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MLB Preview: AL East

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The Yankees may finally have run out of players to poach as they deal with an aging roster combined with a depleted farm system.

1. Tampa Bay Rays (2012: 90-72, Third Place)

Why they’ll win: They always do. The Rays, with all apologies to the Oakland Athletics, are the best-run organization in pro sports. They have one of the smallest fan bases and their stadium is among the ugliest in the league. Through under-the-radar signings on the cheap (Fernando Rodney, James Loney) and shrewd management of the farm system (trading James Shields for OF prospect Wil Myers), Tampa is in position to contend for years to come.

Why they won’t: The offense is a bit thin, and the rotation drops off a bit after Price, and the bullpen forms like Voltron into a human question mark. Peralta, Rodney and Farnsworth could all show their age and falter down the stretch.

Kinda Weird: A typical Rays roster in years past featured mainly homegrown talent, but this year the depth chart is awash in journeyman veterans. Jose Molina will catch, James Loney will play first base and Yunel Escobar will man shortstop.

Price’d Out: David Price continues his rise to the top of the American League lists of aces, as the lefty won 20 games last season. After a so-so 2011, it’ll be interesting to see what ‘price’ he commands when he enters free agency in 2016, let alone these next couple of arbitration sessions with the always fickle Rays.

2. Baltimore Orioles (2012: 93-69, Second place)

Why they’ll win: I am not a huge believer in Baltimore, but while New York and Boston took major steps backward this offseason, the Orioles pretty much stood pat with their 2012 playoff roster. Matt Wieters continues to prove himself as a top-three AL catcher, and Chris Davis looks like a potential 40 home run-hitter.

Why they won’t win: Their starting pitching is somewhat of a disaster, Brian Roberts can never stay healthy and Nate McLouth has never been the same since he broke out with the Pirates to start his career.

 3. Toronto Blue Jays (2012: 73-89, Fourth Place)

Why they’ll win: On paper, they are the most improved team in baseball after pillaging trading with the Miami Marlins, acquiring Jose Reyes and Josh Johnson, among others. In addition, the Jays traded for the reigning NL Cy Young winner, R.A. Dickey from the Mets. Along with slugging outfielder Jose Bautista the Jays could be a most formidable opponent.

Why they won’t: Money doesn’t buy happiness, just ask Charlie Sheen the Yankees. It typically takes a team with this much roster upheaval a couple of years to gel, and that could be the case with Toronto this season. It’s also fair to wonder if former journeyman Dickey is capable of replicating his unbelievable 2012 Cy Young campaign.

4. New York Yankees (2012: 95-67, First Place)

Why they will win: Miracles? They still have Sabathia and Hughes at the top of the rotation and Mariano Rivera is back for his swan song at closer. Robinson Cano is by far the best second baseman on the planet and is poised to have a big year with a new contract on the line.

Why they won’t win: They’re too old. Just so, so old. And rickety. Alex Rodriguez is out until August, Mark Texieria is out eight weeks after tearing a tendon practicing his swing in the WBC and Derek Jeter is out indefinitely after rolling his ankle in last year’s playoffs.Oldness.

5. Boston Red Sox (2012: 69-93, Last Place)

Why they’ll win: Hmmm… well…..um……

Why they won’t: It was breaking news when Jackie Bradley, Jr (WHO?) made the team…

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