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Catching up with the rest of the American League East

Looking at the offseason changes around the division.

MLB: New York Yankees-Workouts
James Paxton
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The offseason isn’t technically over because there are, of course, some big free agents out there. The narrative that there are 100 major-league free agents or whatever is overplaying it — there aren’t 100 players who should get major-league deals out there — but that doesn’t mean it’s not a weird winter. Manny Machado just signed, but Bryce Harper, Craig Kimbrel, Dallas Keuchel and Marwin Gonzalez, among others, are still out there. So, rosters can still change significantly. That being said, games are about to get started in spring training, and while there are still tweaks to be made teams are starting to settle in with what they have. With that in mind, it seems like a good time to look back and see what the rest of the division did with their rosters this winter.

The pecking order in the division is mostly clear, with the Yankees and Red Sox at the top, the Rays looming not too far behind, the Blue Jays up-and-coming but not there yet, and the Orioles.....well, you know. Even if they aren’t competing, though, it’s important to get familiar with their rosters if for no other reason than the fact that Boston will play each of these teams 19 times. So, let’s get into it.

Yankees

Acquired: James Paxton, Adam Ottavino, D.J. LeMahieu, Troy Tulowitzki, Ryan Lavarnway

Lost: David Robertson, Neil Walker, Andrew McCutchen, Lance Lynn, Justus Sheffield

Re-Signed: Zack Britton, J.A. Happ, Brett Gardner, CC Sabathia

Extended: Luis Severino

Yes I included Ryan Lavarnway in there, not because it has any effect on the major-league roster but rather because I didn’t know he had signed with the Yankees and wanted to pass that information on. Do with it what you will. As for the rest of the winter, well, the Yankees did a bunch, but it wasn’t what we expected. At this point last year the expectation was for New York to be hard in the market for both Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, and instead they’ve targeted neither. Their biggest addition of the winter was James Paxton, the former Mariner who has top-of-the-rotation stuff and has performed to that level, but just hasn’t stayed healthy for a full year. They also swapped out David Robertson for Adam Ottavino in the bullpen, and while I’d rather have the former there’s no denying Ottavino’s stuff. They’re also going to be playing Troy Tulowitzki at shortstop in the Year of Our Papi 2019, which seems like good news for Boston. All-in-all, I’m still in shock the Yankees didn’t go after one of the big free agents and that clouds my judgement of their winter. Their roster is still very, very good, but they didn’t add the impact they could have.

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Los Angeles Angels
Mike Zunino
Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

Rays

Acquired: Mike Zunino, Charlie Morton, Avisaíl García, Guillermo Heredia, Emilio Pagán, Yandy Díaz

Lost: Jake Bauers, Sergio Romo, Mallex Smith

The Rays surprised everyone last season with their performance in the second half to get them up to a quiet 90-win season, and they are going to be there are a wildcard contender again in 2020. It was a typical Rays offseason with some lower-profile moves but ones that could pay big dividends. They started things off by trading for Mike Zunino, who will strike out a million times but also hit a bunch of homers and provide strong defense behind the plate. Charlie Morton gives them another true starter as they potentially move away from the opener strategy. It will still be used, of course, but with Snell, Morton and the eventual returns of prospects Jose De Leon and Brent Honeywell, it may not be as often as some are thinking. They did lose a big clubhouse presence (and a talented pitcher) in Sergio Romo, but Emilio Pagán is solid in his own right. It still feels like Tampa Bay could use another slugger in their lineup — Nelson Cruz made a ton of sense for them — but this was a solid winter for Tampa Bay and they’ve set themselves up to be a couple breaks away from a playoff appearance.

Blue Jays

Acquired: Freddy Galvis, Matt Shoemaker, David Phelps, John Axford, Elvis Luciano

Lost: Troy Tulowtizki, Marco Estrada, Yangervis Solarte, Aledmys Diaz, Russell Martin

Hired: Charlie Montoyo

The Blue Jays, as mentioned above, are probably not contending this year. The big story around them this year is going to be Vlad Guerrero Jr., whose service time they are going to manipulate before he gets to the majors in mid-April. Gotta work on that defense! Anyway, their offseason was one of a retooling team in which they let veterans walk and traded a couple away while filling some holes with short-term deals in free agency. Guys like Freddy Galvis and Matt Shoemaker fill some gaps while they wait for younger pieces, and relievers like David Phelps and John Axford would potentially become trade chips in July if they pitch well enough. On top of all that, they hired Charlie Montoyo to manage and guide a young team that will try to come up together and compete within the next few seasons. The win/loss record won’t be as important as development in Toronto this year.

Baltimore

Acquired: Alcides Escobar, Richie Martin, Drew Jackson, Nate Karns

Lost: Tim Beckham, Caleb Joseph, Adam Jones (probably)

Hired: Mike Elias, Brandon Hyde

Yikes. There’s really not much to say here. Two of the four names in that “acquired” section were Rule 5 draftees, and the other two are fringe major leaguers at best. Baltimore is in the midst of a complete reset that includes a new manager and President of Baseball Ops. This offseason has reflected that. It’s going to be another rough year for Orioles fans.