How Each MLB Division's Balance of Power Was Affected at Winter Meetings

Joel ReuterFeatured ColumnistDecember 14, 2013

How Each MLB Division's Balance of Power Was Affected at Winter Meetings

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    Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

    This year's winter meetings were relatively quiet, at least compared to the last few years. Still, they were not without a handful of moves that could have a significant impact on the 2014 standings.

    The Diamondbacks got the power bat they were after when they landed Mark Trumbo in a three-team deal, the Mariners continued to add pieces with the signing of Corey Hart and acquisition of Logan Morrison, and the Mets shelled out a two-year, $20 million deal to sign Bartolo Colon.

    There were other deals that could certainly have an impact as well, but those three in particular stand out as difference-making additions. With plenty of offseason still ahead of us, the outlook of each division will no doubt change between now and the start of spring training.

    However, here's a look at how each division could play out as things stand right now. Also included is a look back at how they stacked up prior to the winter meetings and an overview of each division's activity in Orlando this past week.

AL East

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    CF Jacoby Ellsbury
    CF Jacoby EllsburyElsa/Getty Images

    Predicted Standings, Pre-Meetings

    1. Boston Red Sox
    2. New York Yankees
    3. Tampa Bay Rays
    4. Toronto Blue Jays
    5. Baltimore Orioles

     

    Divisional Action at the Meetings

    None of the five teams in the AL East made any transactions of note at this year's winter meetings, though there was plenty of action in the days leading up to them.

    The Red Sox remain the team to beat, and they came to terms with their top target just before the meetings kicked off, re-signing Mike Napoli on a two-year deal.

    The Yankees added Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran but still have some work to do on the pitching staff and will also need to add either a second baseman or a third baseman. They've been aggressive this offseason, though, and could emerge as the team to beat before spring training starts with a few more big pickups.

    The Rays have yet to move David Price, but if/when they do, that will certainly be a major move for the outlook of the division. The Blue Jays remain in the market for another front-line starter, but their biggest need will be health and consistent production from their incumbent core of players.

    It's the Orioles who really need to make a splash at the meetings, and still do, if they want to avoid falling behind the rest of the pack. They have holes at second base, in left field, at the back of the bullpen and could look to add another starter as well. They could certainly climb the predicted standings before the start of the season, but as things stand right now, they look like the worst of the bunch.

     

    Predicted Standings, Post-Meetings

    1. Boston Red Sox
    2. New York Yankees
    3. Tampa Bay Rays
    4. Toronto Blue Jays
    5. Baltimore Orioles

AL Central

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    CF Adam Eaton
    CF Adam EatonDustin Bradford/Getty Images

    Predicted Standings, Pre-Meetings

    1. Detroit Tigers
    2. Kansas City Royals
    3. Cleveland Indians
    4. Minnesota Twins
    5. Chicago White Sox

     

    Divisional Action at the Meetings

    The Kansas City Royals and Detroit Tigers were both busy in the days and weeks leading up to the winter meetings, but they were quiet in Orlando. They still remain the two favorites in the division at this point, though, and don't have much work to do the rest of the offseason.

    The Royals signed Jason Vargas to replace Ervin Santana in the rotation and traded for Norichika Aoki to upgrade in right field. Meanwhile, the Tigers dealt Prince Fielder and Doug Fister but acquired Ian Kinsler, Joe Nathan and Rajai Davis, among others.

    It was the Indians who emerged as the surprise postseason team of 2013. But with Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir gone from last year's rotationand the bullpen even worse than last year following the departures of Chris Perez and Joe Smiththey have a lot of work to do if they hope to return to the playoffs.

    The Twins and White Sox are clearly a notch or two below the rest of the division, though both teams have taken steps to get better this winter. The White Sox jumped in a three-team deal at the meetings and wound up swapping Hector Santiago for center fielder Adam Eaton. They also signed Jose Abreu at the beginning of the offseason. That will likely mean a trade of Alejandro De Aza down the line, and the White Sox look like a better team for it.

    In Minnesota, the team has handed out its two biggest free-agent contracts in team history with the signings of Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes. The Twins are still in the market for another arm to fill out their rotation.

     

    Predicted Standings, Post-Meetings

    1. Detroit Tigers
    2. Kansas City Royals
    3. Cleveland Indians
    4. Chicago White Sox
    5. Minnesota Twins

AL West

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    1B Corey Hart
    1B Corey HartBenny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

    Predicted Standings, Pre-Meetings

    1. Texas Rangers
    2. Oakland Athletics
    3. Seattle Mariners
    4. Los Angeles Angels
    5. Houston Astros

     

    Divisional Action at the Meetings

    The AL West figures to be as tight as any division in baseball this coming season. The Rangers and A's should once again be in the running for the top spot, while the Mariners and Angels have both made significant additions already this offseason.

    Seattle's addition of Robinson Cano prior to the winter meetings certainly changed the landscape of things in the division, propelling them ahead of the Angels in my opinion. However, the Angels pulled off a big deal of their own in landing Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs during the meetings.

    That's enough to move them back into the No. 3 spot, even with the Mariners picking up Corey Hart and Logan Morrison to further improve their offense. Yet things should be close from first to fourth, and if some things break right for the Angels or Mariners, they could be right in the thick of things for the division title.

    Further additions by either team could certainly continue to change things, but the Rangers and A's will remain the class of the division unless the Mariners or Angels can swing a trade for someone like David Price.

