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The case for and against every team in the American League East


The American League East was the best division in baseball last season. By a long shot.

Teams in the AL East combined to win 449 games in 2023, 25 more than any other division. No grouping around Major League Baseball had four teams with winning records last year, except the East. And no other division had two teams with winning percentages north of .600, except the East.

Only three AL teams had winning records against the East, and two of those teams – the Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays – are members.

The Toronto Blue Jays placed third in the division with an 89-73 record and finished 12 games back of the first-place Orioles. By comparison, the Minnesota Twins won the AL Central with an 87-75 record. Since 2020, the East has sent three teams to the playoffs each year, for a total of 12 combined over the past four seasons. No other division has sent more than nine teams.

All of that to say: The American League East is as competitive as it gets, and that shouldn’t be any different in 2024.

With Opening Day two days away, here is a closer look at each team in the division with an optimistic and a pessimistic view of their chances heading into the new season.

Baltimore Orioles

Jackson Holliday Baltimore Orioles

2023 record: 101-61
Key additions: SP Corbin Burnes, RP Craig Kimbrel
Key losses: 2B Adam Frazier, SP Kyle Gibson, SP Jack Flaherty

The case for: An 83-win season in 2022 indicated the Orioles’ rebuild was over and an AL-best 101-win 2023 proved they’d arrived for good. Baltimore reinforced their starting rotation by bringing in 2021 National League Cy Young Award winner Corbin Burnes in a deal with the Milwaukee Brewers and also have baseball’s No. 1 prospect about to debut.

Jackson Holliday did not make the Opening Day roster, but he’ll be a mainstay in the everyday lineup soon. The Orioles are going to be a problem for teams in the East for a long, long time.

The case against: As dominant as the O’s were in 2023, they did get swept by the Texas Rangers in the AL Division Series. Of course, the Rangers went on to win the World Series, so maybe the Orioles just ran into the wrong team at the wrong time?

Kyle Bradish, their ace from last season, is dealing with a UCL sprain in his right elbow and will miss time to start the season. While the team seems optimistic about his recovery, the word “injury” is rarely minor when it involves a UCL. Star closer Felix Bautista is also expected to miss all of 2024 as he recovers from Tommy John surgery.


Tampa Bay Rays

Tampa Bay Rays

2023 record: 99-63
Key additions: SS Amed Rosario, SS Jose Caballero, SP Ryan Pepiot
Key losses: OF Luke Raley, OF Manuel Margot, SP Tyler Glasnow, RP Robert Stephenson

The case for: The Rays are following their usual script for 2024. They traded away a star player in the off-season, returned to camp with plenty of players cast-off from other organizations, and then seem to be a step ahead of everyone else when those players turn out to be productive.

Tampa has won at least 90 games in four of their previous six seasons. The only two times they didn’t was in the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign – when their 40-20 record had them on pace to win far more – and 2022, where they still made the playoffs with 86 victories. This organization just finds a way, and they do it every year.

The case against: So many of Tampa’s top arms from a season ago won’t be pitching for them in 2024. The Rays dealt Tyler Glasnow to the Los Angeles Dodgers in December and Shane McClanahan will miss the year after having Tommy John.

Starters Drew Rasmussen and Jeffrey Springs were each lights out prior to going down with elbow injuries last season and aren’t likely to factor into 2024 until later in the year, if at all. Tampa has worked miracles with their pitching staff in recent seasons and will probably need to do it again to contend for the division.


Toronto Blue Jays

Justin Turner George Springer Toronto Blue Jays

2023 record: 89-73
Key additions: 1B/DH Joey Votto, 1B/DH Justin Turner, INF Isiah Kiner-Falefa, SP/RP Yariel Rodriguez
Key losses: 3B Matt Chapman, UTL Whit Merrifield, 1B Brandon Belt, P Hyun-Jin Ryu, RP Jordan Hicks

The case for: The Blue Jays are betting big on internal improvement in 2024 and that starts primarily with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. The 2021 AL MVP runner-up hit baseballs consistently hard but consistently right at people – often on the ground – last season, which led to a drop-off in his production across the board. Guerrero seems too talented not to figure it out.

