MLB Power Rankings: Post-1st Month of Free Agency
We are now one month into the MLB offseason, and we have already seen a number of free agents get big money and one blockbuster trade between the Tigers and Rangers. With the winter meetings just around the corner, things are just getting started.
Teams remain a work in progress at this point as they continue to shape their rosters for the upcoming season, but it's never too early to see where all 30 teams stack up against on another.
Looking only at what teams have done to this point, as though Opening Day was today, here is a look at where all 30 MLB teams stand in my first offseason power rankings. As free agents continue to sign and trades are made, teams will slide up and down these rankings before the start of the season, but this is where things stand as of today.
30. Houston Astros
RP Darin Downs (waivers, DET)
SS/3B Ryan Jackson (waivers, STL)
With just one player under contract for the 2014 season in second baseman Jose Altuve and a payroll that was trimmed down to just over $26 million to open last season, the Houston Astros have plenty of money to spend in free agency. The question is, will they?
As their impressive collection of young talent makes the move from the minors to the majors, more growing pains are inevitable, and it looks as though it will be at least a couple more years until the Astros are relevant. As of now, they've been quiet in free agency and look poised to make a run at worst record once again.
29. Miami Marlins
RF Jimmy Parades (waivers, HOU)
It appears the Miami Marlins will hold on to outfielder Giancarlo Stanton and build around him at this point, but teams will no doubt be inquiring about him at the winter meetings once again this year. As it stands, he's by far the team's best hitter.
The young starting rotation figures to be a strength in 2014, and the bullpen is solid, but the Marlins will need to fill a few lineup holes before the season starts. Expect them to go the bargain basement route again and make a few moves similar to the Juan Pierre and Placido Polanco signings last winter. Their pitching will make them watchable, but another 100-loss season could be inevitable.
28. Chicago White Sox
1B Jose Abreu (FA, six years, $68 million)
The Chicago White Sox kick-started the rebuilding process at the trade deadline this past year, dealing Jake Peavy, Alex Rios, Jesse Crain and Matt Thornton. More moves could be on the way as the team looks to add young talent to what has become a very thin farm system.
The team signed sought-after Cuban defector Jose Abreu to a six-year deal to replace Paul Konerko at first base, but it will likely be more seller than buyer the remainder of the winter. If a few things break the White Sox's way, they could avoid a last-place finish in the AL Central, but they're not in a position to contend.
27. Chicago Cubs
C George Kottaras (trade, KC)
1B Mat Gamel (waivers, MIL)
The 2015 season remains the target for a return to relevancy for the Chicago Cubs, but that doesn't mean they won't be active this offseason should the opportunity to add an impact player for the present and future present itself.
As of now, guys like Jake Arrieta and Chris Rusin figure to get every chance to lock down a spot in a rotation that could be without Jeff Samardzija if the team opts to deal the right-hander. Adding a bat in center field or another starter in the mold of Scott Feldman last year looks like the Cubs' most likely moves, but it's all about the in-house talent making its way to Chicago in 2014.
26. New York Mets
CF Chris Young (FA, one year, $7.25 million)
The New York Mets' offseason is likely only getting started, as they have a good amount of money to work with and clear holes at shortstop, in the outfield and in both the rotation and bullpen. Signing Chris Young to a one-year deal was a nice low-cost move, but they still have work to do on what was an anemic offense.
With a good core of high-end young pitchers and superstar David Wright locked up long-term, the Mets have some pieces to build around, and a handful of solid additions to fill the above-mentioned needs could make them relevant. As things stand now, though, they are a .500 team at best.
25. Minnesota Twins
SP Ricky Nolasco (FA, four years, $49 million)
SP Phil Hughes (FA, three years, $24 million)
Coming off of a season that saw their starting pitchers post an MLB-worst 5.26 ERA, it comes as no surprise that the Minnesota Twins' early focus this offseason has been on bolstering their rotation. Ricky Nolasco and the recently signed Phil Hughes should both help, though it's hard not to think the Twins overpaid for Hughes at this point.
