Offseason view of AL Big 3: Red Sox, Yankees, Astros


Fans of the other 2018 playoff teams (Cleveland and Oakland) may disagree, but in most quarters the three best teams in the AL entering the off-season and likely entering the 2019 season are the 2018 World Champion Boston Red Sox, the 2017 World Champion Houston Astros and the many time champion New York Yankees. The Astros eliminated the Red Sox and the Yanks in 2017 and the Red Sox knocked off the other two in 2018.

These three teams had varying amounts of losses and have been involved in various numbers of offseason transactions. So, how do these teams stack up with Spring Training just around the corner?

Red Sox (108-54 and WS Champions in 2018)

Losses. Closer Craig Kimbrel (probably), RP Joe Kelly, IF Ian Kinsler, SP/RP Drew Pomeranz

Re-signed. SP Nathan Eovaldi, 1B Steve Pearce

Added. 2B Dustin Pedroia

The Red Sox were the best team in baseball in 2018. Like the Astros in 2017, they had an absolutely killer offense that carried a very good rotation and a solid bullpen to the crown. Like the Astros after their World Series run, they have mostly stayed with a pat hand. Their biggest additions this offseason have been the re-signing of Nathan Eovaldi and Yankee killer Steve Pearce. Potentially adding Dustin Pedroia back even as a part-timer sure can’t hurt their offense.

Offense. There is no reason to think this offense will fall off, but… that is what most folks thought about the Astros heading into 2018. But even if they fall some, it is hard to see them worse than a top 3 spot in the league. JD Martinez, Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts and Andrew Benintendi are a terrific quarter of hitters and are joined by playoff heroes Jackie Bradley Jr.and Rafael Devers in a stout lineup.

Starting Rotation. It is easy to picture a full season of starts from Eovaldi and Chris Sale (who only had 38 starts between them) amounting to more than 15 wins. It is also easy to picture that another season of a 4.28 from Rick Porcello not resulting in a 17-7 record. Astro killer David Price brings an extra solid presence to the rotation. The offense will help them all out, but a little fall-off overall would not be surprising.

Bullpen. This is the big question this off-season as the Sox have not (so far) done anything to replace Kimbrel and Kelly. It would not be surprising to see the Sox pick up some help before Spring Training or during the season. This is likely to be the focal point until/unless the Red Sox make another move.

Prognosis. Hard to not see this team winning at least 100 games again in 2019.

Yanks (100-62) Wildcard in 2018 and Lost to Boston in ALDS

Losses. RP David Robertson, IF Neil Walker, SP Lance Lynn, OF Andrew McCutchen, SP Sonny Gray, IF Ronald Torreyes

Re-sign. SP C.C. Sabathia, SP J.A. Happ, OF Brett Gardner, RP Zach Britton

Added. SP James Paxton, RP Adam Ottavino, SS Troy Tulowitzki, IF D.J. LeMahieu

The Yankees were one of the best teams in baseball in 2018, and would have led 4 of the 6 divisions in baseball, but ended up losing their division to the Red Sox. They have been busy in a slow off-season, even if the Yanks’ fans think they haven’t been busy enough. The addition of Paxton along with re-signing Sabathia and Happ helped really solidify their rotation while re-signing Britton and signing Ottavino turn a strength into a super-power.

Offense. The Yanks rode the top power lineup in the game to the 2nd best run-scoring team in the game. The biggest question here may be how well and how long Tulo has to replace Didi Gregorius while he recovers from Tommy John surgery. Will youngsters Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar continue to rake. Will the offense reach their potential that poorer performers like Greg Bird and Brett Gardner helped drag down? Some of that depends on Gary Sanchez being healed from off-season surgery and a full season from Aaron Judge. And they have some guy named Stanton who might be OK.

Starting Rotation. Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka were a strong 1-2 at the top of the rotation and Paxton will likely make this a tough top three. Happ was light’s out after coming to the team and Sabathia turned in another solid season. The biggest question with their rotation is whether the 35 y.o. Happ or the 37 y.o. Sabathia show signs of slowing down.

Bullpen. They did lose Robertson, who was a strong performer for them, but adding Ottavino and holding on to Britton on top of Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, and Chad Green makes late innings against this team a tough assignment.

Prognosis. This Yankee team should give the Red Sox all they can handle in 2019 and is the type of team that could bring NY the parade they last saw 10 seasons ago.

