Boston Red Sox
Let’s get this straight. The Red Sox spend $217 million for a No. 1 starter by signing David Price a year ago, then turn around and empty the farm system, Dave Dombrowski-style, for another No. 1, Chris Sale, over the winter. Somewhere in between, it’s Rick Porcello who wins the 2016 Cy Young, and the Sox get swept in the Division Series anyway by their old pal, Terry Francona, and his Indians. For Boston, the drama never ends, and this spring training was no exception, as Price came down with an elbow ailment that, for now, doesn’t require surgery but he’ll still begin the season on the disabled list. Thank goodness for Sale, who chews up opponents while eating tons of innings, and a deep stable of young talent — Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr. — that should be enough to clinch back-to-back first-place finishes for the first time since Babe Ruth pitched for Boston in 1915. David Ortiz (retired) will be missed, but the the Red Sox do get back a slimmer, more motivated Pablo Sandoval, so that’s something.
Toronto Blue Jays
Sure, the Blue Jays managed to re-sign the immensely popular Jose Bautista, but much of the focus during the winter was the loss of Edwin Encarnacion, who jumped to the Indians for a three-year, $60-million deal. Toronto replaced him with Kendrys Morales and Steve Pearce, to go with Josh Donaldson, Troy Tulowitzki and Russell Martin, so the Jays’ lineup remains long and dangerous. Aaron Sanchez is off his innings-limit leash for 2017, removing a significant headache for manager John Gibbons, and LI’s own Marcus Stroman teams up to form a nice 1-2 atop the rotation.
Buck Showalter had no interest in revisiting the Zach Britton Conspiracy when approached during spring training, and the Orioles would like to move past that hangover as soon as possible. The good news? Britton is coming off a perfect 47-for-47 in save chances last season, so that stabilizes the back end of the O’s bullpen. They also have Manny Machado, one of the best two- way players in the game, and ponied up to re-sign masher Mark Trumbo, who came back on a relatively affordable three-year, $37.5-million deal. The biggest concern remains the rotation, with Chris Tillman (shoulder) not expected back until probably May.
Despite another $200-million payroll, these Yankees don’t much resemble the squad of high-paid All-Stars everyone is used to seeing, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. With CC Sabathia on his Bronx farewell tour, and Brett Gardner always near the door, the Yankees are anxious to turn the page to the next chapter, one that features Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, Aaron Judge, and a little later, Gleyber Torres and Clint Frazier. If Sanchez and Bird perform as hoped, with some help from a suspect rotation, the Yankees could surprise. Aroldis Chapman is back to form an intimidating bullpen duo with Dellin Betances, and that’s not to be underestimated.
Tampa Bay Rays
Goods news? The Rays locked up Kevin Kermaier on a six-year, $53.5-million deal during spring training, an excellent defensive player whose star is on the rise at age 26. Beyond that, however, Tampa Bay is likely to be more about dealing its mostmarketable commodities, namely Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi and Alex Cobb, who’s back from Tommy John surgery. Drew Smyly was dealt to the Mariners this offseason for outfielder Mallex Smith and two prospects, so you have to think more moves will be brewing as the Rays get closer to the trade deadline.