Major League Baseball is gearing up for the 2011 season.
Indeed, Spring Training begins in a matter of days which means it is time to take a look at all 30 teams and predict how good they will be. In the follow slide show, all 30 teams will be ranked, from worst to best.
Each team's segment will include last season's record. whether they should be expected to improve, decline, or hold their ground, key offseason acquisitions and departures, and a brief encapsulation of why they will be good, bad, mediocre, etc.
Remaining free agents are mostly not listed as departures, though some exceptions are made. Also, players signed to minor-league contracts are not identified with the acquisitions.
The Pittsburgh Pirates posted an abysmal 57-105 record last season, the worst in all of Major League Baseball. They have not made the playoffs since 1992.
There is no reason to think their playoff drought will end this year, nor any reason to think they will be any better than last season or all the other recent years they have occupied baseball's cellar.
There is little of interest on Pittsburgh's roster and nothing to get overly excited over.
The only thing about the Pirates that holds any intrigue is their offseason hiring of manager Clint Hurdle. However, Hurdle would have to be a miracle worker to make this team any good.
The Pirates are perennial losers who seem to have no clue what it takes to win.
Perhaps the biggest proof of this?
Starting pitcher Ross Ohlendorf had a solid 4.07 ERA, but his record was 1-11.
Key Acquisitions: Pitchers Kevin Correia and Scott Olsen, outfielder Matt Diaz, infielder Lyle Overbay.
Key Departures: Pitchers Brendan Donnelly, Joe Martinez, Zach Duke and Chan Ho Park, infielder Andy LaRoche, infielder/outfielder Delwyn Young.
The Kansas City Royals won only 67 games last year, losing 95.
The team's loaded farm system provides hope for the future, but it will be a tough wait for the organization and its fans. Expect the Royals to still be among the worst teams in the meantime.
Kansas City's woes will be augmented by the loss of ace Zack Greinke, dealt in the offseason to the Milwaukee Brewers.
Key Acquisitions: Outfielders Melky Cabrera, Lorenzo Cain and Jeff Francouer; pitchers Vin Mazzaro and Jeff Francis; infielder Alcides Escobar.
Key Departures: Pitchers Zack Greinke, Brian Bannister and Gil Meche; outfielder David DeJesus; infielder Yuniesky Betancourt.
The Seattle Mariners' 2010 record was 61 and 101, making them one of two teams to lose 100 games last season.
Hopes were high for the Mariners this time last year. They were supposed to ride defense, pitching and ace Cliff Lee to the top, but things went horribly wrong.
They lost Lee when they traded him to the Texas Rangers in July and they failed to make any big splashes in the offseason.
The Mariners do have one of the game's greatest in outfielder Ichiro Suzuki. But Ichiro and the team's few other, at least, decent players are not enough to raise the M's out of the doldrums.
Key Acquisitions: Designated hitter Jack Cust, catcher Miguel Olivo, and pitcher Charlie Haeger.
Key Departures: Pitchers Ryan-Rowland Smith and Ian Snell and infielders Casey Kotchman and Jose Lopez.
The Cleveland Indians won 69 games and lost 93 in 2010.
They do have a few noteworthy players on their roster such as Grady Sizemore, Carlos Santana, Travis Hafner and Matt LaPorta.
Having the likes of Sizemore and Santana healthy might lead to slight improvements but no big jump should be counted on.
The Indians have yet to sign any free agents to major league contracts, though they are in talks with pitcher Jeremy Bonderman.
Key Departure: Mark Grudzielanek.
The Houston Astros 2010 record was 76-86.
They were quiet in the offseason, so they will likely go into this year with a roster much like last year's. Hence, their record should be about the same.
The Astros have proved the presence of players like Hunter Pence and Carlos Lee will do them no good.
Key Acquisitions: Infielder Bill Hall and pitcher Ryan Rowland-Smith.
Key Departure: Infielder Geoff Blum.
The Washington Nationals put up a record of 69-93 last season.
They made news this offseason when they signed outfielder Jayson Werth to a seven-year contract worth $126 million. That will not make the Nationals any better; one good player does not a good team make. Rather the move will eat up money that could have been put to better use.
Stephen Strasburg's health issues certainly do not help matters, either.
Key Acquisitions: Outfielders Werth and Rick Ankiel, infielders Adam LaRoche and Jerry Hairston Jr., and pitcher Tom Gorzelanny.
Key Departures: Outfielder Josh Willingham, pitcher Miguel Batista and Scott Olsen, infielder Adam Kennedy and infielder/outfielder Adam Dunn.
