Welcome to the offseason edition of theScore’s MLB Power Rankings. Teams have been ranked based on their current roster heading into the winter.
1. Boston Red Sox
The reigning World Series champs enter the offseason with the core of their roster intact, but the team could lose key championship contributors Steve Pearce and Nathan Eovaldi, who are both free agents. Boston’s front office will likely focus on rebuilding the back end of the bullpen this winter, as Joe Kelly and Craig Kimbrel are also free agents. But don’t expect big spending with the team already close to exceeding the luxury-tax threshold.
2. New York Yankees
The Yankees will focus on adding to their rotation, which is complicated somewhat by the club’s desire to trade away Sonny Gray. New York must also address the hole that Didi Gregorius’ injury leaves in the infield, as he’ll be sidelined for the first couple months of 2019 following Tommy John surgery. After resetting their luxury-tax penalties in 2018, the Yankees appear set to be players for Manny Machado (a potential Gregorius replacement) and Bryce Harper.
3. Houston Astros
The Astros won’t have an easy winter following their 103-win season in 2018. After possessing the best starting rotation in baseball by almost every metric, the Astros will have to cope with Lance McCullers Jr. missing 2019 due to Tommy John surgery, as well as Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton possibly leaving as free agents. Josh James and Forrest Whitley could be called up from the minors, but Houston will likely still have to add at least one starter. They’ll also need to sign a new catcher after Brian McCann and Martin Maldonado depart, unless the club believes in the noted defensive abilities of Max Stassi.
4. Los Angeles Dodgers
On his way out the door to join the Giants, former Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi crossed the most important offseason item off the team’s checklist, working out an extension with Clayton Kershaw. However, the Dodgers’ work isn’t done yet. Their rotation and bullpen have question marks beyond Kershaw, Walker Buehler, and Kenley Jansen. Addressing second base and catcher should be top of mind as well, all while keeping the team’s payroll roughly the same.
5. Milwaukee Brewers
The NL Central-winning Brewers are in solid position to continue their success in 2019, with nearly all of the team’s core returning. Milwaukee’s incredible bullpen is still intact, and the return of Jimmy Nelson will likely help improve a rotation that should also get a boost from Corbin Burnes and/or Brandon Woodruff as they blossom. GM David Stearns needs to address the catcher position and find an upgrade to push aside Erik Kratz and Manny Pina.
6. Chicago Cubs
The Cubs already picked up Cole Hamels’ option to solidify their rotation, and they have a strong core of veteran starters. The rest of the roster is mainly set, but a decision needs to be made about Addison Russell’s future with the team as he continues to serve his domestic violence suspension. The Cubs have long been rumored to be interested in signing Harper, though limited financial resources may have the front office looking for complimentary pieces instead of a major free-agent splash.
7. Atlanta Braves
The 2018 season was supposed to be the next phase in a rebuild for the Braves, and instead, the team surprisingly captured the NL East crown. With pressure mounting to repeat that success, Atlanta needs to find replacements for Nick Markakis and Kurt Suzuki. The trade market might be the club’s best path forward because GM Alex Anthopoulos normally shies away from long-term commitments. The Braves’ farm system is stocked with arms to deal if they go that route.
8. Oakland Athletics
The 97-win Athletics are still a bit of an enigma. It’s difficult to pin down what the team has to do in the offseason because it was tough to figure out what they did that made them so dominant in 2018. The offense is legit, but they’ll need a catcher. The rotation was surprisingly strong, but Sean Manaea is expected to be sidelined for all of 2019 due to shoulder surgery, and it doesn’t seem like a recipe for sustained success to have Mike Fiers and Daniel Mengden leading a band of misfits. One thing is certain: Oakland will inevitably make some payroll-neutral moves this winter, breeding head-scratching thinkpieces across the continent. Some will laud the small-market mentality, and some will condemn the spare-parts approach. Vindication for either side will have to wait until the end of 2019.
9. St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals have missed the postseason in three straight years, which is an eternity in St. Louis. The young core of Jack Flaherty, Alex Reyes, Tyler O’Neill, Paul DeJong, and Harrison Bader is nice, but the team lacks offensive pop. The Cardinals have downplayed interest in Harper, and they seem unlikely to pursue Machado, especially with the bullpen still their main concern. Fortunately, they’ve built up a system full of assets that could be moved for the right piece via trade.
