The World Series ended nearly four months ago, with the Kansas City Royals defeating the New York Mets in a great matchup. Once the confetti and champagne were cleaned up, all 30 teams got to work, trying to make sure they were the ones celebrating at this time a year later.
This year’s free agent market was incredibly deep, with many cornerstone pieces available as well as several key players available through trades. For the first time in MLB history, a reigning first overall draft pick was traded, with Dansby Swanson heading to Atlanta as part of a package for pitcher Shelby Miller. Record-setting contracts were signed, and a record number of players were tagged with the qualifying offer.
Based on the moves by the American League teams, nearly every team believes it has a chance to contend for the championship. The National League, while fielding many top teams, has several rebuilding teams looking to stock up for the future.
Finally, the time has arrived. Baseball is back! In just a few short weeks, regular season play will commence, kicking off what will undoubtedly be another wild baseball season. Sit down, strap in, and enjoy the ride!
Chicago White Sox– 2015 Record: 76-86. 2016 Prediction: 83-79. Last offseason, the White Sox made a splash, adding Melky Cabrera, Jeff Samardzija, David Robertson and Adam LaRoche. After heading into the season with high expectations, the Sox stumbled to fourth in the division. This offseason, they chose to add to their current core instead of blow it all up, acquiring Todd Frazier and Brett Lawrie through trades, as well as the low-risk signing of Mat Latos. Still, questions remain about their rotational depth, corner outfield positions and manager in Robin Ventura, who is entering his fourth season with the club and has yet to lead the team to the playoffs.
Cleveland Indians– 2015 Record: 81-80. 2016 Prediction: 84-78. With one of the best rotations in the league, the Indians struggled to score runs last season, even with the emergence of rookie sensation Francisco Lindor. Even with MVP-candidate Michael Brantley starting the season on the DL, the Indians elected to make small moves, adding Mike Napoli and Rajai Davis to their lineup. Cleveland needs the rotation to carry this team yet again, and hopes a full season of Lindor will keep them afloat until Brantley’s return.
Detroit Tigers– 2015 Record: 74-87. 2016 Prediction: 78-84. The Tigers made two huge signings in starter Jordan Zimmermann and Outfielder Justin Upton. Still, several of Detroit’s key players are well past their prime years and have missed large chunks of recent seasons, including Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez. The Tigers hope this core has enough left to make one last push for a World Series ring, but will most likely disappoint again and remain at the bottom of the division.
Kansas City Royals– 2015 Record: 95-67. 2016 Prediction: 83-79. Coming off their World Series Championship, the Royals have provided the rest of the league with a blueprint to success: riding elite defense, reclamation projects turned top bullpen arms and timely hitting to their two straight American League titles. Midseason acquisitions Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist have left to sign hefty contracts with other contenders, leaving their pitching staff short on top of the rotation options and robbing them of their most versatile position player. Bringing in Ian Kennedy may soften the blow, as may expanding Jarrod Dyson’s role, but the defending champs seem unlikely to repeat.
Minnesota Twins– 2015 Record: 83-79. 2016 Prediction: 87-75. The Twins surprised the baseball world by challenging for a playoff spot until the end of the season, riding rookie Miguel Sano’s amazing second half and the swagger of first-year manager Paul Molitor. The Twins are expected to receive key contributions by two of baseball’s top prospects in Byron Buxton and Jose Berrios, as well as international free agent signee Byung-ho Park. Their abundant young talent, combined with seasoned veterans Joe Mauer, Brian Dozier and Phil Hughes promises to put the Twins in position to steal the Central crown and make a run in the playoffs.
Baltimore Orioles– 2015 Record: 81-81. 2016 Prediction: 80-82. The biggest move of the Orioles’ offseason was their decision to re-sign Chris Davis to a massive seven-year contract, allegedly outbidding themselves throughout the process. Baltimore also added DH Mark Trumbo and Outfielder Hyun Soo Kim, hoping to renew their offense as a team strength. After adding starter Yovani Gallardo recently, the Orioles have been mentioned as a very strong suitor for OF Dexter Fowler. The Orioles will need Davis to replicate his power numbers from 2013 and 2015, a huge campaign by Manny Machado, as well as solid seasons from their starters in order to compete in the strong AL East.
