A 60-word take on all 30 Major League Baseball teams before the dash begins
Let’s be honest, the pandemic should be No. 1 in the power rankings. Neither wars nor labor strife nor previous plagues have ever disrupted a season like the coronavirus. With the season turned into a 60-game shootout, the chances of fluke results are greater than ever. With that in mind, here are 60 words on all 30 MLB teams.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
Is it possible to feel sorry for the mega-rich? The Dodgers lost one World Series to a team that admitted to cheating and lost another to a team accused of cheating. They trade for one year of Mookie Betts, and the pandemic almost wipes it out. Then David Price decides not to play. Good thing L.A. is still loaded.
2. New York Yankees
Well, this ain’t fair. The richest team with the snazziest roster may have benefitted from the pandemic more than anyone. Back in March, the Yankees were looking at starting the season without Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, James Paxton and Aaron Hicks due to injuries. Now there’s a chance all four will be on the roster for the new opening day.
3. Houston Astros
Even (cheaters) with a new manager (cheaters) and without Gerrit Cole (cheaters) the Astros remain the team (cheaters) to beat in the West (cheaters). It was a tumultuous offseason but Houston still has a star-laden lineup with George Springer, Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman. Losing Cole will sting. And seeing Zack Greinke struggle in the postseason doesn’t help.
4. Washington Nationals
Kind of sad the Nationals will not get much of a victory lap in 2020. The best solution would be for Washington to repeat as World Series champions, and that’s definitely a possibility with what may be the best rotation in baseball. But losing Anthony Rendon to free agency and Ryan Zimmerman to coronavirus concerns will be hard to overcome.
5. Tampa Bay Rays
Nervous? Excited? Honestly, either emotion works. The Rays have the makings of one of the best rosters in baseball. The rotation could be elite, the bullpen is deep, and the lineup is versatile. But the top three starting pitchers do not have the most reliable medical charts. With that in mind, the 60-game season could work to Tampa Bay’s advantage.
6. Minnesota Twins
The Twins absolutely bludgeoned the American League Central in 2019 and then went out and signed … another slugger. Giving Josh Donaldson $92 million is a bizarre move for a team that clearly has enough offense to win in the regular season, but probably not enough pitching to make a deep postseason run. And, no, Kenta Maeda is not the answer.
7. Atlanta Braves
Lost Josh Donaldson to free agency, and Freddie Freeman has tested positive for the coronavirus. That’s potentially a large chunk of missing offense. Freeman will eventually come back, but any time lost is amplified in a 60-game season. Cole Hamels replaces Dallas Keuchel, but there may not be enough pitching to hang with Washington and New York in the East.
8. New York Mets
Will foYoenis Cespedes make it all the way back? Can Pete Alonso repeat his monster rookie season? Will Jeff McNeil win the batting title? Does any of that matter? Because a starting rotation that includes Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman and Rick Porcello should be able to carry New York to the wild card if not the division title.
9. Oakland Athletics
Talk about your sister cities. Oakland is the West Coast version of Tampa Bay. The A’s have attendance problems, revenue problems and still manage to reach the postseason on a regular basis. Their rotation lacks star power but is deep, and the lineup had three players receiving AL MVP votes last season. But, as always, they’ll struggle in the playoffs.
10. Cincinnati Reds
There were only 10 deals for free agents that exceeded $60 million in the offseason. The Reds accounted for two of them with Mike Moustakas and former Tiger Nick Castellanos. Cincinnati also went to Japan to invest in centerfielder Shogo Akiyama. Combine the new-look offense with one of the better starting rotations around and the Reds are legitimate NL Central division contenders.
11. Cleveland Indians
Even after trading away Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber last year – and not getting nearly enough in return – the Indians still have a strong enough rotation to keep the Twins looking over their shoulders in the Central. The oddity of a 60-game season could benefit a pitching-heavy team like Cleveland. Or the Indians could give up and trade Francisco Lindor.
12. St. Louis Cardinals
Hello? Anybody home? The Cardinals seemed awfully quiet in the offseason. Maybe they got cocky after winning the NL Central in 2019 but that’s only because MLB rules insist someone win. The starting rotation is still impressive and could be enough to win the division, but it’s got to be disappointing St. Louis did nothing to boost a below-average offense.
13. Los Angeles Angels
Three MVP awards and four times as the runner-up. And Mike Trout still only has three games on his postseason resume. The Angels are wasting one of the greatest careers in baseball history, and there’s only marginal hope that things will be different in 2020. Anthony Rendon helps, but the pitching remains spotty. It will take a Joe Maddon miracle.
14. Chicago White Sox
Impressive hitters up and down the lineup, starting with batting champion Tim Anderson, Eloy Jimenez and Yoan Moncada. But are you willing to bet money on that starting rotation? Maybe if free-agent acquisition Dallas Keuchel can continue to fool hitters for another two months Chicago can have an interesting summer. But the future is still probably another year away.