    The Astros have even improved this winter, signing Scott Feldman and Chad Qualls and trading for Rockies center fielder Dexter Fowler.

     

    Predicted Standings, Post-Meetings

    1. Texas Rangers
    2. Oakland Athletics
    3. Los Angeles Angels
    4. Seattle Mariners
    5. Houston Astros

NL East

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    SP Bartolo Colon
    SP Bartolo ColonEzra Shaw/Getty Images

    Predicted Standings, Pre-Meetings

    1. Washington Nationals
    2. Atlanta Braves
    3. Philadelphia Phillies
    4. New York Mets
    5. Miami Marlins

     

    Divisional Action at the Meetings

    The Braves and Nationals were expected to duke it out atop the NL East last season, but when the Nationals stumbled out of the gate, the Braves wound up running away with the title. That said, the teams appear to be in a similar position heading into the 2014 season.

    While the Braves have yet to make a significant addition this offseason, the Nationals have, trading for Doug Fister and Jerry Blevins and signing Nate McLouth in free agency.

    The Phillies have opted against rebuilding and handed out multi-year deals to Marlon Byrd and Carlos Ruiz before signing Roberto Hernandez to a one-year deal to fill out their rotation. That may be enough for them to make a run at a winning record this season, but it likely won't put them in the running for a playoff spot. 

    Similarly, the Mets have made some big additions with the signing of Curtis Granderson and Chris Young to bolster their outfield. The winter meetings signing of Bartolo Colon to fill out a rotation that will be without Matt Harvey will help as well. They are headed in the right direction, but they still have a number of holes on the roster.

    Even the Marlins are buying this offseason, adding Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Garrett Jones in free agency and trading Logan Morrison and Justin Ruggiano for Carter Capps and Brian Bogusevic. They have a solid, young pitching staff and should continue to improve in the years ahead, but another last-place finish seems likely in 2014.

     

    Predicted Standings, Post-Meetings

    1. Washington Nationals
    2. Atlanta Braves
    3. Philadelphia Phillies
    4. New York Mets
    5. Miami Marlins

NL Central

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    SP Edinson Volquez
    SP Edinson VolquezThearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    Predicted Standings, Pre-Meetings

    1. St. Louis Cardinals
    2. Cincinnati Reds
    3. Pittsburgh Pirates
    4. Milwaukee Brewers
    5. Chicago Cubs

     

    Divisional Activity at the Meetings

    The NL Central was a heated three-team race for the entirety of 2014, with the Cardinals, Pirates and Reds all making the playoffs. Those three teams appear poised to make a run at the postseason once again this coming year.

    The Cardinals already made a pair of big acquisitions before the meetings, signing Jhonny Peralta and trading for Peter Bourjos. The Reds were without any glaring needs, but they added a few bench pieces to fill out the roster.

    It's the Pirates who had the most to do this offseason, and they found a potential replacement for A.J. Burnett—should he decide against re-signing—when they inked Edinson Volquez to a one-year deal. They also brought back Clint Barmes to back up Jordy Mercer, but they still have a big hole to fill at first base. Should they sign someone to fill that void, they could jump to the No. 2 spot in the division.

    The Brewers have a hole to fill at first base as well but likely won't do much else this offseason. They'll count on both their lineup being at full strength and a step forward from their rotation to turn things around.

    Meanwhile, on the north side of Chicago, the Cubs continue to rebuild and likely won't be in a position to contend for a playoff spot until 2015 at the earliest. There should be plenty of reason for excitement this coming season, with an influx of homegrown talent likely to arrive in Chicago, but don't expect them to do much the rest of the offseason.

     

    Predicted Standings, Post-Meetings

    1. St. Louis Cardinals
    2. Cincinnati Reds
    3. Pittsburgh Pirates
    4. Milwaukee Brewers
    5. Chicago Cubs

NL West

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    LF Mark Trumbo
    LF Mark TrumboJayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor

    Predicted Standings, Pre-Meetings

    1. Los Angeles Dodgers
    2. San Francisco Giants
    3. Arizona Diamondbacks
    4. San Diego Padres
    5. Colorado Rockies

     

    Divisional Activity at the Meetings

    The NL West was as busy as any division at the winter meetings, with the Diamondbacks pulling off a blockbuster deal to land Mark Trumbo, Giants signing Michael Morse and Rockies trading for Brett Anderson to upgrade an already improved rotation.

    That said, the Dodgers remain the team to beat in the division even with a clear hole at third base that will still need to be addressed. They could yet make a splash deal of some sort before the offseason is over.

    The Diamondbacks' pickup of Trumbo to protect Paul Goldschmidt in the lineup jumps them over the Giants for the time being, though adding Morse's bat as their everyday left fielder helps the Giants' offensive attack as well.

    Picking up Anderson to join Jhoulys Chacin, Jorge De La Rosa and Tyler Chatwood in the rotation helps the Rockies. They've also added LaTroy Hawkins, Boone Logan and Justin Morneau this offseason. Even the Padres have gotten better, signing Josh Johnson and trading for Seth Smith.

    It will be an interesting year in the division. All five teams have a shot at a record over .500 at the very least, and things should stay close for the majority of the season.

     

    Predicted Standings, Post-Meetings

    1. Los Angeles Dodgers
    2. Arizona Diamondbacks
    3. San Francisco Giants
    4. Colorado Rockies
    5. San Diego Padres