Despite the frigid ‘hot stove’ all winter, I have been locked in this offseason because of OTBB’s offseason power rankings. The power rankings serve as a means to track my perception of where teams are and how they’re improving or getting worse right up until actual baseball games come back. They help answer the question of if the the general consensus, that the offseason has been slow align with the actual movements as we check in from week to week? Let’s find out.
In what may look like a chaotic graph, there are certainly trends to pick up. In the last update, I noted the difference between the have’s and the have not’s in the American League. The top 4 teams are obvious, the Angels have made moves to position themselves as obvious playoff contenders, and the Twins seem like the best of the rest. Since then, only the Astros have made themselves better. By adding Gerrit Cole, the Astros have opened an obvious gap (on paper) between themselves and the rest of baseball.
The bottom portion of those standings has more movement in recent weeks. The Rays lose a few games because of the loss of Evan Longoria. Meanwhile, we are not quite sure what to do with the Rangers and White Sox. Both teams have young talent but have yet to make any big offseason moves. The White Sox get a 2-game bump in these perception standings because they have been rumored to be courting various free agents. The Rangers have not, as they appear to be caught up in the Yu Darvish free agency swirl and are waiting for that to resolve itself before making any other moves.
The National League middle of the pack has been busy the last few weeks, but I am not sure any of the moves make their teams that much better.
- The Giants have added Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria, which would have been great moves in 2013, but amount to more All-Star name recognition than All-Star talent in 2018. They are improved, but the back end of the rotation is still a question.
- The Cardinals outfield played a game of musical chairs this offseason as the team added Marcell Ozuna and shipped out Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty. Those deals may improve the Cardinals’ ceiling, but counting on Tommy Pham and Ozuna to repeat their 2017 seems unwise.
- The Rockies added to their bullpen, making a pitching staff that appears to be pretty good.
Elsewhere, the Pirates lose a few games having sent out their two biggest stars. The front office claims that they’re restocking more than rebuilding and there could be more truth to that than most realize: the Pirates appear well-positioned to replace the on-field production of McCutchen and didn’t get much from Cole in 2017, anyway.
The middle portion of the NL East is a fascinating offseason power rankings case study. The Braves have been rumored to be interested in Christian Yelich and J.T. Realmuto. They’ve gained a game. The Mets have not done much, but it seems like they’ll be relevant in 2018 despite obvious flaws on the roster. They’ve lost a game. The Phillies added Carlos Santana and make sense as a #mysteryTeam in the bargain aisle that is this year’s free agent class. My confidence level in the Braves with 74 wins, Mets with 84, and the Phillies with 76 is minimal. Do we really have an idea of who these teams will be in 2018?
With just under 4 weeks until pitchers and catchers report, the teams in the middle tiers of these power rankings may find some bargains and make big moves. Those NL East teams highlighted above are obvious candidates for improvement. As are the White Sox, Mariners, and Rangers.
While the offseason has felt slow, there has been significant movement in recent weeks. As certain teams have made their intentions obvious (Marlins, Pirates, Giants, Rays), a majority have continued their offseason impression of The Men Who Stare at Goats, wandering around seemingly on LSD just staring at things. Will any of them get their act together to join the small group of contenders?