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BtBS season in review: AL East

We close out our AL reviews with a look at the behemoth East.

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

With the winter meetings rapidly upon us and the hot stove heating up by the day, we decided to take a step back briefly to analyze offseason transactions and chart out a broad plan for all 30 MLB teams to move toward a World Series berth.

Over the next two days, we will be releasing our end of year review and plan forward for each team. The American League is being released Tuesday with the National League blurbs coming out on Wednesday.

This project is truly a site effort, with many of our writers involved in writing about one or more teams. These were all written prior to Monday, so activities from Monday onward are likely not included. Feel free to leave comments at the bottom or contact any of us on twitter.

Steven Martano, @SMartano

Toronto Blue Jays, 93-69, first in the AL East. Lost in the ALCS

Justin Perline

Offseason Moves

Hendriks, the Australian starter-turned-reliever, flourished in the Jays pen. His velocity spiked, and the Jays found him to be a reliable contributor. In return for Hendriks, the Jays acquired Jesse Chavez, the former Athletics swingman. The rationale here must be that Chavez will enter the Jays rotation and potentially move to the bullpen if they acquire better starters.

  • Signed Marco Estrada to a 2-yr/$26M deal

Estrada originally came over from the Brewers for Adam Lind. In what was viewed as a poor return at the time, Estrada came around and posted a 3.13 ERA for the Jays as a fairly consistent starter. He's extremely fly-ball and home-run prone, and he doesn't overpower batters with his arsenal either, leading many to believe he experienced a lot of luck in 2015. The underlying statistics agree and report a much less cheerful 4.93 xFIP.

  • Signed J.A. Happ to a 3-yr/$36M deal

Happ on the other hand improved significantly this season by increasing his fastball usage and becoming more aggressive in the zone. The Jays actually traded him away before the season, and he produced 3.3 fWAR on the Mariners and Pirates. Now returning to Toronto with a better plan on how to handle his pitch repertoire, Happ should prove to be a reliable rotation piece.

Future Outlook

The Jays look set in the rotation now that they've re-acquired starters Estrada and Happ. Marcus Stroman and R.A. Dickey are ensured the other two slots. Chavez is a starter/swingman and will compete for the last spot, but he could have competition and might slide to the bullpen. Drew Hutchison has started in the past but has been wildly far off from his peripheral statistics. There were rumors of stretching out Robert Osuna and/or Aaron Sanchez, but the recent signings probably ruled that out.

The bullpen could use the addition of a tested reliever such as Tyler Clippard or Chad Qualls, because as it stands Schultz, Delabar, and Tepera could be easily swapped. Overall though, Osuna anchors a solid core of relievers.

Chris Colabello is a good sell-high candidate because of his BABIP-driven success, and Ben Revere could be on his way out as well. Michael Saunders, who spent almost all of the season on the disabled list, has the potential to produce just as well as Revere if given a chance in LF. With Saunders costing much less in arbitration, a trade of both Colabello and Revere could acquire a useful set of players.

Brandon Moss should be the largest target for the Jays though. He likely could be had for cheap because of his estimated $7.9M salary. He's a good candidate for a bounce-back season, and he can play 1B, LF, and RF competently. Justin Smoak should not prevent a move like this.

New York Yankees, 87-75, second in the AL East. Lost in the AL Wild Card Game

Nick Stellini

Offseason Moves

  • Acquired OF Aaron Hicks from Minnesota for C John Ryan Murphy
  • Traded IF Jose Pirela to San Diego for minor league P Ronald Herrera
  • IF Brendan Ryan exercised player option

It feels like it was just yesterday that the Yankees were being written off as too old and too inconsistent to make the playoffs. Then they went and technically made the playoffs before being brought back to earth at the hands of Dallas Keuchel. It is reasonable that the Yankees could make another run at the postseason; most of the same pieces are still in place, while Brian Cashman seems intent on making his roster younger.

Yet at the same time, the success felt in New York came largely on the backs of resurgent seasons from Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran, and a zombie-Alex Rodriguez. Those three sluggers will continue their marches toward AARP membership in 2016.

Can the Yankees really count on another 7.5 fWAR from those three? Probably not. However, the Yankees do have a ready-made Teixeira replacement in Greg Bird, who will slot in at first base when as soon as one of Teixeira or Rodriguez gets hurt. Bird handled himself admirably in his big league cameo and could become a true force if he uses his high hitting IQ to cut down on his 29.8 percent strikeout rate. A replacement for Beltran also exists in the mammoth frame of Aaron Judge, a slugging blue chip prospect who will begin the season at Triple-A. Hicks serves as a more than capable fourth outfielder and defensive replacement and still has enough of his prospect sheen to dream on.

