Unfinished Business-American League East and Central

There are rarely, if ever, perfectly balanced teams with offense, defense, starting pitching, speed, power, relief pitching, and all the requisite components of greatness. Virtually every team has some flaws. Some have more than others.

Today I want to take a look at what I think remains to be done for several American League clubs prior to the bell ringing in April. I will update my thoughts periodically on this topic throughout the rest of the buildup to the season. My next blog will feature the AL West and one NL division.

I guess I am beyond surprised the Orioles have not been able to add to their roster after losing players like Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis. The free agent market would have been attractive but they were burned badly by the ineffective (to put it kindly) performance of Ubaldo Jimenez. They did more than stick their toe in the water on that one. They jumped in head first and drowned. Everyone will pay a price for that mistake. But the fans will suffer the most. The team went from good to mediocre in one offseason. They need offensive outfield help. Even if their injured Manny Machado and Matt Wieters make it all the way back-I think they fall short.

The Red Sox are going to try to climb the standings without a true ace or even a traditional No. 1 starter. They have collected better pitching than last year, but they are dependent upon a return to form of Justin Masterson, some consistency from Clay Buchholz and a good adjustment to the AL by Wade Miley. That’s a great deal to ask. I like Rick Porcello, but it seems to me he will be pitching under more pressure. The team may be able to pound the opposition into submission with the likes of that lineup. I think they need another very good pitcher. Cole Hamels?

The Yankees have lots of unresolved issues regarding their starting pitching. Will CC come back strong or end up being So So? What about Michael Pineda? Masahiro Tanaka? Ivan Nova? Isn’t it a lot to except four guys to return to form? I don’t see a lot of proven starting pitching waiting in the wings. And that isn’t even to mention health concerns of Beltran, Teixeira, or ARod. I think they need at least one more proven starter. But the Yankees will find a way. I’m a huge Joe Girardi fan.

Where will the Rays find offense? I thought they were challenged in the past, but they appear to be even thinner this year. And can their defense help their pitching as they have done in the past? Asdrubal Cabrera at shortstop? But I do like the addition of Rene Rivera behind the plate. They’ll miss Ben Zobrist. Their outstanding pitching may very well carry the day—in low scoring games.

The Blue Jays are as close to a solid club as I can find in the AL. All they need IMO is one more reliable starting pitcher and a proven closer. I think they can use Spring Training to find both of those. But overall, I like the club. Ultimately, Aaron Sanchez may be a solid big league closer. Maybe not yet.

I think the acquisition of catcher Geovany Soto was a very good move for the White Sox. He may eventually be a big part of what they accomplish. This is a very, very solid club. One piece worth fixing may be second base-but they have to give Carlos Sanchez a chance. Or do they return to Gordon Beckham? There is some middle infield depth in the farm system, but not Major League ready.

The Indians need at least one more right-handed bat. I actually think they could use more than one. Like other clubs, they are hoping for returns to health from too many players. Bourn (hamstrings) Swisher (knees) Kipnis (hand) Moss (hip). It’s asking a lot for them all to contribute to improving their personal 2014 nightmares. The pitching has the potential to carry the club. Have they improved their defense? That was a huge, huge problem and I’m not convinced at all they can catch the ball and throw the ball much better than last year.

The Tigers still need one more solid hitting outfielder, and yes, at least one relief pitcher. Maybe two. I am not sold that Anthony Gose will be the answer in center. Especially not offensively. And the back end of their bullpen has been among the reasons they aren’t yet World Series Champions. It’s still a flat tire. The Tigers will need a healthy Miguel Cabrera right from the beginning as the other Central clubs are better.

The Royals are solid, but I think they will find themselves a James Shields short of where they were last year. I don’t think Edinson Volquez makes up the difference. But Alex Rios instead of Billy Butler is probably a wash. Reymond Fuentes can run. If he makes the club, he adds another speedster to get on, get over and get in. I still like the club, but remember-a great deal went well for them in the 2nd half last season. Can that happen again. The bullpen is the best in the Central-by far. Maybe one of the best in the game.

The Twins are waiting for the arrivals of Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano. But when it’s all said and done, who’s pitching? Ervin Santana is a nice addition, but they need more. Much more. Tommy Milone may help, but…they just don’t have the pitching yet to compete in a tough division. Alex Meyer and Trevor May??? Um… I think the Twins have to make some bold moves to gain some swagger and play with the big boys. A new manager may bring a new voice and new priorities. I wish them well.

Next: more Unfinished Business.

Thanks for reading my work on MLBPipeline.com and MLB.com and thanks for listening to Short Hops. As always, you are very much appreciated.

That’s it. I’m done.

p.s. run the ball on the goal line if you have one of the best in the business in the backfield.

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