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Predicting the 2015 American League playoff picture

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The Yanks appear ready for a semi-rebuild in 2015, but will that cost them a playoff spot?

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As we near the offseason's halfway point, it's not looking that great for the Yankees. Yes, they signed Andrew Miller and Chase Headley to longterm deals this month, but considering all the moves other contenders have made, is it safe to say 2015 will be another down year for them?

The short answer: yeah, probably. The AL Central is a division with three potential powerhouses, the AL West still has the Angels and Mariners, and the AL East will be tough with reloaded teams in the Red Sox and Blue Jays. But is there no hope for the Yankees? Definitely not, and here's why.

1. The AL West Only Has Two Contenders: After losing Derek Norris, Jon Lester, Jeff Samardzija and Josh Donaldson this winter, it's likely the A's won't do much next year. As is probably the case with the Rangers, who are currently looking more at youngsters to lead the way. So who does that leave? The Angels, who let's assume will win the division, and the Mariners. Now since Seattle signed Nelson Cruz a few weeks ago, I'll give them a Wild Card. But still, that leaves one spot open for the Yankees if they need it, making the whole thing decently tolerable.

2. Departures and Question Marks in the AL Central: Good as they've been in the past, the Tigers will be in trouble next season with their pitching staff. Rick Porcello and Max Scherzer (unless they suddenly decide to pursue him) are gone, and it's unlikely Shane Greene, Alex Wilson and Alfredo Simon will adequately replace them. Yoenis Cespedes is good, but even with him, they're probably not going to win more games next year than they did in 2014. Add on the fact that Royals' ace James Shields as well as two of Kansas City's best hitters (Nori Aoki and Billy Butler) have left or will leave and it's certainly possible just one club will come out of the midwest next season.

3. The Four-Team AL East: The Rays are having a fire sale, so they won't compete anytime soon. The Orioles have decent pitching, but with Nick Markakis and the aforementioned Cruz having signed elsewhere, it's a safe bet they'll also be worse next year. The Blue Jays have built up, but doing so didn't exactly help them in 2013. The Red Sox don't have a reliable rotation, and that can't help them either. Basically, the AL East, with the exception of the Rays, is a mystery. The Yankees could win it, or they could do well enough for a Wild Card. Nothing's impossible.

To put it simply, as weak as the Yankees may seem to some right now, they aren't in a much worse position than anyone else. Every team has unknowns, though granted most don't have as many as they do. Nonetheless, there's hope for the Yankees in 2015. It may not be obvious or even a favorable amount, but it's there. It's time we acknowledge that already and stop thinking that the much easier strategy of spending is the only path they can take to success.