Team-by-team previews: American League East

April 05, 2010|By Dan Connolly |

Boston Red Sox

For two straight years, the Boston Red Sox have watched one of their division rivals make it to the World Series. That doesn't sit well with an organization that won two world championships from 2004 to 2007.

So the Red Sox went free-agent fishing this offseason and attempted to fill their holes by spending roughly $125 million on five players, including a five-year, $82.8 million deal for right-hander John Lackey to strengthen their rotation.

Lackey joins Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and Tim Wakefield in one of baseball's best groups. That's scary for opponents who also have to face perhaps the game's top bullpen, led by closer Jonathan Papelbon.

If Boston has a weakness, it's the normally potent offense, which lost home run and RBI leader Jason Bay to the New York Mets in free agency. Boston needs David Ortiz to bounce back from a subpar 2009 by his standards and Victor Martinez, acquired in the middle of last season, to repeat his tremendous first two months with the Red Sox.

Still, the team as a whole is as good as any other in the American League, except perhaps its archrival, the New York Yankees.

2009 record: 95-67 (second in AL East; AL wild-card winner)

2009 record vs. Orioles: 16-2

2010 estimated payroll: $170 million

Key additions: RHP John Lackey, 3B Adrian Beltre, CF Mike Cameron, SS Marco Scutaro, IF-OF Bill Hall, OF Jeremy Hermida

Key losses: OF Jason Bay, LHP Billy Wagner, OF Rocco Baldelli, 1B Casey Kotchman, RHP Takashi Saito, IF Alex Gonzalez, IF Nick Green

Projected lineup: LF Jacoby Ellsbury, 2B Dustin Pedroia, C Victor Martinez, 1B Kevin Youkilis, DH David Ortiz, RF J.D. Drew, 3B Adrian Beltre, CF Mike Cameron, SS Marco Scutaro

Projected rotation: LHP Jon Lester, RHP Josh Beckett, RHP John Lackey, RHP Tim Wakefield, RHP Clay Buchholz

Projected closer: RHP Jonathan Papelbon

2010 schedule vs. Orioles: At Fenway Park, April 23-25; July 2-4; Sept. 20-22. At Camden Yards, April 30-May 2; June 4-6; Aug. 31-Sept. 2.

Outlook: More of the same for the Red Sox. Ninety-plus wins, a likely playoff berth and a departure before the World Series begins.

New York Yankees

This offseason for the New York Yankees wasn't like the previous one, when they bought CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira (Mount St. Joseph).

In fact, the bigger names left the Bronx as opposed to coming in.

All the Yankees did was improve themselves for a run at their 28th World Series title. They shored up their outfield defense by adding Detroit Tigers center fielder Curtis Granderson in a trade.

The 29-year-old Granderson's star faded a bit in the Motor City last year, when he batted .249 with a .327 on-base percentage. But he still hit 30 homers and stole 20 bases, and should flourish in the Yankees' lineup.

To bolster an already mind-numbing starting rotation, they brought right-handed starter Javier Vazquez back for a second go-round in the Big Apple. Vazquez, 33, had a 4.91 ERA in 2004 with the Yankees. But last season with the Atlanta Braves, he won 15 games, posted a 2.87 ERA and finished fourth in the National League Cy Young Award voting.

Getting Vazquez - and lefty reliever Boone Logan - from the Braves came with a cost: giving up outfielder Melky Cabrera and two prospects. But these are the Yankees - everything they do comes with a cost.

However, it appears for the second consecutive year that their offseason moves could also come with a big payoff.

2009 record: 103-59; AL East winner, World Series champions

2009 record vs. Orioles: 13-5

2010 estimated payroll: $200 million

Key additions: OF Curtis Granderson, RHP Javier Vazquez, DH Nick Johnson, OF Randy Winn, OF Marcus Thames

Key losses: OF Johnny Damon, OF-DH Hideki Matsui, OF Melky Cabrera, LHP Phil Coke, C Jose Molina

Projected lineup: SS Derek Jeter, DH Nick Johnson, 1B Mark Teixeira, 3B Alex Rodriguez, 2B Robinson Cano, C Jorge Posada, CF Curtis Granderson, RF Nick Swisher, LF Brett Gardner

Projected rotation: LHP CC Sabathia, RHP A.J. Burnett, LHP Andy Pettitte, RHP Javier Vazquez, RHP Phil Hughes

Projected closer: RHP Mariano Rivera

2010 schedule vs. Orioles: At Yankee Stadium, May 3-5; June 1-3; Sept. 6-8. At Camden Yards, April 27-29; June 8-10; Sept. 17-19.

Outlook: It's impossible to pick against these guys. They were the best team in baseball last season, and they might have gotten better. Anything less than reaching the World Series would be a disappointment for them.

Tampa Bay Rays

There was a time, say, two years ago, when 84 wins would have been considered a tremendously successful baseball season in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Then came 2008, when the newly coined Tampa Bay Rays shelved their "Devil" moniker and their losing ways, won 97 games and took the American League crown before losing to the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series.

So when the Rays followed up that breakout season with 84 wins - their second most in franchise history - and placed third in the AL East, it was viewed as a disappointment.

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