The AL East has always had some strong bullpens, and that looks especially true in 2013. It looks like every team, with the possible exception of the Blue Jays will have a well above average bullpen both next year and in the future.
1. Boston Red Sox: Entering the offseason, the Red Sox looked to have a decent bullpen. However, they upgraded it in a big way by adding Joel Hanrahan (2.72, 36 saves) in a trade with the Pirates and signing stud setup man Koji Uehara (1.75 ERA in 36 innings) to a one year deal. Adding those two to a bullpen which already included Andrew Bailey (2.47 career ERA), Craig Breslow (2.70 ERA in 2012), Junichi Tazawa (1-1, 1.43), Alfredo Aceves (3.56 career ERA), and Daniel Bard (3.65 career ERA) makes this bullpen into a near unstoppable one. Close games should be very fun to watch for Red Sox fans in 2013.
2. Baltimore Orioles: The Orioles’ 2012 season was a strange one, but perhaps the strangest part was that the bullpen carried the rotation and not vice versa. The Orioles’ bullpen was absolutely dominant in 2012, starting with the transition of Jim Johnson from setup man to star closer (2.49 ERA, 51 saves in 2012). However, several other unlikely contributors came up big for the O’s like Pedro Strop (5-2, 2.44), Troy Patton (1-0, 2.43), Darren O’Day (7-1, 2.28), and Luis Ayala (5-5, 2.63). Relievers are the most fickle players in baseball, so it’s impossible to tell if the Orioles can do it again, but they’re more likely to than many other teams.
3. New York Yankees: The Yankees often have one of the best bullpens in the league, but their bullpen will have a few question marks in 2012. First and foremost is how Mariano Rivera will recover from tearing his ACL last April at age 42. He should be set to go as the Yankees’ closer in 2013, but at age 43, will he be the same pitcher? If he’s not, they won’t have Rafael Soriano to bail them out anymore as he signed with the Nationals this winter. They still have one of the best setup men in baseball in David Robertson (2-7, 2.67) and couple of young studs in Cody Eppley (1-2, 3.33) and David Phelps (4-4, 3.44). However, their bullpen has more questions in 2013 than it has in a long time.
4. Tampa Bay Rays: Like their rotation, the Rays’ bullpen never really looks great on paper but always outdoes itself. That was the same in 2012, when seemingly washed up reliever Fernando Rodney caught a case of Tropicana magic and won the Delivery Man of the Year while going a remarkable 2-2 with a 0.60 ERA and 48 saves in one the best seasons any reliever ever has had. Beyond Rodney and Joel Peralta (2-6, 3.63), there aren’t too many sure things in the Tampa Bay bullpen though. Jake McGee (5-2, 1.95) is a great situational lefty and Cesar Ramos (1-0, 2.10) has potential. However, they’re really just a conglomerate of mediocrity after Rodney and Peralta.
5. Toronto Blue Jays: The Blue Jays’ Achilles Heel looks to be the bullpen heading into 2013. Besides Casey Janssen (2.54, 22 saves), there are zero sure things in the Toronto ‘pen. If he can stay healthy, Sergio Santos (3.53 career ERA) could be an asset, but he certainly wasn’t in 2012. Brad Lincoln (5-2, 3.68), acquired from the Pirates last year, looks to be a setup man for the Jays in 2012. However, beyond a few pitchers, many of the bullpen spots look like they could be grabbed in Spring Training this year.