It’s been a few weeks, but I’m back with the MLB offseason outlook column. In hindsight, starting it right before break might not have been the best idea, but hindsight is always 20/20. That’s okay, though, because we’ve still got four more divisions to get through, so let’s do this.
New York Yankees:
The Jankees hit the jackpot this offseason, coming out on top in the Gerrit Cole sweepstakes. Cole didn’t come cheap, as the Yankees had to shell out $324 million over nine years to get him to the Bronx, but for a team with as big as a bank account as the Yankees, I’m sure they’ll manage. For a team that has lacked a true ace for a little while now, Cole provides them with one of the best arms in the entire sport. As 103 game division winners last season, the Yankees have only gotten better. They brought back just about all of their impact players and added Cole, therefore subtracting him from the Astros. That’s not to mention that it’s going to be hard to be as injured as they were last season, so the sky’s the limit. On opening day, the Yankees should be viewed as not only division and American League favorites, but World Series ones as well.
Tampa Bay Rays:
On the opposite side of the spectrum is the Rays, a team that is consistently at and around the very bottom of the league in payroll. But they find ways to get it done, winning 96 games and making the Wild Card game last season despite their payroll being No. 30 out of 30. As of now, they’re sitting at No. 28 in the league despite going down, ahead just the Marlins and Orioles, two teams who aren’t even trying to win. They’ve made some moves but not nearly enough to counter what they lost. They sent Tommy Pham to San Diego, and while they got back a top-notch prospect, their immediate Major League talent level takes a hit. They did get Hunter Renfroe back in the deal, but he’s not going to make up for Pham’s absence. The Rays should still be solid, but I just don’t see them making the playoffs this year unless they add some more impact pieces.
Boston Red Sox:
What an offseason it’s been for the Red Sox. They signed pretty much no impact players, rumors have been swirling about them possibly trading away 2018 MVP Mookie Betts, and their manager who led them to their 2018 World Series victory got fired and is still under investigation by the MLB for his role not only in the Astros sign steal scandal but potentially the same in Boston. So not the greatest couple months for the Sox, but that doesn’t mean their season is already a wash. The team is still stacked with talent, and even if they end up shipping Betts off (which I don’t think will end up happening), their lineup will still have J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts and Andrew Benintendi, just to name a few. Their pitching is more questionable, but I don’t think it’s crazy to hope for a bounceback from Chris Sale, who missed his first All-Star game since 2011, and David Price, who had his worst ERA since 2009 but his best FIP since 2016. Their biggest downfall will once again be their bullpen, which isn’t much approved from last year. While the Yankees should win the division, the Red Sox should fight for a Wild Card spot all season long.
Toronto Blue Jays:
The Blue Jays are one of the more interesting teams out there. Their young core is one of the best in the entire MLB, with the likes of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio among others holding down the lineup. The pitching staff leaves a lot to be desired, but they did take a big swing by signing Hyun-Jin Ryu to a 4-year $80 million contract. It’s a rather controversial one, as people either love that they locked up the Cy Young runner up to anchor their rotation or think that it’s a contract that will end up coming back to bite them seeing as the 32-year-old could very well have peaked last season. I fall on the latter side, but it’s really a toss-up. While they’re likely not going to be serious competitors this season, I think they very well could improve by 10-15 wins on their 67 from last season. It’s going to be a big developmental year for them. With a lot of their young talent up in the Majors, it’s time for them to prove they were worth all the hype.
And then there’s the Orioles. 54 wins last season and they probably overachieved. Their over/under win total for the 2020 season at 55.5, the lowest in the league. They’ve got almost no talent, the majority of their money is tied up in Chris Davis who has hit .172 over the past two seasons and are right in line to be the punching back of the American League East. Even though the Yankees are the clear division favorite, if they don’t take care of business as they should versus the Orioles and the Red Sox do, Boston could take the division. Their one positive? Trey Mancini is a really solid baseball player. Unfortunately for them, he can’t hit nine times a game.