2014 Goals for All 30 MLB Teams

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistJanuary 3, 2014

2014 Goals for All 30 MLB Teams

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    David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

    As the 2014 year begins, we are just a couple months from the start of spring training. There is still a good deal to be done this offseason, but team rosters have already started to take shape for the upcoming season.

    Every team enters the year with different expectations, looking to accomplish different things on an individual player and team level. Obviously, the ultimate goal for everyone is to win the World Series, but that is not necessarily the only goalor even a realistic goalfor each team.

    So here is a look at three goals for each of the 30 MLB teams in 2014, a year that promises to bring plenty more excitement throughout the league.

Arizona Diamondbacks

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    C Miguel Montero
    C Miguel MonteroChris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

    Return to the postseason.

    After capturing the NL West title in 2011, the Diamondbacks have posted back-to-back 81-81 seasons and have been something of a disappointment.

    They may not be able to unseat the Dodgers for NL West supremacy, but they have the pieces to make a run at a wild-card spot in 2014.

    Give Archie Bradley a chance to shine.

    The Diamondbacks have filled one big need with the acquisition of Mark Trumbo to hit behind Paul Goldschmidt in the lineup, but they are still in need of a frontline starter.

    To this point, they have not found one, but they may have one in-house in Archie Bradley, who was 14-5 with a 1.84 ERA while reaching Double-A as a 20-year-old last year.

    Get a bounce-back season from Miguel Montero.

    After averaging a line of .283/.361/.457 with 14 home runs and 69 RBI from 2009-2012, Miguel Montero signed a five-year, $60 million deal in May of 2012.

    He fell off in a big way this past season, though, hitting just .230/.318/.344, and the Diamondbacks need him to return to form in the middle of their lineup.

Atlanta Braves

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    RP Craig Kimbrel
    RP Craig KimbrelBrett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

    Defend the NL East title.

    The NL East was expected to be an absolute dog fight this past season, as the Braves and Nationals looked like two of the best teams in baseball heading into the season.

    Instead, the Nationals stumbled out of the gates, and the Braves lead in the division swelled to as many as 15.5 games in August.

    Things may not be quite so easy this time around, though, as the Nationals look strong once again. However, the Braves return essentially the same core of players, and another division title will be within their reach.

    Extend one or more core pieces.

    The Braves have a ton of young, homegrown talent, and it may be time for them to think about signing one or more of their key players to extensions.

    Freddie Freeman, Andrelton Simmons, Jason Heyward, Craig Kimbrel, Mike Minor, Kris Medlen and Julio Teheran could all be candidates for a long-term deal.

    Get something out of B.J. Upton and Dan Uggla.

    The Braves lineup featured two of the least productive regulars in all of baseball last season in B.J. Upton (391 AB, .184/.268/.289) and Dan Uggla (448 AB, .179/.309/.362). Those two will make a combined $27.25 million this coming season, and the Braves need to get something out of them.

Baltimore Orioles

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    SP Dylan Bundy
    SP Dylan BundyKim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Earn a wild-card spot.

    Chances are the Orioles won't be in a position to win the AL East title this coming season, as the Red Sox are expected to be tough once again, and the Yankees have had an incredibly busy offseason reloading with high-end veteran talent.

    However, after contending into September last year and making the playoffs in 2012, a run at a wild-card spot is a legitimate goal.

    Get some improvement from the starting rotation.

    The Orioles have managed to contend the past two seasons, despite their shortcomings in the starting rotation. They were a playoff team in 2012, despite a 4.41 ERA (21st in MLB) out of their starters. In 2013, that number climbed to 4.57 (26th in MLB).

    Top prospects Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman could be the answer to those problems alongside Chris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen and Bud Norris, but they'll need to improve one way or another.

    Get Manny Machado back to full health.

    Third baseman Manny Machado was one of the breakout stars of 2013, as the 20-year-old hit .283 with an AL-best 51 doubles while playing phenomenal defense at third base, good for a 6.5 rWAR.

    However, his season ended prematurely with a knee injury on Sept. 24, and he underwent offseason surgery. According to Brittany Ghiroli of MLB.com, he is on pace to be back by Opening Day, and getting him back to 100 percent will certainly be a key to the Orioles' season.

Boston Red Sox

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    SS Xander Bogaerts
    SS Xander BogaertsGreg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

    Return to the World Series.

    The Red Sox completed an impressive worst-to-first turnaround this past season, as they went from a 93-loss team in 2012 to World Series winners in 2013.

    They lost some key pieces this offseason, most notably speedy center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, but anything short of a return to the World Series would certainly constitute a disappointment.

    Keep the starting rotation healthy.

    Starting pitching was a strength for the Red Sox this past season, but they'll be relying heavily upon the aging duo of John Lackey and Jake Peavy, as well as Clay Buchholz, who missed significant time due to injury last season.

