Only a fool would argue that the Chicago Cubs and the Boston Red Sox haven't drastically upgraded their respective rosters heading into the 2016 MLB season.
The Cubs and the Red Sox are the kings of the winter, and with that title comes endless praise. The big question, as spring training hurtles closer, is whether that praise has reached unrealistic levels.
It's not easy to measure praise or hype or buzz, but it's also far from impossible. In order to determine which teams are already being overhyped entering the upcoming campaign, we've considered a slew of factors:
- The words/expectations of players on the given clubs
- Odds Shark's World Series odds
- FanGraphs' 2016 projections
- The landscape of each team's division
As the four franchises who cracked this list will likely find out, it's that final bullet point that will prove to be the biggest reason why it's time to pump the brakes on the hype machine.
2015 Record: 74-87
Key Additions: SP Jordan Zimmermann, SP Mike Pelfrey, OF Cameron Maybin, RP Francisco Rodriguez, RP Justin Wilson and RP Mark Lowe
Mike Ilitch, the 86-year-old owner of the Detroit Tigers, isn't playing around. For the boss in Motown, it's all about winning now.
"That's all I think about," Ilitch said, per Jason Beck of MLB.com. "It's something that I really want. I want it bad."
Thanks to a busy offseason of free-agent additions and trades, the Tigers, who piled up the second-most losses in the American League in 2015, climbed to the No. 8 spot in the power rankings.
The star acquisition for Detroit has been Jordan Zimmermann, who arrived on a five-year, $110 million pact. The righty immediately improves a starting crew that ranked last in the AL in ERA in 2015.
General manager Al Avila also revamped a suspect pen (No. 27 in ERA) by importing the likes of Francisco Rodriguez, Justin Wilson and Mark Lowe.
Even with all of the new names at Comerica Park, there are two big reasons to take it easy on the hype.
The first is that the Tigers call the savage AL Central home.
The Kansas City Royals are the reigning World Series champs, the Minnesota Twins missed a wild-card berth by three games, and don't forget about the Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox. The Tribe sports the scariest starting rotation in the division (fourth in the AL in ERA in 2015) and the South Siders have gone on a shopping spree of their own.
Then there are all those "ifs."
If Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez, who all missed significant time due to injury in 2015, bounce back, then watch out for the Tigers. But that's a lot of ifs.
2015 Record: 97-65
Key Additions: SP John Lackey, OF Jason Heyward, UTL Ben Zobrist, RP Adam Warren, RP Rex Brothers and RP Trevor Cahill (re-signed)
Jason Heyward, the Chicago Cubs $184 million offseason pickup, is feeling awfully good about his new squad and their chances of securing a World Series title.
"We don't show up for any other reason than that," Heyward said, per Carrie Muskat of MLB.com. "We'll see what's going to happen, but I feel like the front office, the organization, ownership has done a great job of giving us a great platform to go out there, play baseball and try to win a World Series."
Vegas agrees with the defensive wizard. Per Odds Shark, the Cubs are tied with the San Francisco Giants as the favorites to win the Fall Classic.
After an offseason that has also included the additions of John Lackey and Ben Zobrist, Chicago earned the No. 1 spot in the most recent power rankings.
Here's the problem: The Cubs won 97 games in 2015, but the team also finished in third place in its own division.
Let's begin with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Simply put, it's never wise to bet against the Redbirds. No team in baseball is more adept at plugging holes on its roster than the Cardinals. Heyward left for a rival, but the club has outfielders Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk—who both out-OPS'd Heyward in 2015—ready to take on more prominent roles.
Lackey's loss will hurt, but St. Louis has brought in the reliable, if unheralded Mike Leake to replace him. For the Cards, the wild card of the offseason is reliever Seung-hwan Oh, who Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports dubbed "the Mariano Rivera of Korea."
Over at PNC Park, it's been a characteristically quiet offseason for the Pittsburgh Pirates, as zero big-time splashes have been made. But the core of the team that won 98 games in 2015 remains intact.
In other words, the Cubs aren't the clear favorites in the NL—much less their own division, which will once again be a nasty three-team race.
San Francisco Giants
2015 Record: 84-78
Key Additions: SP Johnny Cueto, SP Jeff Samardzija and OF Denard Span
This is going to look really stupid in November when the San Francisco Giants bust out the postseason magic and win yet another even year World Series.
Let's start with Denard Span. The eight-year vet, who will be 32 years old by the time opening day rolls around, is a game-changer—when he's healthy.
"Span was the biggest loss of all of them [for the Washington Nationals] for me," A source told Bleacher Report's Scott Miller. "He's a true leadoff guy. Legitimate, true leadoff."
But last year, Span was not healthy, as he only played in 61 games. At the beginning of September, Span underwent hip surgery. That's one scary procedure for a guy who's game is based on his legs.
There are also some concerns about the arms that the Giants acquired.
Dating back to the beginning of 2011, Johnny Cueto has one remarkable resume:
ERA leaders since 2011:2.11 - Kershaw2.71 - Cueto2.82 - Greinke2.94 - Sale2.99 - Wainwright3.02 - Price3.03 - Felix3.05 - Bumgarner— Aaron Gleeman (@AaronGleeman) December 14, 2015
However, the recent results are far less flattering. The second half of 2015 was a train wreck for the Dominican, as he posted a 4.76 ERA in 13 starts for the Kansas City Royals.
For Jeff Samardzija, all of 2015 was a train wreck.
Last season, the Shark gave up more hits and earned runs than any other pitcher in the majors. And the Giants just gave that guy $90 million over five years.
Boston Red Sox
2015 Record: 78-84
Key Additions: SP David Price, RP Craig Kimbrel, RP Carson Smith and OF Chris Young
President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski is getting a lot of love for his rapid-fire rebuild of the Boston Red Sox.
FanGraphs projected the Sox to win the second-most games in the bigs in 2016, and Odds Shark pegged the club as having the third-best shot at winning the World Series behind only co-favorites Chicago Cubs and San Francisco Giants.
It's easy enough to understand why the Red Sox, who finished 15 games off the pace in the AL East in 2015, are so highly thought of heading into the upcoming campaign. Bringing in AL Cy Young runner-up David Price and four-time All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel will have that effect.
But don't forget the Toronto Blue Jays, who reached the AL Championship Series, and the New York Yankees, who have acquired Aroldis Chapman and Starlin Castro, are around to quiet the Boston buzz.
As Richard Justice of MLB.com noted on Twitter, "parity" is the operative word when it comes to this division:
Parity? AL East has had 4 different division champs last 4 years: Blue Jays in 2015, O's in 2014, Red Sox in 2013, Yankees in 2012.— Richard Justice (@richardjustice) January 16, 2016
With the Red Sox, Blue Jays and Yankees headlining the field (and the Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays both within shouting distance), parity will once again be the theme of the division in 2016.
If you want to talk baseball, find me on Twitter @KarlBuscheck.
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