MLB commissioner Rob Manfred recently sent a memo to all 30 teams instructing them to plan for the 2021 season to begin on time, USA Today reported, meaning that Spring Training remains set to begin in a little over six weeks. Predictably, COVID-19-related uncertainty has contributed to a slow offseason for free agent signings, with the vast majority of clubs clearly looking to avoid raising their payroll or actively working to lower it.
Still, some teams have stepped up to make significant improvements while a few have taken notable steps back. With the important note that much will change prior to Opening Day as the remaining free agents sign in the coming weeks, let’s take a look at how the 30 teams stack up right now in the first edition of 110 Sports’ offseason MLB power rankings:
30) Pittsburgh Pirates | 2020 record: 19-41
The only good news for the Pirates is that they can’t fall any further than 30th. The team finished last in baseball in winning percentage in the 2020 season and there’s no reason to expect any major additions as the club’s rebuild continues. Pittsburgh sold low on its best player, Josh Bell, in a trade with the Nationals. That sums up where they’re at right now.
29) Baltimore Orioles | 2020 record: 25-35
The rebuilding O’s clearly don’t intend to compete in 2021. Baltimore parted ways with its home run leader of the last two seasons (Renato Núñez), shipped shortstop José Iglesias to the Angels for prospects and non-tendered infielder Hanser Alberto, who’s hit nearly .300 since the start of 2019. Don’t expect anything more than minor additions the rest of the winter.
28) Texas Rangers | 2020 record: 22-38
The Rangers tried to rebuild on the fly but instead fell flat on their face in 2020, posting the worst record (22-38) in the American League. They moved their biggest trade chip in Lance Lynn for young hurler Dane Dunning of the White Sox and also dealt reliever Rafael Montero, who served as their closer last year, to Seattle, in moves that make it clear a bigger rebuild is now underway. The additions of first baseman Nate Lowe (via a trade with the Rays) and outfielder David Dahl (1-year contract) should hopefully make their lineup a bit more respectable in 2021.
27) Colorado Rockies | 2020 record: 26-34
The Rockies finished fourth in the NL West for the second year in a row in 2020 and seem to have no clear plan at this point. They appear unwilling to commit the money required to improve and are instead stuck in neutral. That could change if the front office elects to move Nolan Arenado or Trevor Story, who’s entering the final year of team control. So far the team has declined Daniel Murphy’s 2021 option and non-tendered, among others, David Dahl.
26) Arizona Diamondbacks | 2020 record: 25-35
The D-backs were one of the most aggressive teams in baseball last offseason, signing Madison Bumgarner and trading for Starling Marte among other moves. But Bumgarner’s first season with the team was a disaster and Marte was dealt to Miami as the team was falling out of contention. Arizona hasn’t done much of note this winter and that may not change, but we’re going to need to see some positive signs for this team to be taken seriously as contenders.
25) Detroit Tigers | 2020 record: 23-35
With A.J. Hinch now at the helm, it’s clear the Tigers front office believes their next window for contention isn’t all that far away. There are still several steps before the club gets there, though, after they finished last in the AL Central for the third time in four years in 2020. The additions of Jose Ureña and Robbie Grossman are solid, but don’t expect anything bigger at this point. 2021 is still largely about development for Detroit.
24) Seattle Mariners | 2020 record: 27-33
The Mariners have an incredibly bright future but are probably still a year away from being a big player in free agency. GM Jerry Dipoto has made a few moves to address the team’s bullpen this winter, acquiring the aforementioned Rafael Montero from Texas and signing former Angels closer Keynan Middleton.
23) Kansas City Royals | 2020 record: 26-34
“We’ll make moves this offseason. And we’re going to be better, a better baseball team, once we report to spring training.” Those were the words of Royals GM Dayton Moore earlier this offseason. Since then the team signed first baseman Carlos Santana and starter Mike Minor to two-year contracts and outfielder Michael A. Taylor and reliever Greg Holland to one-year deals. These aren’t huge needle-movers for the organization in 2021, but it’s nice to see a team not amongst the best in the game still actually willing to spend money.
22) Boston Red Sox | 2020 record: 24-36
The rehiring of Alex Cora will likely go down as Boston’s biggest move of the offseason. The team inked outfielder Hunter Renfroe to a one-year deal to provide some pop in the lineup and right-hander Matt Andriese to provide some bullpen depth, but a bigger splash prior to opening day will be necessary for me to believe this team could be a real AL East contender.
21) Milwaukee Brewers | 2020 record: 29-31
The Brewers finished bottom five in MLB in batting average and runs scored in 2020, and their only notable moves this winter to date are their declining options on Ryan Braun, Jedd Gyorko and others and signing catcher Luke Maile. Yet with Lorenzo Cain set to return, Christian Yelich looking to bounce back and a great back end of the bullpen, Milwaukee is still in a position to compete for a playoff spot. That says more about the NL Central than it does about this team, though.