10. Colorado Rockies
GM Jeff Bridich has other work to do as he continues to negotiate a long-term extension with Nolan Arenado. DJ LeMahieu, Adam Ottavino, and Carlos Gonzalez are all set to depart, making the Rockies look worse on paper than the 2018 team ousted in the first round of the playoffs. Upgrades at second base and in the outfield should lead Colorado’s shopping list.
11. Philadelphia Phillies
A lot is on the line in 2019 for the Phillies. At times during Gabe Kapler’s inaugural season as manager, the Phils looked like legitimate contenders. Then down the stretch they were a laughingstock. Rumored to be preparing to spend big in free agency (looking at both Machado and Harper), the Phillies could change their public perception pretty quickly. And to shuffle the deck, they may be busy on the trade market, as they’re reportedly shopping first baseman Carlos Santana a year after signing him to a three-year, $60-million contract. Moving him could free up a spot in the outfield for Harper, with Rhys Hoskins shifting to first base.
12. Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays are coming off a surprising 90-win season, and the team has ambitions of reaching the postseason next year for the first time since 2013. Tampa Bay has already landed Mike Zunino from the Mariners for Mallex Smith to address the catcher position, and the team is believed to be in the market for another slugger. With the financial resources to do so, expect the Rays to target Nelson Cruz or another veteran who can add pop to the middle of the order.
13. Washington Nationals
With Harper reportedly turning down $300 million from the Nationals, his time in Washington is probably over. While that’s a huge loss, things could be much worse. The Nationals still employ Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Anthony Rendon, and Juan Soto. Also, the NL East is wide open and lacks a clear favorite. Mike Rizzo has plenty of pieces to replace after last season’s trade bonanza and players leaving in free agency, but Washington still looks primed for success.
14. Cleveland Indians
Rumors that the Indians are considering a purge of top (see: expensive) talent like Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco points toward a paradigm shift in the AL Central, even though there’s no clear heir apparent. It’s a questionable strategy because the Indians would likely enter 2019 as the favorites to win the division yet again. But, after early postseason exits in consecutive years, the front office looking further into the future beyond just the season ahead is understandable. The certainty is that Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez will be on the Opening Day roster.
15. Los Angeles Angels
With due respect to free agent Garrett Richards, who could be effective when healthy, the Angels don’t have any big changes to their major-league roster to address. That isn’t to say Billy Eppler’s offseason job is going to be easy. Mike Trout is under contract for two more years, and flushing his 2019 season down the drain could severely hamper the team’s ability to make him a life-long Halo. Using Shohei Ohtani as a one-way player might weaken their chances to win, but at least it helps the club identify its main need: pitching.
16. Arizona Diamondbacks
The D-Backs are at a significant crossroad for the organization, with A.J. Pollock and Patrick Corbin both hitting free agency, and Paul Goldschmidt only one year away from the open market, too. There are solid pieces on this roster, but Arizona is coming off a disappointing season, even after fielding the most expensive team in franchise history. Expect the front office to get creative and entertain offers on almost everyone in order to clear salary and get younger.
17. Seattle Mariners
If the Mariners need motivation to sell while staying relevant, they need to look no further than the Rays and the division-rival Athletics. Both teams ran low payrolls in 2018, coped with injuries, and traded away key assets while winning 90-plus games. Seattle is reportedly dangling ace James Paxton, and they’ve already shipped away Mike Zunino, their only major-league catcher, to the aforementioned Rays. Whether Jerry Dipoto can actually field a competitive team, though, remains to be seen.
18. New York Mets
New GM Brodie Van Wagenen insists the Mets will win now, which could mean a free-agent spending spree is coming. The team needs help behind the plate, at first base, and in the bullpen. Adding one or all of Craig Kimbrel, Yasmani Grandal, and Andrew Miller would help Van Wagenen leave a good first impression.
19. Pittsburgh Pirates
The Chris Archer trade could have far-reaching ramifications. With Tyler Glasnow flourishing in Tampa and Austin Meadows on the verge of a starting gig, the trade remains puzzling for a team that had already shipped one star right-hander (Gerrit Cole) out of town while apparently starting a rebuild. Despite that head-scratcher, the Pirates have a lot of nice pieces, especially in their bullpen (Felipe Vazquez, Keone Kela, Richard Rodriguez). Pittsburgh lacks a true difference-maker on offense, though, and the team isn’t likely to make a big splash in free agency to address it.
20. San Francisco Giants
With a new president of baseball operations at the helm, the Giants’ offseason plan is among the biggest question marks of the winter. Will Madison Bumgarner be made available? Will San Francisco legitimately be in the running for Harper? Or will the team’s winter just be about shedding the salaries of Evan Longoria, Jeff Samardzija, Brandon Belt, and Mark Melancon? All tough questions for Zaidi and his new general manager.
21. Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays likely already made their biggest offseason move when they brought in Charlie Montoyo to be the team’s new manager. With the Jays still in transition, the front office will likely try to use its surplus of position players to make deals and bolster a pitching staff that’s losing Marco Estrada and Tyler Clippard to free agency. Toronto could be patient and wait out the free-agent market, hoping to pounce on buy-low deals for players who can be flipped at the trade deadline next season.
22. San Diego Padres
A 66-win season after handing the largest contract in franchise history to Eric Hosmer is hardly a success, but the future is bright in San Diego thanks to the emergence of Franmil Reyes and continued improvement of Hunter Renfroe. Wil Myers might not have much time left in San Diego, though, and trading him could help GM A.J. Preller add to an already deep farm system.
23. Minnesota Twins
The Twins have lost the face of their franchise for the past 15 years after Joe Mauer announced his retirement, but that’s the least of their worries. This team is not especially good. Minnesota buried its budding star outfielder Byron Buxton in the minors, and Miguel Sano hasn’t been developing well over the past 12 months. Jose Berrios looks like a legit ace to build the staff around, but there are no other notable pieces for the Twins to use as their foundation, leaving fans to look ahead to Royce Lewis.
24. Chicago White Sox
The White Sox will enter 2019 without top pitching prospect Michael Kopech (Tommy John surgery), but they’ve surfaced as a dark-horse candidate for the top free agents this winter. Chicago has a nice core in place, and players like Eloy Jimenez should make their way to the bigs sooner rather than later. With the Indians potentially shipping out Kluber and/or Carrasco, the AL Central could be more competitive than it was in 2018, when 90 wins were good enough for first place and a losing record was good for second. If the White Sox decide to spend, they could challenge for the division even if they have holes in the rotation, lineup, and bullpen.
25. Cincinnati Reds
Cincinnati has some intriguing pieces to build around in Eugenio Suarez and Scooter Gennett, along with a star-studded farm system that includes Nick Senzel, Hunter Greene, Taylor Trammell, and Jonathan India. The team’s rotation needs help – desperately – and there are rumblings that the front office may invest in some via free agency this winter. However, next year’s free-agent class should feature big-name arms in Madison Bumgarner, Chris Sale, and Gerrit Cole, so it might be best to wait.
26. Texas Rangers
The Rangers are in a full-on rebuild after contending for years in the AL West. Mike Minor and Drew Smyly lead the pitching staff, and the latter hasn’t thrown a big-league pitch since 2016. On the bright side, the Rangers have a lot of youth and Jose Leclerc set to anchor the bullpen for years to come. The team needs strides from Nomar Mazara and Joey Gallo, though, so the front office can appropriately gauge what direction to take.
27. Miami Marlins
The Marlins are still undergoing a pretty aggressive rebuild, having traded away the 2017 and 2018 NL MVPs, and they have one more valuable asset in J.T. Realmuto. Arguably the best catcher in the game, it will be interesting to see how the 27-year-old’s availability will impact the free agencies of Yasmani Grandal and Wilson Ramos. Regardless of what happens there, Miami won’t have a competitive roster in 2019 as the new regime tries to put its mark on the franchise.
28. Detroit Tigers
Victor Martinez’s contract is finally off the books, which should help the Tigers’ finances as they continue through a lengthy rebuild. With Jose Iglesias and Francisco Liriano hitting free agency, expect the front office to continue to target free agents on short-term deals to fill needs temporarily. Nicholas Castellanos enters his final season of arbitration before becoming a free agent, and the Tigers could put him on the trade block.
29. Kansas City Royals
After a disastrous season, the Royals aren’t expected to be competitive for a while. But there are signs of life in Kansas City tied to the team’s speed on the basepaths. Whit Merrifield and Adalberto Mondesi paced the majors with a combined 55 stolen bases in the second half of 2018 (finishing first and second in the category during that stretch). Mondesi’s emergence, in particular, is a welcome sight, because it wasn’t guaranteed his bat would stick in the majors.
30. Baltimore Orioles
Adam Jones, Buck Showalter, and Dan Duquette are all gone. The Orioles’ farm system is bad. The team owes Chris Davis $92 million, and fans aren’t showing up at Camden Yards. This team, and organization, is hurting. Baltimore’s best and probably only sensible move is to find a new front-office boss who’s willing to follow the Astros’ blueprint, tearing everything down, starting fresh, and praying for a more promising future.
(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)