We can’t tell you if the Red Sox actually will win the American League pennant like the odds say, but Boston does have a good chance at winning the AL East.
The AL East race might be one of Major League Baseball’s best this season, but let’s get one thing straight: It’s not because the division is particularly great. While the AL East has been one of the most stacked divisions in baseball in recent years, each team has some pretty glaring holes going into 2016. And that’s what’s going to make it fun.
The Red Sox had the busiest offseason, winning the bidding war for ace David Price and loading up the bullpen with trades for closer Craig Kimbrel and reliever Carson Smith. They also took Chris Young from the New York Yankees in free agency, giving them a solid fourth outfielder behind Mookie Betts, Rusney Castillo and Jackie Bradley Jr.
USA TODAY projections have the Red Sox as the favorites to take the division at 88-74, though none of their rivals are too far behind. Based on the way Boston played at the end of last season, it?s not crazy to think the Sox will win a division that seems to be a complete toss-up this season.
The New York Yankees probably have the best chance to battle Boston for AL East supremacy, but their veteran-laden roster features a few players who are injury prone. They?re actually relying on first baseman Mark Teixeira to stay healthy this season.
That said, the Yankees earned a wild card spot in 2015 while dealing with similar questions. So basically, never count them out. New York’s rotation is good, and as long as the Yankees’ arms stay healthy, the Bronx Bombers could make a run for the top.
The Baltimore Orioles? rotation is meh, but they actually have a good lineup — good enough that they probably can still win games even if their starter gets shelled. All of their games might be double-digit scores, but it’s not a stretch to say guys like Chris Davis, Adam Jones and Manny Machado will keep them in the race until the O’s have a chance to make moves around the non-waiver trade deadline.
The Toronto Blue Jays lost a big piece of their rotation to the Red Sox in Price, but they?re getting Marcus Stroman back, which could be huge. The Jays also still have a sick lineup and great defense. They could go from first to worst, or they could win 95 games. Because baseball.
The Tampa Bay Rays might be the clear basement-dwellers here, but there is a scenario where things could work in their favor. Tampa Bay is Baltimore’s polar opposite, having an extremely solid rotation but an underwhelming lineup. If that lineup can do just enough, then, like the Orioles, the Rays could stay relevant around the trade deadline, when they could make some moves.
The Red Sox seemingly have a better shot at the playoffs now than they did going into last season, but consistency is key. Last year’s ace-less rotation could have succeeded under perfect conditions, but the stars obviously didn’t align for Boston.
At the end of the day, the Red Sox probably have the most complete team in the AL East with spring training beginning. That ultimately could spell success for a club that’s coming off back-to-back last-place finishes.
Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images