Boston Red Sox– 2015 Record: 78-84. 2016 Prediction: 87-75. Following their disappointing 2015 season, the Red Sox signed SP David Price away from their division-rival Blue Jays and acquired elite closer Craig Kimbrel from San Diego. Boston is counting on resurgent campaigns from Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, both of whom disappointed after signing large contracts prior to last season. The ageless David Ortiz has said this will be his final season, and the Red Sox seem primed to send “Big Papi” into retirement with another championship ring.
New York Yankees– 2015 Record: 87-75. 2016 Prediction: 83-79. The Yankees exceeded expectations a year ago by making the playoffs. This season, they return a similar core, with the additions of Closer Aroldis Chapman, and 2B Starlin Castro. However, many of their highest-paid players are way past their primes; Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran and CC Sabathia will all be past 35 this season, with Rodriguez turning 41 midway through. These players are still being counted on to play at high levels, lowering the chances the Yankees will be able to make it through the grueling season at a high enough level to make the playoffs.
Tampa Bay Rays– 2015 Record: 80-82. 2016 Prediction: 76-86. The small-market Rays managed to add a few pieces to their lineup this offseason, acquiring Corey Dickerson, Steve Pearce and Logan Morrison. They hope to surprise the league again, led by Evan Longoria and emerging ace Chris Archer. The lack of talent on this team, however, will prevent them from outplaying expectations enough to make a serious push for a playoff spot.
Toronto Blue Jays– 2015 Record: 93-69. 2016 Prediction: 86-76. After acquiring David Price and Troy Tulowitzki near the trade deadline last season, the Blue Jays played as well as any team in baseball. Though Price signed elsewhere as a free agent, they return every major contributor from their league-leading offense, as well as strong young pitchers Marcus Stroman and Marco Estrada. The additions of closer Drew Storen, starting pitcher J.A. Happ and reliever Jesse Chavez will help give their offensive bashers a chance to win nearly every game. Reigning MVP Josh Donaldson will need to produce at an elite level again, along with big contributions from older hitters Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, in order to have another chance at punching a ticket to the World Series.
Houston Astros– 2015 Record: 86-76. 2016 Prediction: 92-70. After shocking the baseball world en route to a playoff spot a year ago, the Astros look to continue to ride their young stars into contention this season. AL Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel and Rookie of the Year Carlos Correa are already among the best at their respective positions in the entire league and are likely to continue to improve this season. OF George Springer missed more than two months due to injury last season, and midseason acquisitions Mike Fier, Carlos Gomez and Colby Rasmus should help the Astros improve by contributing over a full season. Behind their stacked starting rotation and young talent in the field, the Astros should put together another highly successful campaign and compete for the AL pennant.
Los Angeles Angels– 2015 Record: 85-77. 2016 Prediction: 80-82. One would think that having the best player in baseball and one of the highest payrolls would automatically make you a contender on a yearly basis. The Angels, however, have yet to win a playoff game since Mike Trout’s MLB career began, despite signing many of the biggest free agents in recent years. Still, the Angels hope to make a push for the playoffs this season with the additions of defensive whiz SS Andrelton Simmons and 3B Yunel Escobar. Their starting rotation is a weak spot, with Jered Weaver aging poorly and CJ Wilson failing to live up to his mammoth contract. The Angels will need another historic season from Trout, as well as improved play by their rotation, for Albert Pujols to have a chance at giving Trout his first taste of postseason success.
Oakland Athletics– 2015 Record: 68-94. 2016 Prediction: 65-97. Last offseason the A’s traded away their second-best starter in Jeff Samardzija and the eventual MVP Josh Donaldson, sealing their last-place finish. Offseason additions Yonder Alonso and Jed Lowrie could add a much-needed spark to their offense. The glaring lack of talent on this team outside of staff ace Sonny Gray and OF Josh Reddick indicates A’s fans will suffer through another dismal season this year.
Seattle Mariners– 2015 Record: 76-86. 2016 Prediction: 78-84. A year ago, Seattle was a popular pick to make the World Series, but proceeded to miss the playoffs by 11 games. Since hiring Jerry DiPoto as their new GM, the Mariners have made a number of big roster moves, solidifying the end of their rotation, adding to their bullpen, and acquiring impactful bats such as Nori Aoki, Leonys Martin and Adam Lind. They’ll need Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Felix Hernandez to turn in great campaigns in order to have a chance at making the playoffs.
