MLB Preview 2016: AL East

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Nate Karns is now a Mariner, which is not why I am only picking the Rays fourth but the Mariners to win the West.

I’m writing divisional previews this year (I think) because I had way too much to write about the AL West.

AL East
Red Sox*
Blue Jays
Yankees
Rays
Orioles

* = projected playoff team

I’m reluctantly picking the Red Sox, who did not win 93 games last year, to win the East. Writer Friend Rob in Iowa and I exchanged emails about Boston’s new GM last December following the David Price deal.

Rob:

Dumbrowski strikes again.  7 years, 217M.  Doesn’t take long after the final out to roll the eyes at baseball.

The guy leaves aging declining Detroit saddled with 100M in bloated contracts in ’16 alone and gets to pull the same stupid stunt in Boston.

Me:

Dombrowski makes sense for the 2016 Red Sox in a way that he stopped making sense (to quote David Byrne, but not Eric Byrnes) for the 2015 Tigers.  I don’t like the Kimbrel trade but I do like Price for them.  Boston is arguably about the same place on the team win cycle (for those who believe in such things) as the Tigers were when Dombrowski took over there and the six figure ace makes sense for them in a way it doesn’t for….the Tigers (oops–although I guess with Verlander, Cabrera, V. Martinez, you can’t really rebuild or even necessarily retool a la Detroit Red Wings, so why not go all in a la 2010 Phillies–it’ll end in tears either way).

Rob:

I guess what I was saying is regardless of needs and fit, long term contracts to middle age (baseball years) stars never work.  Boston just put 100M in the garbage disposal.  Maybe it’s not all guaranteed. Pujols is the perfect example – pretty much a shell of his prime years yet still owed boatloads of cash.  And you know there are worse bank robbers out there.  You want to write the 25M check to Howard for ’16.  Didn’t think so.  I just saying the fans eventually pick up the tab… not Dumbrowski.

Me:

Yes and no.  Not all long term contracts are created equal.  The Howard contract was doomed because he had one skill (power), his player type didn’t age well (large, slow first basemen, who also happen to have declining plate discipline and can’t hit lefties), AND Amaro extended him TWO YEARS before his current contract expired (in other words, he bid against himself in a market that, as it turned out, wouldn’t have existed, since Howard was injured and bad by the time he would have been a free agent).  Most first baseman LTCs are bad, even Pujols, who was a much better player than Howard at his peak (even Howard’s MVP season), just because they’re more replaceable than a shortstop or 2b or pitcher, and when they inevitably decline, you can’t move them anywhere other than DH.

The Price contract isn’t bad for the Red Sox because not only is he not a large, slow first baseman and the team in a better position (younger and in an easier division) than the Phillies were in 2010 (?) or even the Angels were when they signed Pujols, but Price can opt out after 3 years–which benefits the team much more than the player.  If he’s good and leaves (e.g. Greinke Dodgers), the Red Sox will have enjoyed his 3 peak years and missed out on 4 probably worse years.  (Which is not to say the next Greinke contract will be awful…yet.  I’ll reserve judgment, for now.)  If he’s good and stays, it’s a wash, because they will have benefited from him being good and possible playoff runs, which equal more revenue (e.g. Greinke Dodgers).  If he’s bad and stays, that’s the risk, but it’s lower risk than Howard, Pujols, etc. and it’s just one of 3 possible outcomes.  Remember, Sabathia opted out after 3 (I think) good years of his LTC and would have saved the Yankees if they had saved themselves (they chose to make him another offer, and he chose to accept it).

Are the Tigers worse now than Peak Dombrowski a few years ago?  Yes, almost definitely.  Will they regret the Verlander contract (I don’t think there’s an opt-out, and like the Howard contract, it was offered two years before his free agent year, adding unnecessary risk for the Tigers)?  Probably, at times.  But it made sense for where the team was at the time (Dombrowski’s overall moves at least, if not Verlander’s contract specifically), and they had a shot a few times: a bunch of playoff runs and two pennants (if one still calls them pennants).  I think that’s all you can ask, and all Red Sox fans could hope for, if they weren’t drunk rude assholes.

That said, I don’t like the Kimbrel deal–it would have made more sense for the Tigers 3 years ago than the Red Sox, who do have bullpen options (including Joe Kelly), now.  Hey, Ken Giles was and is available. (Update: Ken Giles is no longer available. )

Oh, and as far as fans picking up the tab: yes, in the sense that we pick up the tab for the stadium too (other than SF fans, who enjoy the one non-taxpayer-funded ML ballpark in, I don’t know, the world?).  But if the Red Sox had signed Price for 10 years at $10, would ticket prices go down?  Or would ticket prices not go up?  We’re paying one way or another.  If it doesn’t go to the players, it goes to the owners.  I would rather add to David Price’s retirement fund than, I don’t know, John Middleton’s $3B.

Bottom line: Price should be good in 2016, young stars like Betts and Bogaerts and Bradley (is Bradley a star?  I guess he’s a star in some circles) should be even better, and there shouldn’t be quite as many black holes as the 2015 Red Sox just because if a Sandoval (who’s now a backup) or a Ramirez or a Castillo is bad or merely not as good as some other option, they just won’t play.

I’m reluctantly picking the Red Sox because weren’t we saying this last year, with the too many outfielders (Shane Victorino, where have you gone) and the bullpen will sort itself out and the young starters will emerge and Joe Kelly is an ace-in-waiting?  But hey, they have a number one now.  And Kimbrel!

Plus the rest of the division just isn’t that good, other than the Blue Jays, whom I originally picked by default, but Toronto scored 891 runs last year.  That’s 5.5 runs per game, and it’s the most in the majors since the 2009 Yankees (915), whom I remember all too well.  I’m doubtful that a full season from Troy Tulowitzki (.777 OPS, 102 OPS+ with the Rockies and Blue Jays last year) can make up for any dropoff from the Murderers’ Row of Donaldson/Bautista/Encarnacion, and I’m doubtful that the Blue Jays can expect a full season from Troy Tulowitzki (whose 128 games last season were his most since 2011), or that a full season of Marcus Stroman (and J.A. Happ!) can make up for the loss of David Price.  The Blue Jays will be good, but Boston should be better.

Also, whatever it’s worth, Delmon Young is no longer an Oriole.

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One Response to “MLB Preview 2016: AL East”

  1. […] I’m less willing, in two cases anyway. AL East Boston Toronto Yankees Tampa Bay Baltimore Look familiar?  The Red Sox are the one AL consensus pick that I don’t disagree with.  Even when Price […]

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