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MLB Christmas Lists: AL East
In light of the holiday season, let's take a peek at what each AL East team should be wishing for this winter.
In 2023, the AL East combined for 449 regular season wins, the highest total of any other division by a wide margin. But, as we all know, the mighty division got swept in the playoffs, posting a dismal 0-7 record. No division had ever been swept in MLB postseason in history.
There is room for improvement within every club, imperfections are part of baseball.
In the spirit of the holidays, I’m taking a look at what the Orioles, Rays, Blue Jays, Yankees, and Red Sox should be asking for wrapped up under their off-season Christmas tree.
After giving up 21 runs over three playoff games, it’s evident that the Orioles biggest need coming into the off-season is starting pitching. The team won 101 games, yet got bounced quickly this past October.
If Peter Angelos isn’t willing to spend when the club’s winning window prematurely opens, I’m not sure he ever will.
Mike Elias needs to build a stronger 3-man rotation than Kyle Bradish, Grayson Rodriguez, and Dean Kremer. Don’t get me wrong, those three arms are very solid. But in a playoff setting, they got downright exposed. The O’s are lacking a sure-handed top-of-the-rotation ace that can get them over the hump
My proposal: Sign Blake Snell for 5 years, $175 million.
The Padres best arm and probable 2023 NL Cy Young, Snell is a pending free agent at the perfect time.
Collecting a stellar 2.25 ERA over 180 innings with a 4.1 fWAR, 3.44 FIP, and a 11.70 K/9, the southpaw enjoyed a career season and was a second-half monster.
Snell has to be at the top of the Orioles Christmas List. If he’s the only player Baltimore signs this winter, I’ll still grade them an A. The rest of the club is so deep, that he seems like the missing piece of their puzzle. My only doubt? If Angelos is willing to empty the wallet on his high price tag…
Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays have scored 2 runs over their last 42 postseason innings. That’s all you need to know.
Kevin Cash and company did great with the cards they were dealt this year. 99 wins for a club losing Shane McClanahan, Drew Rasmussen, Jeffrey Springs, and Brandon Lowe to injuries. Oh, and Wander Franco to something a LOT worse.
Unsung heroes Josh Lowe, Isaac Parades, and Zach Eflin stepped up and played major roles that secured their playoff birth. But if they want to go to the World Series like they did in 2020, the bats have to step up when the lights shine brightest.
My proposal: Sign JD Martinez for 2 years, $22.5 million
Another terrific season for the longtime veteran in 2023, JD Martinez doesn’t provide anything in terms of defense, but he’s a great clubhouse leader and rakes in the playoffs. He also happens to own a home in Florida.
With a .974 OPS with 10 HR over 33 postseason games, he’s the offensive spark they can be looking for come October.
Another positive? He’s cheap. It’s no secret the Rays have one of the smallest payrolls in baseball. They are a small market club. Martinez won’t be looking for a crazy contract toward the end of his career. The fit makes too much sense.
New York Yankees
For the first time since 2016, the New York Yankees missed the playoffs. 2023 was a season to forget. Aaron Judge battled the injury bug, Carlos Rodon was not himself when he returned, and Jasson Dominguez shined until he tore his UCL. Frustrating stuff.
The one bright spot? Gerrit Cole. Amassing 222 strikeouts over 209 innings with a 2.63 ERA, it seems as if he’s finally secured his first Cy Young award. Well deserved.
Brian Cashman has lots of work to do this winter to win back the Bronx faithful. His first step should be to lock up a versatile weapon for the foreseeable future.
My proposal: Sign Cody Bellinger for 6 years, $180 million.
Not only would Bellinger fill a gap in the outfield, but he can provide first-base depth to give Anthony Rizzo some rest.
The Cubs took a chance on Cody Bellinger this past winter, and it worked beautifully. His K% was down dramatically, and he found his power again. With 26 home runs, 97 runs batted in, and a 134 wRC+, the Yankees could desperately use a hitter like that in the heart of their order to protect Judge.
I know he’s still a bit of a risk, but the Yankees have money to spend, and Cody has a swing that could potentially deposit 30+ HR over the right-field wall for multiple seasons.
Boston Red Sox
After another year of a 78-84 mediocre showing, John Henry decided to move on from Chaim Bloom and hired a former Red Sox, Craig Breslow to take his place.
The Fenway faithful is fed up with back-to-back losing seasons, so pressure is on. While young players like Triston Casas, Jaren Duran, and Brayan Bello took leaps forward in 2023, it wasn’t enough. Not even a revived Justin Turner helped this team play consistently.
Their pitching is what holds them back, posting a 10th-worst 4.52 team ERA. Starters especially have been a massive question mark.
My proposal: Sign Yoshinobu Yamamoto for 6 years, $175 million
Why does this make sense for Boston? You know what you’re going to get with the Japanese sensation. He’s posted a spectacular 172 career ERA over 967 innings across the globe and has strikeout stuff to die for.
Yamamoto could step into an ace role right away in Boston, and join his former teammate Masataka Yoshida.
Does Breslow have the guts to make a huge splash in his first season as the Chief Baseball Officer?
Toronto Blue Jays
It was a similar season to 2022 for Toronto in 2023, once again making the playoffs, but falling short, and getting swept by the Twins in the Wild Card series. Atkins and Schnieder have short leashes.
Toronto’s bullpen finished with the 4th best ERA, and so did their pitching overall. Their hitting? 8th best in fWAR, and 8th best in wRC+.
So how do they move the needle?
Make a SPLASH.
My proposal: Sign Shohei Ohtani for 10 years, $515 million.
Imagine it? Rogers Centre would be packed every single night. Ohtani would be the biggest attraction in Canada since Drake. Ross Atkins saves his job, and Ohtani helps the Birds get to the World Series. Everyone rides off into the sunset.
Okay, I get it. It’s not super realistic. Ohtani’s market will be insanely competitive, and he’s worth a pretty penny. But does he move a needle? Absolutely. Is this the Blue Jays last shot to win with this core? They don’t exactly have lots of time.