The Florida Marlins put up 80 wins and 82 losses last season.
The Marlins do have some talent on their roster but not enough. If their several new pitchers can perform, they might help the Marlins improve, but nothing much should be expected out of this team.
Their biggest move of the offseason was trading All-Star second baseman Dan Uggla to the Atlanta Braves. They also traded away pitcher Andrew Miller and outfielder Cameron Maybin.
Key Acquisitions: Catcher John Buck, infielder Omar Infante and pitchers Edward Mujica, Dustin Richardson, Ryan Webb, Michael Dunn, Randy Choate and Javier Vazquez
Key Departures: Uggla, Maybin and pitchers Miller and Will Ohman
The Toronto Blue Jays went 85-77 last year highlighted by the breakout campaign of Jose Bautista.
Their performance and Bautista's made them among the surprise teams and players of 2010. Bautista likely will not surprise the baseball world any more in 2011 and neither will the Blue Jays. Expect them to be mediocre at best, no matter how much of a power threat Bautista is.
Key Acquisitions: Pitchers Octavio Dotel and Jon Rauch and outfielder Juan Rivera.
Key Departures: Outfielder Vernon Wells, pitchers Scott Downs, Shaun Marcum, Jeremy Accardo and Kevin Gregg, catchers Miguel Olivo and John Buck.
The Baltimore Orioles' 2010 record was 66-96.
A few of their offseason moves, and having Brian Roberts healthy, might provide room for improvement but not enough to lift them into contention in the ultra-competitive American League East.
Their offense certainly should be better, though, especially with the signing of Vladimir Guerrero.
Key Acquisitions: Infielders Derrek Lee, J.J. Hardy and Mark Reynolds, pitcher Kevin Gregg and outfielder/DH Guerrero.
Key Departures: Infielder Ty Wigginton.
The Arizona Diamondbacks won 65 games and lost 97 last season.
New general manager Kevin Towers focused on boosting the pitching staff over the offseason. His efforts should improve the team but not lift them into contention. His most interesting move may have been landing near perfect game pitcher Armando Galarraga in a deal with the Detroit Tigers.
Key Acquisitions: Pitchers Galarraga, Zach Duke and J.J. Putz, catcher Henry Blanco, outfielder Xavier Nady and utility players Geoff Blum and Willie Bloomquist.
Key Departures: Infielders Mark Reynolds and Adam LaRoche and pitcher Brandon Webb.
The Los Angeles Dodgers put up a record of 80-82 in 2010.
It surely will not be easy for them to face the World Champion San Francisco Giants, also their biggest rivals, on Opening Day. Expect the rest of the season to be difficult as well for L.A.. They were mediocre last year and they will be again.
However, first-year manager Don Mattingly should not be blamed.
Key Acquisitions: Pitchers Jon Garland, Blake Hawksworth and Matt Guerrier, infielder Juan Uribe, outfielders Marcus Thames and Tony Gwynn Jr., catcher Dioner Navarro.
Key Departures: Catcher Russell Martin, outfielder Reed Johnson, infielder Ryan Theriot and pitchers George Sherrill and Charlie Haeger.
The New York Mets won 79 games and lost 83 in a season in which everything seemed to go wrong.
Their biggest move of the offseason was replacing manager Jerry Manuel and G.M. Omar Minaya with Terry Collins and Sandy Alderson, respectively.
While the new blood may inject some new life into the organization, no drastic improvement is to be expected.
Key Acquisitions: Infielder Scott Hairston and pitchers Chris Young and Chris Capuano.
Key Departures: Pitchers Pedro Feliciano and Hisanori Takahashi and outfielder Chris Carter.
The Chicago White Sox' 2010 record was 88-74.
They might be decent this year, even contend for the AL Central title. However, they should not be a major threat to other teams.
Key Acquisitions: DH Adam Dunn and pitchers Will Ohman and Jesse Crain.
Key Departures: DH Manny Ramirez and pitchers Bobby Jenks, J.J. Putz and Scott Linebrink.
The Chicago Cubs' 2010 record was 75-87.
Expect marked improvement in 2011.
One of multiple blockbuster moves made throughout the majors was the Cubs' acquisition of pitcher Matt Garza in an eight-player trade with the Tampa Bay Rays. The move should pay off.
Key Acquisitions: Pitchers Garza and Kerry Wood and infielder Carlos Pena.
Key Departures: Infielder Derrek Lee, outfielder Xavier Nady and pitcher Tom Gorzelanny.
