When I first conceived of this offseason power rankings, the idea was to track just how much our perceptions change as the months of winter reshuffle expectations. The idea was that dramatic changes and tectonic shifts would move teams around. But the sad truth of this offseason is that some of the world’s best players find themselves out of a job just days before spring training is set to start. Things are so drastic that the MLB Players Association, which represents the collective looking for employment, has, amid murmurs of collusion, set up a training camp for its players just a few miles from my mom’s house. Mom is set to go wonder around and I’ve armed her with an OTBB business card and a picture of uber-agent Scott Boras. And while she was looking for more moves or “current events” to sound smart, the truth is that the MLB landscape has not shifted dramatically throughout the offseason. The dominoes are anticipated to fall quickly now that Yu Darvish has signed with Cubs and the quickly-approaching spring training breaks the winters-long stalemate.
The top of the standings has remained mostly the same. Yu Darvish to the Cubs improves their outlook and differentiates the Cubs from their inter-division rivals. You’ll notice the Cardinals and Brewers, who will both sport new outfields in 2018 have done little to change their full-season win total. The Brewers get a few game bump and are unlikely to head into the season with their roster as currently constructed, but the return for Danny Santana is unlikely to make up the 12 games I have separating the Brew Crew and the Cubbies. Meanwhile, the Cardinals have improved a bit, but the rotation still has much to prove.
Elsewhere, you’ll notice the consistency of the Dodgers atop the standings has finally broken. Their swap with the Braves and their continued posturing, indicate that the anticipated acquisition of an impact starting pitcher may never come. I also have no idea what to make of the rest of the NL West, particularly the Giants. They think they’re good, but Samardzija and Cueto are the least convincing second fiddles (to Madison Bumgarner’s Gibson Les Paul) of any playoff hopeful. Couple the Giants’ questionable roster with the reality that the Rockies and Diamondbacks are both very talented, and I’m not sure what to do. We have the Rockies and Diamondbacks tied at the moment, which feels like cheating in this exercise, but both could do some roster reshuffling before Opening Day.
The NL East has a few teams who could dramatically shift their season expectation in the coming weeks. The Phillies could tap into their bank account to take advantage of low prices free agent prices this offseason, just as we advocated for the Mets.
I titled our last update, the Men Who Stare at Goats, both as an homage to the ridiculous George Clooney film and in recognition that not a lot has changed. Not a single team has changed positions in the AL projections. The group of teams in the 72-76 win range is likely too high. The anticipation is that some of those teams will either really tank or make a few moves to improve their deficiencies. Will the Rangers, Jays, or White Sox add to their pitching staff? Will the Tigers sell their pitchers and go full rebuild? Will the O’s admit their rebuild is coming?
I had anticipated stopping these rankings when Spring Training started, but with so many roster construction questions still open-ended, the line between the offseason and regular season is too thin to stop this exercise some 45 days before the regular season starts. Oh, hey! That feels good. Real baseball is right around the corner.