There’s a long way to go before Opening Day — or even spring training, since no one knows when that will start — but as 2020 draws to a close, the Yankees find themselves in a better spot in the AL East than they were at the end of the season.
And that’s in large part due to the actions of the penny-pinching Rays, who won the division and the American League pennant before falling to the Dodgers in six games in the World Series — and then began dismantling their team.
As the Yankees wait on DJ LeMahieu to make his decision in free agency, they’ve seen Tampa Bay lose Charlie Morton because he was too expensive — he signed with Atlanta for one year and $15 million after expressing a desire to return to the Rays. And on Tuesday, the Rays officially traded their ace, Blake Snell, to San Diego in exchange for prospects.
While the Rays could add to their roster before the 2021 season, they’ve now lost Morton and Snell and gained only Michael Wacha.
A full season of Randy Arozarena will help boost the offense, but their rotation won’t be the same.
And although the Snell deal netted the Rays some excellent young arms — including Luis Patino — it won’t make them better next season.
The Yankees, if they bring LeMahieu back, seem set to go with a similar roster to the one they had last season, which wasn’t good enough to get past the Rays in the playoffs, but looks more formidable compared to how Tampa Bay is currently constructed.
Should LeMahieu sign elsewhere, the Yankees offense would take a hit and wouldn’t look as strong against the Rays.
And perhaps Toronto will make one of the significant moves they’ve been tied to — from stealing LeMahieu away from the Yankees to signing Trevor Bauer or George Springer. So far, though, the Blue Jays have been quiet.
And in this slow offseason — which has recently been single-handedly jump-started by the Padres trading for Snell and going after Yu Darvish from the Cubs — the Yankees haven’t gotten any better, but they also haven’t gotten any worse.
They have less than two months to determine how the rest of the offseason goes to see where they stand in the division, but as of Tuesday, the AL East doesn’t look as tough as it did a few months ago.
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