Martinez to fill the void left by Ortiz’s retirement.

The Red Sox felt a managerial change was needed to right the ship.  Astros Bench Coach Alex Cora was brought in to replace John Farrell.  Boston hopes Cora’s player’s manager approach will help carry the Red Sox beyond the first round.  Boston’s unquestioned leader Dustin Pedroia will continue to lead Boston into battle.  Closer Craig Kimbrel still remains as one of the league’s best and fortifies an underrated bullpen that finished 2nd in baseball with a 3.15 ERA.

  • Team Strength: Talented, Young Position Players

The Red Sox have a real chance to rebound offensively in 2018 thanks in part to their young core.  All-Stars Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts are under 25 and should continue to produce offensively.  Last season’s newcomers Andrew Benintendi and Rafael Devers shined bright in their rookie campaigns.  This core of talent will be the reason the Red Sox have sustained success for years to come.

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  • Team Weakeness: Starting Pitching Consistency

The Red Sox can expect another great year from Chris Sale and the team had a starting pitcher ERA that finished in the top 10 of MLB.  Drew Pomeranz had a fine year last season. However, the Sox need more consistency from there two former Cy Young winners David Price and Rick Porcello.  Both players have had up and down careers so far as Red Sox.  If Price and Porcello can have strong seasons the Sox can win the division.

  • 2018 Outlook: 2nd in AL East, WC birth

The Red Sox have the talent to challenge the Yankees and lose the label as underachievers, but whether it happens or not remains to be seen.

Toronto Blue Jays

The window for winning a World Series seems to be all but closed for Canada’s team.   John Gibbons bunch significantly underachieved last season after reaching two straight ALCS in 2015 and 2016.  Toronto appears to be a team that is caught in between contending and rebuilding.  The Jays have replaced popular players like Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista with less expensive players like Kendrys Morales and Curtis Granderson.

Superstar Josh Donaldson headlines (for at least one more season) a lineup that has the potential to be productive.  Justin Smoak blossomed into an All-Star last season.  Toronto acquired former prospect Randal Grichuk from the Cardinals in the offseason, and with Kevin Pillar have the makings of a tremendous defensive outfield.  The Blue Jays are hoping for anything…anything from $20 million a year shortstop Troy Tulowitzki.  He will once again start the year on the disabled list.

MLB.com

  • Team Strength: Starting Pitching

Toronto features a solid starting staff.  Former 20-game winner J.A. Happ gets the Opening Day start against the Yankees.  Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman are a talented, young duo but health is always the issue with both.  Marco Estrada had a solid 2nd half after a rocky start to 2017.  Jaime Garcia was added to be the fifth starter.  If Toronto were to contend in 2018 the starting rotation would be a major reason for their success.

  • Team Weakness: Bullpen

The Jays had trouble in many facets of the game last season, but the bullpen seems least likely based on personnel.  The Jays had a bullpen ERA of 4.21 in 2017.  Even All-Star Roberto Osuna had an inconsistent stretch for Toronto last season.  The Blue Jays desperately need a rebound year from their pen especially with the quality starting pitching the team possess.

  • 2018 Outlook: 3rd in AL East

The Jays look headed for a rebuild after this season. Toronto has a pair of super prospects in Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette on the way so the Jays could return to contention sooner than later.

Baltimore Orioles

The O’s like the Jays saw a massive drop in wins last season.  The O’s fell behind the Yankees and Red Sox and late in the year and never really recovered. Manny Machado got off to uncharacteristically slow start offensively.  Dominant All-Star closer Zach Britton spent time on the DL during the season and ruptured his Achilles tendon in the offseason.  Baltimore saw Jonathan Scoop continue to progress toward stardom.  Schoop finished the season with 30 HR’s and over 100 RBI’s.

