AL East capsules: Yankees could be team to beat

By Thomson Reuters Mar 19, 2024 | 8:37 AM

Baltimore Orioles

2023 record: 101-61 (1st in AL East)


He gone: OF Aaron Hicks, 2B Adam Frazier, RHP Kyle Gibson, RHP Jack Flaherty, LHP DL Hall

New faces: RHP Corbin Burnes, RHP Craig Kimbrel, 2B Kolten Wong, 3B/2B Nick Maton, RHP Julio Teheran, RHP Jonathan Heasley

Biggest question entering Opening Day: How far can Baltimore’s young core carry the team? The Orioles’ prospect pool is headlined by middle infielder Jackson Holliday, who, despite being drafted just two years ago, already is projected to reach the majors in 2024. Right-hander Grayson Rodriguez is entering Year 2, while outfielders Colton Cowser and Heston Kjerstad are expected to get ample time at the big-league level this season. Then of course there’s Adley Rutschman, Gunnar Henderson and Jordan Westburg, who are all 26 or younger and already have proved themselves with Baltimore, which is in position to be in control of the American League East for years to come. They won 101 games a season ago and reached the AL Division Series, a great experience for a team that hasn’t come close to reaching its full potential.

2024 Outlook: Between all the young talent and the addition of Burnes, it’s easy to have Baltimore as a World Series favorite, but don’t overlook the fact that this team hasn’t frequently been battle-tested. Last year marked the Orioles’ first playoff appearance since 2016, so a lack of postseason experience could be the only thing preventing Baltimore from getting where it ultimately wants to be.

Boston Red Sox

2023 record: 78-84 (5th place, AL East)


He gone: LHP Chris Sale, DH Justin Turner, OF Alex Verdugo, INF Luis Urias

New faces: RHP Lucas Giolito, OF Tyler O’Neill, SS Vaughn Grissom, RHP Liam Hendricks, C Tyler Heineman

Biggest question entering Opening Day: Does Brayan Bello have what it takes to be an ace? By shipping Sale to the Atlanta Braves in December, Boston made it clear it was searching for a new pitcher to headline the rotation. Giolito appeared poised to be in the running for that role, but that was before he needed surgery to repair the ulnar collateral ligament in his right (throwing) elbow. Following Giolito’s injury — which is expected to be season-ending — the Red Sox locked up Bello for the foreseeable future with a six-year, $55 million extension. Bello, 24, made 28 starts in 2023, going 12-11 with a 4.24 ERA in his first full major league season. He is in line to be Boston’s third different Opening Day starter in three years, with fellow right-hander Nick Pivetta likely being the only other option to get the nod in Game 1.

2024 Outlook: After finishing last in the division a year ago, Boston needed to be aggressive in the free-agent market this past offseason, but it was anything but that. New chief baseball officer Craig Breslow avoided seriously pursuing any big names, meaning the Red Sox are likely focused on developing some of their high-end prospects rather than setting their sights on a playoff berth.

New York Yankees

2023 record: 82-80 (4th place, AL East)


He gone: RHP Michael King, RHP Jhony Brito, C Kyle Higashioka, INF/OF Isiah Kiner-Falefa

New faces: OF Juan Soto, RHP Marcus Stroman, OF Alex Verdugo, OF Trent Grisham, LHP Caleb Ferguson

Biggest question entering Opening Day: Is this the year New York gets over the hump? The Yankees had reached the American League Championship Series in three of six seasons before missing the playoffs for just the fifth time this century in 2023. Despite its ability to make deep postseason runs, New York never reached the World Series during its recent ALCS run for a shot at its 28th title. Coming off a fourth-place finish in the five-team AL East, the Yankees traded for Soto and signed Stroman to show they are serious about re-establishing themselves as contenders. However, New York already is facing adversity, as reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Gerrit Cole is dealing with nerve inflammation that will prevent him from throwing for the next three to four weeks.

2024 Outlook: It’s hard to say that anything short of a trip to the World Series is a disappointment, but for this New York team, that might be the case. The Yankees added a plethora of talent at a very low price, and if this isn’t the year New York lands in the Fall Classic, fans will be left wondering what more the team needs to reach the next level.

Tampa Bay Rays

2023 record: 99-63 (2nd in AL East)


He gone: RHP Tyler Glasnow, OF Manuel Margot, LHP Jake Diekman, RHP Robert Stephenson, OF/1B Luke Raley, RHP Calvin Faucher

New faces: SS Amed Rosario, RHP Ryan Pepiot, RHP Phil Maton, 2B Jose Caballero, OF Richie Palacios

Biggest question entering Opening Day: Is Tampa Bay’s small-ball approach still going to work this year? The Rays enter 2024 with the sixth-lowest payroll in the majors, per Spotrac. Trusting analytics and getting big contributions from players flying under the radar has been Tampa Bay’s bread and butter over the past six seasons, but how sustainable is such a strategy? After winning 99 games in the regular season in 2023, the Rays had nothing to show for it, losing 2-0 to the Texas Rangers in an American League wild-card series — the second year in a row Tampa Bay has been swept in the first round of the playoffs. With the Yankees welcoming Juan Soto and Marcus Stroman to town and the Orioles trading for ace right-hander Corbin Burnes to pitch behind an offense loaded with young talent, Tampa Bay could be looking at a third-place finish — at best — in the AL East.

2024 Outlook: Predicting a fall-off for a team that has won at least 90 games in four of the past five 162-game seasons is risky, but all signs are pointing toward the Rays taking a step back in 2024. They won’t fall into the basement of the division, but the window for a championship may have come and gone.

Toronto Blue Jays

2023 record: 89-73 (3rd in AL East)


He gone: LHP Hyun Jin Ryu, 1B Brandon Belt, RHP Jordan Hicks, RHP Jay Jackson, 3B Matt Chapman, RHP Adam Cimber, 2B/OF Whit Merrifield

New faces: DH Justin Turner, INF/OF Isiah Kiner-Falefa, 1B Joey Votto, RHP Yariel Rodriguez, DH Daniel Vogelbach, 3B Eduardo Escobar

Biggest question entering Opening Day: Did Toronto move the needle enough in the offseason to contend with the powerhouses of the American League East? The Blue Jays have been living in a state of purgatory for the better part of the past seven years, finishing no higher than third in the division six times. Sure, Toronto has made three AL wild-card series during that span, but it was swept in each one and hasn’t won a playoff game since 2016. With a lineup that features Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and George Springer and a rotation that has Kevin Gausman and Jose Berrios, the Blue Jays will be competitive, but how will they match up with the Orioles, Yankees and Rays?

2024 Outlook: A second-place finish in the division is a real possibility considering it could be hard to catch New York, which went all out this past offseason. That means another wild-card series is likely for the Blue Jays as they attempt to end their seven-game postseason losing streak.

–Field Level Media