Since the turn of the century, baseball fans have pretty much assumed that the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox would be serious World Series contenders. In many cases, both contended and made their way into the playoffs. With the two marquee American League East teams looking at some roster turnover heading into 2013, this might be their most collective down season in some time.
The biggest issue for the Yankees continues to be age. They are still reliant on Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte, who have all been with the Yankees since the beginning of this reign. While still productive players, Jeter and Rivera will be coming back in spring training from a serious injury, while Pettitte only threw 75 innings total a year ago.
Then, of course, there is the Alex Rodriguez fiasco. That will continue to grab headlines during spring training, when reporters have little else to talk about. He is not prepared to play anytime soon, but as their highest paid player, he will always be in the news as this new PED scandal continues.
There were no huge signings, nor were there any star players who left the Yankees, but Nick Swisher will have to be replaced. Ichiro continues the “old” theme for the Yankees as they, and those who own him in their fantasy baseball leagues, are hoping he can play every day in the outfield at his advanced age.
While the Yankees have a problem with too much old talent, the Red Sox just have a talent problem in general. After last year’s mid-season fire sale, Boston looks to be ready to go through a rebuilding phase. They shed a ton of money to focus on building within thanks to a solid farm system. Most of those younger guys won’t be available at the big league level this season, so what should the Red Sox be looking for at Spring Training?
It all starts with their pitching, and right now it looks to be a bit shaky. Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz figure to headline the staff, but after that, they are hoping to find other reliant guys to take the ball every fifth day. Ryan Dempster and John Lackey are veterans looking to prove they still have it, while Felix Doubront and Rubby de la Rosa showed signs of a solid future at times a season ago.
After shedding all that money, the Red Sox went out and picked up what appears to be some stop gap players to fill the holes until the minor league stars are ready. Shane Victorino, Stephen Drew, Mike Napoli, Jonny Gomes and David Ross are all relatively well-known around the league, but few see any of those as more than replacement level players. It will be interesting to see how these guys do in Spring Training with a lot of pressure on them to perform.
With Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Jacoby Ellsbury and Will Middlebrooks, the Red Sox still have a core that will prevent them from being downright dreadful. However, there is not a lot of optimism in Beantown this season. It could be a long summer in the Northeast for both of these AL East powers.