2014 Kansas City Royals MLB Opening Day: Wild Card Preview

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Mar 22, 2014; Fort Myers, FL, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka (19) throws against the Minnesota Twins at Hammond Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

With Detroit’s woes piling up this off-season, the Kansas City Royals have an opportunity to compete for the division. Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski kicked off this off-season by dumping crafty starting pitcher Doug Fister. He followed with equally baffling moves by acquiring third-tier infielders Alex Gonzalez and Andrew Romine. Not great moves, Dave.

While that’s all well and good for the Royals, the Tigers still have a lights out rotation, and regardless of their front office shortcomings, the Detroit Tigers are still the division favorite, leaving the Royals to fight for a wild card berth.

The new playoff system allows two non-division winners into an elimination game, essentially opening up the race to any team with above a .500 record. That makes for a lot of teams competing with the Royals for a playoff spot. So, who are these teams and just how good are they?

To start with, the Indians will almost certainly enter into wild card talk, neck-and-neck with the Royals. Their rotation isn’t much to brag about, but their lineup is studly. You can check out their in-division preview here.

The Angels, Orioles, and Blue Jays probably fall out of the playoff race early, but should finish somewhere around or just above .500.

Here are the real competitors.

New York Yankees: 84-78

The Yanks spent half-a-billion dollars this off-season to barge their way back into the playoff conversation. They signed free agents Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka to monster contracts.

Their aged but powerful set of outfielders and designated hitters will create enough offense to win a sizable amount of games behind an average rotation, but the team’s terrible infield will serve as an anchor on the offense for duration.

If Tanaka lives up to the hype in his rookie year and C.C. Sabathia bounces back after last year’s disappointing season, in which he posted a 4.74 ERA, the team suddenly looks like a 90-game winner.