The (AL) East is Wild

The American League East is in a interesting situation. For years, after all, there were some things that were for certain: The Yankees and Red Sox could be expected to come in first and second (sometimes flipping the order), the Blue Jays and sometimes Orioles would be a distant third, then the Orioles and Tampa would be taking the bottom two spots.
Then, suddenly, the Rays rose, becoming a factor. And so for the past few years, there were three teams in the AL East who could be expected to make a run at the playoffs.

And then came this past season, 2012, when everything went crazy. The Yankees still won, sure, but the Red Sox plummeted and the Orioles, despite the fact they were, on paper, maybe the fourth-best team in the division, ended up snagging a wild card spot. The Rays also were pretty good and made a good run at a playoff spot, and may well have gotten one if not for injuries.

But now, with the Red Sox again opening their checkbooks, and the Blue Jays having traded for basically every good player on the Marlins and now closing in on a deal for NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey, the question is… where is the weakness of the AL East?

None of the teams have gotten particularly worse- although the Yankees may not have signed anybody of note (save for Kevin Youkilis) and they have Alex Rodriguez out for the first half of the season, they can hardly be considered to have suddenly plunged into irrelevance.  The Orioles haven’t really added anybody, but they’ve only lost Mark Reynolds, and most of last season’s historic bullpen will remain. The Rays have lost James Shields, but any rotation that has David Price and a lineup that has Evan Longoria is going to cause plenty of havoc in the standings.

The two teams that have added the most people- the Red Sox and Blue Jays- still have plenty of question marks. In Boston, for example, John Farrell will have to prove that his less-than-stellar performance as skipper in Toronto wasn’t just a result of the players he had available and the tough schedule he had to play. Toronto will have to avoid the injuries that devastated their pitching staff last season and integrate a bunch of new players into the team, all while also having the return of John Gibbons as manager. Gibbons had a sometimes tumultuous stint as Blue Jays’ manager from 2004 to 2008, and his hiring was something of a head-scratcher.

What does it all mean? It means that the AL East is a wild division, one with no clear favorite or clear unfavorite. It should be an interesting season in 2013.

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