This has been a very active offseason, especially for teams that underperformed last season. These teams have used free agency as well as the trade market in order to help restore their franchise. If everything goes as planned, these teams could return to the promised land: the playoffs. So lets meet these teams.
Featured Image: Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune
5. San Diego Padres
It may come as a surprise to you, but the San Diego Padres, known the past couple of years for their abysmal baseball, actually finished third in the NL West last season at 77-85, 17 games back of the Dodgers. They had two All-Stars in pitchers Huston Street and Tyson Ross, and have done a lot this offseason to add to this talent.
The Padres acquired an immense amount of talent in the outfield, including Matt Kemp from division rival Dodgers, Justin Upton from Atlanta, and Wil Myers from Tampa Bay. And the best part for Padre fans: they didn’t have to give up a lot in order to acquire these top-tier talents. They also acquired catcher Derek Norris from Oakland.
However, the NL West is still a very tough division with reigning champion Giants, Dodgers, and vastly improved Diamondbacks. There’s no question that this season’s Padres will be better than last season’s, but it still remains to be seen whether or not they will be able to compete for a division title. The Padres also look like the favorite to land star pitcher James Shields in free agency. If this deal is completed, the Padres will definitely move up this list, but for now, they are at number 5.
4. Boston Red Sox
The Boston Red Sox have gone from last place in 2012, to first place and a World Series Championship in 2013, back to last place in 2014. This year, the Red Sox look like the favorite to win the AL East, giving them a great chance to continue this worst to first trend.
The main problem for the Red Sox last season was their pitching, and they addressed that very nicely this offseason. They acquired Rick Porcello from the Tigers for Yoenis Cespedes, and Wade Miley from the Diamondbacks. They also added Justin Masterson. Although it is not a top-tier rotation, it can definitely get the job done in the playoffs.
The Red Sox also made two of the biggest signings of the offseason. They signed Pablo Sandoval to a 5 year, $95 million deal, as well as Hanley Ramirez to a 4 year, $88 million deal. Hanley will move to left field to replace Cespedes, while Sandoval will join youngster Xander Bogaerts. The improvements that the Red Sox have made this season put them in contention for another playoff spot after finishing in last place the previous season.
3. Chicago Cubs
“This is our year,” says every Cubs fan every season. But now the infamous Chicago Cubs actually have a solid roster to help them achieve the ultimate goal. However, after going 73-89, the Cubbies have a lot of ground to make up.
The signing of Jon Lester to a 6 year, $155 million contract will certainly help, as will the signing of catcher Miguel Montero to a 3 year, $40 million contract. Add these solid signings to already proven All-Stars Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro, and the Cubs are on their way to building a playoff contending team.
Also, the Cubs have a plethora of incredible prospects including Javy Baez, Jorge Soler, and Kris Bryant. If these young pieces have the break out season that many hope they will, the Cubs could contend for a playoff spot this season.
2. Miami Marlins
With a 77-85 record, the Miami Marlins finished the 2014 campaign fourth in the NL East , 17 games behind the first place Nationals. One of the few bright spots for the Marlins was the break out season that right fielder Giancarlo Stanton had himself. The All-Star batted .288 with 37 home runs and 105 RBIs, which earned him the ‘largest contract in the history of U.S. professional sports.’ However, his season had a gruesome ending after Stanton was hit in the face with pitch in an early September game against the Milwaukee Brewers.
The Marlins will get pitching phenom José Fernández back from Tommy John surgery this season to go with Stanton, All-Star pitcher Henderson Álvarez, LF Christian Yelich, and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
The Marlins also made some phenomenal moves this offseason, including the acquisitions of Mat Latos and Martín Prado. Latos only started 16 games, but was a solid pitcher when he did pitch. He went 5-5 with a 3.25 E.R.A. Last season, Prado batted .282 with 12 home runs and 58 RBIs. One of the most valuable aspects of Prado’s games is his ability to play multiple positions. He has started more than 200 games at third base, center field, second base, and left field.
The Marlins also acquired World Series champion Michael Morse, speedy Dee Gordon, and veteran pitcher Dan Haren. The Marlins are clearly an improved team with hopes of making the playoffs, and for the first time in several seasons, they may be able to get back to the promised land.
1. Chicago White Sox
The city of Chicago was extraordinarily active this offseason, as both the Cubs and the White Sox made a numerous amount of moves. The White Sox have arguably been the most active of any team in the MLB, and after finishing 73-89 last season, they needed to be active in order to get back towards the top of the AL Central.
Last season, the White Sox had three All-Stars in break out rookie of the year slugger, José Abreu, lefty Chris Sale, and shortstop Alexei Ramírez. They also have one of the most underrated pitcher in the MLB in José Quintana, whose numbers have been misleading due to his unbelievably low run support.
Then the frenzy began. They sent several prospects to Oakland for All-Star pitcher Jeff Smardzija, who will make a deadly 1-2-3 rotation with Sale and Quintana. They also signed slugger Adam LaRoche to a 2 year, $25 million contract. Abreu and LaRoche will also make a deadly team in the middle of their lineup. They signed Zach Duke and David Robertson to provide some stability in a bullpen that ranked 28th in the MLB in E.R.A. The Sox also signed skilled hitter Melky Cabrera to a 3 year, $42 million dollar contract to go with two young outstanding players in Adam Eaton and Avisail García.
The White Sox addressed everything they need to in the offseason, and it wouldn’t be as surprise if they compete for a division title in the wide open AL Central. The White Sox have the potential to have one of the biggest turn arounds in the MLB.