The San Diego Padres finished 90-72 last year.
They also shocked the baseball world by being a contender, nearly winning the National League West, and keeping franchise star Adrian Gonzalez for the whole season.
However, they traded Gonzalez to the Boston Red Sox in December. In doing so, the front office sent this message: We care more about money than winning.
The Padres made a number of additions during the offseason but also lost several players.
Expect San Diego to finish no higher than third in the division.
Key Acquisitions: Infielders Jason Bartlett, Jorge Cantu and Orlando Hudson, outfielders Cameron Maybin, Brad Hawpe and Eric Patterson and pitchers Aaron Harang, Dustin Moseley and Chad Qualls.
Key Departures: Infielders Adrian Gonzalez, David Eckstein, Jerry Hairston Jr. and Miguel Tejada, outfielder Scott Hairston, infielder/outfielder Matt Stairs and pitchers Chris Young, Ryan Webb, Edward Mujica, Jon Garland and Kevin Correia.
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim posted an 80-82 record last year.
Their record may improve this year with the acquisition of Vernon Wells and the return of a healthy Kendry Morales. They will also be helped by a solid starting rotation of Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, Ervin Santana, Joel Pineiro and Scott Kazmir.
However, they should be expected to finish third in the American League West.
Key Acquisitions: Outfielder Wells, pitchers Scott Downs and Hisanori Takahashi.
Key Departures: Outfielder Juan Rivera, catcher Mike Napoli, infielder Robb Quinlan and DH Hideki Matsui.
The Milwaukee Brewers went 77-85 in 2010.
Expect them to improve under new ace Zack Greinke, acquired in a trade with the Kansas City Royals.
However, he will not solve all the team's problems.
They will need a repeat performance from John Axford who takes over as the full-time closer after the retirement of Trevor Hoffman.
Key Acquisitions: Pitchers Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum and Takashi Saito and infielders Yuniesky Betancourt and Mark Kotsay
Key Departures: Pitchers Hoffman, Dave Bush and Chris Capuano and catcher Gregg Zaun
The Detroit Tigers had a record of 81-81 last season.
They made a splash by signing Victor Martinez. The Tigers will be counting on a significant improvement to his .225 career batting average at Comerica Park.
Pitcher Armando Galarraga became the odd man out after the signing of fellow hurler Brad Penny.
Detroit is, overall, a young team that may be competitive but not major contenders.
Key Acquisitions: Pitchers Penny and Joaquin Benoit and catcher/DH Martinez.
Key Departures: Pitcher Galarraga, outfielder Johnny Damon, infielder Adam Everett and catcher Gerald Laird.
The Tampa Bay Rays went 96-66 in 2010 and won the AL East title.
After losing many players from last year's roster, expect them to be less competitive in 2011. There are just too many questions about what kind of team the Rays will field.
However, the additions of Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez should help the offense.
They lost starting pitcher Matt Garza when they dealt him to the Chicago Cubs. They do still have a solid starting five in David Price, James Shields, Jeff Niemann, Wade Davis and Jeremy Hellickson.
One of the pieces acquired in the trade, outfielder Sam Fuld, would be a tremendous help on defense.
Key Acquisitions: Outfielders/DHs Damon and Ramirez and pitcher Kyle Farnsworth.
Key Departures: Infielders Carlos Pena, Willy Aybar, Jason Bartlett pitchers Garza, Grant Balfour, Joaquin Benoit, Chad Qualls, Randy Choate, Dan Wheeler and Rafael Soriano outfielders Carl Crawford, Brad Hawpe and Gabe Kapler catcher Dioner Navarro.
The St. Louis Cardinals went 86-76 last season.
They are led by megastar Albert Pujols and other star players like Yadier Molina and Matt Holliday.
Having Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright gives them one of the best pairs at the top of a rotation in all of baseball.
However, the team needs more pitching, offense and defense to be a truly dangerous team. Still, they may contend for the NL Central title.
Key Acquisitions: Outfielder Lance Berkman, infielders Nick Punto and Ryan Theriot and catcher Gerald Laird.
Key Departures: Pitcher Brad Penny.
The Atlanta Braves won 91 games and lost 71 last year to win the NL Wild Card.
They are anchored by a rotation with a good balance of youth and veterans.
Offensively they are led by the likes of breakout star Jason Heyward, catcher Brian McCann and veteran Chipper Jones. Their offense also received a major boost from the trade with the Florida Marlins that landed them second baseman Dan Uggla.