Either way, this is a team with an eye on the future looking to make a run at respectability in 2014, not a team in a position to contend. However, with arguably the best farm system in all of baseball, the Twins are a team to watch down the road, and they could make some serious noise by 2016.
24. San Diego Padres
SP Josh Johnson (FA, one year, $8 million)
The San Diego Padres already look to be in better shape this offseason than they were last winter, as the emergence of Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross, along with the addition of Ian Kennedy at the deadline and reclamation project Josh Johnson in free agency, has their starting rotation looking like a potential strength.
Deciding what to do with Chase Headley will be their biggest decision moving forward, and it is looking more and more likely that they deal him. With a deep farm system and a solid young core at the big league level, the Padres are a team on the rise and one that could surprise a few people this coming year.
23. Milwaukee Brewers
UT Elian Herrera (waivers, LAD)
A late-season run in 2012 and the addition of Kyle Lohse and a few bullpen arms last offseason left the Milwaukee Brewers looking like fringe contenders entering 2013. But a number of injuries to their lineup and poor performance from their starters left them fighting to avoid a last-place finish.
If Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez can do what's expected of them in the middle of the lineup and breakout stars Carlos Gomez and Jean Segura don't regress, the offense will be in good shape. A rotation of Yovani Gallardo, Lohse, Marco Estrada, Wily Peralta and another of their up-and-coming young arms has potential to strong as well, so aside from shoring up first base, don't expect the Brewers to do much this offseason.
22. Seattle Mariners
A center fielder and a closer top the Seattle Mariners' shopping list this winter, and the team could look to make a splash signing at both spots as it looks to make the leap from rebuilding team to contender perhaps as soon as this coming season.
Much will depend on how big of a step forward the Mariners' young hitters take and whether or not Taijuan Walker and James Paxton can hold their own behind Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma in the rotation. There is plenty of talent on the team. though. and a few big additions could mean a winning season at the very least.
21. Colorado Rockies
RP LaTroy Hawkins (FA, one year, $2.5 million)
The surprise team of the first month of the 2012 season, the Colorado Rockies eventually crashed back to earth. But healthy seasons from Jhoulys Chacin and Jorge De La Rosa made for a vastly improved starting rotation to back what was once again an impressive offensive attack.
LaTroy Hawkins was recently signed to fill the closer's role, and the Rockies could look to add another bullpen arm or two. As for the rotation, reinforcements could arrive quickly from the farm, as top prospects Eddie Butler and Jonathan Gray both figure to debut in 2014. That leaves replacing Todd Helton at first base as the team's biggest remaining offseason need.
20. New York Yankees
C Brian McCann (FA, five years, $85 million)
SS Brendan Ryan (FA, two years, $5 million)
The New York Yankees will no doubt climb this list as the offseason progresses, but with only CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova slotted in the rotation, Robinson Cano still not re-signed and holes in the outfield and at the back end of the bullpen, they have a lot of work to do this winter.
The Brian McCann signing was a good first step, but they will need to sign a couple starting pitchers and an outfield bat, if nothing else, before the offseason is over. The health of their infield outside of Cano, who appears ready for a lengthy negotiation, is a question mark as well.
19. Los Angeles Angels
RP Joe Smith (FA, three years, $15 million)
3B David Freese (trade, STL)
RP Fernando Salas (trade, STL)
A better rotation behind Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson and a better showing from high-priced additions Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols are a must if the Los Angeles Angels hope to justify their free spending with a trip to the postseason.
David Freese was a nice addition at third base, and Joe Smith will certainly help at the back end of the bullpen, but this team needs to add two quality starters if it is going to turn things around. Trading Mark Trumbo for an arm may wind up being an inevitability as the offseason progresses.
18. Philadelphia Phillies
RF Marlon Byrd (FA, two years, $16 million)
C Carlos Ruiz (re-signed, three years, $26 million)
With Chase Utley extended during the season and Carlos Ruiz re-signed to a hefty three-year deal already this offseason, it looks as though the Philadelphia Phillies will opt against rebuilding and instead look to make a run at a winning season.