Texas Rangers– 2015 Record: 88-74. 2016 Prediction: 91-71. After struggling through the 2013 season, the Rangers rebounded and won the division a season ago. Deadline acquisition Cole Hamels looks to team up with a healthy Yu Darvish, Derek Holland and Colby Lewis to make up one of the league’s strongest rotations. Prince Fielder, Shin-Soo Choo and Adrian Beltre look to build on strong seasons from last year, and will need help from youngsters Rougned Odor and Delino DeShields jr. to repeat as division champs.
Chicago Cubs– 2015 Record: 97-65. 2016 Prediction: 101-61. The Cubs dominated their opposition all season long last year, posting the third-best record in all of baseball. With such a young core of extremely talented players and a deep run in the playoffs, no one could have blamed the Cubs if they chose to stand pat all winter. Instead, they signed the most talented position player on the market in Jason Heyward, arguably the most versatile player in all of baseball in Ben Zobrist, and John Lackey, a veteran with plenty of playoff experience coming off an amazing season. With one of the best managers in the league and an incredible young core of talent, the Cubs are the odds-on favorites to win their first World Series since 1908 this season.
Cincinnati Reds– 2015 Record: 64-98. 2016 Prediction: 61-101. After a dismal season last year, the Reds continued to sell their veteran talent by trading Todd Frazier and Aroldis Chapman this winter. The prospects they acquired will not be ready for a few years, leaving their major league team very short on talent. With veterans Jay Bruce, Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips still on the club, the Reds will look to continue unloading veteran talent for potentially impactful prospects. This process will undoubtedly take several years to bear fruit, meaning the Reds will likely be near the bottom of the league rankings again this season.
Milwaukee Brewers– 2015 Record: 68-94. 2016 Prediction: 66-96. Another rebuilding team, the Brewers have dealt several players for prospects this offseason. While they are still trying to find a suitor for catcher Jonathan Lucroy, Milwaukee has acquired a good amount of young talent to restock their minor league system. The remaining players on their roster seem to be either future trade bait or roster fillers; this rebuild will take several years before it can produce a winning team.
Pittsburgh Pirates– 2015 Record: 98-64. 2016 Prediction: 92-70. The Pirates finished the season with the second-best record in the league a year ago, but fell victim to the Wild Card playoff game, losing to the Cubs. They will start this season without last year’s rookie star Jung Ho Kang after he fractured his leg in the field. Perennial MVP candidate Andrew McCutchen will need help picking up the slack, and Cy Young candidate Gerrit Cole will get help from Pittsburgh’s usual stable of pitching reclamation projects. The Pirates will need their biggest stars to help them keep pace with the Cubs and Cardinals to have a shot at another playoff appearance.
St. Louis Cardinals– 2015 Record: 100-62. 2016 Prediction: 93-69. The losses of Jason Heyward and John Lackey in free agency to their rival the Cubs will hurt the Cardinals this season; both were centerpieces a year ago. However, the Cardinals have a limitless minor league system, constantly producing key contributors for the major league roster. The Cardinals will need Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright to stay healthy and produce like they used to, and young players such as Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty to step up to have a shot at avenging their playoff loss to the Cubs.
Atlanta Braves– 2015 Record: 67-95. 2016 Prediction: 61-101. The Braves were clearly not going to contend for several years, making their trades of Shelby Miller and Andrelton Simmons for impressive prospect packages great moves. The massive return for Miller makes it quite possibly the best move by any team this offseason, as they got 2015 number one overall pick Dansby Swanson, who seems set to be a franchise player of the future, a top-50 prospect in pitcher Aaron Blair and a strong young outfielder in Ender Inciarte. The Braves will lose their way back to a top draft pick this season, which will further bolster their suddenly overflowing minor league system. In addition, the Braves still have a few veteran pieces on the roster that may bring back prospects at the deadline. This team will be painful to watch this year, but has set itself up beautifully for the future.
