As of late November, it is a very spot-on statement that all five AL East teams are looking to compete in 2024 in some capacity. Ranging anywhere from big postseason run or bust to simply contending for a Wild Card spot, there’s a lot at stake in this division.
With that in mind, this is as good a time as any to cover outstanding questions that each AL East team must answer. Some may be doable already in the offseason, others we won’t know for sure until the season is underway.
New York Yankees
There is no Corey Seager or Bryce Harper on this market. How will Aaron Judge get help?
Seager and Harper are two of many superstars that reached the market in recent seasons, and the Yankees don’t really have those options.
You have Shohei Ohtani, who’s an absolute unicorn, but for various reasons that seems rather unlikely, and then the top bat is Cody Bellinger, who’s been linked with a move to the Bronx. Despite his massive turnaround in Chicago, Bellinger still comes with some question marks from his unsuccessful end of tenure with the Dodgers.
And more so, this isn’t about one player that’ll change things. If we’re being honest, the Yankees need additions in bulks. Too often in 2023, Aaron Boone sent out lineups with the majority of players boasting below league-average lines. The team needs a third baseman and capable outfielders to surround Aaron Judge since Giancarlo Stanton is basically a DH at this point in his career (and there’s a conversation to be had about his playing time if he puts up another subpar season).
In the old days, you could simply look at bringing in Matt Chapman, Cody Bellinger, and Yung Hoo Lee, but that’s unrealistic, to say the least in the current landscape. Whatever they do, this Yankees lineup — even with the best versions of Anthony Rizzo and Gleyber Torres, plus a healthy development from Anthony Volpe — it’s still probably two good hitters short of World Series contender-level. If that’s the real goal here, and not just getting back into the playoff conversation, then they have a lot of work to do in getting multiple moves made.
Tampa Bay Rays
Another year of reinventing the pitching staff. How long can they keep this up?
Shane McClanahan is already out for the entire 2024 season. Entering his final year of team control, it’s rather likely by all reports that the Rays end up trading Tyler Glasnow. Zach Efflin proved an outstanding add-in his debut season with the Rays, but still, one is unlikely to find a more overpowering duo than Glasnow and Shane Mac, and the Rays will likely be without either. Drew Rasmussen is another name that flourished since coming over for the Brewers, and he’s also likely to miss half of 2024 at least.
The Rays gave up one of their top prospects, Kyle Manzardo, to bring Aaron Civale at the deadline, and that didn’t quite work out as Civale had an ERA above 5.00 with Tampa. Now one wouldn’t be surprised if with adjustments they can bring a much better version of Civale in 2024, but it remains to be seen. No one expects Tampa to be a heavy player in a pitching-heavy market. But nevertheless, they’ll need to make some moves to supplant such heavy losses. Can their scouting department find more talent on the verge of making it to the majors to slide into the rotation? They’ve got the pedigree from previous offseasons.
Where is the pitching help coming from, to complement these young arms?
Erase your early memories of Grayson Rodriguez. The best pitching prospect arguably since Stephen Strasburg took a while to settle in, but was outstanding in the season’s final months. Rodriguez is expected to take over the ace role, but even so, Baltimore is unlikely to push him in his first full season in the majors.
Kyle Bradish shocked the AL with a sub-3.00 ERA out of nowhere. How much of that he can carry over to 2023 remains to be seen. Beyond those two youngsters, and especially with no Félix Bautista for the whole season, you start to question the depth of this pitching staff. Luckily for Baltimore, there are a multitude of really solid starters on the market, and they’ll need to pounce on at least one to help lighten the load.
The core of the lineup should be fine, headlined by Adley Rutschman, Gunnar Henderson, and Anthony Santander, but it could also use some beefing up if Baltimore is to follow up well on a 101-win season. Baltimore’s window opened wide last season, but every indication from ownership is that they won’t open the checkbooks as wide to support it. We’ll see if their front office can get creative to defend the AL East crown they picked up.
Toronto Blue Jays
Clock is running out on the cheap core. What’s the next move?
There have already been rumblings about the availability of Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and although it’s still unlikely either gets dealt, the Jays have a decision to make in the near future. Both Bichette and Guerrero Jr. will be free agents in a couple of seasons, and whether they return to Toronto, their cost will be a lot different from what it is now.
With cheap stars, this team has been able to invest heavily in the likes of Kevin Gausman, George Springer, and even Chris Bassitt to a lesser extent. So far, this core hasn’t been able to translate their talent on paper into postseason success or even regular season success, yet to win the AL East with this core.
Does Toronto hedge with an eye on the future by moving one of their big guys for a haul, do they up their investment gearing up for a run while they still have Bichette and Vladdy at very reasonable contracts? The latter is likelier, but the question mark remains.
Boston Red Sox
Another year of mediocrity without a clear direction?
Boston is neither geared up for a long rebuild nor ready to win the World Series in the near future. The Red Sox seem to be retooling on the fly, but are also in a state of limbo. Between Chris Sale, Trevor Story, Masataka Yoshida, and obviously Rafael Devers, there are plenty of long-term hefty commitments on this team.
On a positive note, you have Triston Casas and Brayan Bello showing tremendous promise, but the rotation in particular lacks quality depth, particularly with the injury history of Sale.
Despite all of these commitments, the payroll isn’t anywhere near the luxury tax, and ownership seems completely uninterested in upping their investment. This same core, but with the drive they had 10 or 15 years ago, could certainly make a better push for contention. Otherwise, this could be a seller at the deadline.