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American League East Preview: New York Yankees

A look at the Red Sox biggest rivals heading into 2018

MLB: Spring Training-Atlanta Braves at New York Yankees Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Over the next few days, as we continue to get ready for the start of the regular season (the crowd goes wild), we are going to take a look at the rest of the American League East. We’ll look at what’s changed with each team, what’s stayed the same, and some best- and worst-case scenarios. We’ll be going in reverse order of last year’s standings, and today we’re looking at the New York Yankees.

What’s Changed

Hmmmm. What’s changed for the Yankees this year. I’m drawing a blank on what kind of moves they made this winter. Seems like nothing happened. Ah, that’s right. All they did was add Giancarlo Stanton to their already stupid-powerful lineup for virtually nothing in a trade that actually reduced their payroll in terms of luxury tax ramifications. Stanton is going to be a terrifying presence in pinstripes for years to come and putting him in a lineup with Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez is just the dumbest. Anyway, that happened, and was clearly the headlining move of the Yankees winter. In addition to Stanton, they didn’t really do a ton else if we’re being honest. They made a late signing of Neil Walker in one of the more team-friendly signings of the offseason and also acquired infielder Brandon Drury in a three-way trade with the Diamondbacks and Rays.

In addition to these few additions, the Yankees didn’t really lose much of consequence either. They did say goodbye to third baseman Todd Frazier, who stayed in New York but signed across the city with the Mets. They also lost Jaime Garcia, Matt Holliday and Michael Pineda, all of whom had a small impact on the 2017 season if they had any impact at all. Their biggest potential loss was C.C. Sabathia, but they were able to bring him back in free agency.

What’s stayed the same

Pretty much everything remains the same for the Yankees compared to last year’s roster, which is bad news for the rest of the American League East. Judge and Sanchez are still in the middle of a lineup that now includes Stanton. Didi Gregorius is back at shortstop with Brett Gardner and Aaron Hicks each coming back to the outfield. This is arguably the best lineup in all of baseball, and they have two of the game’s better hitting prospects in Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar, either or both of whom could reasonably be expected to come up to the majors whenever the need arises. They also have Greg Bird at first base, though he just went down with another foot injury and is going to miss the first six weeks or so of the season.

There are more questions about the Yankees pitcher — particularly their rotation — than with their lineup, but that doesn’t mean there’s no upside. Luis Severino had a massive breakout last year and was one of the very best pitchers in baseball, and he certainly has the talent to prove that was no fluke. Masahiro Tanaka isn’t perfect, but he’s a little underrated now. Sabathia, Sonny Gray and Jordan Montgomery give the Yankees three really strong mid-to-back-end starters to finish up the rotation. Meanwhile, New York’s bullpen is simply bananas if everyone pitches to their talent level, and it remains the same from the end of last year. Aroldis Chapman, David Robertson, Dellin Betances, Tommy Kahnle and Chad Green form perhaps the deadliest late-inning combination in the entire league. Teams will have to get early leads against this Yankees team to compete this season.

Best-Case Scenario

Severino and Tanaka stay healthy and productive all year. Stanton, Judge and Sanchez do exactly what we all fear and terrorize lineups, giving this team the most home runs in baseball history. The bullpen is lights out all year and the Yankees run away with the American League East.

Worst-Case Scenario

Severino regresses, Tanaka succumbs to the elbow issues that have worried some Yankee fans for a couple years. Stanton can’t stay on the field and Judge’s strikeout tendencies cause him to take a step back at the plate. Age and volatility catches up with the bullpen, making that unit merely good instead of great and New York has to claw their way to simply get a wildcard berth.

Overall Thoughts

This team is sick. I’m honestly not sure if I think they should be the favorites over the Red Sox — I’ve gone back and forth on this a million times — but they have talent everywhere. That lineup is no joke, the bullpen is incredible and if Severino is the guy we saw last year they are going to have some stupid-hot stretches throughout this season. If they’re not the division favorites, they are very, very close behind the Red Sox.