The Orioles spent the offseason mulling over whether or not to trade Manny Machado with free agency looming for the superstar at the conclusion of the 2018 Season.  Britton and Adam Jones are also free agents at season’s end.  Buck Showalter’s team could look significantly different after the trade deadline.

bleacherreport.com

  • Team Strength: Potent lineup

The Orioles finished 5th in MLB with 232 HR.  Baltimore once again sports a lineup that can mash.  Schoop, Machado, and Jones all return.  Trey Mancini had a good rookie season.  Mark Trumbo will miss some time with injury but is two years removed from 47 HR’s.  Chris Davis had a down year in 2017, yet still managed to club 26 dingers.  Power is never an issue with the O’s.

  • Team Weakness: Starting Pitching

However, the issue with the O’s as always is the starting pitching.  Baltimore’s starters finished the 2017 season with a 4.97 ERA.  Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy have big league stuff but have yet to find consistency at the Major League level.  The O’s are banking on Andrew Cashner to stay healthy and provide a boost.  Alex Cobb just agreed to a 4-year, $60 million deal with the team.  Cobb can hopefully provide the top of rotation consistency that has plagued the Orioles for years.

  • 2018 Outlook: 4th in AL East

The Orioles are a day late and a dollar short in the AL East.  The O’s should look for a decent return on Machado, Jones, and Britton come July 31st.

Tampa Bay Rays

Tampa started waving the proverbial white flag on the 2018 season just before the start of Spring Training.  The Rays shipped Jake Odorizzi to Minnesota, dealt Steven Souza to the D’Backs, and released Corey Dickerson over the duration of a weekend.  The team traded long-time face of the franchise Even Longoria to the San Francisco Giants last December.

The Rays were in the playoff race for much of the 2017 Season, so the dramatic dumping of talent screams payroll purge.  The Rays are in the process of trying to build a new stadium and have cited that as the primary reason for the purge.

Team Strength: Remaining assets

Chris Archer is one of the best pitchers in MLB.  He should command a hefty return when the time comes for the Rays to deal him.  Kevin Kiermaier is just 27 and has a very movable contract.  Tampa is making it very clear that no player on their roster is off limits.  This won’t make the fans happy, but at least they aren’t misrepresenting themselves.

si.com

  • Team Weakness: The Future

What happens to the Rays if the team cannot secure funding for a new stadium?  The team is not giving fans much hope or a reason to show up this season.  The Rays already have payroll and attendance issues.  The team weakness goes so much further than the on-field product.

  • 2018 Outlook: 5th in AL East

The bright side is they won’t be the worst baseball team in Florida.

American League

Rangers to Target Top Free Agents

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Jon Daniels

The Texas Rangers are entering the offseason with plans of targeting some of the top tier free agents that will be available.

Rangers’ general manager Jon Daniels made it clear that he was ready to bring the Rangers back as a major player in the free agent market.

“This year, we are going to look at everything,” Daniels said, according to the Dallas Morning News’ Evan Grant. “Our goal is to get better, period. There are a couple of spots more [available] than others. We have signed [top free agents] before and at some point I have to suspect we will again.”

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American League

Yankees’ Brian Cashman Talks Gerrit Cole, Offseason Plans

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Brian Cashman

The New York Yankees expect to be busy this offseason, as they usually are, and among the teams trying to lure Gerrit Cole to join their rotation.

Yankees’ general manager Brian Cashman discussed Cole, as well as the upcoming offseason for the Bronx Bombers.

According to SNY’s Andy Martino, Cashman says that the Yankees will engage with both Houston Astros hurler Gerrit Cole and World Series Champion Washington Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg.

However, Cashman added that the Yankees already have a significant amount of money on the books, according to Newsday’s Erik Boland.

Cashman added that the Yankees will also explore the trade market, much like they did last season when they acquired James Paxton from the Seattle Seahawks, according to the New York Times’ James Wagner.

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American League

Red Sox Dustin Pedroia Attempting Return in 2020

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Dustin Pedroia

Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia has reportedly given “every indication” that he intends to play in 2020 says new chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, according to MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith.

Pedroia, 36, underwent a mid-season knee procedure that had many questioning his career.

“Every indication I’ve gotten is he’s feeling good and intending on playing,” Bloom says of Pedroia. “I know he’s working really hard to make sure he’s in as good of shape as possible,” Bloom said.

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