The AL East is no longer a playground for the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox to fight over. Both teams chose to take different approaches in the way they handled their attempts to improve, with the Yankees solely looking for trades and making them, while the Red Sox didn’t shy away from making one of the biggest free agency signings of the offseason.
The Yankees got back into the playoffs in 2015, but only the Wild Card game against the Houston Astros, in which they were shut out. This isn’t a team, before the changes, built to last through an entire postseason against what the AL has to offer right now. And after their additions? They should be better, but by how much?
The main focus was creating a bullpen that’s good enough to help out a shaky rotation. Aroldis Chapman was brought over from the Cincinnati Reds who have been looking to dump him all offseason (they’re dumping everyone), joining Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances, the gems of this relief crew, arguably now the best in baseball, especially if Chapman doesn’t get suspended by MLB or not for too long, giving the Yankees at least three innings and maybe more of very solid pitching off their bench, meaning they don’t have to rely on their starting pitchers too much.
But that wasn’t the only thing done by the Yankees, who weren’t into signing free agents, and focused on trading for players. They needed hitting and youth in their lineup as well, so Starlin Castro was brought over from the Chicago Cubs, for Adam Warren and Brendan Ryan. Castro, an All-Star in 2011, 2012 and 2014 isn’t the best of defensive players at shortstop or second base, but he makes up for it with his hitting most of the time, hitting .281 with 62 home runs since 2010. He’s only 25, and his contract isn’t too painful to take in.
The Boston Red Sox went after a number of “heavy” free agents this offseason. The one they landed? David Price, who in the regular season has been one of the more consistent and best over the last few years, but one wonders about the $217 million over seven years he was given. Price didn’t play well in the postseason for the Toronto Blue Jays, but the Red Sox need to get there somehow, playing poorly through the 162-game stretch since winning the World Series in 2013.
The other signing the Red Sox made was Chris Young, getting the outfielder on a two-year deal worth $13 million. Young had a decent season in 2015 for the Yankees, giving great defense when playing at left and right field, while hitting .252 with 14 home runs last season. He managed to somewhat rebuild his reputation after a terrible stretch before joining the Yankees, almost tripling his salary from last season, and might turn out to be a surprising contributor for the Red Sox.
After such a long period of dominance in the division, which includes winning three World Series since 2004 for the Red Sox, both the Yankees and their big rivals from Boston are adjusting to a new reality and more difficult competitors than before they need to face most of the season. The Yankees have stopped throwing endless amounts of money at problems, which was part of the problem that got them into a difficult situation with a roster that’s difficult to manuever out of. For the Red Sox, after two very bad years, there wasn’t an option but to invest and risk a lot in the free agency market, hoping it doesn’t explode in their faces like before.