MLB team previews: American League

The Red Sox and Tigers splurged over the winter, and the Yankees added the most feared closer in the game in Aroldis Chapman.

But when all was said and done, perhaps the most significant offseason move was the one that didn't happen.

When Alex Gordon decided to re-sign with the Royals, the World Series champions had their undisputed leader back and reason to believe a repeat is do-able.

They may not be the best team on paper, but the Royals have a nucleus than knows how to win any way possible.

"We've all been playing a lot of years together, and we all came up through the minor leagues together," first baseman Eric Hosmer said. "We've all have had ups and downs together and basically gone through a lot of stuff together.

"We've all grown together as a group and individually from those experiences, and it helps us on the field a lot. We all have a game plan and we like to stick to it. When you have a bunch of guys who have all bought into it, it makes it a lot easier."

One more reason to get on the family plan.

In predicted order of finish.

AL EAST

  • Toronto Blue Jays

Last year: 93-69, first place.

Manager: John Gibbons (fourth season).

Key moves: Signed LHP J.A. Happ, RHP Gavin Floyd. Acquired RHP Drew Storen.

Strengths: Most dominant lineup in the game had three hitters (Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion) with 39 or more home runs.

Weaknesses: Rotation lacks a true ace after David Price's departure. Gibbons lacks gravitas.

Outlook: Will pound their opponents into submission and rub it in their faces with bat flips.

  • New York Yankees

Last year: 87-75, second place (6 GB).

Manager: Joe Girardi (ninth season).

Key moves: Acquired LHP Aroldis Chapman, 2B Starlin Castro.

Strengths: Could have one of the most untouchable late-inning threesomes in years with Chapman, Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances.

Weaknesses: Rotation is still a question mark, and most of the regular position players are past their prime.

Outlook: The Yankees could go either way, but if they have a lead in the seventh, the game should be locked up.

  • Boston Red Sox

Last year: 78-84, fifth place (15 GB).

Manager: John Farrell (fifth season).

Key moves: Signed LHP David Price, OF Chris Young. Acquired RHP Craig Kimbrel.

Strengths: Hanley Ramirez can't cause as much damage at first base as in left field, while Kimbrel gives Farrell a top-five closer.

Weaknesses: Second-worst ERA in the American League (4.31) can't be fixed by Price and Kimbrel alone.

Outlook: "One More for Big Papi" will be the Red Sox rally cry in David Ortiz's swan song. Sorry, Papi.

  • Tampa Bay Rays

Last year: 80-82, fourth place (13 GB).

Manager: Kevin Cash (second season).

Key moves: Signed RHP Ryan Webb, IF-OF Steve Pearce. Acquired OF Corey Dickerson, C Hank Conger.

Strengths: Starters' 3.63 ERA led the league behind Chris Archer, and Kevin Kiermaier is the best center fielder in the game.

Weaknesses: Led the majors with 27 blown saves as closer Brad Boxberger lost 10 games and walked 4.6 per nine innings.

Outlook: With no fan support, no money and an awful stadium deal, the Rays should consider moving to Havana by 2023.

  • Baltimore Orioles

Last year: 81-81, third place (12 GB).

Manager: Buck Showalter (seventh season).

Key moves: Signed RHP Yovani Gallardo, 1B-DH Pedro Alvarez. Re-signed 1B Chris Davis. Acquired OF Mark Trumbo.

Strengths: Co-led the majors with 129 home runs at home, including 29 by Davis, and added a slugger in Trumbo.

Weaknesses: Gallardo isn't enough to help the rotation issues, so look for high-scoring losses.

Outlook: Two years after winning the division, the Orioles are who we thought they were.

AL CENTRAL

  • Kansas City Royals

Last year: 95-67, first place.

Manager: Ned Yost (fifth season).

Key moves: Signed RHP Ian Kennedy, RHP Joakim Soria. Re-signed OF Alex Gordon, RHP Chris Young.

Strengths: Clubhouse chemistry remains the best in the game, and the Royals do all the little things winning teams need to do.

Weaknesses: Still don't have a dominant rotation, but it doesn't seem to matter with their offense and bullpen.

Outlook: Bringing back Gordon kept the gang together, meaning they'll probably cruise to another division title.

Last year: 81-80, third place (13 1/2 GB).

Manager: Terry Francona (fourth season).

Key moves: Signed 3B Juan Uribe, RHP Tommy Hunter, 1B Mike Napoli, OF Rajai Davis.

Strengths: Corey Kluber heads the deepest rotation in the league, and SS Francisco Lindor is a bright spot in an otherwise invisible offense.

Weaknesses: Band-aid approach to the offseason didn't help, and OF Michael Brantley isn't available at the outset after shoulder surgery.

Outlook: Indians could have been a contender had they spent some money, but attendance woes kept the wallet shut.

