Everyone Else in the AL East is Terrible
I figure most of y’all saw that SG did his first run of team projections based on CAIRO and showed a four-team dead heat in the AL East. The Sox at 84 wins trailed ever so slightly the Yankees at 85 and the Rays and Jays at 86. While it’s of course too early, it seems pretty unlikely that anyone’s going to project to run away with the AL East. The Yankees could still remember that they’re the New York Yankees, but they seem pretty locked in to this unnecessary two-year rebuild. The Jays might still have money to burn, but the initial reports after the trade were that they had already spent past the club’s planned budget. Andrew Friedman might hypnotize another GM, but the club doesn’t seem to have the money to pay any more elite talent. Really, the team most likely to make any major additions for 2013 is the Red Sox. Another SP is a given, and I’ll be surprised if there isn’t at least one of a shortstop or a strong side for the LF platoon. And maybe more!
I’ve been saying for a while that the goal for 2013 should be something like 82-86 wins. I figured this gives you a puncher’s chance at an A’s/O’s 2012 season, and puts the Sox in range of 90+ wins for 2014 and the future with another round of offseason improvements. I hadn’t considered that the AL East might be in for a serious two-year lull in competitiveness before the Yankees restore their payroll to Steinbrennerian levels. If the Sox can get the roster to 85 wins this year and 93 next year, they could be strong favorites for 2014 and about as good as anyone in 2013.
The question is, does SG have the numbers right? Obviously “right” has some pretty huge error bars, but I think it passes the smell test. He had the Sox projected to win 78 games before they made any free agent signings. That’s a little bit high, I think. 78 wins is basically the Sox’ 2012 expected wins (75-76 or so) plus regression to the mean (the good kind) in the starting rotation. Since they lost Adrian Gonzalez from that team, and the offense should project to decline a bit after big years from Ortiz and Middlebrooks, I’d probably have pegged the Sox at closer to 74-75 wins to start the offseason. However, as SG points out, these team win projections are structured to decrease as other clubs sign free agents. A few of those initial wins were a sort of inflation, since Greinke and Hamilton and Bourne and Upton remained unsigned and were assigned to no roster at all. So my 74-75 wins is pretty close to the model’s 78 wins when you account for that inflation.
From replacement level baselines at 1B and RF, the Sox have added a pair of 2-3 win free agents, and they improved around the edges with Gomes and Uehara. They should add another 2-3 win starting pitcher, and add talent to the lineup as well. They look to be on pace for an 85 win projection. In the AL East, that may be enough to be quite competitive next year.