With the addition of Bryce Harper, many are pegging Philadelphia as the new favorites in the NL East (remember they also got J.T. Realmuto earlier this offseason AND Jean the Hit Machine Segura). Of course, Manny Machado signed with his own version of a losing team, albeit one that lost far more often and easily than the Phillies last year, but nevertheless improvement is expected in San Diego.
So while some notable free agents remain unsigned (Dallas Keuchel, Craig Kimbrel, Adam Jones, Carlos Gonzalez, Evan Gattis, Gio Gonzalez, Bartolo Colon), teams for the most part have their 2019 outlooks in view. With that being said, which teams will change the most this year, for better or for worse? Let’s take a look at the clubs that will see a marked difference in the W column this season.
Minnesota Twins (78-84 last season)
This one is less about offseason acquisitions and more about a generally expected improvement. Guys like Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano and Max Kepler have way too much talent not to succeed, so last year definitely seems like it will be an outlier (though maybe not for Buxton, who has struggled to find consistency in the Bigs). Their rotation is solid (assuming a return to good health) and they have stacked up on the offensive side of the ball this offseason with additions like Nelson Cruz, C.J. Cron, Jonathan Schoop and Marwin Gonzalez. The bullpen is still suspect, but if they can get a few contributors their defense and offense should shine through this season and push them back into contention (also they were 29-52 on the road which has to improve).
Projection: ~ 85 wins
Cleveland Indians (91-71 last season)
They’ve certainly had talent over the past few years, but a lot of their success can be attributed to baseball’s weakest division. Now that other teams in the AL Central are gaining ground, the Indians’ schedule won’t be quite as light. Furthermore, their level of talent is arguably the lowest it has been throughout recent seasons, with a decimated outfield and bullpen that won’t produce nearly as well as their previous makeup. Sure, they have the rotation and the infield and Carlos Santana is back, but there is not a whole lot of depth beyond that, and in an ever-increasingly competitive American League they might struggle to coast into the Postseason.
Projection: ~ 85 wins
Baltimore Orioles (47-115 last season)
They don’t really appear to have improved from last year, but they can't possibly lose this many games again, can they? Can they??
Projection: Less that 115 losses
Seattle Mariners (89-73 last season)
They sure looked poised to break their Postseason drought last year, but then came the Oakland A’s on their blazing path to 97 wins (plus Tampa technically would have made it over Seattle). Following the season, Jerry Dipoto did Jerry Dipoto things and traded 75 percent of the roster, though this time it didn't appear to be in the interest of improving the squad. Just for fun here’s a position by position rundown of their roster changes since last year:
CF: Dee Gordon → Mallex Smith
SS: Jean Segura → Tim Beckham
2B: Robinson Cano → Dee Gordon
DH: Nelson Cruz → Edwin Encarnacion
C: Mike Zunino → Omar Narvaez
LF: Guillermo Heredia → Domingo Santana
(plus they traded for Jay Bruce and signed Yusei Kikuchi out of Japan and lost Edwin Diaz)
So as you can see, they probably aren’t going to be quite as competitive this year,
Projection: ~ 80 wins
Detroit Tigers (64-98 last season)
Miggy is healthy.
Projection: ~ 70 wins (but an awesome season from Cabrera)
Arizona Diamondbacks (82-80 last season)
There have been a lot of departures from Arizona this offseason following a disappointing year: Paul Goldschmidt (Cardinals), A.J. Pollock (Dodgers), Chris Owings (Royals), and Patrick Corbin (Nationals). They are clearly entering a rebuild, and with the Rockies and Dodgers still chugging away at the top of the NL West the D’Backs are going to fall.
Projection: ~ 70 wins
Cincinnati Reds (67-95 last season)
This should be one of the more fun teams to watch this year. They’ve got a ton of young talent, play in an interesting division, have the world’s smallest stadium and got FREAKIN’ YASIEL PUIG. Puig alone is worth about 10 wins (at the minimum), but they’ve also added Matt Kemp, Sonny Gray, Alex Wood, Tanner Roark, Jose Iglesias, Derek Dietrich, and Zach Duke. David Bell will take over as manager and attempt to inject some stability into this franchise (which shouldn't be hard following Bryan Price) and the Reds should rise back into mediocrity.
Projection: ~ 75 wins
Then there’s the NL East, which I don't even want to mess with. You have four teams that could legitimately make the Postseason (sorry Marlins) and so much roster turnover. The Braves are the same 90-win team from last year, but the other three teams are challenging. The Nationals are still very talented (and signed Patrick Corbin), though their success relies on a lot of top prospects. The Phillies have acquired a ton of big names and appear to have the most depth out of the division, and the Mets have tried their darndest to climb back into the spotlight. I’m just going to be safe (?) and say three of these teams will finish with an 8 in front of their win total, with the fourth finishing in the mid-high 70s. But your guess is as good as mine when it comes to these clubs.