2021 AL East Preview

Story posted March 8, 2021 in Sports, CommRadio by Adam Babetski

Spring is in the air, which means that Major League Baseball is close to returning.

As the sport returns to its normal operations after a shortened 2020 season, teams in the AL East are either looking to prove that they are contenders or that their poor performance last year was a fluke.

Here is what the standings could look like by the end of the season.

New York Yankees

Unlike last offseason where they splurged on Gerrit Cole, the Yankees spent the offseason tinkering with their bullpen and starting rotation without breaking the bank. The moves that they made added more uncertainty to an already volatile pitching situation.

Newly acquired pitchers Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon have both had major injuries that caused them to miss nearly all of the past two seasons. The Yankees may have to turn to minor league arms such as Deivi Garcia and Clarke Schmidt to provide more innings.

New York’s strength will once again be its lineup, as the Yankees will attempt to bash their way to a division title and reclaim their crown from the Rays. Could this be the first time that Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton play a full season together? If so, 2021 could finally be their year to go all the way.

Tampa Bay Rays

The reigning American League champions took a big step back in the eyes of many this offseason. After letting starter Charlie Morton walk to the Atlanta Braves in free agency, the Rays traded ace pitcher Blake Snell to the San Diego Padres for a haul of prospects.

They then made a flurry of smaller moves, such as signing pitchers like Chris Archer, Michael Wacha and Rich Hill, all of whom have durability concerns and have been inconsistent for several years. The tradeoff is that Tampa Bay was able to shrink its salary even further in exchange for what they believe to be a better and deeper collection of talent.

To those familiar with how the Rays operate, nothing seems out of the ordinary. The team is perpetually on a small budget and believes in devising new winning formulas all the time instead of trying to maximize contention windows.

With a rotation still anchored by Tyler Glasnow and a powerful offense that may be expecting top prospect Wander Franco, don’t be surprised if Tampa is once again on top when the dust clears.

Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays may finally be on the verge of breaking out.

The Rays unceremoniously swept Toronto after their young core arrived ahead of schedule and powered them to the playoffs. However, the Blue Jays responded aggressively, making one of the biggest splashes of the offseason when they signed star center fielder George Springer to a six-year deal worth $150 million.

The team later added shortstop Marcus Semien, closer Kirby Yates and starter Steven Matz to add veterans that any playoff team needs. Toronto’s youth movement may pose a threat to their division rivals this year as Vlad Guerrero Jr. seeks to break out alongside Cavan Biggio and Bo Bichette.

Boston Red Sox

With the departures of outfielders Jackie Bradley Jr. and Andrew Benintendi this offseason, Boston’s all-time great 2018 roster that won 108 games and the World Series has now been almost totally dismantled.  The paper-thin rotation will be without Chris Sale on Opening Day, and Eduardo Rodriguez is attempting to come back from a bout with Myocarditis.

There are some hopeful signs for Boston, though. JD Martinez is due to bounce back and reestablish himself as a premier hitter, while young stars such as Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers will continue to anchor the lineup.

The Red Sox are never down for long, but don’t expect for this to be their year.

Baltimore Orioles

As the Orioles enter the fourth year of their rebuild, many questions remain.

Typical of any rebuild, the roster is full of young and unproven players of varying talent levels, and the Orioles figure to use this season to see what they have for the future. That being said, there are virtually no veteran players who could guide the Orioles to the playoffs even in the unlikeliest of circumstances.

With Chris Davis still expected to get regular at bats heading into 2021, the O’s are still a long way off from contention.

Adam Babetski is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email aqb6023@psu.edu.