20) Cleveland Indians | 2020 record: 35-25
Under instructions from ownership to further cut their payroll, the Indians dealt the face of their franchise, superstar shortstop Francisco Lindor, to the Mets along with fan favorite Carlos Carrasco for a package of young players. With José Ramírez, Shane Bieber and a host of young, exciting starters, the Indians may very well still finish above .500 in 2021, but they’re clearly a tier below the top teams in the AL Central.
19) San Francisco Giants | 2020 record: 29-31
The Giants posted a fourth consecutive losing season in 2020 but there were some promising signs that the club might be able to make one last run with its current position player core. With a resurgent Kevin Gausman accepting the team’s qualifying offer and the signings of Anthony DeSclafani and Matt Wisler, the pitching staff is improved, though more moves are needed (and expected) in the coming weeks to really make this club interesting.
18) Miami Marlins | 2020 record: 31-29
The Marlins reached the postseason last year for the first time since 2003, but several questions remain about where the organization is right now after they were swept by the Braves in the NLDS. New GM Kim Ng hasn’t done much to improve an encouraging but largely inexperienced roster this winter. Miami has the foundation of a contender but it’s unclear whether or not the front office is ready to go all-in just yet.
17) Philadelphia Phillies | 2020 record: 28-32
The Phillies shocked the baseball world by hiring longtime baseball executive Dave Dombrowski as president of baseball operations this offseason. Dombrowski isn’t one to sit quietly for long, so it wouldn’t be surprising for the club to be aggressive in free agency and via the trade market before long. A reunion with free agent catcher J.T. Realmuto would be huge, but he wouldn’t fill the many significant holes on the club’s roster on his own. The only real notable move for the team this offseason has been the acquisition of left-hander José Alvarado from the Rays.
16) Los Angeles Angels | 2020 record: 26-34
Despite the additions of Anthony Rendon and Joe Maddon, the Angels missed the playoffs yet again in 2020. New GM Perry Minasian acquired José Iglesias from the Orioles to replace Andrelton Simmons at shortstop and has added Raisel Iglesias (from the Reds) and Alex Claudio (via free agency) to help improve a rough bullpen. The biggest need right now is in the rotation, where Dylan Bundy is the only name you can have much confidence in heading into 2021. If the Angels don’t add at least one high-level starter this winter, it’ll be a disappointment.
15) St. Louis Cardinals | 2020 record: 30-28
The Cardinals are in a good position to capitalize on their biggest rival, the Cubs, dealing away key pieces this winter, but don’t appear interested in doing so. Franchise icons Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright along with second baseman Kolten Wong are free agents, but even if the team brings back multiple of those players, it won’t do much to improve an offense that ranked 26th in MLB in OPS in 2020. As things stand now, they’re likely a roughly .500 team, which makes you a potential contender in the NL Central.
14) Chicago Cubs | 2020 record: 34-26
President of baseball operations Theo Epstein jumped ship ahead of a rebuild, leaving Jed Hoyer to begin the process of shaping the organization’s future. Kyle Schwarber was non-tendered while Cy Young runner-up Yu Darvish was shipped to San Diego for Zach Davies and a group of young high-upside, high-risk prospects. Any combination of Wilson Contreras, Javier Baez, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo could find themselves on another team by opening day. As things stand now, the club’s roster still remains amongst the best in the division.
13) Cincinnati Reds | 2020 record: 31-29
Like every other NL Central team, the Reds don’t seem particularly interested in upgrading their roster this offseason. They traded Iglesias to the Angels, non-tendered reliever Archie Bradley among others and seem highly unlikely to re-sign Trevor Bauer. Still, with a core that includes Eugenio Suarez, Mike Moustakas, Nick Castellanos, Sonny Gray and Luis Castillo, Cincinnati isn’t in a bad position. Assuming they don’t deal away more key players, that is.
12) Toronto Blue Jays | 2020 record: 32-38
The Blue Jays are coming off their first playoff appearance in nearly half a decade and have an exciting young core, which is a great place to be. The team hasn’t done much of note this winter outside of bringing back Robbie Ray, but they have been connected to nearly every top-tier free agent. Toronto is still in a position to supplement that young core with veteran talent prior to opening day.
11) Washington Nationals | 2020 record: 26-34
The Nationals didn’t get the chance to defend their World Series title in the postseason after finishing the 2020 campaign tied for last in the NL East. They’ve since added some serious power to their lineup with the additions of Josh Bell (via trade with PIT) and Kyle Schwarber (1-yr contract). The pair accounted for 75 total homers in the last full MLB season and should provide strong protection for Trea Turner and Juan Soto. There are questions in the rotation behind veterans Max Scherzer, Patrick Corbin and Stephen Strasburg, who each have concerns of their own.
10) Houston Astros | 2020 record: 29-31
After three straight years finishing atop the AL West standings, the Astros were dethroned by the A’s in 2020 but still rode a postseason surge to the ALCS. With Justin Verlander rehabbing from Tommy John surgery and George Springer and Michael Brantley potentially set to sign elsewhere, there are serious questions about this team moving forward. The team’s veteran infielders will need to bounce back significantly if big-time help isn’t added this winter.
