AL East preview 2013: Jays on top perch

Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista catches a Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista catches a ball during spring training. (Feb. 12, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

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The American League East has the feel of the wild, wild, west this season, a place where everything you've come to expect from this division may no longer be the case. After nearly two decades of Yankees' superiority -- 17 trips to the playoffs in 19 years -- it's not crazy to think, due to age and injury, they could wind up in last place, despite a payroll over $200 million.

Without a doubt, the Blue Jays won the winter by importing the likes of Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson in the mega-swap with the Marlins, trading for R.A. Dickey to be their No. 1 starter and also signing disgraced outfielder Melky Cabrera.

Along with the power duo of Edwin Encarnacion and the presumably healthy Jose Bautista, the Blue Jays have a roster capable of winning their first AL East title since 1993, when they won the second of back-to-back World Series rings.

For the Orioles to make the playoffs, they'll have to show the same uncanny re- solve they did a year ago, and stay healthy. A middle of the order with Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, Chris Davis and J.J. Hardy will do damage, and they will again rely on Jim Johnson and Pedro Strop to close the door.

For the Rays, it's pitching and defense. With reigning Cy Young winner David Price at the front of a young but lethal rotation, Tampa Bay felt like it could trade James Shields, and the prospect it got back -- outfielder Wil Myers -- should make an impact.

Perhaps the biggest question mark are the Red Sox, who whacked Bobby Valentine after filleting their roster last season. Despite dumping nearly $260 million in payroll, the Sox went right back to spending on pieces like Ryan Dempster and Shane Victorino. With young talent in the pipeline, there's definitely a transition feel in Boston. But a playoff berth? Not so much.

Best of the AL East

BEST MANAGER: Joe Maddon, Rays

GENERAL MANAGER: Andrew Friedman, Rays

STADIUM: Fenway Park, Boston

EVERYDAY LINEUP: Blue Jays

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OVERALL HITTING: Blue Jays

OVERALL POWER: Blue Jays

TEAM SPEED: Blue Jays

TEAM DEFENSE: Rays

STRENGTH OF BENCH: Blue Jays

STARTING ROTATION: Rays

BULLPEN: Orioles

PLAYERS

1. Robinson Cano, Yanks

2. David Price, Rays

3. Adam Jones, Orioles

HITTERS

1. Robinson Cano, Yanks

2. Jose Reyes, Blue Jays

3. Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox

POWER1. Jose Bautista, Blue Jays

2. Curtis Granderson, Yanks

3. E. Encarnacion, Blue Jays

STARTERS

1. David Price, Rays

2. CC Sabathia, Yanks

3. R.A. Dickey, Blue Jays

RELIEVERS1. Mariano Rivera, Yanks

2. Jim Johnson, Orioles

3. David Robertson, Yanks

NEW FACES1. R.A. Dickey, Blue Jays

2. Jose Reyes, Blue Jays

3. Wil Myers, Rays

FIVE-YEAR TREND2012: Yankees (95-67)

2011: Yankees (97-65)

2010: Rays (96-66)

2009: Yankees (103-59)

2008: Rays (97-65)

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