Miami Marlins– 2015 Record: 71-91. 2016 Prediction: 78-84. The Marlins have a solid roster, giving them a chance to chase a Wild Card spot in the stacked NL. Though they did not add any significant pieces to their lineup, getting a full season from superstar Giancarlo Stanton could carry the offense, along with another strong season from the NL’s defending batting champ Dee Gordon. The addition of Wei-Yin Chen to their rotation helps, but the back of their rotation still has several question marks. The Marlins hope that new manager Don Mattingly can lead this young team to playoffs for the first time since winning the World Series in 2003.
New York Mets– 2015 Record: 90-72. 2016 Prediction: 96-66. After winning the NL pennant, the Mets were expected to lose their best player in Yoenis Cespedes, but they were able to bring him back. This, combined with their elite rotation, puts the Mets in a strong position to have a successful 2016 campaign. Infield additions Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker help strengthen a weak point, and signing reliever Antonio Bastardo further fortifies a strength. In the end, the Mets will go as far as their young aces — Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey and Steven Matz — manage to take them.
Philadelphia Phillies– 2015 Record: 63-99. 2016 Prediction: 60-102. At this point, the Phillies have traded pretty much all of the movable veteran pieces in exchange for prospects. Ryan Howard is unlikely to garner much interest around the league, as he is paid like a superstar but puts up well-below-average numbers. The most interesting part of the Phillies’ season will be seeing some of their young talent come up and get their feet wet at the major league level.
Washington Nationals– 2015 Record: 83-79. 2016 Prediction: 89-73. Reigning MVP Bryce Harper looks to lead his team back to the playoffs with the help of new manager Dusty Baker. With key additions OF Ben Revere, playoff hero 2B Daniel Murphy and several bullpen upgrades, the Nationals have strengthened their roster, making them seem ready to push the defending NL champion Mets for the division title this season.
Arizona Diamondbacks– 2015 Record: 79-83. 2016 Prediction: 85-77. The Diamondbacks made two of the most shocking moves of the offseason: signing Zack Greinke to a massive contract, and giving up a lot for Shelby Miller. A year ago, the Diamondbacks fielded one of the best offenses in the league, but lacked top-level pitching. Adding two potential aces will help there, but the Diamondbacks had better hope this works, because moves like these get front-office executives fired and blacklisted.
Colorado Rockies– 2015 Record: 68-94. 2016 Prediction: 63-99. The Rockies are not expected to contend for a playoff spot this season, basically just hoping that some of their veteran pieces play well enough to bring back prospects at the deadline. Additions to their bullpen and bench are nice, but acquiring a dominant closer in Jake McGee seems out of place for a team not expected to play in many important close games. Jose Reyes’ domestic violence case has already started casting a shadow over the team, due to the fact that they have decided they do not want him at Spring Training.
Los Angeles Dodgers– 2015 Record: 92-70. 2016 Prediction: 85-77. Undoubtedly the biggest change for the Dodgers this offseason was the loss of their second ace Zack Greinke to the Diamondbacks, putting even more pressure on Clayton Kershaw. To fill the void, the Dodgers signed Scott Kazmir and international free agent Kenta Maeda. New manager Dave Roberts will look to contributions from youngsters Joc Pederson and Corey Seager to help the Dodgers hold off their division rivals and win the division again.
San Diego Padres– 2015 Record: 74-88. 2016 Prediction: 75-87. A year ago, Padres GM AJ Preller stole the show with several big splashes, trying to create a contender out of thin air. After that plan resulted in a fourth-place finish this past season, he tried another strategy this offseason. Flipping Craig Kimbrel to Boston for several highly regarded prospects was a shrewd move, as was replacing him with the low-risk signing of Fernando Rodney. The Padres will probably not contend this year, but they have a solid farm system with prospects who will soon be forcing their way into the Padres’ everyday lineup.
San Francisco Giants– 2015 Record: 84-78. 2016 Prediction: 91-71. Last season, the Giants fielded arguably the best infield in all of baseball, but their lack of starting pitching behind ace Madison Bumgarner burned them. To remedy that this offseason, the Giants signed Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija to large contracts to solidify their rotation, which has historically been their strength during deep playoff runs. With a healthy Hunter Pence back in the outfield alongside addition Denard Span, the Giants will look to continue their even-year dominance with another ring.