(Photo via arizonasports.com)
With the new season less than two months away, teams and players are getting ready to start camp after a wild MLB offseason. With many big name players switching homes and other core talents deciding to stay put, this offseason has altered the landscape of the league where the balance of power has shifted substantially. After watching the Kansas City Royals take over the 2015 season and win their first title since 1985, many teams knew that the deals they made in the offseason were crucial to their success in chasing down the current champs. Here is an early look at a few teams who are on that bubble of being a contender for the 2016 MLB Postseason:
Washington Nationals: This team will surely benefit from another year of Bryce Harper picking apart each pitcher he faces during the season. They were able to add a few valuable pieces to their offense, including former Mets 2B Daniel Murphy and CF Ben Revere who has racked up 365 hits in the last two seasons for the Phillies and Blue Jays.
While their offense looks more talented than last year, Nationals lost SP Jordan Zimmerman to the Detroit Tigers and fell short on the Yoenis Cespedes sweepstakes, who went back to the rival Mets on a 3 year, $75 million contract. While the Nationals do look like a team who can compete for a playoff spot in October, they still have a giant hill to climb if they want to stop the star-studded Mets rotation in the NL East.
Prediction: Pretender: With questions surrounding their bullpen depth and the strong competition in the National League, Washington will have to exceed current expectations if they want to compete in the postseason.
New York Yankees: There is no denying that this Yankees team has some questions surrounding them heading into this year. For one, they are still an aging team with 7 of the 9 batters in the lineup at leastt 30 years old, including Teixeira, Beltran, and A-Rod who are all over 35. Along with asking their older vets to produce the same way as last season, they will also have to overcome the injury concerns surrounding their pitching staff, most notably Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia.
However, I believe this Yankee team is shaping up to be a much different squad than they have been in the past two years. This was the first offseason where the Yankees did not actually sign a free agent, but they were still busy during the offseason making two low-risk, high-reward trades. They were able to trade mediocre pitchers and low level prospects for 2B Starlin Castro, who will instantly fill a need as their future second basemen, as well as flame-thrower Aroldis Chapman who transforms the Yankee bullpen into one of the best in MLB history.
Prediction: Contender: If the Yankees starters can stay healthy and serviceable throughout the entire season, they can rely on their three-headed monster bullpen of Miller, Betances, and Chapman to shut down opposing teams and close out a lot of games this year.
Arizona Diamondbacks: For the first time in a while, the D-Backs were big spenders during the offseason. Their biggest and most notable splash was former Royals and Dodgers ace Zach Greinke, who posted a 1.66 ERA with 200 strikeouts last season in LA. To go along with this move was acquiring starting pitcher Shelby Miller, who had put up very good numbers for the Braves early on last season, but overall struggled for victories while playing on such a poor team (6-17 record). However, both of these pitchers should be able to provide a solid 1-2 punch for a team with sub-par starting pitching for years now. We knew that they did not have many problems on the offensive side, anchored by NL stud 1B Paul Goldschmidt. So, this boost in the rotation should pay off big for the D-Backs success in 2016.
Prediction: Contender: Adding two impressive arms in the offseason to bolster a team who only ended last year 4 games below .500, I expect this team to make a huge leap in 2016.
Texas Rangers: The Rangers definitely surprised a few people last year, claiming the AL West division title even after a rocky first half of the season. They still have slugger Prince Fielder on the roster, along with role players such as Elvis Andrus, Shin Soo Choo, and Mitch Moreland. However, they did not make any big moves throughout the offseason, and they even lost one of their most consistent starters, Yovani Gallardo, to free agency. While I still expect the offense to produce in 2016, there are numerous questions surrounding the pitching staff.
While being ranked near the bottom of nearly every pitching statistic, this team needed to address these woes head on during the offseason, and they didn’t. And while some point to Yu Darvish’s return as a positive, I would be a little more cautious about his impact due to his injury concerns only being a year removed from Tommy John surgery.
Prediction: Pretender: I think that the Rangers will still have a pretty solid season, however, with the amount of depth in the American League and the lack of impactful acquisitions this offseason, I just can’t see them emerging from the pack like others can.
– J. Yellin