2023 AL East Preview

March 13, 2023

Baltimore Orioles — There’s a lot of optimism in Baltimore after a surprising 83-win season in 2022 – an astonishing 31-win improvement from 2021. Part of the resurgence can be attributed to a strong back half of the bullpen, led by 6-foot-8 Felix Bautista, who had 15 saves, a 2.19 ERA, a 0.92 WHIP, and 12.1 K/9 last season. Bautista is a little slow to start things this spring but should be ready for Opening Day. Dillon Tate, meanwhile, will start the season on the IL as he works his way back from a flexor/forearm strain. Look for Cionel Perez and a returning Mychal Givens to fill out the back end of a strong unit.

Starting 2023 hierarchy: Bautista | Perez | Givens.
Holds candidates: Perez, Givens, Bryan Baker, DL Hall, Keegan Akin, and (eventually) Tate.

Boston Red Sox — The Red Sox have been piecemealing their bullpen ever since they let Craig Kimbrel go in free agency after the 2018 season, but they enter 2023 with an unusual setup: some stability. Free agent signees Kenley Jansen and Chris Martin immediately fill out an improved back end of the bullpen, while lefties Richard Bleier and Joely Rodriguez — and holdover John Schreiber — add some depth for the middle innings.

Starting 2023 hierarchy: Jansen | Martin | Schreiber.
Holds candidates: Martin, Schreiber, Bleier, Rodriguez, Ryan Brasier.

New York Yankees — Once an unquestioned strength for the Bronx Bombers, the bullpen situation is a little more murky to start in 2023. Aroldis Chapman is gone, leaving Clay Holmes as the likely candidate to man the ninth inning. He’ll be set up by holdovers Jonathan Loaisiga and Michael King to start off, while Lou Trivino and Tommy Kahnle nurse injuries to start the campaign.

Starting 2023 hierarchy: Holmes | Loaisiga | King.
Holds candidates: Loaisiga, King, Wandy Peralta, Ron Marinaccio, and (eventually) Trivino and Kahnle.

Tampa Bay Rays — Rays gonna Rays, right? Maybe, but that’s not to say the back end of the bullpen isn’t talented. Pete Fairbanks likely gets the first crack at things, as he looked dynamite after returning from injury last season (1.13 ERA, 0.67 WHIP, 8 saves). Jason Adam and Colin Poche should be in the mix for saves again, but Fairbanks has a shot to “run away with the job” as much as any Rays reliever could do something like that.

Starting 2023 hierarchy: *Fairbanks | Adam | Poche.
Holds candidates: Adam, Poche, Jalen Beeks, Ryan Thompson, Garret Cleavinger.

Toronto Blue Jays — In a division full of bullpen changes, Toronto is a model of consistency, with Jordan Romano likely to hold the closer’s job again after leading the Jays in saves in 2021 and 2022. But the Blue Jays didn’t just stand pat in the ‘pen, dealing slugger Teoscar Hernandez to land reliever Erik Swanson, who had a 1.68 ERA and a 0.91 WHIP with Seattle in 2022. Swanson should be the primary setup man in a bullpen full of late-inning options.

Starting 2023 hierarchy: Romano | Swanson | Garcia.
Holds candidates: Swanson, Yimi Garcia, Adam Cimber, Tim Mayza, Anthony Bass.