3. Red Sox
4. Blue Jays
A hallmark of the Orioles’ success during the past five years has been their tremendous bullpen, and that doesn’t figure to change in 2017. They’re bringing back every key member of their 2016 relief crew that posted an AL-best 3.40 ERA, led by the majors’ best closer last year, Zach Britton. The return of a healthy Darren O’Day to join Britton, Brad Brach and Mychal Givens gives the club plenty of weapons.
With the free-agent return of fireballing closer Aroldis Chapman, who will be set up by All-Star Dellin Betances, the Yankees have reunited two pillars of their three-pronged late-inning tandem from 2016. They won’t be getting Andrew Miller back from Cleveland anytime soon, though. The Red Sox, too, boast a hard-throwing closer in Craig Kimbrel, although newly acquired setup man Tyler Thornburg has been sidelined with shoulder weakness.
The Blue Jays’ bullpen was a liability down the stretch in 2016 and is trying to retool with veterans on the wrong side of 30, including Joe Smith and J.P. Howell (both 33), along with returning setup man Jason Grilli (40). At least their closer, 22-year-old Roberto Osuna, is plenty young and effective. The Rays, meanwhile, are having trouble cobbling together a bullpen in front of All-Star closer Alex Colome, and they absorbed a blow when setup man Brad Boxberger suffered a lat injury in spring training.