Last year: 76-86, fourth place (19 GB).

Manager: Robin Ventura (fifth season).

Key moves: Acquired 3B Todd Frazier, 2B Brett Lawrie. Signed OF Austin Jackson, C Alex Avila, C Dioner Navarro, RHP Mat Latos.

Strengths: The trade for Frazier, combined with Adam LaRoche's retirement, should bolster a feeble offense that ranked 28th in runs.

Weaknesses: Closer David Robertson tied for the major-league lead with seven blown saves. Back of the rotation is iffy.

Outlook: Should climb back over .500 but needed one more prime-time starter to contend.

Last year: 83-79, second place (12 GB).

Manager: Paul Molitor (second season).

Key moves: Signed 1B-DH Byung Ho Park. Acquired C John Ryan Murphy.

Strengths: Miguel Sano could be the Twins' next superstar, provided he doesn't injure himself playing the outfield.

Weaknesses: Not an intimidating lineup or pitching staff by any stretch of the imagination but played over their heads last year.

Outlook: Winning 83 games with this roster made Molitor the most underrated manager in the game.

  • Detroit Tigers

Last year: 74-87, fifth place (20 1/2 GB).

Manager: Brad Ausmus (third season).

Key moves: Signed OF Justin Upton, RHP Jordan Zimmermann, RHP Mike Pelfrey, C Jarrod Saltalamacchia, IF-OF Mike Aviles. Acquired RHP Francisco Rodriguez, LHP Justin Wilson.

Strengths: Owner Mike Ilitch doesn't mind spending money, even if he overpaid for Zimmermann and Upton.

Weaknesses: Bullpen issues have haunted the Tigers for years. Despite adding K-Rod, this year should be no different.

Outlook: Everyone is somehow expecting the Tigers to return to dominance in spite of their 27th-ranked bullpen.

AL WEST

  • Houston Astros

Last year: 86-76, second place (2 GB).

Manager: A.J. Hinch (second season).

Key moves: Signed RHP Doug Fister, LHP Tony Sipp. Acquired RHP Ken Giles.

Strengths: Giles' 96.5 mph fastball was the fourth-highest among closers, and he fills the Astros' biggest need.

Weaknesses: 3B Luis Valbuena is an all-or-nothing hitter. Rotation will miss Scott Kazmir.

Outlook: Carlos Correa is the best-hitting shortstop in baseball and could be an MVP candidate.

  • Seattle Mariners

Last year: 76-86, fourth place (12 GB).

Manager: Scott Servais (first season).

Key moves: Signed RHP Steve Cishek, OF Norichika Aoki. Re-signed RHP Hisashi Iwakuma. Acquired LHP Wade Miley, 1B Adam Lind.

Strengths: Ranked fifth in the majors in home runs and should be more well-rounded after a slew of offseason moves.

Weaknesses: Iwakuma is back, but rotation doesn't have much to fear after Felix Hernandez. Gambling on Joaquin Benoit in the closer role.

Outlook: New GM Jerry Dipoto overhauled the roster, gave Servais his first managerial job and now crosses his fingers.

Last year: 88-74, first place.

Manager: Jeff Banister (second season).

Key moves: Signed OF Ian Desmond, OF Justin Ruggiano.

Strengths: Cole Hamels helped take the Rangers to the postseason, but the rotation is pedestrian until Yu Darvish returns in May or June.

Weaknesses: Josh Hamilton and Adrian Beltre are rarely healthy for long, and the outfield is one of the worst in the AL.

Outlook: How the Rangers finished first remains a mystery. Doubtful they can do it again.

Last year: 85-77, third place (3 GB).

Manager: Mike Scioscia (17th season).

Key moves: Signed RHP Al Alburquerque, OF Daniel Nava. Acquired 3B Yunel Escobar, SS Andrelton Simmons.

Strengths: The best player in the game (Mike Trout) and a first-ballot Hall of Famer (Albert Pujols) can't save the Angels from their owner.

Weaknesses: Average pitching staff will prevent them from taking advantage of Trout's greatness.

Outlook: Simmons should immensely improve the defense up the middle, but too many holes exist.

Last year: 68-94, fifth place (20 GB).

Manager: Bob Melvin (sixth season).

Key moves: Signed RHP Henderson Alvarez, RHP John Axford, RHP Ryan Madson. Acquired OF Khris Davis, RHP Liam Hendriks, IF Jed Lowrie, LHP Mark Rzepczynski.

Strengths: Sonny Gray is Cy Young material, and Sean Doolittle's return will help a revamped bullpen.

Weaknesses: Marcus Semien committed a major-league-high 35 errors at short, and the bullpen converted only 28 of 53 save opportunities.

Outlook: After 35 one-run losses in 2015, it can't get much worse for the perpetually evolving A's.

psullivan@tribpub.com

Twitter @PWSullivan

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