Handicapping the Early World Series Odds for the 2014 MLB Season
With the 2013 MLB season officially in the books, and the Boston Red Sox crowned World Champions for the third time in 10 years, it's time to take a way-too-early peek at how things look heading into next year.
Free agency, trades and overall roster shuffling will obviously change the landscape of the league over the next few months, but even before that happens you can already get a decent idea of which teams will be in a position to contend and which will be residing in the cellar.
So before the offseason officially begins, here are my early odds for all 30 MLB teams chances of winning the World Series in 2014.
Taking into account how complete each team's roster is entering free agency, as well as the payroll flexibility they have to work with an how active they're expected to be on the open market, this is an very, very early look at how each team is positioned of a run at the title in 2014.
The Astros have assembled one of the best farm systems in all of baseball and have gone about rebuilding the franchise from the ground up in a patient and methodical way.
They'll likely limit their offseason activity to signing a few stopgap veterans once again. Another last-place finish in the AL West seems inevitable, but they're slowly heading in the right direction.
With a 5.26 ERA out of their starting pitchers, the Twins' rotation proved to be too much for them to overcome once again this past season. That said, an offense that ranked 25th in baseball in runs scored didn't help much either.
Their farm system is home to two of the most promising prospects in all of baseball in Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano, and from top to bottom they may have the best collection of minor league talent in the game, but they're still a few years from returning to meaningful contention.
In among the rubble left over from the Marlins' 2012 roster in 2013 were a few bright spots, with none shining brighter than 21-year-old right-hander Jose Fernandez. He looks the part of a bona fide ace and Cy Young contender, and he should anchor their staff for years to come.
A handful of other young players gained some invaluable experience, and the pitching staff looks like it should be a strength moving forward, but they're still a ways off. Chances are they won't spend any substantial money until they're once again in a position to contend for a playoffs spot, so another last-place finish may be in the cards.
Chicago White Sox
After making a surprise run at the AL Central title in 2012, the White Sox took a big step backward in 2013, going from 85 wins to 63 and ending up in last place in the AL Central despite having essentially the same group of players.
The rebuilding process was already underway by midseason, as the team dealt Jake Peavy, Alex Rios and a few others and began restocking what was an incredibly thin farm system. They already made a splash this offseason with the signing of Cuban defector Jose Dariel Abreu to a six-year, $68 million deal, but don't be surprised if they do more selling than buying the rest of the offseason.
A lot went wrong for the 2013 Brewers, as their starting rotation was a disaster, their bullpen struggled once again and their offense lost Ryan Braun due to suspension and had Corey Hart missing all season due to injury.
The emergence of Jean Segura and Carlos Gomez helps the offensive outlook moving forward, and a solid rookie season from Wily Peralta gives some hope for the rotation moving forward, but they're in an awkward position between contention and rebuilding and likely won't spend much as they look to figure out what direction they're headed in the short term.
New York Mets
The Mets open things here at 75-1 with the assumption that they will add at least a few impact pieces on the free-agent market, given how much money they have coming off the books. However, if they can land one of the impact outfield bats on the market, those odds could be even better when the season starts.
Losing Matt Harvey to Tommy John surgery hurts their 2014 outlook, and there will no doubt be some growing pains as guys like Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero join the rotation this coming season, but this is a team that could make a serious run at the playoffs by 2015.
The results at the big league level have not been great since Theo Epstein and Co. took over the Cubs' front office, but they've done a fantastic job building up the farm system and trimming payroll to position the team for success.
The 2015 season has been pegged as the most likely year for a return to contention, as top prospects Jorge Soler, Kris Bryant and Javier Baez are expected to make an impact in the lineup by then and the team will have money to spend in free agency. They could make a run at someone like Shin-Soo Choo with an eye on the future, but expect one more subpar season on the North Side before things get interesting.
Surprise contenders early on in 2013, the Rockies eventually fell off and wound up with a second straight last-place finish in the NL West. They managed to win 10 more games than they did in 2012, though, and will be looking to take another step forward in 2014.
Healthy seasons from Jhoulys Chacin and Jorge De La Rosa atop the staff helped improve what was a disastrous pitching staff the previous year, but they still have some work to do if they are to back up what is a plus offense. Adding a frontline arm could be enough to put them in a position to contend, but convincing one to sign is easier said than done.
San Diego Padres
The Padres lack a true superstar player, but they have assembled a good collection of young talent. They made some noise in June when they won 10 of 12 and pulled within one game of the NL West lead and two games over .500.
They still need to figure out their starting rotation, but the emergence of Andrew Cashner and a possible turnaround from Ian Kennedy has them in a better position heading into 2014. On paper they may not look great, but this is a team that could surprise.
A wave of young talent arrived in Seattle this season, as second baseman Nick Franklin, shortstop Brad Miller, catcher Mike Zunino, starting pitcher Taijuan Walker and fellow starter James Paxton all saw significant action and have the Mariners positioned for sustained success looking ahead.