That said, this is an old team, and it looks like its window of contention has closed. The Phillies have bad contracts up and down the roster and are essentially locked into the group they have. If things break right they could certainly finish above .500, but it's hard to envision this team competing with the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves for NL East supremacy.
17. Toronto Blue Jays
The Toronto Blue Jays were as big a disappointment as any team in baseball last year. Their plethora of offseason additions made them a popular pick to win the AL East, but when all was said and done, they found themselves in last place.
They return essentially the same team, aside from Josh Johnson, who signed with the Padres in free agency. Adding another quality arm alongside veterans R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle is a must if the Blue Jays hope to have a chance of contending. But as of now, they look to have their work cut out for them in the division.
16. Baltimore Orioles
RP Edgmer Escalona (FA, one year)
SP Brad Brach (trade, SD)
2B Cord Phelps (waivers, CLE)
A surprise playoff team in 2012, the Baltimore Orioles came up just short this past season, and they will have some decisions to make this offseason if they hope to remain relevant in the ultra-competitive AL East.
Pitching remains their weakness. While they have some solid arms in Chris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen, Bud Norris and Miguel Gonzalez, the O's lack a true ace.
Healthy and productive seasons from top prospects Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman would go a long way, but relying on them looks like a risky move. Aside from potentially signing a starter, the team also needs to figure out second base and left field.
15. Cleveland Indians
LF David Murphy (FA, two years, $12 million)
With a handful of key offseason additions, including new manager Terry Francona, and a number of veterans exceeding expectations, the Cleveland Indians were the surprise team of 2013. A late-season push earned them a playoff spot, but they could have their work cut out for them getting back to October.
Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir are both free agents, and an already shaky bullpen saw Joe Smith sign with the Angels and former closer Chris Perez released. The Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals figure to be strong once again in the AL Central, and the wild-card picture is always crowded, so a repeat of 2013 could be tough for the Tribe.
14. Kansas City Royals
SP Jason Vargas (FA, four years, $32 million)
The Royals were as aggressive as anyone last offseason, upgrading their pitching staff through a pair of big trades for James Shields and Ervin Santana, and it nearly paid off with a trip to the playoffs. To justify giving up top prospect Wil Myers, though, they'll need to get over the hump and into October.
Santana is gone in free agency, and the team moved quickly to sign Jason Vargas to replace him. Needs remain at second base and in right field, though the team could do worse than its incumbent options. A strong start for the offense will be key after the Royals struggled mightily at the plate in the first half last year.
13. San Franciso Giants
SP Tim Lincecum (re-signed, two years, $35 million)
SP Tim Hudson (FA, two years, $23 million)
RP Javier Lopez (re-signed, three years, $13 million)
SP Ryan Vogelsong (re-signed, one year, $5 million)
This offseason, the San Francisco Giants have focused on re-signing their own free agents, extending Hunter Pence during the season before re-upping with Tim Lincecum, Javier Lopez and Ryan Vogelsong. As they look to improve what was a disappointing rotation, they have also added veteran Tim Hudson on a two-year deal.
It will come down to that pitching staff once again, as this is not a team that is going to pile up runs offensively. Adding an impact bat in left field could certainly help give the Giants a more potent attack, but their recent success was built on their pitching staff, and if they hope to bounce back in 2104, they will need to be dominant on the mound once again.
12. Arizona Diamondbacks
OF Matt Tuiasosopo (waivers, DET)
The Arizona Diamondbacks looked like the odds-on favorites to win the NL West before the Los Angeles Dodgers caught fire, but they wound up finishing the season a disappointing 81-81. The talent is there for them to contend for a playoff spot, though, and they have the pieces to pull off a blockbuster deal should they choose to.
