HomeSportsDodgers up, Cubs down? MLB's most exciting/disappointing teams this offseason

Dodgers up, Cubs down? MLB’s most exciting/disappointing teams this offseason

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February is here, and four of the top 10 free agents entering this offseason remain unsigned. 

Aside from the Dodgers’ spending spree, it’s been a relatively quiet winter with few clear winners. Teams still have time to change their outlook, whether through trade acquisitions or by signing Blake Snell, Jordan Montgomery, Cody Bellinger or Matt Chapman

Until then, these are the six teams who’ve had the most exciting offseasons … and the six who’ve failed to meet expectations thus far. 

Most Exciting Offseasons

6. St. Louis Cardinals 

It was a bit disheartening to see the Cardinals first fishing in the middle tier of free-agent pitchers before they reeled in a potential difference-maker in Sonny Gray, who alone provides upside that previously did not exist in a dismal St. Louis rotation. Maybe Lance Lynn can clean up his home run woes. Maybe Kyle Gibson can provide some stability. Maybe one or both of pitching prospects Tekoah Roby and Tink Hence help the Cardinals make a second-half push. The moves don’t guarantee that the Cardinals will be back competing for a division title, but at least they did something to address their most glaring weakness, which is more than many teams can say in a largely lackluster winter. 

5. Kansas City Royals 

Who would have pegged the Royals as a top-five spender this free-agent cycle? While the rest of a winnable AL Central division has sat mostly dormant in free agency, general manager J.J. Picollo is shopping in a way that should at least raise the floor of a staff that pitched to a brutal 5.17 ERA last year. There are a lot of ifs — if Cole Ragans is really a rotation headliner, if incoming veterans Michael Wacha and Seth Lugo can replicate their success last year in San Diego, if MJ Melendez can make the leap into an above-average hitter — but to make a push in the Central, it might not take much. Props for at least trying. 

4. Atlanta Braves  

How do you improve a roster that would already be the envy of most teams at basically every position? You get creative. The Braves bolstered their bullpen, most notably adding Reynaldo López and extending Joe Jimenez and Pierce Johnson (if you haven’t, go look at his numbers in Atlanta the second half of last year). Then they cleared out some logjams and shot for upside in their rotation (Chris Sale) and left field (Jarred Kelenic). Even after all of the Dodgers’ dealings, FanGraphs currently projects the Braves for the most WAR in baseball in 2024. 

D-backs or Yankees: Who’s had the best offseason beyond Dodgers?

3. Arizona Diamondbacks 

After a stunning ride to the World Series, the D-backs went about meticulously addressing their most pressing needs. They kept Lourdes Gurriel Jr., who was an All-Star his first year in Arizona. They sought more proven rotation help and added Eduardo Rodríguez. They wanted more power at third base and DH and got Eugenio Suárez and Joc Pederson, respectively. You could nitpick and say they could’ve shopped at the higher end of the market, particularly considering how the Dodgers have spent, but I will pick no such nits. They’ve done what’s necessary to put themselves back in postseason contention. And, as they demonstrated, anything can happen once they get in the dance. 

2. New York Yankees 

How do you fix an aging, oft-injured, anemic offense? Acquiring a 25-year-old who’s already one of the best hitters on the planet should help. That the Yankees managed to get Juan Soto and Trent Grisham without dealing Anthony Volpe, Oswald Peraza, Jasson Domínguez or Spencer Jones, or any of their top prospects, is an even bigger win. This will be a revamped outfield with Soto and Alex Verdugo in the corners, while the addition of Marcus Stroman provides some necessary rotation depth after losing Michael King, Luis Severino and Frankie Montas. The Yankees could stand to continue adding to the pitching staff, but the Soto deal alone brings a lot more optimism heading into 2024 after last year’s fourth-place finish. 

1. Los Angeles Dodgers 

What slow offseason? After back-to-back first-round exits, the Dodgers weren’t going to sit on their hands. They signed the top two free agents available, adding the most gifted player the game has seen before making 25-year-old Yoshinobu Yamamoto the highest-paid pitcher in the sport (at least until Shohei Ohtani returns to a mound). That alone would make them this winter’s winners, but that’s only touching the surface. 