If Walker, Paxton and fellow prospect Danny Hultzen can step into the rotation spots and find some success behind the terrific duo of Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma, this could wind up being the surprise team of 2014. A 10-12 win increase and a run at a record over .500 seems like a more likely outcome, though.
The Phillies core of high-priced, superstar talent seemingly got really old really fast over the past two seasons and it has left the team in limbo between contention and rebuilding.
With some money coming off the books, most notably with the departure of Roy Halladay, they could look to spend and make another run at a playoff spot in 2014. However, their chances seem slim in a talented NL East, and at this point it may be more beneficial for them to start the rebuilding process and attempt to bolster what is a thin farm system with some trades.
Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays entered the season as a popular pick to win the AL East and make a a serious run at a title this year after adding R.A. Dickey, Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson among others. Instead, they finished in the cellar and improved on their 2012 win total by just one victory.
They'll return essentially the same group this coming season, though they could make a run at a frontline starter with Johnson departing and a clear need in the rotation. Not having to contend with the lofty expectations they did this year could help, but they're still going to have an uphill battle in the AL East.
Los Angeles Angels
The free-spending Angels have made a splash each of the past two offseasons with the additions of Albert Pujols (10-year, $240 million) and Josh Hamilton (five-year, $125 million), but those two have both been a flop to this point.
Aside from the lack of production from those two, the team has struggled to find three capable starters to slot behind Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson the past two seasons, and all of that has led to a pair of disappointing finishes. There is a ton of talent here, but with perhaps the worst farm system in baseball and a bloated payroll, filling in the gaps may be easier said than done.
Kansas City Royals
Ready to make the move from rebuilding to contender, the Royals pulled the trigger on dealing top prospect Wil Myers last offseason, picking up Rays workhorse James Shields to front their new-look starting rotation.
A late-season push had them contending for a wild card spot down the stretch, and while they missed out on October, they still managed to finish with 14 more wins than they had in 2012. Replacing or re-signing Ervin Santana will be the biggest decision of their offseason, but either way this is a good, young team that should make some noise again in 2014.
San Francisco Giants
Winners of two titles in three years, the Giants entered the 2013 season with a roster virtually identical to the one that had steamrolled the Tigers in the World Series. Expected to contend for the NL pennant once again, they instead struggled all year and avoided a last-place finish in the NL West by two wins.
A big drop-off in the performance of their starting rotation was largely to blame, and they'll need to add at least one starter in the offseason. Re-signing Hunter Pence and Tim Lincecum keeps their core intact, but they'll either need to add more offensive firepower or find a way to return to their dominant level on the mound if they hope to return to contention in 2014.
After taking the baseball world by surprise in 2012 and reaching the postseason, the Orioles offense nearly carried them to the playoffs once again, with a monster season from Chris Davis leading what was a terrific all-around attack.
However, their starting pitching was an issue once again, and even the deadline additions of Scott Feldman and Bud Norris weren't enough to push them over the top. If top prospects Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman can provide the sort of impact that was expected of them, or the team can add a big free agent arm, they could be right back in the playoffs in 2014.
With the Dodgers and Giants struggling early, it looked like the Diamondbacks would claim the NL West crown by default, but a second-half surge by the Dodgers left them on the fringe of the wild card picture and they finished the season 81-81.
Breakout seasons from Paul Goldschmidt and Patrick Corbin helped provide some hope for the future, and top to bottom it's a talented, young Diamondbacks team without any clear weaknesses aside from the back end of their bullpen. The may not be able to knock off the Dodgers, but wild card contention seems realistic.
Expected by many to sell aggressively last offseason and begin rebuilding, the Indians instead added Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn, among other veteran free agents. Those new additions, along with big bounce back seasons from Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir, made the Indians the surprise postseason team of 2013.
Jimenez and Kazmir are both free agents, and whether or not guys like Danny Salazar, Corey Kluber and Zach McAllister can duplicate their 2013 success remains to be seen, so pitching is something of a question in 2014. With the right offseason moves though, they should be right in the mix of the AL wild card picture once again next year.
New York Yankees
With Robinson Cano, Hiroki Kuroda, Curtis Granderson and Phil Hughes all set to hit free agency and both Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte retiring, it figures to be a busy offseason for the Yankees as they look to rebound from missing the postseason for just the second time since 1994.
The team figures to do whatever they can to bring back Cano, and Kuroda seems like a prime candidate for another one-year deal, but there are needs beyond bringing those guys back. These odds could change significantly before the start of the season, but I'm giving them some assuming they'll be active in free agency beyond re-signing their own guys.
After losing Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli, Michael Young, Koji Uehara and a handful of others in the offseason, the Rangers entered the 2013 season with tempered expectations. While their offense was not as dominant, and their starting rotation dealt with injuries, they still managed to hang around in the AL West.
A late-season skid left them fighting for a wild card spot, and they ended up dropping Game 163 to the Rays and missing out on the playoffs. They have money to spend, and will likely go after starting pitching as they look to add some support for Yu Darvish and Derek Holland. If they can land an impact arm, they'll be contenders for a postseason spot once again in 2014.
Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays remain one of the best in the business at bargain hunting on the free-agent and trade markets, and the additions of James Loney, Kelly Johnson, Yunel Escobar, Roberto Hernandez and Jamey Wright in the offseason along with the big acquisition of prospect Wil Myers helped them return to the postseason.
The pitching staff remains the key to their success, and even with David Price potentially on the trade block this offseason and almost sure to be moved at some point before he hits free agency, it's a strength. They'll have to again fill some holes with low-cost veterans, but there's no reason to bet against them pulling that off at this point.
After enduring a second-half collapse in 2011 and 2012, the Pirates finally got over the hump in 2013, reaching the postseason for the first time since 1992 and doing with a roster built largely of homegrown talent.
With Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte anchoring the lineup and Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano soon to be joined by top prospect Jameson Taillon on the rotation, they have an impressive core of starting talent. They're not without holes, though, as deadline pickups Marlon Byrd and Justin Morneau were both just rentals and those two positions, as well as the back of the rotation, remain as question marks. Still, this is a team in a position to contend long-term.
The A's continue to piece together a roster of journeyman veterans and unknown youngsters and turn it into wins, and they've now claimed back-to-back AL West titles in what has become a very competitive AL West.
Manager Bob Melvin plays matchups on a day-to-day basis as well as anyone in baseball, though the lineup could use a piece or two to push them over the top. The young rotation should only get better, and Sonny Gray looks like he could be awfully good atop the staff, but bringing back Bartolo Colon may not be a bad idea for 2014. Either way, look for them to defend their division title and make a push at an ALCS appearance.
The Reds postseason run was over before it started this season, as they were knocked out in the Wild Card round by the Pittsburgh Pirates. That was enough for them to cut ties with manager Dusty Baker, who led them to three postseasons in six years, but never got them past the Division Series.
As far as the roster new manager Bryan Price inherits, the team will need to find replacements for free agents Shin-Soo Choo and Bronson Arroyo, but overall the Reds have a fairly complete team top to bottom. Tony Cingrani will likely fill the open rotation spot, and speedster Billy Hamilton may be the answer in center, but regardless of what they decide to do in those spots, they should again be in the thick of the NL Central chase.
The Braves wound up running away with the NL East this past season, thanks to a disappointing year from the Nationals, but they came up short in the postseason and were knocked out by the Dodgers in the NLDS.
Whether or not to re-sign Brian McCann will be their biggest offseason decision, and they'll also need to make some tough calls regarding the starting rotation with Tim Hudson and Paul Maholm headed for free agency, but the core pieces are there for them to defend their division title. Getting something more out of the Upton brothers and keeping Jason Heyward healthy would certainly help their cause as well.
A sexy pick to win the NL pennant, and viewed by many as the most complete roster in baseball top-to-bottom entering the year, the Nationals stumbled out of the gates, and when they finally got hot in the second half, it was too little too late.
The talent is all still there, as they'll need to find a replacement for Dan Haren in the rotation but really don't have any other holes to plug in free agency. Keeping Bryce Harper healthy will be key, as he makes the offense go, but there's no reason with some minor tinkering that this team can't reach those lofty expectations in 2014.
For the second straight season, the Tigers were by far the most talented team in the AL Central, but they were unable to run away with the division title as expected. After reaching the World Series in 2012, they were ousted by the Red Sox in the ALCS in 2013 and will have some tinkering to do in the offseason to try to get over the hump.
The middle infield duo of Omar Infante and Jhonny Peralta are both free agents, as is closer Joaquin Benoit, so they'll need to figure out what to do at those spots. There have also been rumors that the team could shop Max Scherzer before he hits free agency after 2014. It will be a winter of big decisions either way, as this team has the talent to make it back to the World Series.
Boston Red Sox
With their Game 6 victory over the Cardinals, the Red Sox wrapped up their third World Series title in the last 10 years, and became just the second team ever to go from last place the previous season to winning it all. The 1991 Minnesota Twins were the other.
Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Napoli, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Stephen Drew are all free agents, with no real replacement options for Napoli or Saltalamacchia in-house. Figuring out those two positions and adding to the bullpen will be their offseason focus, but the main pieces are there for this team to make a run at defending its title.
St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals are loaded with high-end, young talent throughout their big league roster and the organization in general, and they have some big decisions to make this offseason as a result.
Whether or not to re-sign Carlos Beltran, how to work Kolten Wong into the everyday lineup and who among a myriad of options fills out the starting rotation head their list of questions that need to be answered this offseason. Full seasons from Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez and Matt Adams as well as the impending call-up of top prospect Oscar Taveras should be enough alongside the veteran core to make a run at redeeming their World Series performance.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The 2013 season didn't quite end how the Dodgers would have liked, as they were knocked out by the Cardinals in the NLCS. But given how poorly the started the year, it was a better finish than many expected around midseason.
As far as sheer talent on the roster top-to-bottom, there is no team that looks to be in a better position heading into 2014 than the Dodgers. Re-signing Juan Uribe and Ricky Nolasco seem like strong possibilities, and the bullpen will need to be sorted out in front of Kenley Jansen, but this looks like a team that could run away with the NL West next year and make a serious push at a title.