Despite staying healthy, veteran outfielder George Springer was disappointing at the plate. So was Daulton Varsho, who doesn’t need to do much more than be average at the dish to provide value given his elite defensive ability. And after starting the All-Star Game in 2022, Alejandro Kirk slashed just .250/.334/.358. It’s very possible all four of these players rebound in some way this season and that should help tremendously.

The case against: Even if the Jays get the bump they’re looking for from their key pieces, whether or not it translates into more wins is a different story. Toronto was the only team to have four pitchers make at least 30 starts last season and had all their Opening Day regulars play at least 135 games. Shoulder setbacks have already popped up with ace Kevin Gausman and Alek Manoah, who doesn’t need any obstacles as he tries to rebound from a nightmare 2023.

The Jays haven’t won a playoff game since 2016 and the clock is ticking on their current core with Guerrero and Bo Bichette each set for free agency after 2025. It almost feels ‘make-or-break’ for the Jays and an underwhelming off-season has fans on edge heading into this year.


New York Yankees

New York Yankees

2023 record: 82-80
Key additions: OF Juan Soto, OF Alex Verdugo, OF Trent Grisham, SP Marcus Stroman
Key losses: UTL Isiah Kiner-Falefa, OF Harrison Bader, SP Michael King, SP Domingo German, SP Frankie Montas, SP Luis Severino

The case for: Juan Soto.

It’s overly simple, but it’s the truth. Acquired in a blockbuster trade with the San Diego Padres over the winter, Soto is one of the best hitters in the game today and is trending toward being able to put his resume up against anyone else in the modern era. Even if the Yankee Stadium short porch in right field is a bit of a red herring because Soto’s power resides in the alleys and the opposite way, batting behind (or in front of) Aaron Judge makes the two one of the most feared duos in all of baseball.

The Yankees had their lowest win total in 30 years last season and still managed to go 82-80 despite pretty much everything going wrong. The addition of Soto going into his contract year will do wonders for an offence that finished sixth-worst in runs scored (673) last year.

The case against: Ace Gerrit Cole is going to miss the season’s first month and probably longer. Giancarlo Stanton hit .191 in 2023. Aaron Judge missed 56 games. Carlos Rodon had an ERA of 6.85. D.J. LeMahieu is 35 and coming off three uninspiring seasons in a row. And Anthony Rizzo had to shut down his season on Aug. 3 after the effects from a concussion earlier in the year.

The pieces are certainly there in New York, but there are some loose threads. With only one year of Soto in Pinstripes confirmed, the pressure on Aaron Boone’s team to return to the postseason will be even more intense than usual.


Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox

2023 record: 78-84
Key additions: OF Tyler O’Neill, RP Liam Hendriks, SP Lucas Giolito
Key losses: 1B/DH Justin Turner, OF Alex Verdugo, OF Adam Duvall, SP Chris Sale, SP James Paxton, SP Corey Kluber

The case for: The Red Sox are coming into the 2024 season… under the radar? That shouldn’t be possible for a big-market team like the BoSox, but a largely uneventful off-season has most prognosticators bearish on their chances for 2024. Maybe that means something in a high-stakes market like Boston?

Trevor Story is back healthy after missing most of last season. Third baseman Rafael Devers and electric right-hander Brayan Bello are locked up as building blocks long-term with new deals. Jarren Duran and Triston Casas look like they’re deserving off long-term extensions, too. 

The case against: The Red Sox have invested fewer and fewer dollars in player payroll in recent years and only made one sizeable free agent signing this winter: Lucas Giolito. Well, that now looks like a write-off – at least the first half of the two-year deal they gave him – as Giolito is set to miss all of 2024 with a UCL injury that leaves Boston’s starting rotation incredibly thin.

Red Sox fans have called the motivations of owners Fenway Sports into question in recent years and a slow off-season only adds to the fan base’s uncertainty. Teams need to stay aggressive with talent acquisition to remain competitive in the AL East and the Red Sox have not done that lately.