As the 2021 MLB Season countdown turns from days to hours, there’s no better time to check in with each team and take a look at their potential (or lack thereof) heading into another 162 games. After the Covid-19 pandemic- shortened 2020 season, some American League teams are hoping to capitalize on their organizational momentum. Others are just trying to keep their heads above water and their records above Baltimore’s.
So, without any further adieu, let’s jump right in!
The American League East
The New York Yankees
Starting off with a bang, the Yankees are the clear favorite to win the AL East. The Rays lost Cy Young Winner Blake Snell and Charlie Morton, the Blue Jays are still finding their footing, and the Red Sox and Orioles are playing in the basement. The Yankees, however, are only getting stronger.
The signing of Corey Kluber and the deal for Jameson Taillon shored up the rotation around Gerrit Cole, Jordan Montgomery, and Luis Severino. Add in a battle between Domingo German or Deivi Garcia, and this pitching staff looks solid. After spending the last few seasons failing to stabilize their rotation, Cashman has assembled a solid group, and that’s historically been their strength.
The Yankee teams of the past were built on elite pitching in order to win rings. Kevin Brown, Roger Clemens, Mike Mussina, were all brought in during the offseason in pursuit of a championship. That needed to be the recipe again. Gerrit Cole is great, but he’s only one piece.
This team is built so well offensively, but they needed help on the other side of the ball, and they got that this offseason. As much as it pains AL East fans to hear it, it’s a simple fact: The Evil Empire is back.
The Tampa Bay Rays
Charlie Morton and Blake Snell are gone and things feel a little different than a few months ago. Sure the Rays are still sitting on the top prospect in the game in Wander Franco, and they acquired Luis Patino in exchange for Snell, and yet, it feels like the Rays 2021 chances once again depend upon the rest of the AL East. When the Rays have all the pieces together, it feels like they’re playing with magic. When they don’t? It just makes you wanna punch a wall and ask why ownership won’t invest in the team.
The Tampa Bay Rays had a magical run to the World Series that was fueled by grit, grind, and a little bit of magic. In order to get them back to the Fall Classic in 2021, they’ll need a little bit more help than that. Can they make a repeat trip to the World Series? It’s not out of the question, but they’re playing with a little less firepower than last year.
The Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays didn’t have a home at the beginning of the 2020 season, and that holds true for the upcoming 2021 campaign. Something that also holds true for Toronto: the sky’s the limit with this squad.
Robbie Ray, who was acquired at the trade deadline, was brought back with a one-year, $8 million dollar deal. The Jays then turned around and signed Tyler Chatwood, the former Rockies arm, who is coming off some tumultuous seasons in Chicago. The Blue Jays also landed Steven Matz from the Mets, who has tremendous upside if he can right his ship. Add in Hyun-Jin Ryu, and the #1 right-handed pitching prospect in Nate Pearson, and the Toronto rotation is cooking with gas.
The Blue Jays didn’t stop with arms, however. They continued their barrage of spending with deals that brought in Marcus Semien from Oakland and George Springer from Houston. Semien is a sparkplug and was an MVP finalist in 2019. Springer was a massive piece of the Astros teams that gave the American League fits over the last four seasons. Adding his abilities to the youth of this roster will make a big impact quickly.
The bottom line for Toronto is this: the future is happening right before your eyes. Let the boys play, see what happens and adjust accordingly. In the grand scheme of things we really haven’t seen all that much of this young core and yet, we know they’re superstars. Sprinkle in those solid vets? Well, let’s just put it this way: This Blue Jays team is just getting started. Buckle up.
The Boston Red Sox
Alex Cora is back. Andrew Benintendi and Jackie Bradley, Jr. are not. Chaim Bloom has brought in some interesting pieces that might make an impact. That’s okay. Every team goes through a rebuilding phase, but only a few teams have had to go through a post-Dombrowski rebuilding phase.
Unlike some of the other writers on this site, I am not very high on the Red Sox in 2021. Perhaps it’s my Mets pessimism sneaking out, but I just don’t see how this Red Sox team can compete in the American League, let alone their own division. The Boston Red Sox might resemble the Detroit Tigers for the next few seasons. They have to replenish the farm system and start all over.
Anf that’s okay, Boston. Everybody else is doing it. Hell, the Patriots went through the same kind of season, and they’ve been making moves this offseason. The Red Sox will get better over the next few seasons, but this one might be a bumpy ride.
The Baltimore Orioles
There’s a lot to like about the future of this Orioles team, and we haven’t even seen the full power of their farm system yet. That should give Orioles fans something to cheer about. Things to not cheer about? Chris Davis makes up over 60% of the Orioles payroll.
This season we saw bits and pieces of Ryan Mountcastle and Austin Hays, both of whom had terrific seasons. But there’s still much more to come, especially the anticipated debuts of DL Hall, Yusniel Diaz, and the #2 prospect in all of baseball, Adley Rutchsman.
But to be completely honest, this team is going to be awful. I mean, Matt Harvey in your starting rotation is one thing if it’s 2013 or 2015, but 2021? Woof. Thoughts and Prayers to all your Baltimore fans out there.
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