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A New Year’s resolution for every AL East team

All from Rodón’s bounceback to an outstanding beginning for Junior Caminero

New York Yankees v Los Angeles Angels Photo by Rob Leiter/MLB Photos via Getty Images

A new year is upon us, and with that comes the time for those good ol’ resolutions. The prospect of starting anew and achieving new things is a big part of our lives, and it could most definitely be brought over to sports.

With 2024 at its starting point, I decided to look at each AL East team and conjure up a resolution for that organization, a realistic goal it hopes to achieve for this year. There will surely be more Yankees-specific columns elsewhere online, but this way, we’ll get a thought about both the Bombers and their top divisional rivals. This could be anything from a certain player living up to his highest expectations to the health of another.

New York Yankees

Will the real Carlos Rodón stand up?

Perhaps no player carries a wider range of outcomes on this team than the lefty starter entering his second season in the Bronx. Rodón was one of a long list of disappointments for the Yankees in 2023, not only for his missed time but also for the subpar quality he delivered when out there.

Perhaps it was the fact that the team had bigger, more organizational failings, but I get the feeling that Rodón didn’t quite get the heat as other struggling stars got in their first taste of New York (not until the truly disastrous end anyway). This is just strictly pointing out facts, not that it was a bad thing by any means. Maybe it was the fact he was injured in the first half, and the season was already off the rails by the time he got healthy.

Heading into 2024, the Yankees missed out on their biggest starting pitching target, and whatever moves are ultimately made to fill the Yamamoto void, the pressure will be on Rodón to deliver on a staff without much depth beyond ace Gerrit Cole. The good news is that from 2021-22, he showed the complete ability to deliver on everything expected of him. Check out Malachi’s article from the other day for more on what the southpaw needs to do to rebound.

Tampa Bay Rays

Junior Caminero fulfills the lofty expectations

MLB: OCT 03 AL Wild Card - Rangers at Rays Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

From Elly De La Cruz and Anthony Volpe to Gunnar Henderson and Corbin Carroll, we’ve seen recently how different prospects react to their first look in the big leagues. All of these guys are unique in their ways, but the common theme is that you never know which top young talents will immediately click, and which will go through some serious slumps.

After the harrowing downfall of a certain shortstop in the Tampa squad, it is up to the 20-year-old Caminero to blossom into a leader in this lineup. Despite the rumors, it doesn’t look like Randy Arozarena is going anywhere, and the same can be said for Yandy Diaz, so he’ll have support.

Caminero already got a cameo last season, but 2024 is the year he’ll get every opportunity to establish himself as a core piece of this team.

Toronto Blue Jays

Alek Manoah erasing the memory of the last 12 months

I could list a lot of Manoah’s accolades ahead of last season, but let’s just roll with this: The Blue Jays chose him over trusted veteran Kevin Gausman to start for them on Opening Day. Manoah had done so much already to earn the trust of the Jays' management that he was held in this lofty position.

Then 2023 saw the worst possible scenario, with the right-hander even sent down to sort of hit the reset button. After whiffing on Shohei Ohtani, the Jays require a spark, and it probably doesn’t make much sense to sell low on him when he’s at an all-time low.

If Manoah can return to his pre-2023 form, the Jays would have one of the more formidable one-two punches in AL. But it’s a big “if.”

Baltimore Orioles

No sophomore slump around these parts

Washington Nationals v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Jess Rapfogel/Getty Images

Is there such a thing as a sophomore slump for a team? If there is, the Baltimore Orioles want to stay as far away from it as possible.

Even if the front office defies expectations and does a lot from now until the start of the season, this team will be reliant on the continued dominance of several names that haven’t done this before. When an organization goes from the bottom to the top without the investment of the 1997 Marlins, you’re inevitably looking at a lot of surprising production.

Sure, everyone thought Kyle Bradish could be good, but this good this fast? Gunnar Henderson and Adley Rutschman certainly have the pedigree to back this up, but they both need to keep building on their success. The backstop Rutschman certainly demonstrated how to avoid a sophomore slump, as he followed his Rookie of the Year runner-up season in 2022 with an All-Star campaign in 2023. Can Henderson and others follow suit?

Even after a 100+ win season, it doesn’t look like CEO John Angelos is ready to heavily invest in an inexpensive roster to maximize its window. So Baltimore will need a lot of names to maintain top performances — and for its fantastic farm (hello, Jackson Holliday) to continue to flourish.

Boston Red Sox

“New city, new me” for offseason additions

The Red Sox have followed a specific trend of looking for specific young players who’ve shown exciting numbers but haven’t met those in a while.

Say we see the best of Tyler O’Neill, Lucas Giolito, and Vaughn Grissom, across a full season. In that case, the Red Sox would get far more value than what they gave up for this group.

Now, none of these three names showed close to their ceiling in 2023. Giolito struggled, moving from team to team. O’Neill is one more year removed from that outstanding 2021 form, and Grissom lost the shortstop job to Orlando Arcia in Atlanta.

Hoping to hit on all three is unrealistic, but a decent success rate would go a long way in helping Boston avoid the AL East cellar for the fourth time in five years.