March 13, 2019
By Erin Burkert
Five Major Things To Know About Each AL East Team Before The Season Starts
New York Yankees
1. Adding Paxton, Ottavino, Tulowitzki and LeMahieu.
These additions are monumentally important for the Yankees. Tulo adds the need for a Shortstop while Didi is out, and the Yankees stole him at league minimum while the Blue Jays are paying the rest of his almost 40 million dollar contract. LeMahieu adds infield depth, and a contact hitter that the Yankees desperately needed. Paxton is showing to be a huge addition with the injuries to Severino and CC, which give the Yankees a solid pitcher in the rotation, and might have been their best move of the off season.Lastly, with the signing of Ottavino, he furthers the depth of a loaded bullpen.
2. Andujar IS the Third Baseman
There was a lot of speculation this off-season about the Yankees and Manny Machado, and the possibility of a hold out for next year with Arenado, before his extension was signed. It was cemented though that Andujar will be the third baseman, iffy defense and all.
3. Redemption Year For Sanchez?
Gary Sanchez spent most of last year either in a slump, or on the DL. What does this year have in store for him? Can he bounce back from a .186 average? His production is an integral part of this teams success going forward.
4. Who is the First Baseman?
This will play into the 2019 season, and the battle for first base is a close one between Greg Bird and Luke Voit. Who wins the job? What happens to the person who doesn’t win the job? Triple A or trade bait? This is a critical decision for the Yankees to make because it seems like whoever they pick is a gamble.
CC, Gardner, and Britton are all very important signings, as well as the extensions given to Hicks and to Severino. CC and Gardner are for obvious reasons great signings for the clubhouse and veteran leadership on what is still a young team. Britton has a great arm to keep this bullpen deep and dangerous. Hicks and Severino secure the Yankees future for years to come, and all of these were very safe moves by the Yankees.
Boston Red Sox
1. Goodbye Kimbrel?
Kimbrel still sits on the free agent market, which leaves the Red Sox without an integral piece. The talk all postseason long was this idea to “Bridge to Kimbrel”, so what is this bullpen without him?
2. Steven Wright Suspended
Just talking about the issues with the Red Sox bullpen, Steven Wright was one of their better pitchers in the pen, and his 80 game suspension for PED’s doesn’t help the team in any way, shape or form. Does this weaken an already troubled bullpen?
3. Can Mookie and JD Repeat?
Mookie Betts and JD Martinez had MVP seasons last year, maybe one of a kind seasons. The question is can they repeat the performance? Does their change in production change the whole team? Their change in production is going to be a huge mark for the Red Sox this season.
4. Eovaldi and Pearce
The first signings the Red Sox made seem to be no brainers. Utility man Steve Pearce, and not to mention Yankee killer, was a fantastic re-signing for the Red Sox. And Nathan Eovaldi was huge for them down the stretch and in the postseason and is a great signing for them as well. These may have been the most important moves the Red Sox made this off season and guarantee to be game changers.
5. Dustin Pedroia?
Can he get back on the field? Can he make an actual difference for the Red Sox this year? He’s a big question mark as the season approaches. The question is not only how will he produce when he comes back, but also can he come back and play everyday? If not, will we be seeing Nunez play a lot of second base again? This is a huge question mark for the team.
Tampa Bay Rays
1. Signing Avisail Garcia
Garcia, a more experienced player, but not old by any means, was an all-star in 2017 and had a career average of .321. A good signing for the Rays to make them a solid team in 2019.
2. Joey Wendle
Joey Wendle took all of baseball by surprise last year and became a real topic of conversation in ROY voting. Unfortunately in a class of rookies that included Torres, Andujar and Ohtani, it left him in 4th place, but his performance in the upcoming year as an up and coming player might make a real difference for the Rays.
Are the Rays still going to use openers? As an effective technique as it was last season for them, it will be interesting if they deploy an entire season of this plus Snell in some ways. And hey, it worked. Every time you thought you would get somewhere, the pitcher changed, and the rally was stopped. Kevin Cash went as far as to switch a pitcher in as a 3rd baseman as to go back and forth between left handed and right handed pitchers, and that is smart and interesting to witness. This could be a huge factor in 2019.
4. Are the Rays Competing, Rebuilding, or Tanking?
Last year the season seemed all but lost for the Rays as they traded away Archer and Eovaldi. Next thing you knew they were a real playoff contender. So are they competing? Or similar to the “rebuilding” Yankees of 2017? I think we can see the Rays as a real competing baseball team this year.
5. Kevin Cash
Cash was almost manager of the year, and managed a team from playoffs to almost contention. His role that he plays in the team will be huge this year and going forward as a new analytical manager.
Toronto Blue Jays
1. Vlad Jr.
Will the Blue Jays finally bring him up and let him play? As a team that is most likely tanking in some form or rebuilding, why not bring up a young star of a player to bring the fans out to the ballpark? This might become a reality this year.
2. Rebuilding Year
It was made clear last year as players were dealt, that this was going to be a year to rebuild for the Blue Jays. The Blue Jays will more than likely not be competitive in the division this year, but may have some young stars to flash.
3. Veteran Players?
So what does this mean for the veteran players like Morales, Pillar, Estrada and even Stroman? Is this a sign that they can all be dealt by the trade deadline? If this is truly a rebuild, you might see some interesting names on the market from the Blue Jays as the season progresses.
4. Acquisition of Freddy Galvis
They did pick up Freddy Galvis as a shortstop and maybe to be veteran leadership in a rebuild. This also links closely to the fact that they paid Tulowitzki to go – because they did not believe he could play anymore. Galvis is an interesting signing amid tanking.
5. New Manager Charlie Montoyo
It was evident that Gibbons would not be returning during the mid to end of the season last year, and a new manager always adds some change to a team. He came after being the bench coach for Tampa Bay, which is very interesting as it poses the question; will they be bullpenning? It also makes him highly familiar with the AL East, which is a clear advantage.
1. Tanking Again?
Last year the Orioles season was dismal, and not because they planned it to be. This year they have new young faces, and it seems are in the course of a rebuild. So will the Orioles be any better this year? Time will tell, but it’s likely they will not be real competition in the division.
2. Veteran Leadership?
It’s important in all rebuilds to have some sort of veteran leadership on a team, even if its a player or two. With Adam Jones electing free agency, and most of the rest of the team traded away, is there much leadership left on the team to make it go forward? Something to look at as the season goes on.
3. Chris Davis?
His signing may be the biggest mis-step ever made by a baseball team so it seems. Hes owed 23 million a year for five more seasons, and his production is less than stellar, as he hit .168 in 2018. It would be very interesting to see if he can produce, and if not, if they will try and find someone to take his contract in a trade.
4. New Manager Brandon Hyde
The Orioles new Manager, the first base coach of the 2016 World Series Champion Cubs, will be a interesting development as the season goes on. The team is in a rebuild, with a new young manager ready to take them through it. Who knows what we may see from the Orioles this year, but I can tell you he will probably be much different from good old Buck Showalter.
5. New GM Mike Elias
This is a huge move for Baltimore, as Elias was the assistant GM for the Astros, a team that just went through a rebuild and built a championship shortly after. We may be seeing some big moves by the Orioles in seasons to come that may make them a competing ball club again.
As we get into the 2019 MLB season, I will have plenty of more insight for you including some StatementGames picks to help you with your daily picks.