15. Arizona Diamondbacks
Give the Diamondbacks credit. They see themselves as playoff contenders and invested $85 million in Madison Bumgarner for five years. It wasn’t a particularly wise investment for a pitcher in his 30s who is no longer elite, but at least Arizona is making an effort in the era of tanking. Will it lead to a 2020 wild card? Probably not.
16. Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays have one of the more exciting starting lineups, which is good because Toronto is going to need to score a ton of runs to support a shaky starting rotation. And that’s after spending $104 million to sign Hyun-Jin Ryu and Tanner Roark to free-agent deals. Got a shot at .500 for the first time since 2016.
17. Chicago Cubs
Much like his tenure in Tampa Bay, it appears Joe Maddon got out of town at the right time. The Cubs aren’t a bad team. They may even win the division. But their talent pool is dwindling. After averaging 97 wins a season for four years, the Cubs dropped to 84. And they’ve had more subtractions than additions in 2020.
18. Boston Red Sox
Their manager was sent packing, their best player was traded to the Dodgers and their starting rotation looks like something out of the Cape Cod League. So, yes, your prayers have been answered if you are a Tampa Bay fan with a sadistic heart. The only downside is you will only get to see the Sox suffer for 60 games.
19. San Diego Padres
The farm system is stacked and the left side of the infield is gold standard. Still, it’s hard to see the Padres making the leap from last place to wild card even with Tommy Pham adding a dose of intensity. The pitching is just not playoff-caliber. So Year 2 of the Manny Machado era looks like another lost cause.
20. Philadelphia Phillies
Advanced metrics say Philadelphia is, at best, a .500 team. I think the metrics might be off this time. Philadelphia boosted its rotation with Zack Wheeler and goosed the offense with Didi Gregorius. Mostly, the Phillies helped themselves by bringing in manager Joe Girardi to replace Gabe Kapler. This team underperformed in 2019 so there’s plenty of room for improvement.
21. Milwaukee Brewers
First, the good news: The Brewers re-signed Christian Yelich to a seven-year, $188.5 million contract. Now, the bad news: To clear that much cash, Milwaukee had to let a few decent bats walk out the door. The Brewers tried to compensate with under-the-radar signings (including former Ray Avisail Garcia) but it might take a year or two to fully reload.
22. Texas Rangers
The Rangers are going the wrong direction with run prevention. Back in 2015 when they won the division, the Rangers gave up 733 runs. That total has since gone up every year until reaching 878 runs in 2019, despite a stellar year from Mike Minor. Mediocre team? Pandemic? Not the best time to be opening a new billion-dollar stadium.
23. Colorado Rockies
Colorado signed Nolan Arenado to an eight-year, $260 million contract in 2019 and, soon after, were apparently talking about trading him. So what’s the strategy? Well, maybe the Rockies figured they could restock their roster by keeping Arenado under control and then dealing him. But it’s a risky move with a contract that large because there are limited trade partners.
24. Pittsburgh Pirates
Congratulations, Derek Shelton! The former Rays hitting coach is making his big league debut as a manager in Pittsburgh. And chances are we won’t hear from him again until his job is on the line. Pittsburgh just doesn’t seem to be trending in any discernible direction. The major-league roster is weak and the farm system is average at best.
25. Kansas City Royals
The Royals were not as bad as they looked last year, but that’s not saying much when you lose 103 games. The good news? A monster season from Jorge Soler. The bad news? Bet he doesn’t repeat it. There’s help on the horizon, but it won’t arrive quickly enough to make the Royals anything other than an annoying speed bump.
26. Detroit Tigers
Finally, there’s a reason to pay attention in Detroit. The Tigers have included a pair of recent No. 1 overall picks on their 60-player pool. Neither Casey Mize (2018 draft) nor Spencer Torkelson (2020) are expected to make the opening day roster, but there’s a chance they could land in the big leagues once the Tigers crash and burn this summer.
27. Seattle Mariners
It’s been 18 years since Seattle last saw the postseason. And that trend ain’t gonna change in 2020. But at least the Mariners are finally settled on a sensible direction. After years of deluding themselves, the Mariners swallowed their pride and made the moves it would take to restock the farm system. But no need to check back until 2022.
28. San Francisco Giants
If you’re going to rebuild, you might as well do it during a pandemic-shortened season. The Giants lost their top starter (Madison Bumgarner) their closer (Will Smith) their center fielder (Kevin Pillar) and their heart and soul (Buster Posey) to free agency or the pandemic. At least the farm system is solid so San Francisco could be back in contention soon.
29. Miami Marlins
Does the world really need a Marlins preview? Miami has not been over .500 in more than a decade and it won’t happen in 2020 either. Yes, the farm system has been upgraded considerably, but why would the Marlins acquire Jonathan Villar and Corey Dickerson while they’re still rebuilding? Let’s hope they’re planning to use both as midseason trade bait.
30. Baltimore Orioles
They lost 108 games last season, and then traded two of their most productive players in early December. It was actually a smart move to deal pitcher Dylan Bundy and second baseman Jonathan Villar for prospects, but it means the franchise overhaul is still in progress. In fact, the Orioles have a legitimate chance to be even worse in 2020.