Another big bat to protect Paul Goldschmidt in the lineup and a front-line starter to join Patrick Corbin and Wade Miley atop the staff are their biggest needs, and they could look to move one of their high-end young starters and/or one of their young shortstops to fill those needs.
11. Tampa Bay Rays
CF David DeJesus (re-signed, two years, $10.5 million)
C Jose Molina (re-signed, two years, $4.5 million)
The Tampa Bay Rays have done as good a job as any team in baseball hunting for free-agent bargains the past few seasons, hitting on James Loney, Kelly Johnson and Roberto Hernandez this past season. They'll likely be at it again as they look to replace Loney at first base and shore up the bullpen, with closer Fernando Rodney departing in free agency.
The focus of the offseason will be on David Price, though, as the big left-hander will almost certainly be moved at some point. He should net the Rays a huge return of young, controllable players—though the team has enough pitching depth that even if he is moved, it should still be able to contend in the AL East.
10. Pittsburgh Pirates
LF Jaff Decker (trade, SD)
RP Miles Mikolas (trade, SD)
The Pittsburgh Pirates finally snapped their postseason drought in 2013, avoiding another late-season collapse to secure a wild-card spot and then advancing to the NLDS when they knocked off the Cincinnati Reds in the Wild Card Round. Last winter's additions of Francisco Liriano and Russell Martin proved to be huge in helping lead the team to October.
This winter, the Pirates will have to deal with potentially losing A.J. Burnett in the rotation and will likely look for a first baseman and right fielder. With top prospects like Jameson Taillon and Gregory Polanco expected to make it to Pittsburgh at some point and young big leaguers like Starling Marte and Gerrit Cole only getting better, there is plenty of reason for long-term optimism in Pittsburgh.
9. Oakland Athletics
SS Nick Punto (FA, one year, $3 million)
RP Fernando Abad (trade, WSH)
Despite a small payroll, a terrible stadium and a less-than-impressive fanbase, the Oakland A's continue to win, as they have captured back-to-back AL West titles. They don't have a legitimate superstar on their roster, but they get the most out of all 25 guys on the roster and play the matchups as well as anybody.
Deciding whether or not to bring back Bartolo Colon to front their young rotation looks to be their biggest offseason decision, as the A's really don't have much in the way of roster holes to be filled. The departure of Grant Balfour leaves them in need of a closer, but a competition between setup men Ryan Cook and Sean Doolittle seems like the likely solution.
8. Cincinnati Reds
IF/OF Skip Schumaker (FA, two years, $5 million)
C Brayan Pena (FA, two years, $2.275 million)
RP Manny Parra (re-signed, two yeasr, $5.5 million)
Another early exit from the postseason spelled the end of Dusty Baker's tenure as the Cincinnati Reds' manager. Pitching coach Bryan Price now takes over a talented team that will be looking to once again contend for the NL Central title and more.
Bronson Arroyo and Shin-Soo Choo are big losses, but with Tony Cingrani and Billy Hamilton ready to step into their spots, losing them is certainly not the end of the world. Look for the Reds to sign an insurance policy for center field, but the job should be Hamilton's to lose. The biggest question is whether the team will be able to find a taker for Brandon Phillips.
7. Washington Nationals
A late-season run was not enough for the Washington Nationals to reach the playoffs in 2013, as they were unable to overcome a disappointing first half. As complete a team as any in the league entering the year, the Nats were a popular pick to win the National League, and they will be looking to live up to the hype this coming season.
They have no real holes once again this offseason, as a left-handed reliever is their only real need. However, they could make a play to add another top starter to a rotation that already features the dynamic trio of Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann. There is an open spot with Dan Haren gone, and a fourth top-of-the-rotation arm could make this team even more dangerous.
6. Texas Rangers
1B Prince Fielder (trade, DET)
C Geovany Soto (re-signed, one year, $3.05 million)
RP Scott Tolleson (waivers, LAD)
CF Rafael Ortega (waivers, COL)
The Texas Rangers have pulled off the offseason's biggest move to this point, swapping second baseman Ian Kinsler for Detroit Tigers slugger Prince Fielder. Slotted between Alex Rios and Adrian Beltre in hitter-friendly Texas should mean a big season for the first baseman.
