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Legends On Deck

Game of the Week: Is Another Ace Headed to the AL East?

There is no two ways about it: the AL East is about as mediocre as it gets. Aside from the Tampa Bay Rays, who could lose close to 100 games this season, the division is wide open. Each respective team has its flaws and weak spots, but all four teams have the ability to win at least 85 games. The Red Sox may not have a #1 pitcher, but they do arguably feature the best lineup in all of baseball. The Yankees, on the other hand, feature an aging lineup, but a pitching staff led by CC Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka. If both are able to stay healthy, which is a big if, they could surprise some people and push for a playoff spot.

The Toronto Blue Jays have added pieces around Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion that could help propel them into the playoffs. The Baltimore Orioles are a very curious team, in my opinion. After winning the AL East last season, one would think that they would be poised to repeat. However, after winning 96 games last season, look for the Orioles to take a significant step back.  After losing Andrew Miller, Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz, the Orioles were unable to replace those losses and could suffer tremendously from them.

Now, the question has to be asked: is an ace going to push the Red Sox or Yankees over the top?

Photo Courtesy of Anthony J. Causi/AP

Photo Courtesy of Anthony J. Causi/AP

Well, some would say that the Yankees already have their ace in Masahiro Tanaka, right? Not so fast. An ace, in my opinion, is someone that you can count on to roll out every fifth day and provide you with your best chance to win. For Tanaka, there is no doubt that he has the stuff to be that guy for New York. However, after fearing his season was over due to Tommy John surgery, Tanaka started the season for the Yankees and looked like a completely different pitcher. His fastball was not in the mid to upper 90’s, topping out at only 91-92 MPH. There was also a noticeable difference in the bite of his off speed pitches. Could Tanaka still have some discomfort in his elbow? Absolutely. However, it may just be all in his head. Instead of letting it air out, he may be holding back just a little bit because he is afraid of aggravating his elbow, which, in return, has limited his effectiveness. This season will tell a lot about Tanaka and his future in the MLB.

CC Sabathia, the once feared and intimidating lefty hurler, has shown that he is not the same pitcher that he once was. After a major knee injury last season, Sabathia needed a bounce back Spring to prove everyone wrong. However, after having a shaky Spring Training, people in New York are now doubting the 34-year-old former ace. Sabathia could return to dominance, but after a 8.10 ERA in 10 innings this Spring, he should not be looked at as a forgone conclusion.

With all that being said, it is very curious to me that the Yankees have not been linked to any big name pitchers this Spring. Sure, people believed that they would make a hard run at Max Scherzer or Jon Lester, but that never came to fruition. With big names such as Cole Hamels, Johnny Cueto, and Jordan Zimmerman all being tossed around, the Yankees have not been linked to one of them. Unfortunately for the Yankees, their lack of a farm system has made it nearly impossible for them to trade for a big named pitcher. If GM Brian Cashman thinks of this as a bridge year, which in all likelihood looks to be his thought process, this could be a very long and frustrating year for the Bronx Bombers.

Now, on to the Red Sox, who have been linked to almost anyone that can throw a baseball 60 feet, 6 inches. In regards to Zimmerman, Cueto and Hamels, the Red Sox could very realistically end up with one of those names leading their pitching staff into the month of August. While Zimmerman and Cueto would create more buzz, they are also free agents at the end of the year. If GM Ben Cherington were to trade for either one of them, he would need some assurance that they would re-sign because of the pieces they would have to give up in order to bring one of those guys in. However, the Red Sox and Hamels have been linked together for some time and both parties would benefit from a trade.

The Red Sox have a quality rotation as is, but lack that true #1 who almost guarantees you a win. If Clay Buchholz could ever get his head on straight, then he could be that guy for you. But after 8 years of showing great stuff but not being able to stay healthy, it is imperative for the Red Sox to not rely on him if they aspire to win a World Series title.

Photo Courtesy of John Bazemore/AP

Photo Courtesy of John Bazemore/AP

While Boston GM Ben Cherington seems happy with the team he has assembled, it would not surprise me in the slightest to see Rubén Amaro, Jr. cave in by the deadline and take some type of package deal that does not include top Red Sox prospects. In my personal opinion, I think both sides would be happy with this type of deal:

Phillies receive:

Shane Victorino, OF (eating entire contract)

Manuel Margot, OF

Deven Marrero, SS

Garin Cecchini, 3B

Brian Johnson, LHP

Red Sox receive: 

Cole Hamels (Red Sox taking on entire contract, guaranteeing option year)

Are the Red Sox giving up a ton? Yes. However, Hamels is a true #1 and would make the Red Sox the undoubtedly favorites to win the AL East. Even as a Red Sox fan, I want to see Boston and New York go head to head loading up with pieces to make a run at the World Series. Is it nice to win the AL East with relative easy? Without question. But what makes it even better is beating the Yankees to get there.

Pete Packowski

Pete has lived in the Boston area his entire life. He grew up going to Fenway Park and watching the Red Sox. He is currently attending Boston University and is majoring in sports journalism. Once he graduates, he plans on entering the Army. He is also the owner of Biased Boston Sports, which covers the four major sports in the city. His main strength is current major league talent and highly regarded prospects. You can follow him @Pete_BBS