Obviously it goes without saying that the American League East is different now than it’s been in quite some time in the wake of the Baltimore Orioles’ surprising season. However is the division changing faster than we think? The New York Yankees just completed their postseason, being swept away by the Detroit Tigers in the American Leauge Championship series. (Incidentally, Detroit became the first team since the 1920-21 New York Giants to oust the Yankees in consecutive postseasons.) There have been swirling rumors to the effect that Alex Rodriguez is going to be traded in the off season, with the Miami Marlins being the team that’s supposedly interested. Rodriguez said after Thursday’s game that he wanted to stay in NY (and he has a no-trade clause), however who really knows how that ends?
New York hit a historically low .188 in the postseason, and they just looked lost out on the field (even against the Orioles). Even if Rodriguez stays around in 2013, the core of Jeter, Rivera, and ARod are aging. None perhaps moreso than Jeter, who hopes to be ready for spring training next year after fracturing his ankle. Looking at some other teams in the division, Toronto may well be looking at a new manager assuming the John Farrell-to-Boston rumors are true. They have a decent crop of players in Toronto, however they’ve never had the chemistry to contend on a regular basis or the skipper to put everything together. If Farrell leaves, the franchise is looking at starting over again. That’s already the case in Boston, who as I said above is gunning for Farrell. However the Red sox are still in rebuild mode one way or the other after last year.
That leaves the Orioles and Tampa. The Rays of course barely missed out on the playoffs this season, and while they will presumably lose a few pieces next year Joe Maddon and his team always seem to find a way to compete. Going back to NY for a moment, they’re always going to be top free agent spenders. So I wouldn’t write them off in 2013 just yet. However I do think it’s fair to say that there’s the impression in the Bronx that the status quo will not be acceptable going into next season. So there might be some changes on the roster. Look no further than the stands during the ALDS and ALCS games, when you theoretically could have walked up to the box office before the game and purchased a ticket.
However the fact is that we’ve seen a bit of a paradigm shift in the American League East. Most people at the beginning saw Boston’s swoon at the end of 2012 as a mistimed slump. In fact it was the beginning of the end as they knew it. Is it possible that the current crop of Yankees might be looking at the same fate? Having said that, the Orioles need to do everything in their power to remain competitive in the division next season. Many people are laughing and sneering at the potential of ARod not being a Yankee moving forward. So who plays third base? Don’t be surprised if New York traded ARod and then tried to trade for Chase Headley from San Diego. Who’d be laughing then?
The Orioles are on the right path, but they’re going to have to fight to stay there. In my opinion the good news is that the Orioles are starting to use their farm system. The likes of Wieters, Tillman, Jim Johnson, Machado, Bundy, et al all came out of the Orioles’ farm system. Where as the past 20 years or so have all been about free agency, that’s starting to change as teams are locking up their stars long-term. New York’s farm system is fairly bare of major league ready talent, which means that they’d have to go on the free agent market to upgrade their team. That costs even more prospects and talent…and the cycle continues. So at some point they’ll have a decision to make; endure some potentially lean years while they re-stock the system, or risk selling off what they do have. Meanwhile, the Orioles will hopefully get stronger.