Astros (103-59 AL West Champs, lost to Red Sox in the ALCS)

Losses. C Brian McCann, SP Dallas Keuchel, SP Charlie Morton, SP Lance McCullers Jr.(TJ surgery), RP Joe Smith (Ruptured Achilles), DH Evan Gattis, U Marwin Gonzalez

Added. OF Michael Brantley, U Aledmys Diaz, C Robinson Chirinos

The Astros set a club record for regular season wins and after sweeping the Indians in the ALDS and winning the first game of the ALCS against Boston looked like they might repeat their magical run to the World Series. Four hard fought losses later and they headed home.

In some ways, the most important additions to the Astros would be a healthy knee for Jose Altuve and healthy back for Carlos Correa. The Astros have sustained the most losses of the top three and sustained the biggest losses to the top rotation in the major leagues.

Offense. Adding Brantley is a terrific plus, adding an All-Star lefty bat to a right-centric offense. Diaz should fill the offense that the up and down Gonzalez takes with him, but it may take a number of players to fill the defensive flexibility Marwin brought to the team. Correa and Altuve hitting at 90% of 2017 would be a huge shot in the arm to an offense that was led by the so-solid Alex Bregman in 2018. WS MVP George Springer, Yuli Gurriel and new DH Tyler White could bring real depth to the lineup. Kyle Tucker is the wild card here. Is he the top prospect he has been rated or a not ready for prime time player?

Rotation. Even with losing Keuchel (not counting on his potential re-sign), Morton and McCullers the cupboard is not bare. Two guys named Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole are not bad (as in great) and former #2 starter Collin McHugh, who pitched brilliantly in the bullpen in 2018 will slip into the #3 spot. Potentially for the 4 and 5 spots are Swingman Brad Peacock, who was very good as a part-time starter in 2017 and youngsters Josh James and Framber Valdez, who turned some heads in 2018. And not far behind them are some big-time prospects in Forrest Whitley and J.B Bukauskas or perhaps Rogelio Armenteros. Still, it would not be surprising to see the Astros make a move in the Spring or at the trade deadline for one more starter.

Bullpen. The Astros had one of the best bullpens in 2018, though just like in 2017, it struggled a bit in the playoffs. Roberto Osuna, Ryan Pressly lead the bullpen with Hector Rondon (who had a bit of a hissy in being left off the playoff roster) and there is likely going to be a wave of youngsters helping out along with vets Chris Devenski and Will Harris.

Prognosis. The Astros are not in the same boat as the Sox or the Yanks as it should not take nearly as many wins to clinch the AL West as the East. If they struggle Jeff Luhnow has shown he is not afraid to make big moves along the way. This team should be better offensively, worse with the rotation (but still good) and maybe a wash with the bullpen. This looks like a 98-100 win team.

Wrap. Injuries, bad performances, bad attitudes have deflated teams before and what’s on paper needs to make it on to the grass. But there is no reason to think that the road to the AL title and possibly the World Championship runs anywhere other than through these three teams in 2019.

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39 comments on “Offseason view of AL Big 3: Red Sox, Yankees, Astros

  1. Totally agree with the premise. However, as the Astros learned when every team to include the ones with the worst records are gunning for you, the return trip is difficult. Right now, I don’t see anyone challenging them in the AL. But there will probably be a surprise team or two that keep it from being a cake walk. Of the three, the Astros appear to have done the least, but JL may be holding his cards until the trade deadline.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I would argue the Red Sox have done the least of the big 3, but they also had more room for error than the Yankees and Astros. They haven’t added anyone that wasn’t on their playoff roster last year and appear to be losing 2 key parts of their bullpen.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I’m a big proponent of winning the games you’re supposed to win. It’s easy to look at NYY, BOS, and whatever team replaces CLE as the must win match-ups, but that’s not true until October. Luhnow’s job is to put a team out there that can win 100 games and secure at least home field advantage in round one of the playoffs. Obviously it would help if our hitters performed well at home this year. To do that we can’t lose to bad or mediocre teams and need to win our fair share against the good ones. As the season progresses he can monitor the rehab of Smith and work for an acquisition that swings a postseason match-up with the other heavyweights in our favor. Also, we don’t know who will be hurt from which teams. I have a hard time believing Houston falls short of the WS last year if Correa and Altuve had both been even 90% of their normal selves.

