The calendar has flipped to February and spring training is only one short week away. MLB and the MLBPA have agreed to the necessary health and safety protocols, so spring training and the regular season will begin as scheduled, assuming the pandemic cooperates. Cross your fingers, everyone.
Throughout the offseason my fellow CBS Sports MLB scribes and I will bring you a weekly roundtable breaking down, well, pretty much anything. The latest news, a historical question, thoughts about the future of baseball, all sorts of stuff. Last week we discussed Nolan Arenado's impact on the NL Central. Now we're going to tackle the new-look AL East.
Who is the team to beat in the AL East?
R.J. Anderson: I'm inclined to say the Yankees. That's no offense to the Blue Jays, whose efforts to improve this offseason have been noted and appreciated. I just think the Yankees have the better lineup and bullpen, and both teams have question marks in their rotations (though I also think Gerrit Cole is more certain than Hyun-Jin Ryu, so far as their respective "sure things" go). The Blue Jays still might end up winning the division if the Yankees have the worse go at it with injuries. (The defending champion Rays, by the way, still feel likely to make another move or two, but until they do, it's hard to see them as better than either/both.)
Matt Snyder: It's the Yankees. Though I have no doubt the Rays will find a way to somehow have an above-average pitching staff, I'm not even remotely buying their rotation behind Tyler Glasnow -- and he's a health concern as it is. Meanwhile, the Yankees just have so much offensive firepower and a better rotation. I actually have the Rays third in the division. I'm very intrigued by the Blue Jays and think they have a real shot of pushing the Yankees. They'd just need so much to break right with their rotation that I'm not seeing it.
Dayn Perry: I lean Yankees at this point. Although I like the Blue Jays' offseason, I think they're a regression risk in some key spots. As for the reigning AL champs, the Rays, I know the roster churn model has worked for them for the last handful of seasons, but I think it has its limits in terms of sustainability. The Yankees' rotation concerns are duly noted, but I think they have the AL's best offense and the AL's top starting pitcher, as well as a potentially strong bullpen. I think that's enough in what could be a tight 1-2-3 finish in the division.
Mike Axisa: I think it's the Yankees as well. The Blue Jays have definitely improved this offseason, and when you have that much young talent, it can come together very quickly. I think they are the clear No. 2 team in the division now that the Rays have taken a step back. The Rays will contend in 2021, for sure, but they lost a lot of good innings in Blake Snell and Charlie Morton, and I don't love their offense. If Randy Arozarena didn't do something heroic in the postseason, they didn't score.
New York's biggest pitfall is injury risk, not talent, and they have a knack for turning unheralded pickups into quality contributors, like Gio Urshela. Do it once and it might be a fluke. Do it as many times as the Yankees have done over the years, and it's a skill. I think it's kinda dumb the Yankees are ducking under the $210 million luxury-tax threshold this season -- they realize they won't have this core together and in its prime forever, right? -- but I still think they're the best team in the AL East, and probably the best team in the American League overall. The Blue Jays and Rays won't go quietly though.
Katherine Acquavella: I'm in on the Yankees to win their division. But that's not to say I think they're the clear favorite. I think both Tampa and Toronto have first-place-worthy rosters, but for now, I'll say that the Yankees healthy power hitters will be what makes them the team to beat in the AL East, especially considering a lot of the success of the Yankees' 2021 rotation depends on the health of their new starters.