For the past few weeks we’ve been previewing the 2014 season. Here, in handy one-stop-shopping form, is our package of previews from the American League East.
The Red Sox are the defending champs, so why does it feel like everyone’s sleeping on them? The Rays have always had the pitching and defense. Do they have some offense this year? The Yankees spent a boatload of money, but did they buy a playoff slot? The Orioles can beat the tar out of the ball, but can they keep the other guys from scoring? And the Blue Jays are trying a do-over of 2013. Will it work this time?
Below are our team-by-team previews for the AL East as well as our HBT Extra feature on the division:
Boston Red Sox
Tampa Bay Rays
New York Yankees
Toronto Blue Jays
Editor’s Note: Hardball Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $100,000 Fantasy Baseball league for Opening Day’s games (March 31). It’s $25 to join and first prize is $15,000. Starts at 1:05pm ET on Opening Day. Here’s the FanDuel link.
The Phillies have signed free agent outfielder Michael Saunders.
Saunders was an All-Star in 2016 due to his wonderful start, but he cratered in the second half of the season. Overall is numbers looked good — he hit 24 homers and posted a line of .253/.338/.478, but his second half line was .178/.282/.357 in 58 games. He’s not the best defender around either.
The Phillies could use him, however, and if he has another red hot first half, there’s a decent chance they could flip him if they wanted to.
It was first reported that the Blue Jays and Jose Bautista were close to a deal last night. Now Ken Rosenthal reports that the deal is near completion. It will likely a two-year contract in the $35-40 million range.
Bautista had a tough 2016, hitting .234/.366/.452 with 22 home runs and 69 RBI, and some clubs likely considered a long-term deal for the 36-year-old too risky, this leading to the relative lack of reported interest in Bautista by other clubs. But back-to-back ALCS appearances by the Jays and the success and popularity Bautista has experienced in Toronto make his re-signing there a pretty sensible move for all involved.
The Jays, who already lost Edwin Encarnacion to free agency, get their slugger back on a short term deal. Unlike anyone else, they don’t have to give up the draft pick attached to him via the qualifying offer. Bautista, in turn, will make, on average, more than he would’ve made on the qualifying offer if he would’ve accepted it and a raise over the $14 million he made in 2016.