One of the biggest trades in Boston sports history is in its final stages. Mookie Betts is reportedly headed across the country to play for the Los Angeles Dodgers, and so is starting pitcher David Price. For the past few years, Betts has been not only one of the best players in the American League East, but in the entire league. Now that he’s leaving, there are a number of candidates to take that role as the top player in the division. Let’s start with the most obvious one, Aaron Judge.
He’s the face of the Yankees, and now may be the face of the AL East as well. Judge is coming off of a season in which he missed around 60 games due to injury, but was still able to post a 4.6 fWAR. In his rookie season, he hit the ground running by blasting 52 home runs and even got his own section in the Yankee Stadium seats. I’m not sure how many other players can say they have that on their resume. Judge has even been the top selling jersey in each of his three seasons in the league. He is beloved within the Yankees’ fan base, and is one of those players that is hard not to like. He respects the game and is someone kids can look up to as a role model. He’s obviously known for his power bat, but his defense is severely overlooked. With Betts out of the American League, Judge may be looking at his first Gold Glove after the conclusion of this upcoming season. With everything I’ve mentioned, Judge is definitely the favorite to rule the East with Betts’ departure as long as he can stay healthy.
From one Red Sox player to another? Martinez has been a force with Boston ever since signing there in 2018. He has accumulated a 9.1 fWAR over the course of the past two seasons, made two All-Star appearances, and finished fourth for MVP in 2018. The one knock on him has to be the fact that he doesn’t play the field very often. He played 57 games in the outfield two seasons ago, and just 39 last year. He typically serves as Boston’s DH, but he hits at such a high level that it doesn’t hurt his team all that much, especially with the defensive talent the Red Sox have in the outfield. With Betts on the move though, he may get more reps with his glove in 2020. If he’s able to do both exceptionally well, he could be the best player in the East moving forward. However, Martinez does have an opt-out at the end of the season. It will be interesting to see which way he decides to go.
After bursting onto the scene with the Yankees last year, LeMahieu really made a name for himself throughout the league. He performed well in Colorado with the Rockies during his seven years there, but never to the degree that he played to in his first season in the Bronx. “The Machine” finished fourth in MVP voting, thanks to a career-high in hits, home runs, RBI, OPS+, as well as many other categories. Let’s not brush over his spectacular defense either, as he ranked in the 90th percentile in outs above average while fielding three different positions throughout the season. LeMahieu is a free agent after this season, but if the Yankees do give him an extension, he could be the face of the AL East.
I’ve chosen my top players to own the division for the next few years, but I also want to recognize the young talent that is up and coming. Gleyber Torres seems to be ready to take over the league and could become one of the better players in baseball soon enough, let alone the top player in the AL East. Austin Meadows of the Tampa Bay Rays, and the young duo from the Toronto Blue Jays in Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. are just a few of the names in the AL East that are bound to be dynamic players in the league. They could definitely become the faces of the division soon enough.