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An AL East offseason halftime report

We’re roughly halfway through a long, cold winter. Where do the other AL East teams stand?

Boston Red Sox v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Brandon Sloter/Image Of Sport/Getty Images

The Texas Rangers emerged victorious in the 2023 World Series exactly 70 days ago. In another 70 days, we’ll be just over a week from Opening Day on March 28th. We’re not precisely at the halfway point, but since—barring a Bryce Harper situation—it’s more likely that we’ll see notable roster moves across the next month than when spring training begins, it’s worth a mid-offseason check-in on the Yankees’ AL East rivals.

Some rosters around the league have undergone significant augmentation for 2024, and most top free agents are off the board, save for at least a few notable exceptions. Beyond those signings, each AL East team is shuffling its deck to prepare for the 2024 division race and supplement their weaknesses. Let’s go over each team and what they’ve built so far this offseason.

Note: All current free agents who are not re-signed are assumed to be departures for now.

Baltimore Orioles (2023: 101-61, 1st)

Notable additions: Craig Kimbrel
Notable departures: Kyle Gibson, Aaron Hicks, Adam Frazier, Jack Flaherty

The Orioles, as a young, cost-controlled roster, might not need to change much as the reigning division champions with a potent core and triple-digit wins in 2023. They the signed veteran closer Kimbrel to a one-year deal to fill in for Félix Bautista as he recovers from a UCL tear. Most of the youth has just begun to scratch the surface — unanimous Rookie of the Year Gunnar Henderson, All-Star catcher Adley Rutschman, and starting pitcher Grayson Rodriguez fall into this category and will no doubt give the Yankees fits for years (as will top MLB prospect Jackson Holliday). Veteran producers like Cedric Mullins, Austin Hays, and Anthony Santander also return.

There are just not many holes in this roster if their young pitchers take another step forward. That is the question, though, since they did not have the arms to match the Rangers in the playoffs last year, and if John Angelos wasn’t so obviously reluctant to spend, then they would be obvious fits for one of the available top starters. John Means’ return in earnest will help at least, and Kyle Bradish quietly makes for a solid top starter. They recently signed a minor league free agent named Dominic Freeberger, so they’re winning the coolest name competition as well. The O’s lost a few contributors to free agency including Hicks, Frazier, and Gibson, so they’ll need to replace some at-bats and innings. Still, watch out for these guys.

Tampa Bay Rays (2023: 99-63, 2nd)

Notable additions: Ryan Pepiot, Jonny DeLuca, José Caballero, Richie Palacios
Notable departures: Tyler Glasnow, Manuel Margot, Robert Stephenson, Luke Raley

As always, the Tampa Bay Rays came to wheel and deal unconventionally this offseason. They got what they wanted out of the Tyler Glasnow deal, offloading the 30-year-old and his ascending salary to the more financially liberal Dodgers, throwing in their center fielder, Margot. Glasnow’s career high in innings is 120; Margot’s career-high wRC+ is 105. They received two talented younger players in Pepiot and Deluca.

San Diego Padres v Los Angeles Dodgers
Ryan Pepiot
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

The former top-100 prospect Pepiot has bona fide big league success under his belt. The Rays will have to do without ace Shane McClanahan, but Drew Rasmussen will back in 2024. As always, every piece within the Rays operation is replaceable and subject to change. If previous years are any indication, Pepiot and Deluca will slot right in and contribute to a well-rounded, fundamentally sound team with a dynamite bullpen and elite defense.

Other minor Rays trades of note include trading Vidal Bruján and Calvin Faucher to Miami Marlins for Erick Lara, Andrew Lindsey, and a player to be named later. They also sent Andrew Kittredge over to the Cardinals for outfielder Richie Palacios. The Rays have put a ton of mileage on Kittredge’s arm, so this could prove to be prudent. They also flipped Raley to the Mariners for a new utility man in Caballero. They’ll likely combine several options at the likely-vacant shortstop position, including Caballero, the familiar Taylor Walls, and top prospect Junior Caminero. One never really knows how these Rays trades will work out, but it’s a good bet that Tampa Bay got what they wanted out of the deals.

Toronto Blue Jays (89-73, 3rd)

Notable additions: Kevin Kiermaier (re-signed), Isiah Kiner-Falefa
Notable departures: Matt Chapman, Whit Merrifield, Brandon Belt, Hyun Jin Ryu

Three seasons ago, the Blue Jays and their young offensive core seemed headed for a huge upswing, but progress has stalled. Pitching concerns continue to dog them. They haven’t swung a splashy trade, but have made a few supplemental signings. Like the Yankees, they still have work to do. They took a big hit with players hitting the open market, most importantly Matt Chapman and Whit Merrifield. They could lose Chapman to the Giants and Merrifield to the Red Sox based on rumors, and that’s just naming a couple teams.

Toronto has been on the short list for several high-dollar free agents (including Shohei Ohtani) over the past few years, but can’t seem to close the deal. Kiermaier re-upped after a successful 2023 for one year and $10.5 million, and the versatile IKF signed a two-year deal, but they still need lineup protection for Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. An 89-win team simply has to do more if they want to compete. Both of those signings occurred over a week ago, and they’ve been mostly silent otherwise, leaving ample questions hanging over them during the next couple months.

New York Yankees (82-80, 4th)

Notable additions: Juan Soto, Alex Verdugo, Trent Grisham, Victor González
Notable departures: Michael King, Luis Severino, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Wandy Peralta(?)

(We don’t need to do the full rundown on the Yankees since we’ve been doing that for months. They’re just in here as a point of comparison for a handful of notable additions/departures.)

Boston Red Sox (78-84, 5th)

Notable additions: Tyler O’Neill, Lucas Giolito, Vaughn Grissom, Isaiah Campbell
Notable departures: Justin Turner, Adam Duvall, Alex Verdugo, James Paxton, Chris Sale

The Red Sox ended up in last place with an even worse year than the Yankees in 2023. They lost a few productive players to free agency, most notably Turner, Duvall, and Paxton. Of course, their biggest offseason trade so far sent Verdugo to New York for pitchers Greg Weissert, Richard Fitts, and Nicholas Judice in a rebuilding move. They also bid farewell to former ace Sale, offloading his contract onto the Braves for shortstop Vaughn Grissom. Like the Rays, Boston linked up with the Cardinals for a trade too, obtaining Tyler O’Neill in the hopes of the 28-year-old slugger recapturing his 2021 form.

St. Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves
Tyler O’Neill
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Sox have been linked to the aforementioned Merrifield for some utility help, possibly as a replacement for Masataka Yoshida if they decide to deal him. They potentially overpaid for Giolito, handing out a two-year, $38.5 million contract, though he isn’t too far removed from being good. Also of significance, they traded infielder Luis Urías to Seattle Mariners for reliever Isaiah Campbell, who impressed as a rookie 2023. Boston’s pitching plan is clear — they’re stocking up like a squirrel before winter.

Looking at their roster right now, it’s clear they need another power bat after losing out on Teoscar Hernández. Jorge Soler would fit that bill. They remain connected to the White Sox righty Dylan Cease and likely have the prospect capital to pull off a trade. Boston still has a lot up in the air, and after a last-place finish that led to Chaim Bloom’s dismissal, new POBO Craig Breslow needs to iron out the rest of their plan, and quick. Yankees fans will be keenly interested in their course of action.