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The Rays have been good enough for long enough (three playoff appearances in four years) that it should no longer be considered an upset for them to win the East. Fact is, low payroll or not, the Rays have the best and deepest pitching staff in the league, and they added some much-needed offensive pop with the additions of Luke Scott and Carlos Pena. This might be the best Rays team yet.

For a team that had a relatively quiet offseason, the Yankees sure managed to improve themselves, thanks to GM Brian Cashman’s stealthy trade for Michael Pineda, (who will start the season on the disabled list) the bargain signing of Hideki Kuroda and the unretirement of Andy Pettitte. Suddenly, a potential weakness became a strength. The question here, as with any aging team, will be health, particularly that of veterans such as Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Raul Ibanez.

After their gruesome collapse last September, the Red Sox overhauled their management team (welcome back, Bobby V!), but otherwise left the roster largely intact. We just can’t get past the fact the pitching-depth crisis that triggered the 2011 collapse was not really addressed. Or maybe the Red Sox think their real problem last year was fried chicken and beer.

The Blue Jays have quietly amassed the pieces to build a contender around slugger Jose Bautista. Third baseman Brett Lawrie is a future superstar, and Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow are a couple of clicks away from being a dominant 1-2 rotation tandem. They must be tired of hearing this but it’s true: If they were in any other division. . . .

The worst part of the hopelessness of the Orioles is the answer to this question: Who from the current roster could you envision as part of a hypothetical 2015 contender? Catcher Matt Wieters is a keeper, and Zach Britton is on his way, but otherwise? The best thing this franchise could do is take its 100 lumps, trade some marketable players such as Adam Jones, and start over.

Dave Sheinin has been covering baseball and writing features and enterprise stories for The Washington Post since 1999.
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