They also acquired the most impactful pitcher on the trade market, bringing Tyler Glasnow into a rotation that saw the arrival last year of breakout rookie Bobby Miller and now anticipates the return of Walker Buehler. And why stop there? They signed James Paxton to fill out the starting pitching room and Teoscar Hernández to provide some needed corner outfield pop against lefties with Mookie Betts moving to the infield. The Dodgers surprised many by winning 100 games last year despite taking a step back in spending. This year, 100 wins seems like a modest projection. 

Adam Jones breaks down new Dodgers pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto

Their spending is a far cry from what most teams are doing this offseason: 

Most Disappointing Offseasons 

6. Miami Marlins 

The Marlins enjoyed a 15-win improvement, made some beneficial deadline moves that got them to the playoffs for the first time in a full season in 20 years, saw their first-year skipper take home manager of the year honors and … then watched general manager Kim Ng leave unceremoniously, leading into an offseason marred by inactivity. Replacing Jorge Soler’s offensive production won’t be easy, but president of baseball operations Peter Bendix will need to make some moves if the Marlins are to build on their exciting 2023 and compete with the Braves and Phillies, who aren’t going anywhere, and the Mets, who won’t be that bad again. 

5. San Francisco Giants 

It’s been heartbreak after heartbreak every offseason since that magical 107-win campaign in 2021, with the top free-agent talents and superstars instead finding homes outside the Bay Area. Jung Hoo Lee and Jordan Hicks are both nice acquisitions, but the potential new faces of the franchise continue to elude the Giants, and another potential winter of disappointment looms if they don’t do more to make a splash and compete with the division foes who just took their top two offseason targets. 

4. Baltimore Orioles 

The roster could still use a rotation upgrade, and with its bevy of position-player prospects, there is no team better equipped to swing a deal than Baltimore. Thus far, it hasn’t happened. Maybe the impending sale of the team will eventually lead to the wheeling and dealing that would go a long way toward bringing a championship to an Orioles team built to contend for years to come. 

Adam Jones on whom the Orioles should be targeting this offseason

3. Boston Red Sox 

Members of the Red Sox brass vowed to go “full throttle.” Maybe they meant toward further mediocrity? 

The rhetoric entering this offseason was that Boston would do what’s necessary to return to relevancy. As constructed, it’s hard to see that path. The Red Sox have instead searched for upside in uncertain commodities. Lucas Giolito bounced back early last year in Chicago, then plummeted with the Angels and Guardians. Vaughn Grissom plugs a needed hole at second base, though he has yet to prove himself at the big-league level. The Red Sox lost Alex Verdugo, who has hit above league average in five straight seasons, and added Tyler O’Neill, who has hit below league average in four of the past five years. They’ve yet to replace the DH production of Justin Turner

There is still time to get more serious. They could shell out what’s necessary to get Blake Snell or Jordan Montgomery. Jorge Soler and J.D. Martinez are out there, too. To seriously compete in the AL East, more needs to be done. There just doesn’t seem to be much optimism that any of it happens.  

2. Toronto Blue Jays  

As disappointing as this offseason has been for multiple teams in the AL East, there’s a different level of dismay when the best player in the sport slips away. There were reports early in the offseason that Shohei Ohtani was Toronto bound. Instead, he chose the Dodgers, and the Blue Jays have shopped at a much lower tax bracket since. 

After spending on outfield defense last year, it was their offense that failed to meet expectations in 2023. And that offense has yet to be sufficiently retooled. The Blue Jays plucked Justin Turner from a robust group of free-agent designated hitters, but that alone will not make up for the potential losses of Matt Chapman, Brandon Belt and Whit Merrifield. Until another move is made, there’s a TON riding on the bats of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and George Springer

1. Chicago Cubs 

The Cubs made the surprise move of November, luring Brewers manager Craig Counsell to Chicago on a five-year deal. Since then? Crickets for Ricketts. 

Last year was a promising step forward, but the Cubs still lost the division by nine games and have done very little thus far to boost their odds of seriously competing in 2024. Shōta Imanaga should help a rotation that lost Stroman, who was an All-Star last year. Maybe prospect Michael Busch makes the leap he was blocked from doing in Los Angeles. Maybe star prospect Pete Crow-Armstrong provides a boost. But none of that makes up for the potential loss of Cody Bellinger, should he end up signing elsewhere. Something is coming, right? RIGHT? 

Rowan Kavner covers the Dodgers and MLB as a whole for FOX Sports. He previously was the Dodgers’ editor of digital and print publications. Follow him on Twitter at @RowanKavner. 

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