Future Outlook

There is still plenty of work yet to be done. First and foremost, a way must be found to squeeze more innings out of the starting rotation. Yankees starters were just 21st in baseball in innings pitched at 927. That led to an overtaxed bullpen, and as good as Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances were, they couldn't do the job alone. Much of the blame for the lack of innings can be laid at the feet of health concerns. Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia all had their share of question marks, and by the time Nathan Eovaldi finally started to pitch deeper into games, he went down with a forearm injury. All of this can potentially manifest itself in September and October, when the 'pen noticeably starts to break down.

The free agent market is rife with pitching, and an addition like David Price could do wonders. Not only would he stabilize the rotation, but Price eats quite a lot of innings. A trade of Brett Gardner could also fetch a pitcher and open a space to sign Jason Heyward. Heyward fits the Yankees in so many ways (youth, defense, lefty power, salary) that the match makes too much sense not to happen.

The Yankees could easily let age eat into their chances at contention. They could also easily use an injection of youth and a farm system that's showing promise for the first time in ages guide them to the playoffs.

Baltimore Orioles, 81-81, third in the AL East

Ryan Romano

Offseason Moves

  • Claimed Vance Worley off waivers from Pittsburgh Pirates.

  • Re-signed Matt Wieters to a one-year, $15.8 million contract (qualifying offer).

  • Traded for L.J. Hoes from Houston in exchange for cash considerations.

Future Outlook

The Orioles don't have much time to make a run. Their farm system looks pretty barren after a horrid 2015, meaning it's likely 2016 or bust for the major-league club. Baltimore doesn't lack talent — Manny Machado, Adam Jones, Kevin Gausman, Ubaldo Jimenez, Zach Britton, and Mychal Givens should produce (to varying extents) in 2016 — but the current roster doesn't stand a chance in the AL East. With that said, this team can make itself a contender.

None of the moves the Orioles have already made will have much of an impact in 2016. Worley won't provide anything more than back-of-the-rotation results, and at increasing prices as he enters arbitration. After a subpar 2015, Wieters will hope for a return from mediocrity in 2016, as will the Orioles as a whole. Hoes will turn 26 in a few months, meaning he'll probably remain an uninspiring fourth outfielder — at best — for 2016 and beyond.

First and foremost, the rotation needs an upgrade, which is why the Orioles should sign Mike Leake to a four-year, $60 million contract. With Wei-Yin Chen likely departing in free agency, the Orioles should bring in a similarly dependable starter. Leake hasn't had many injuries in his major-league tenure, and he proved with the Reds that a hitter-friendly home ballpark won't hold him back. At age 28, he should maintain his low-risk production for years to come.

In addition to Leake, Baltimore should trade Brad Brach and Mike Wright to the Boston Red Sox in exchange for Wade Miley. Brach excelled in 2015 out of the bullpen, an area where the Sox sorely need an upgrade, and Wright is an intriguing wild card. In Miley, the Orioles receive an average starter signed to a team-friendly extension, which gives him a $6 million salary for 2016. Miley, Leake, Gausman, Jimenez, and some combination of Worley, Chris Tillman, and Miguel Gonzalez should make for a solid rotation. Such a move is not unprecedented as the two teams have been trade partners in the recent past.

The O's still need someone to man the outfield, meaning they should re-sign Steve Pearce to a two-year, $12 million contract. Pearce showed his potential with an explosive 2014, and his injury-marred 2015 drove down his price. With a clean bill of health, he should rebound to an average level of play in 2016 — which the Orioles will gladly accept.

If the piecemeal rotation works out, Caleb Joseph and Jonathan Schoop continue to grow, and Givens compensates for the departures of Darren O'Day and Brach, the Orioles could make it back to the postseason. 2014 showed us that, when you throw enough crap at the wall, some of it will stick; Baltimore can only hope that the same will happen in 2016.

Tampa Bay Rays, 80-82, fourth in the AL East

Steven Martano

Offseason Moves

  • Acquired Brad Miller, Logan Morrison, and Danny Farquhar from Seattle in exchange for Nathan Karns, C.J. Riefenhauser and Boog Powell

  • Acquired Chase Whitley off waivers from the Yankees

The trade with Seattle gives the Rays a good, young shortstop who is cost-controlled until 2020. If Miller shows he can be a stable part of the Rays' future, they would be likely to lock him up for even more years, potentially buying out his free agent years.

