However, it could still be argued that the AL East will continue to dictate the league's playoff picture, as it has so often in the last decade or so.
It's not unreasonable to think that the AL East will be even better in 2012, either. The Red Sox and Yankees remain the two titans of the division, at least when it comes to payroll and the bottom line. As the Sox proved last year, though, the size of your wallet doesn't always correlate with making the playoffs.
Boston's loss(es) down the stretch last season was Tampa Bay's gain, and you can't expect them to go away any time soon. The Rays still have a good young core of players, including some strong starting pitching from guys like David Price, James Shields and breakout southpaw Matt Moore.
While Toronto and Baltimore may not challenge for the division title (though stranger things have happened), they should continue to challenge the teams currently taking up residence atop the division standings. Toronto, with John Farrell overseeing the pitching staff in his second year as manager, has one of the best offenses in the league. Down in Baltimore, Dan Duquette has taken over as general manager, and he's shown a willingness and an ability to reel in some big-time players in the past.