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2024 MLB Division Preview: American League East

The American League East division is always an exciting race to watch, and it does not seem it'll be any different this upcoming season. Opening Day is just a few days away, on Thursday, and with it comes all the hope and promise of everyone starting fresh at 0-0 (well, except the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres, who got the season started early in the Seoul Series). After the Baltimore Orioles surprised everybody and won the division last season, and the New York Yankees missed the postseason for the first time since 2016, who knows what's in store for 2024? Let's dive right into the team-by-team breakdown and where they will finish. 

5th Place - Boston Red Sox (69-93) 

The Red Sox are the only team in this division that won't be involved in the bloodbath for first place. They are like the little brother watching his older brothers beat each other up. Boston barely made any moves this offseason, and their biggest one in signing former Chicago White Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito to a two-year contract has not worked out already. Giolito suffered an injury during spring training and underwent an internal brace procedure to repair the UCL in his right elbow. He's to miss the entire first year of his contract. 

Outside of that, the Red Sox have not gone after many other free agents on the market. They did sign right-hander Chase Anderson on Sunday after he was released from his minor league deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates earlier in the day, but that doesn't move the needle. Anderson posted a 5.42 ERA, 1.425 WHIP, and 64 to 33 walks to strikeouts over 86 1/3 innings between the Tampa Bay Rays and Colorado Rockies in 19 games. Anderson will likely be in a long reliever role for Boston. 

The only other significant move that the Red Sox made this offseason was trading Chris Sale to the Atlanta Braves for middle infielder Vaughn Grissom, who was set to be their everyday second baseman. But he suffered a groin strain early in spring training and won't be ready for Opening Day. Still, Grissom has six years of team control left, so the 26-year-old is set to be part of the young core moving forward. This team will lean on their youngsters and look towards the future. The bad news for Red Sox fans is that even the pitching in the farm system needs to be improved. They have the position player pieces, led by shortstop Marcelo Mayer, but the pitching is virtually nonexistent. 

4th Place - Tampa Bay Rays (87-75)

This is where things get interesting, and the following four teams can be ordered in any way. The Rays finished just behind the Orioles for the division title last season at 99-63 after they fought it out all year. It's hard not to see a substantial dropoff, especially after trading Tyler Glasnow to the Los Angeles Dodgers - although they received a substantial return in Ryan Pepiot. None of the current rotation pieces have as much dependability or upside as Glasnow or Shane McClanahan, who will be out for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery last summer. 

Tampa Bay is right with the Red Sox in not making many moves outside of the Glasnow trade. They also could have improved the bottom of their lineup, which looks very shaky right now. The top of the lineup comprises Yandy Diaz, Brandon Lowe, Randy Arozarena, and Harold Ramirez, who are very good. However, the bottom third of Richie Palacios, Jose Siri, Jose Caballero, and Rene Pinto need to be more credible and proven, which will make or break this team. The absence of McClanahan, Jeffrey Springs, and Drew Rasmussen as they recover from various elbow surgeries will hamper the rotation. The other three teams above the Rays in the division all have questions of their own but are just a slight tier above Tampa Bay right now and have more depth. 

3rd Place - Toronto Blue Jays (89-73)

The Blue Jays didn't move the needle much this offseason either, which is why it's a good bet to have them finish with the same record as last season. Toronto made the playoffs as a wild card but was swept by the Minnesota Twins in the Wild Card series. They added a few pieces in the offseason, but none that makes them a serious contender, such as Shohei Ohtani, who they were in on. Well, to be fair, who wasn't?

Instead of Ohtani or Juan Soto, the Jays got an aging although still dependable Justin Turner, super utility Isiah Kiner-Falefa (for $15 million, by the way???), and one-dimensional Daniel Vogelbach. Ouch. IKF has at least some value in playing multiple positions around the diamond, is a contact-hitting machine, and has wheels on the basepaths. He could help fill out the bottom lineup and give Toronto options. Turner has a chance to hit 25-plus homers with the shorter wall in left field at Rogers Centre and does an excellent job of putting bat to ball with solid bat speeds. With George Springer, Bo Bichette, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hitting in front of him, Turner should get plenty of chances to hit with runners on base and put up solid numbers. However, Springer will need to bounce back for this team to bring it all together, as he had a mediocre season last year (102 OPS+). 

Staying healthy will also be essential for Springer and the rest of the squad. 

As far as the pitching goes, it can either be very good or terrible with a group of pitchers - Jose Berrios, Chris Bassitt, Yusei Kikuchi, Kevin Gausman, and Alek Manoah once he is healthy - being give or take as you don't know what you are going to get with any of them. The Blue Jays have a roster construction to stay right in the mix and stay afloat in both the divisional and wild card races, but ultimately, they fall short of making the playoffs. 

2nd Place - New York Yankees (90-72)

The 2023 season for the Yankees was very disappointing by their standards, as they missed the postseason for the first time since 2016. Virtually everyone outside of Cy Young winner Gerrit Cole, Aaron Judge when he didn't run into an outfield wall, and Gleyber Torres had very disappointing seasons. Now, the Yankees return the same team besides the massive addition of superstar slugger Juan Soto. The same problems in the lineup could only persist with Soto if guys like Giancarlo Stanton, Anthony Rizzo, and Anthony Volpe stepped up offensively. 

On the mound, the Yankees will be without their ace for at least the first month or two, as Cole suffered an elbow injury in spring training. Aaron Boone named youngster Luis Gil as the fifth starter to open the season in Cole's absence. The 25-year-old made his MLB debut in 2021 and posted a 3.06 ERA in six starts before undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2022. The right-hander has a great shot at sticking in the rotation if he keeps up what he posted in spring: a 2.31 ERA with 18 strikeouts in 11 2/3 innings. The rest of the rotation to begin the season is Nestor Cortes, Carlos Rodon, Marcus Stroman, and Clarke Schmidt, which, putting it lightly, is a tad concerning. 

The current rotation could use an extra arm, perhaps Jordan Montgomery? Even with Cole healthy, this doesn't look great. Cole did it all himself last season, and now the Yankees can't rely on that to begin the 2024 season. The Yankees have something to prove and aren't going to go down without a fight for a second straight season. They battle it out with the O's all season before settling for a wild card. 

1st Place - Baltimore Orioles (92-70)

After winning 101 games last season, some digression is undoubtedly in store for the Orioles. But with the team they've built and the fact that they got so much experience last year, it seems like it will be a little. That's also without mentioning that baseball's top prospect, Jackson Holliday, will make his MLB debut reasonably early in the season. There is some concern with the rotation as Kyle Bradish (elbow strain) and John Means (elbow soreness beginning at the end of 2023) are both starting the season on the injured list. However, the Orioles recently said that both starters are expected to be ready early in the first half. 

Baltimore also made a massive move as they traded for Corbin Burnes from the Milwaukee Brewers to bolster the rotation. Burnes and Grayson Rodriguez could be a filthy duo at the top of the rotation to start the season before the other reinforcements return. The offense has a lot of firepower, including the young and the old guards, including Adley Rutschman, Gunnar Henderson, Cedric Mullins, Ryan Mountcastle, and Austin Hays. It is a dangerous team that is only getting better. There will be October baseball at Camden Yards in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1996 and 1997, as the O's win back-to-back division titles. 

Image Credit: From Getty Images


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