5 MLB Teams That Will Be Better in 2014 Even Without a Big Offseason Move
Over the winter, we will all sit on the edge of our seats and wait to see where major free agents like Robinson Cano will end up calling home. Understandably, some people will be disappointed. Every team can’t possibly sign a top-of-the-line free agent.
However, if you are one of the five teams I’m about to mention, it might not be as big of a deal as you might think. Free agents can obviously make a difference, but some teams are going to be much better next season due simply to internal improvement—whether it's young players developing or established veterans returning from injury.
It might not make the same kind of splash, but I don’t think anyone would complain about any type of step in the right direction.
Ryan Howard is one of those players that the Philadelphia Phillies love and hate all at once. He doesn’t hit for very much on average, and he strikes out more than almost any other player in baseball.
That being said, he clearly has the capability of driving in 100 runs or more in any season, and run production was something that the Philadelphia Phillies could have used this season.
In previous years, the Phillies had been one of the top offensive teams in baseball. In 2013, that simply fell apart.
Although this is only one player, his presence in the middle of the lineup will certainly make a difference.
Toronto Blue Jays
I know that many people thought that 2013 was finally the year that the Toronto Blue Jays would return to glory. That didn’t work out so well, but this team has too much talent to stay down indefinitely.
For one thing, Jose Reyes—the one offseason acquisition who was doing well—ended up missing 69 games as a result of injury. Jose Bautista, one of the more consistent sluggers in recent memory, missed significant time as well.
You have to think that if these players are finally able to return to normal, there will at least be some improvement here.
Kansas City Royals
There was a moment near the end of the season when it almost seemed like the Kansas City Royals might have a chance at the playoffs.
In a way, this team reminds me a little bit of the Tampa Bay Rays when they were first rising to prominence. With a solid core of homegrown talent led by Alex Gordon, Billy Butler and Eric Hosmer, they have the potential for some offensive firepower. The Royals brought in some nice rotation pieces in James Shields and Ervin Santana last season as well.
As they keep progressing, look for Kansas City in the playoffs as early as 2014.
Quite frankly, it is hard to get any worse than 100 losses. However, that is not the only reason I picked the Miami Marlins to see some improvement next season.
Jose Fernandez is a star in the making. When you combine him with Nate Eovaldi, you have a pretty decent combination coming together. Beyond that, their bullpen actually did all right last season with Ryan Webb, Chad Qualls and Steve Cishek.
I’m not going to say the Miami Marlins will make the playoffs, but I will say that they will get better next season.
Felix Hernandez has always had to stand alone at the top of the Seattle Mariners’ rotation. 2013 brought out a pair of young aces to finally support him in James Paxton and Taijuan Walker. They both did well, and it doesn’t seem like they will slow down.
On top of that, their offense has some solid pieces in Kendrys Morales and Kyle Seager.
There are still certainly pieces that need to be added, but the Mariners should have enough firepower to support that rotation that is coming together.
The American League West has the potential to be highly competitive, especially if the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim ever get it back together. I would expect the Seattle Mariners to at least be relevant in the conversation this year.