They ought to be in the mix for the Wild Card again.
Key Acquisitions: Infielder Uggla and pitchers George Sherrill and Scott Linebrink
Key Departures: Outfielders Melky Cabrera and Matt Diaz pitchers Takashi Saito, Kyle Farnsworth and Michael Dunn and infielders Omar Infante and Troy Glaus
The Colorado Rockies finished 83 and 79 last year.
Their biggest moves of the offseason were signing shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and outfielder Carlos Gonzalez to seven-year contracts.
Tulowitzki, Gonzalez, first baseman Todd Helton and starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez should lead the Rockies to second in the NL West and keep them in the hunt for the Wild Card.
Key Acquisitions: Infielders Jose Lopez and Ty Wigginton.
Key Departures: Pitchers Jeff Francis, Joe Beimel, Manuel Corpas and Octavio Dotel.
The Oakland Athletics were a .500 team last year, finishing with a record of 81-81.
Expect them to be much better this year.
They have one of baseball's best (mostly) young rotations: Dallas Braden, Brett Anderson, Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill and Rich Harden or Brandon McCarthy. They also have a strong bullpen with relievers like Craig Breslow, Brad Ziegler and new additions Brian Fuentes and Grant Balfour.
Having Kurt Suzuki behind the plate also bodes well for Oakland.
The A's also bolstered their offense, adding Hideki Matsui through free agency and Josh Willingham in a trade with the Washington Nationals.
Look for Oakland to challenge the Texas Rangers for the AL West crown.
Key Acquisitions: Pitchers Balfour, Harden, McCarthy and Fuentes infielder David DeJesus outfielder Willingham and DH Matsui.
Key Departures: Pitcher Vin Mazzaro, infielder Akinori Iwamura, outfielder Jeremy Hermida and DH Jack Cust.
The Minnesota Twins finished 94-68 in 2010, winning the AL Central.
They did so with first baseman Justin Morneau and closer Joe Nathan lost to injury and catcher Joe Mauer playing hurt.
Just think how much better they could be with all three healthy. They are the frontrunners to win their division.
That is true even accounting for their silence during their offseason. They should also be able to survive the losses they suffered.
Key Departures: Pitchers Jess Crain, Brian Fuentes, Jon Rauch and Matt Guerrier infielders Orlando Hudson, J.J. Hardy and Nick Punto.
The Cincinnati Reds won the NL Central with a record of 91-71.
They are very deep pitching-wise. The starting rotation could be any combination of the following: Bronson Arroyo, Mike Leake, Aroldis Chapman, Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey and Edinson Volquez.
Off the mound, they are led by NL MVP Joey Votto, outfielder Jay Bruce and third baseman Scott Rolen.
During the offseason, they brought in World Series MVP Edgar Renteria to replace Orlando Cabrera at shortstop.
Key Acquisitions: Infielder Renteria and outfielder Fred Lewis.
Key Departures: Pitchers Aaron Harang, Russ Springer and Arthur Rhodes, outfielder Gary Matthews Jr. and utility player Willie Bloomquist.
The Texas Rangers rode a 90-72 record to the top of the AL West and a spot in the World Series, where they ultimately lost to the San Francisco Giants.
Their pitching took a hit with the loss of Cliff Lee, though the addition of Brandon Webb should help if he can remain healthy.
Their offense was helped with the addition of third baseman Adrian Beltre. With Beltre's arrival, Michael Young is expected to become the Rangers' regular DH while sometimes starting at various infield spots.
Texas will be among baseball's main contenders in 2011.
Key Acquisitions: Infielder Beltre, catchers Yorvit Torrealba and Mike Napoli and pitchers Webb and Arthur Rhodes.
Key Departures: Pitchers Lee, Rich Harden, Doug Mathis and Brandon McCarthy, infielders Jorge Cantu and Alex Cora.
The Philadelphia Phillies won the NL East with a 97-65 record, best in the majors last year.
They will be one of baseball's best teams again this year.
Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cliff Lee make up one of the best pitching foursomes in all of baseball. However, it should be remembered the San Francisco Giants beat all of them at least once on their way to winning the World Series.
Key Acquisitions: Pitcher Lee.
Key Departures: Outfielder Jayson Werth and infielder Greg Dobbs.
The New York Yankees posted a 95-67 record in winning the AL Wild Card.
The main issue facing the Yankees is the question of who will be in the starting rotation after C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett. The rotation took an especially hard hit when Andy Pettitte announced his retirement.
