For two straight years, the Boston Red Sox have watched one of their division rivals make it to the World Series. That doesn't sit well with an organization that won two world championships from 2004 to 2007.
So the Red Sox went free-agent fishing this offseason and attempted to fill their holes by spending roughly $125 million on five players, including a five-year, $82.8 million deal for right-hander John Lackey to strengthen their rotation.
Lackey joins Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and Tim Wakefield in one of baseball's best groups. That's scary for opponents who also have to face perhaps the game's top bullpen, led by closer Jonathan Papelbon.
If Boston has a weakness, it's the normally potent offense, which lost home run and RBI leader Jason Bay to the New York Mets in free agency. Boston needs David Ortiz to bounce back from a subpar 2009 by his standards and Victor Martinez, acquired in the middle of last season, to repeat his tremendous first two months with the Red Sox.
2009 record: 95-67 (second in AL East; AL wild-card winner)
2009 record vs. Orioles: 16-2
2010 estimated payroll: $170 million
Projected rotation: LHP Jon Lester, RHP Josh Beckett, RHP John Lackey, RHP Tim Wakefield, RHP Clay Buchholz
Projected closer: RHP Jonathan Papelbon
2010 schedule vs. Orioles: At Fenway Park, April 23-25; July 2-4; Sept. 20-22. At Camden Yards, April 30-May 2; June 4-6; Aug. 31-Sept. 2.
Outlook: More of the same for the Red Sox. Ninety-plus wins, a likely playoff berth and a departure before the World Series begins.
New York Yankees
In fact, the bigger names left the Bronx as opposed to coming in.
The 29-year-old Granderson's star faded a bit in the Motor City last year, when he batted .249 with a .327 on-base percentage. But he still hit 30 homers and stole 20 bases, and should flourish in the Yankees' lineup.
To bolster an already mind-numbing starting rotation, they brought right-handed starter Javier Vazquez back for a second go-round in the Big Apple. Vazquez, 33, had a 4.91 ERA in 2004 with the Yankees. But last season with the Atlanta Braves, he won 15 games, posted a 2.87 ERA and finished fourth in the National League Cy Young Award voting.
Getting Vazquez - and lefty reliever Boone Logan - from the Braves came with a cost: giving up outfielder Melky Cabrera and two prospects. But these are the Yankees - everything they do comes with a cost.
However, it appears for the second consecutive year that their offseason moves could also come with a big payoff.
2009 record: 103-59; AL East winner, World Series champions
2009 record vs. Orioles: 13-5
2010 estimated payroll: $200 million
Key additions: OF Curtis Granderson, RHP Javier Vazquez, DH Nick Johnson, OF Randy Winn, OF Marcus Thames
Projected closer: RHP Mariano Rivera
2010 schedule vs. Orioles: At Yankee Stadium, May 3-5; June 1-3; Sept. 6-8. At Camden Yards, April 27-29; June 8-10; Sept. 17-19.
Outlook: It's impossible to pick against these guys. They were the best team in baseball last season, and they might have gotten better. Anything less than reaching the World Series would be a disappointment for them.
Tampa Bay Rays
There was a time, say, two years ago, when 84 wins would have been considered a tremendously successful baseball season in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Then came 2008, when the newly coined Tampa Bay Rays shelved their "Devil" moniker and their losing ways, won 97 games and took the American League crown before losing to the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series.
So when the Rays followed up that breakout season with 84 wins - their second most in franchise history - and placed third in the AL East, it was viewed as a disappointment.
That's how progress is gauged in the toughest division in baseball. And that, again, will be the Rays' largest obstacle as they will again trot out a young team filled with rising stars and inexpensive fill-ins.
They splurged this offseason on a closer, trading for the Atlanta Braves' Rafael Soriano and signing him to a one-year, $7.25 million deal to avoid arbitration. Otherwise, it was an understated offseason for an understated club that has enough talent to make a playoff run but might end up being the third-best team in the AL, with the other two sitting directly above it in the East.
2009 record: 84-78, third in AL East
2009 record vs.
payroll: $72 million
Key additions: RHP Rafael Soriano, C Kelly Shoppach
Key losses: 2B Akinori Iwamura, C Gregg Zaun, OF Gabe Gross, LHP Brian Shouse
Projected closer: RHP Rafael Soriano
2010 schedule vs. Orioles: At Tropicana Field, April 6-8; Aug. 13-15; Sept. 27-29.
At Camden Yards, April 12-14; July 19-21; Sept. 3-5.
Outlook: This is a good young team and, as in 2008, if everything goes right, the Rays could challenge the big boys in the division. More likely, they'll get stuck in third again.
No matter how fruitless the recent past has been for the Toronto Blue Jays, their fans could always take solace in knowing they had baseball's most consistent pitcher in Roy Halladay.
The 32-year-old right-hander won the 2003 American League Cy Young Award and finished in the top five in voting each of the past four years.
But that streak will be broken in 2010.
This offseason, Halladay was dealt to the National League and its two-time defending champion Philadelphia Phillies in a four-way trade with the Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics that netted the Blue Jays three prospects, including highly touted pitcher Kyle Drabek, 22.
It signaled the end of an era and the beginning of a rebuilding effort. The Blue Jays are officially taking a step backward in an attempt to get back to the playoffs, where they haven't been since winning the World Series in 1993.
It's going to be a long climb, especially in a division filled with talent. How difficult will it be to fill Halladay's shoes? The Jays' Opening Day starter in 2010 will be Shaun Marcum, who didn't throw a big league pitch in 2009 because of elbow surgery.
2009 record: 75-87, fourth in AL East
2009 record vs.
payroll: $86 million
Key losses: RHP Roy Halladay, C Rod Barajas, SS Marco Scutaro, 1B Kevin Millar
Projected closer: RHP Jason Frasor
2010 schedule vs. Orioles: At Rogers Centre, May 28-30; July 26-28; Sept. 24-26. At Camden Yards, April 9-11; July 16-18; Sept. 13-15.
Outlook: They have talent, but it's untested. So the Jays likely will drop into last place for the first time since 2004.