Despite getting younger in what looks to be a fair trade, the Rays are in a tough spot going into 2016. Last year, they hovered around .500 but few considered them ‘in the hunt' as the dog days of summer ended and we entered the fall. The Rays are currently caught in the middle of the pack by record as well as positional fWAR (14th in MLB) and pitching fWAR (12th in MLB).

Future Outlook

First and foremost, the Rays should trade Evan Longoria. Longo  is going into his age-30 season and is signed for moderate money until 2022. He's the face of the franchise, but the Rays should reboot and retool to set up for a run in the next few years. Longoria posted four wins above replacement last year and is still worth great value for a contending team. The past three seasons, he played in 160 or more games so even though he's aging, he's demonstrated continued durability.

His power took a step back in recent years, but his high 20s-low 30s potential power is still there. The Rays should consider rebuilding for 2017 and beyond, since in 2016 they have to contend with a Jays juggernaut, a competitive Yankee team, and a Red Sox team that is likely to make at least a couple big splashes this offseason.

Thinking younger, the Rays need to find a way to divest James Loney and upgrade first base to get some youthful punch into the lineup. They have enough pitching where they could potentially deal from a position of strength, perhaps in an attempt to get Kyle Schwarber from the Cubs.

Tampa could potentially put Schwarber at catcher for 40-50 games per year with the rest at first base. Having a former catcher as their skipper would certainly help his development with the understanding he'll never catch 100 games. The Cubs are in great shape though, so even if it makes sense one way, it may be a challenge.

The Rays face an uphill climb in the competitive AL East. Over the past four seasons, four of the Rays' divisional rivals hoisted division championship pennants. The Rays are best served foregoing 2016 and possibly 2017 to gear up for the future and restock the farm.

Boston Red Sox, 78-84, fifth in the AL East

Steven Martano

Offseason Moves

  • Acquired Craig Kimbrel for Manny Margot, Javier Guerra, Caslor Asuaje, and Logan Allen

Boston's trade for Craig Kimbrel is a clear indication the team intends to press forward and contend for a pennant in 2016. The Red Sox finished in last place in 2012, 2014, and 2015 but somehow put together a magical World Series run in 2013. Though the Kimbrel trade cost them quite a bit in terms of future potential value, they now have a bullpen rock in an otherwise fluid and disappointing relief corps. Adding at least another arm, and probably two other arms, is imperative for this team to do any damage in 2016.

The 2015 Red Sox were mired in injuries and underperformance. They lost Christian Vazquez for the season due to TJS, and their big acquisitions of Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval were the least productive players on the entire team, posting a combined -3.8 fWAR.

Moving forward, both Sandoval and Ramirez must improve for the Red Sox to compete. The ‘Hanley in the outfield' experiment is pretty much dead, so unless an unlikely trade partner can be found where the Red Sox get decent value (again, highly unlikely), their best bet is to have him sputter through a year at first base while waiting for David Ortiz to retire, opening the DH spot.

Last offseason Boston decided not to make a run at Jon Lester but must learn from this mistake and either sign a top of the rotation starter or trade for a significant upgrade. The team has the assets to make a big trade, and they have the cash to spend on an ace; options are plentiful. Boston needs a 200+ inning stud to complement a decent mid/back rotation that includes Clay Buchholz, Rick Porcello, Eduardo Rodriguez and Wade Miley. Adding an ace will prevent long losing streaks, mitigate the risk of streaky offensive slumps, and give the Red Sox a decided advantage against most teams in a potential Wild Card game.

Should Boston decide to go the trade route, they could package Eduardo Rodriguez, Jackie Bradley Jr., and prospects for a starter and then go after an outfielder on the open market. Mookie Betts emerged as a star in 2015, but an outfield of Betts, Rusney Castillo, and Jackie Bradley is hardly an offensive juggernaut. The Sox could trade for a pitcher and go after Justin Upton. Upton is still only 28, and despite some defensive inefficiencies could easily play Fenway's left field.

What the Red Sox should NOT do is acquire Chris Davis. Davis possesses only one tool, and although the glamour of plus-plus power may seemingly overshadow the rest of his game, the risk is not worth the short-term gains. Power peaks around ages 24 to 26, and considering Davis is entering his age-30 season the risk simply is not worth it. Albatross contracts for Hanley, Sandoval, and Davis are bad enough on their own, but considering the opportunity cost, it's a landmine that can be easily avoided. Resources are better spent elsewhere.

Hiring Dave Dombrowski signaled Boston is in it to win it in 2016. If they add a bona fide Ace, an outfielder with some pop, and somehow get Sandoval and Ramirez to contribute something ----- anything ---- this team certainly has a chance to make it to the World Series next year.