9) Oakland Athletics | 2020 record: 36-24
It’s another offseason of key departures for the A’s, who after claiming the division title for the first time since 2013 and falling in the ALDS have already seen Liam Hendriks and Robbie Grossman sign elsewhere and will also likely lose Marcus Semien, Tommy La Stella, Joakim Soria and Yusmeiro Petit. Much of the team’s core does remain intact, though they’re going to need to strike at some point this offseason to be the clear favorites for an AL West title repeat. As of now they’re neck and neck with Houston.
8) Tampa Bay Rays | 2020 record: 40-20
This is where it really starts to get interesting. Having the defending AL champions eighth may seem a bit extreme, but the Rays have clearly taken a step back this offseason, declining Charlie Morton’s 2021 option to watch him sign with Atlanta and dealing Blake Snell and Jose Alvarado. Tampa Bay has a great farm system and develops pitchers better than just about anyone, so there’s no doubt the Rays will be a contender in 2021. But they’re not amongst the very best teams on paper at this point.
7) New York Yankees | 2020 record: 33-27
While the Mets have been making a big splash, things have been strangely quiet for the Bronx Bombers outside of continued reports on their efforts to re-sign DJ LeMahieu. Bringing back the star infielder is clearly the club’s No. 1 priority, but there’s another area of uncertainty that I believe is much more pressing. Gerrit Cole is one of the very best starters in the game, but the rotation behind him as of now is projected as Jordan Montgomery, Delvi Garcia, Michael King and Domingo German. That’s simply not the rotation of a top tier World Series contender. Options remain in free agency, including a return for Masahiro Tanaka.
6) Minnesota Twins | 2020 record: 36-24
With the important caveat that this is subject to change in the weeks leading up to spring training and the regular season, the AL Central is in my eyes home to the best two clubs in the junior circuit. The Twins have the offensive core (Josh Donaldson, Miguel Sano, Max Kepler) and frontline starters (Kenta Maeda, José Berríos) to break the longest postseason losing streak in major North American sports history, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t holes to fill. Eddie Rosario was DFA’d, Nelson Cruz remains a free agent and a third reliable starter could provide a significant boost. Minnesota remains just outside the top tier of World Series contenders, at least for now.
5) New York Mets | 2020 record: 26-34
Entering that top tier for the first time in quite a while is the Mets, who under the ownership of Steve Cohen have brought back Marcus Stroman, signed James McCann and Trevor May and made the blockbuster move of the offseason, acquiring superstar shortstop Francisco Lindor and veteran starter Carlos Carrasco in the trade with the Indians. The addition of a center fielder is still quite possible, but no matter what, the Mets will clearly be seen as one of the biggest winners of this offseason. A truly formidable lineup and strong top of the rotation is taking shape.
4) Atlanta Braves | 2020 record: 35-25
It was tempting to rank the Mets ahead of the three-time defending NL East champions, but the Braves remain one spot ahead for now, something that wouldn’t be the case had they not made their own improvements. Atlanta GM Alex Anthopoulos struck quickly this winter, adding veteran starters Charlie Morton and Drew Smyly on one-year deals to reinforce the dynamic young trio of Max Fried, Ian Anderson and Mike Soroka (who continues to rehab from an Achilles injury). Now the priority is to find a big bat to replace Marcell Ozuna should he not return. The club’s lineup is still quite formidable as it currently stands.
3) Chicago White Sox | 2020 record: 35-25
No AL contender has done as much to improve its roster this offseason as the White Sox, who’ve added a high-level starter in Lance Lynn, replaced Nomar Mazara with Adam Eaton in right field and now signed closer Liam Hendriks, the top reliever on the free agent market, to a record-breaking deal. With those additions to a young, exciting group that includes Tim Anderson, José Abreu, Eloy Jiménez, Luis Robert and Lucas Giolito, Tony La Russa’s club looks like the team to beat in that league at this point.
2) San Diego Padres | 2020 record: 37-23
Over a roughly 24-hour period, one of the most exciting teams in baseball added Blake Snell, Yu Darvish and Ha-seong Kim to upgrade an already great team into a legitimate contender for the Dodgers and one of the best clubs in MLB for years to come. I could even make the argument that the Padres have the most complete roster in baseball at this point. That lineup is exciting from top to bottom and San Diego’s rotation could now be the best in the sport.
1) Los Angeles Dodgers | 2020 record: 43-17
The defending World Champions have taken a patient approach this offseason, though with most of their key players set to return, that’s certainly understandable. The Dodgers’ biggest moves to date have been the acquisition for former All-Star closer Corey Knebel from Milwaukee and the re-signing of veteran reliever Blake Treinen. The biggest question moving forward is if Justin Turner will return on a new contract or if the club will head another direction at third base.
Photo by Arturo Pardavila III / Flickr