However, they do have solid pitchers including Joba Chamberlain, Pedro Feliciano, Phil Hughes, Boone Logan, Damaso Marte and Rafael Soriano along with Mariano Rivera, the best closer in the game.
The Yankees have a strong offense led by quite possibly the best starting infield in baseball with Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira. They also have a solid outfield composed of Nick Swisher, Curtis Granderson and Brett Gardner.
Jorge Posada is expected to become the team's full-time DH, replaced at catcher by Russell Martin, formerly of the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Yankees will be looking for a healthy Martin to make a return to the 2007 form that earned him a start in the All-Star Game, a Silver Slugger award and a Gold Glove.
The top of the American League East should be a battle between New York and the Boston Red Sox once more.
Key Acquisitions: Pitchers Soriano and Feliciano and catcher Martin
Key Departures: Infielder/DH Lance Berkman outfielder Marcus Thames pitchers Pettitte, Dustin Moseley, Kerry Wood and Javier Vazquez
The Boston Red Sox put up a record of 89-73 in 2010.
While that is not bad, expect them to be much better in 2011.
With Josh Beckett, John Lackey, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and Daisuke Matsuzaka, they have the makings of a formidable starting rotation.
Jonathan Papelbon, Daniel Bard, Tim Wakefield, Dan Wheeler and Bobby Jenks will be among the cogs of what could be a very strong bullpen, if they are all at top form. Papelbon is coming off his worst season that saw him lose seven games out of 12 decisions.
The additions of Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez will do wonders for an offense that was not too shabby to begin with. That is, of course, if Gonzalez can adjust to the American League and all the pressures of playing in Boston. Still, both should help offset the loss of Adrian Beltre and Victor Martinez.
Key Acquisitions: Pitchers Jenks, Wheeler and Andrew Miller, infielder Gonzalez and outfielder Crawford.
Key Departures: Infielder Beltre and Felipe Lopez, catcher Martinez, pitcher Scott Schoeneweis, outfielders Bill Hall and Eric Patterson.
The San Francisco Giants won 92 games, lost 70, and captured the NL West title on their way to a "surprising" World Series title.
Prior to the start of the 2010 season, the Giants were not expected to be contenders. As late as July 16, they were fourth in the NL West. They did not win the division until they defeated the San Diego Padres on the final day of the regular season.
Throughout the playoffs, they were underdogs the whole way.
However, upon close examination, it should not have been so surprising the Giants were so good.
They have a scarily good pitching staff, led by Tim Lincecum in the rotation and closer Brian Wilson in the bullpen. San Francisco's pitchers posted the lowest collective ERA in the majors.
The rotation is one of the best in the majors with Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez, Madison Bumgarner and Barry Zito.
In addition to Wilson, their bullpen also includes Javier Lopez, Jeremy Affeldt, Santiago Casilla, Ramon Ramirez and Sergio Romo. It could also see the return of a healthy Dan Runzler.
Furthermore, they have a superb, young pitch caller behind the plate in Buster Posey.
The Giants were, generally, a very surehanded team on defense.
While San Francisco does not have the most fearsome offense, they proved they could come through in the clutch, scoring 29 runs in the five-game World Series.
Having Rookie of the Year Posey and fellow first-year sensation Bumgarner for a full season should provide an added boost to the Giants.
Having late-season acquisitions like Pat Burrell and Cody Ross, who provided a tremendous lift, for all of 2011 also bodes well for San Francisco.
Yet another player who could give the Giants a little something extra if available the whole year is super utility man Mark DeRosa who missed most of last year to injury.
What's more, the Giants have what is most likely the best clubhouse environment in baseball and among the best in sports, led by rally-thong-wearing Aubrey Huff.
There was frequent talk of how well the players got along, how much they loved each other and it was clear it was not just talk.
Chemistry does not win games, but it was one of the many key ingredients in the Giants' championship run.
Fortunately for the Giants, almost every important player from last year's roster will be back this year.
Their most important move of the offseason was resigning offensive leader Huff to a two-year contract.
The arrival of Miguel Tejada and having Pablo Sandoval in better shape should offset the loss of Edgar Renteria and Juan Uribe.
In 2010, the Giants were tagged with various slogans and catchphrases—"Fear the Beard," "torture," "misfits and outcasts" and so on.
This year, the Giants do not need any of that. Their talent speaks for itself.
The San Francisco Giants are the best team in Major League Baseball.
Key Acquisition: Infielder Tejada.
Key Departures: Infielders Renteria and Uribe.