The AL East has long been viewed as the strongest division in baseball with the powerhouse New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. Recently, even the Rays and Orioles have competed for playoff spots and been among the league’s best. During this past off-season, each team has lost at least one key player. Here is a look at each team’s biggest departure.
In a puzzling move, the Orioles traded closer Jim Johnson this off-season. While he had seven losses last season, Johnson recorded a league leading 50 saves and he has led the league in each of the past two seasons. During 2012, he attended his first all-star game and was even given Cy Young consideration. His presence in the bullpen will be greatly missed.
In his absence there are many arms who have chances to take over. Former starter Tommy Hunter appears to have an edge on the competition heading into spring training. He saved four games last year and pitched 68 games in relief.
Boston Red Sox
When he is on the field, Jacoby Ellsbury is one of the best centerfielders in the game. The big problem that the Red Sox had with Ellsbury is that he could not stay on the field. He missed the greater part of three seasons due to injuries to his ribs, shoulder, and foot. He has won a Silver Slugger, a Gold Glove, and once finished second in the MVP voting. The club will miss his ability to get on base shown in his .350 on-base percentage and his steady glove in the outfield. Perhaps the worst part of his departure is that he signed with the hated Yankees.
In his place the Red Sox have some intriguing options. Jackie Bradley Jr. cooled off after a torrid spring last season, but seemed to get better with each call-up. The team also signed veteran outfielder, Grady Sizemore. Sizemore, like Ellsbury is a premier outfielder when healthy, but he has missed the past two full seasons due to injury.
New York Yankees
For years Robinson Cano has been the heart and soul of the Yankee lineup. He is certainly among the game’s best offensive second baseman and consistently wins Silver Sluggers and receives MVP votes. His two Gold Gloves show that he is not bad defensively, either. Cano is a career .309 hitter and he has an impressive 204 homers. His bat will assuredly be missed.
With Cano’s departure, Brian Roberts will take over. At one time, Roberts was an all-star caliber player. But, injuries have not allowed him to stay on the field during the last few seasons. If he can stay healthy, the loss of Cano will be lessened.
Tampa Bay Rays
Fernando Rodney is no longer the closer for the Tampa Bay Rays. In 2012 he had an outstanding year where he had an ERA of 0.68 and saved 48 games. While he saved 37 games last year, his ERA rose almost three full points. He is currently a free agent looking for a job.
They replaced Rodney in a big way. The club added former A’s closer Grant Balfour and Diamondbacks’ Heath Bell. Balfour is among the game’s elite. With Bell setting him up they have a solid one two punch to end games.
Toronto Blue Jays
Josh Johnson was expected to be a strong part of the Blue Jays rotation after having successful seasons in Miami. But his time with the Blue Jays was a flop. Johnson went just 2-8 in his only season with the club with an ERA over six. When he is fully healthy he has all of the tools to be a top of the line starter, but he has struggled to do that in recent years.
With the loss of Johnson, the Blue Jays will look at many internal options to fill out the rest of their rotation.
Statistics Provided by Baseball Reference