The move opens up an everyday job for Jurickson Profar, who could take a big step forward with regular at-bats and a position to call his own.
The team is still in the market for a catcher and left fielder, but things look good on the pitching side of things, even with the departure of Joe Nathan. The Rangers certainly look ready to make a run at Oakland for the AL West title.
5. Atlanta Braves
The Atlanta Braves wound up running away with the NL East title this past season when the Nationals struggled out of the gate. While it may not be quite as easy this time around, they are in a great position to defend their crown.
Losing Brian McCann hurts, but it does open up everyday at-bats for Evan Gattis until top prospect Christian Bethancourt proves ready to step in. It's hard to imagine B.J. Upton and Dan Uggla being worse than they were in 2013, so some improvement from those two can be expected. The team could look to add a veteran starter to replace Tim Hudson, but the Braves' biggest need this offseason may be to lock up one or two of their young core pieces long-term.
4. Boston Red Sox
RP Burke Badenhop (trade, MIL)
The Boston Red Sox will have a real chance at defending their title this coming season, but they have some questions to answer this winter before they can be ranked any higher here. Free agents Mike Napoli, Jacoby Ellsbury and Jarrod Saltalamacchia make for three major holes in the team's lineup, and while Napoli still looks like a good bet to be re-signed, the other two are likely gone.
Xander Bogaerts will step into an everyday role and has to be considered the early favorite for AL Rookie of the Year honors, while the rotation will return intact and the bullpen will return its top three arms. The reigning champions could just look to add some complementary pieces, but they may also look to make a splash signing in center field if they don't trust Jackie Bradley/Daniel Nava to take over on an everyday basis.
3. Detroit Tigers
2B Ian Kinsler (trade, TEX)
The Tigers' decision to trade Prince Fielder was a surprising one. But while it could hurt their offense in the short term, with Miguel Cabrera likely to see even less to hit, it may allow the team to retain Cy Young winner Max Scherzer, who is a free agent at season's end.
Kinsler gives the Tigers a legitimate leadoff hitter, allowing Austin Jackson to slide down to the bottom third of the order, where his strikeouts won't be as much of a hindrance. With Fielder gone, Cabrera will likely slide back to first base, with prospect Nick Castellanos potentially taking over at third. Finding a closer now ranks as their top offseason need, as Joaquin Benoit is a free agent.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers
SP Dan Haren (FA, one year, $10 million
The Dodgers opened as the favorites to win the 2014 World Series, with Vegas giving them 5-1 odds. But they have some decisions to make this offseason before they can claim the top spot. Figuring out the outfield logjam, signing a third baseman and shoring up the bullpen are on the to-do list at this point.
A full season from Hanley Ramirez and a return to form from Matt Kemp would make the Dodgers offense scary, and the addition of Dan Haren behind Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu gives them as good a staff as any in baseball.
They are the clear favorites in the NL West and are among the front-runners for the NL pennant.
1. St. Louis Cardinals
SS Jhonny Peralta (FA, four years, $53 million)
CF Peter Bourjos (trade, LAA)
They may have lost out to the Red Sox in 2013, but as things stand right now, the St. Louis Cardinals look like the team to beat heading into the 2014 season. It's already been a busy offseason in St. Louis, as Jhonny Peralta was signed to fill a clear need at shortstop and David Freese was swapped for speedy outfielder Peter Bourjos.
With Freese gone and Carlos Beltran a free agent, the team figures to give everyday at-bats to Matt Adams and Kolten Wong, with Allen Craig moving to right field and Matt Carpenter moving to third. There is a bumper crop of starting pitching, with Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Shelby Miller, Joe Kelly, Lance Lynn, Jaime Garcia and perhaps Carlos Martinez in the running for rotation spots. Throw in a bullpen full of electric young arms, and it's hard to find a weakness on the reigning NL champs.