1. NEW YORK YANKEES
Key departures: SP Kevin Brown, RP Tom Gordon, DH Ruben Sierra, INF Tony Womack.
On the way up: Pitcher Chien-Ming Wang is back in the rotation after saving the Yankees last season. Second baseman Robinson Cano had some erratic rookie moments but had a good spring and has the tools to be a star.
On the way out: Gary Sheffield can't decide whether he loves or hates the place, a lurching paranoia that disrupts the clubhouse and front office right up until the moment he launches one of those tracer shots into the left-field bleachers. He's in his final guaranteed year, and already he has had a few memorable rants on the subject.
Story lines: The Yankees count their championship-less seasons in dog years, and George Steinbrenner gets to name the dogs. Last year, it was GM Brian Cashman and Manager Joe Torre, though detente was reached in the off-season. It's a temporary condition in the Bronx, however, and already the tabloids have Lou Piniella looking over Torre's shoulder. Despite their pitching issues, the Yankees have maintained their distance from the Red Sox and will hold off the improved Blue Jays.
At Angel Stadium: April 7-9, Aug. 25-27.
2. TORONTO BLUE JAYS
Key departures: RP Miguel Batista, SP David Bush, 2B Orlando Hudson, 3B Corey Koskie.
On the way up: Many scouts believe the Blue Jays were better off with Hudson than Glaus, but J.P. Ricciardi made the trade as much to clear a place for Aaron Hill. After getting most of his at-bats as a third baseman last season, Hill, 24, will move to second base, which is better suited to his defensive skills and offensive production.
On the way out: The middling career of Eric Hinske, 2002 AL rookie of the year, continues. He plays all the defensive corners but hits for neither average nor power. But he's tough to trade, due $4.3 million this season and $5.6 million next. Glaus can't play third forever, particularly on turf, meaning he's headed for some DH at-bats, so Shea Hillenbrand could become unnecessary.
Story lines: Sensing the Yankees' advancing age and the Red Sox's vulnerability, the Blue Jays signed Burnett, Ryan and Molina, and traded for Glaus and Overbay. They'll be very disappointed if they don't challenge in the East and grab the wild card, at least. Roy Halladay's leg has mended, meaning the Blue Jays will have a great chance to win at least a fifth of the time in 2006.
At Angel Stadium: May 16-18, Sept. 8-10.
3. BOSTON RED SOX
Key departures: CF Johnny Damon, SS Edgar Renteria, 1B Kevin Millar, 3B Bill Mueller.
On the way up: Kevin Youkilis is 27. So far, the only thing he's been "the Greek God" of is big league bench time and Pawtucket burger joints. Assuming Terry Francona doesn't fall for Snow, this should be Youkilis' year. It's easy to see why management and fans fell in love with Jon Papelbon. If the lighting was just right, and they squinted just so, the strapping right-hander looked an awful lot like, gasp, Roger Clemens. And he can start or come out of the pen, and do it well.
On the way out: Manny Ramirez would love to see his name here, but it seems unlikely. If the team is lagging in July, David Wells could wind up in San Diego, Los Angeles or San Francisco. Lowell hit eight home runs last season. He's not done, is he?
Story lines: Red Sox honchos actually rallied pretty well in light of GM Theo Epstein's snit. At 26, Crisp already has batting averages of .297 and .300 behind him, and is athletic enough to handle Fenway's center field. There is no denying Beckett's talent or drive, but he has never pitched 180 innings and blisters like cheap window tint.
At Angel Stadium: Aug. 22-24.
4. TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS
Key arrivals: 3B Sean Burroughs, RP Chad Harville, SP Edwin Jackson, RP Dan Miceli, RP Shinji Mori, 3B Ty Wigginton.
Key departures: RP Danys Baez, RP Joe Borowski, SP Dewon Brazelton, RP Lance Carter, INF Alex Gonzalez, 1B Eduardo Perez.
On the way up: Scott Kazmir, Delmon Young, B.J. Upton. Along with Carl Crawford and Jorge Cantu, there's some talent here. Kazmir, the left-hander, makes scouts' hearts flutter. Baseball America made Young, Dmitri's little brother, its No. 1 prospect, and he should arrive sometime this summer. And though Upton is No. 2 in his family alone (Justin, the Diamondback shortstop, was No. 2 to Young), B.J. is close to big-league ready.
On the way out: If they're going to get pitching, the Devil Rays are going to have to part with some players they like. Lugo drew interest over the winter, as did Aubrey Huff, Jonny Gomes and the one-dimensional Joey Gathright.
Story lines: It's a long way up in the East, but the Devil Rays might just finish out of last place for the second time in their inglorious history. Joe Maddon has to find some pitchers behind Kazmir, and management didn't do him any favors with the Baez deal. There's hope, though, and that's rare for an organization that has been run on the cheap.
At Angel Stadium: July 14-16.
5. BALTIMORE ORIOLES
Key departures: SP Sidney Ponson, OF Sammy Sosa, 1B Rafael Palmeiro, RP B.J. Ryan.
On the way up: Daniel Cabrera, the 6-foot-7 right-hander, seems especially intriguing to new pitching coach Leo Mazzone. He has 20-win stuff and throws in the high 90s. Nick Markakis, the organization's top prospect among position players, pushed Luis Matos for an outfield spot during spring training.
On the way out: Kevin Millar will share a super-utility role with another left-handed hitter, Jeff Conine. Javy Lopez, in the third year of a three-year contract, has been replaced by Ramon Hernandez at catcher. Lopez will play first base and DH.
Story lines: Among the sights and sounds of a disastrous 2005: Manager Lee Mazzilli went from manager-of-the-year candidate to the firing squad, Palmeiro was nabbed for steroid use and in a subsequent hearing reportedly gave up Miguel Tejada, Sosa stopped hitting the moment he left the congressional hearing, Ponson punched an Aruban judge and kept drinking, and then the GM was canned. That's not a season of baseball, it's a season of "The Sopranos."
At Angel Stadium: May 26-28, Sept. 4-6.