Yankees Predictions: Yankees Win AL East Over Second-Place Rays (By 6 Games)
Games aren't played on paper, nor are they played on the balance sheet. The New York Mets learned both lessons the hard way last year, to which Yankees fans responded, "First time?" like the James Franco-in-a-noose meme.
Since the Yankees' front office hasn't done much since December, it's easy to forget how much progress they made in the early part of the offseason, though. Bringing Aaron Judge back ... was massive, and hardly a given. Bringing Anthony Rizzo back as his copilot was equally slept on, in the wake of the media trying to push the narrative that nobody wanted to be a Yankee anymore because they were booed during the ALCS. Signing the best pitcher on the free agent market in Rodón -- someone else who wanted to be here very badly -- was a massive upgrade, especially considering Frankie Montas remains an unknown.
It's no surprise this team is pegged as the preseason favorite to win the East, and they should be considered the second-most-likely AL World Series rep (behind the Astros) until they prove otherwise.
Behind them? The Rays rotation, with Shane McClanahan, Tyler Glasnow, Drew Rasmussen, and Jeffrey Springs/Zach Eflin is ridiculous. Wander Franco should play a full season in 2023. They might not be a 100-win team like in 2021, but they're certainly not the 86-win team they were last year. The Blue Jays went all in on defense this offseason, adding Kevin Kiermaier and Daulton Varsho while trading Teoscar Hernández and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. It's clear what they're attempting. It's not clear what it accomplishes; Varsho needs to be a 30/30 man for the losses not to be felt. Brandon Belt needs to play 130 games. George Springer needs to play 150; the outfield depth behind the three starters is as barren as Tampa's payroll vault.
There's a best-case-scenario for the Jays where they dethrone everyone, but the Rays' path seems much clearer and littered with fewer "What ifs?". All three teams will make the postseason, but the Yankees are still the best of the bunch -- by a comfortable degree. They clinch with about a week remaining.