    So thanks for the write-up. I’m a bit saddened by the lack of additions and so many big losses in the Astros section, but I’m trying to stay positive knowing Luhnow should have more flexibility during the season to make changes than the other teams on your list.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes there were losses to the team in the offseason, but during the playoffs, LMJ had a torn UCL, Morton had a bum shoulder, Correa had a bad back, Altuve had a broken kneecap, Springer had a very bad finger, Maldonado had a bad brain, Gattis had a bad bat and McCann had a bad time.
    The Astros had a terrific September with James and Valdez pitching in the rotation in a pennant race. I think the Astros filled big holes with Diaz and Brantley and Tyler White.
    I like the Red Sox. They could have a hangover, but how can you count on that? I think their starting rotation is better and their bullpen worse.
    The Yankees are huge in power, but their lineup does not match up well against Houston’s power RH pitchers. I also don’t like how New York’s top two pitchers wore down in the second half of last season and their other three starters have a lot of age on them.
    The big difference in these three teams is that Houston has a loaded upper minors and one of the top ranked prospect list and the Red Sox and Yankees don’t.
    The Astros are in the best shape payroll-wise, but they don’t go big like the other two do when it comes to adding and that makes a difference. Will the Astros push that payroll to the limit to add? Will they make a trade of prospects for a star? That is the key for me going into the spring.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Let’s face it – we know what injuries can do to a team. In 2017 the Astros had a lot of injuries during the season – most of the starting rotation, Correa, Springer and Marisnick if I’m remembering right. But by the time the playoffs came along, the Astros were in good health except for Marisnick. Last season, the Astros were in a tough pennant race and guys were playing through or coming back early from injuries and were not 100% in the playoffs. (Note – even if they sat out longer there is Correa and Altuve were not going to be healed for the playoffs – LMJ either).

    In 2017 – the Astros had lots of things go right for them in the playoffs. In 2018, the Red Sox got more breaks. Both were excellent teams anyways, but all it takes is a play here or there to flip some of these games.

    In my mind I am pretty sure that Luhnow will pick up what he needs when he thinks he needs it. He may let things float towards the trade deadline if he is not seeing the value that he deems appropriate. And by the trade deadline his needs may morph. Or he may wait until the market shakes out this spring and swoops in for someone he has had an eye on. In Luhnow I trust until he proves himself unworthy.

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  5. As Randy Newman says:

    It’s a jungle out there . . .
    they’re stealin’ signs and shiftin’ everywhere;
    Commish’ don’t seem to care, but I do, HEY, who’s in charge here?
    It’s a jungle out there . . .
    Joe West’s about as blind as he can be.
    & you know what Angel’s IQ is? Well, I do – it’s minus 3!
    So it’s a jungle out there . . . it’s a jungle out there.

    People think I’m crazy cause I worry ’bout our ‘Stros;
    but if you paid attention you’d be worried too!
    Anything could happen & these guys we love so much . . .
    could play like doo-doo!
    I’ll end this song now – stay tuned for more, though . . .
    ’cause it’s a jungle out there. It’s a jungle out there.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Yesterday, a video surfaced of Brandon Bailey making hitters look like fools, meanwhile Trevor Bauer got rocked. Bailey is ranked only as high as #34, and considered a Tier 4 prospect (possibly serviceable). Chip’s blog has never attracted a crowd that has much to say about all the prospects, but the way Luhnow has assembled and developed the likes of Altuve James and White (virtual nobodys), I try to keep an eye on the minors much more these days.

    The huge advantage Astros have is organizational pitching depth. Luhnow characterized 2018 to Jim Bowden in one sentence, “we ran out of gas.” With that in mind, we would do well to spread thin a dozen pitchers throughout, including the 2016 PCL Pitcher of the Year. Utility and multi-positional guys stay on the field. We should not be concerned with 5-tools everywhere, but in the abstract communication of the proprietary information we relate to players through exciting new coaching in a team sport. One might read Whitley’s recent comments about his “innovative” coaches, French, Holt and Murphy.
    (https://mobile.twitter.com/forrestwhitley/status/1075839712303202304). Look no further than our shifts to see what we effectively anticipate.

    In this way, I’m not ready to hand SP3 to McHugh and 180 IP, especially if we’re pinning hopes on 2020 to a guy who hasn’t been scouted much in two years, doesn’t have Josh James’ frame, but will surely be known 12 ways to Sunday this season. McQ doesn’t have the same velo to rely on his fastball, and that makes him more of a reliever in my mind. Que the “but he added a great slider” comments … that will get much more attention from the opposition this year.

    But get used to it. Bullpenning is a thing, and we have long relievers to eat those innings in 2019, in order that the Armenteros and Perez’ (White and Tucker’s) of the world are as battle tested as Devers and Benentendi when it really counts.

    One other huge issue re communication is Latin pitchers, and catcher. The longer we wait, the harder a new battery can jive. And so get used to Stassi Stubbs backups. Last season, BOS expertly used an old political tactic by blaming the Astros for something they’re notoriously good at: stealing signs. After all, we lost the masters Beltran and Cora. And so, Maldy (and McCann recently admitted) were getting crossed-up. Our pitchers are probably the most demanding staff on a defensive catcher, so that needs to be addressed with a NEW set of pitchers catchers and coaches, too.

    The gospel according to Luhnow
    “We really like this team we have right now. And that’s the main message.”

    Liked by 1 person

  7. The key to long term sustainability for an organization is to develop superstars, stars, solid regulars internally. You don’t have to have a whole team of controllable internals, but a solid core lowers the amount of big bucks you have to lay on outside resources. With the possibility this team could lose Keuchel, Morton, Verlander, Cole and McHugh in a two off-season period – it is critical that they utilize some of this youthful pitching this season to know what they have and to start the turnover of the staff to younger internal choices (that can be supplemented with an outside arm or two).

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    • Definitely agree the core’s health is paramount. From where I sit, though, the reason Jeff hasn’t jumped to add-on is because we still have some wait-and-see type guys, and a few teams that may start their tank before the season begins. A recent Tigers fan mentioned that he hopes KC plays .500 ball through midsession, so that DET can give up and draft Oregon State Catcher, Rutschman. Can you imagine having such a dismal outlook?

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  8. What a great post. Dan, I never have given you the appreciation I have for your efforts. I’d like very much to share a Stellla with you at the park, should I bring my bumb knee (old time sliding into second) back into Houston. It feels like I’ll be in for April.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. *Last season Yuli Gurriel had 573 total plate appearances and batted .291/.323/.428/.751. But when Yuli played 1B he had 418 plate appearances and his numbers jumped to .306/.337/.457/.794. Gurriel was at his very best when he played first base and not all over, including at DH, where he was bad. If the Astros want great production from the 1B position, they need to put Yuli there and leave him there.
    *Last season the Astros got a slash line of .242/.300/.450/.750 out of the DH position in total. But when Tyler White was the DH they got a slash line of .299/.365/.610/.975. If the Astros want production from the DH position, they need White to DH for them the majority of the time and let him do what he does best: hit.
    *Michael Brantley gave Cleveland one of the best LF values in baseball last season. He had 631 PAs while playing LF and had a slash line of .309/.364/.468/.832 with a 124 wRC+ and 3.5 WAR while playing LF. According to Fangraphs, Brantley was the 8th best left fielder in baseball last season. If the Astros put Brantley in LF and leave him there, they will get the most production they have gotten from LF in quite a while.
    If I can find all this info, surely the Astros know it, too.
    By the way, when the Astros took Gurriel, Springer, Altuve or Correa off the field and put them at DH, that position was BAD! I looked it up, so don’t punish yourself checking it.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. i like this signing. i like the young guys we have waiting in the wings, but a veteran to help solidify the rotation at the beginning of the year seems like a good thing. a lefty and a ground ball pitcher. fits right into our need for both. and at a reasonable salary. it could go bad, but right now looks pretty good to me.

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  11. I want to talk about the bullpen. I think 2019 will be an addition by subtraction deal. Mainly, the subtraction of a certain former closer who was killing us half the time.

    I think we’ll miss Tony Sipp, but saying adios to Ken Giles makes me happy. He just didn’t have the head for the job, and Hinch (and Luhnow) were committed to him.

    Add in guys we saw for only part of the season like Osuna and Pressley will be a big boost, moving guys like Harris into more of a supporting role where he belongs.

    And Wade Miley’s addition means keeping Peacock with Devo in the bullpen, where they make a great 1-2 innings eaters punch.

    I think the bullpen will be a huge strength from moves made last year that we’ll feel a full year benefit from in 2019.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Pingback: Baseball Blogs Weigh In: Calhoun, Arcia, Yanks, Giants, Cubs, Padres – mrwilliamjobrien

  13. Pingback: Baseball Blogs Weigh In: Calhoun, Arcia, Yanks, Giants, Cubs, Padres | The baseball bats fanatic

  14. Pingback: Baseball Blogs Weigh In: Calhoun, Arcia, Yanks, Giants, Cubs, Padres – SportsHeadlines.News

    • Hey Tom – Pedroia played in only 3 games for the Sox and had 11 ABs in 2018, so if he can bring anything positive to the table I would consider that an add for them.

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