    They do have some depth with the likes of Allen Webster, Brandon Workman, Anthony Ranaudo and others who are capable of stepping in. Jon Lester remains the ace of the staff and a reliable arm, but consistent production behind him will be key.

    Be patient with Jackie Bradley Jr. and Xander Bogaerts.

    The departure of Jacoby Ellsbury and Stephen Drew in free agency means the Red Sox will be turning to a pair of rookies to man center field and shortstop in Jackie Bradley Jr. and Xander Bogaerts, respectively.

    Both saw some major league action last season, with Bogaerts stealing at-bats from Will Middlebrooks in the postseason, but both will likely also go through some growing pains this coming season. They will be important to the team's success in the long-term, though, and patience will be key throughout next season.

Chicago Cubs

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    SS Starlin Castro
    SS Starlin CastroRob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

    Get Starlin Castro back on track.

    Through the first three seasons of his career, Starlin Castro hit .297/.336/.425 and racked up 529 hits while making a pair of All-Star rosters. He looked like a building block for the Cubs future.

    However, he fell off drastically this past season and hit just .245/.284/.347. Now, the 23-year-old enters an important season as far as his future is concerned.

    Don't rush top prospects to the majors, but clear the way for them when they're ready.

    The Cubs have quickly built up one of the better farm systems in all of baseball under Theo Epstein and Co., and while they are still thin on pitching, they are loaded with superstar-caliber hitting prospects.

    Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Albert Almora and Jorge Soler all look to have a bright future, and even secondary prospects like Dan Vogelbach and Arismendy Alcantara could make an impact in Chicago.

    The Cubs need to be careful not to rush their young talent, but they also need to be willing to give them an extended look once they prove to be ready.

    Find a staff ace.

    Whether it via a bounce-back season and extension for Jeff Samardzija, a big trade for someone like David Price or their selection with the No. 4 pick in the upcoming draft, the Cubs need a frontline starter to anchor their staff moving forward.

    Guys like Travis Wood and Jake Arrieta have the stuff to be useful rotation pieces, and prospects like Pierce Johnson and C.J. Edwards look to have bright future, but the team still lacks a true anchor for the staff at this point.

Chicago White Sox

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    SP Chris Sale
    SP Chris SaleMike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

    Keep acquiring young talent.

    The White Sox have done a nice job taking the first steps towards rebuilding their roster: trading for the likes of Avisail Garcia, Matt Davidson and Adam Eaton and signing Cuban slugger Jose Abreu.

    It's a nice start, but they will need to keep finding ways to acquire young players with a weak farm system unlikely to help much.

    Make the most of the No. 3 pick in the 2014 draft.

    After a rough 2013 season saw them lose 99 games, the White Sox hold the No. 3 pick in this coming year's draft. This marks the first time they've picked in the top five since they selected Alex Fernandez with the No. 4 pick in 1990, and the highest pick they've had since taking Harold Baines first overall in 1977.

    They'll have a chance to grab an impact player, and they need to make the most of it as they continue to rebuild.

    Find a way to unload John Danks' contract.

    From 2008-2010, left-hander John Danks was quietly one of the better starters in the American League, going a combined 40-31 with a 3.61 ERA and 1.241 WHIP while making at least 32 starts each season. He's made just 58 starts over the past three years, though, going 15-30 with a 4.69 ERA while battling injury.

    The 28-year-old is due $42.75 million over the next three seasons, and if he can stay healthy a year removed from shoulder surgery, the White Sox could have a chance to move his contract and save some money come July. 

Cincinnati Reds

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    SP Mat Latos
    SP Mat LatosCharles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

    Win the NL Central.

    Though they were in third place for most of the season, the Reds were never far behind the Cardinals and Pirates in the NL Central division race. In the end, they settled for the second wild-card spot, losing to the Pirates on the road in the NL Wild Card Game.

    The Cardinals are going to be tough, and the Pirates could be even better than last year as well, but the Reds have all the pieces to be right in the thick of the NL Central race all season long.

    Extend Mat Latos.

    The Reds gave up a ton to acquire Mat Latos prior to the 2012 season, sending three top prospects and right-hander Edinson Volquez to the Padres. The 26-year-old is 28-11 with a 3.32 ERA and 1.186 WHIP in his two years with the Reds, stepping into the role of staff ace with Johnny Cueto on the shelf last year.

    He will hit the free-agent market after the 2015 season, but as he enters the prime of his career, the time may be now for the Reds to look to extend him.

    Get respectable numbers out of Billy Hamilton.

    Losing Shin-Soo Choo is undoubtedly a blow for the Reds, as he contributed 21 home runs and 20 steals out of the leadoff spot last season while also ranking second in the NL with a .423 on-base percentage.

    Speedy prospect Billy Hamilton will replace him, and while he likely won't approach a .400 OBP, he brings perhaps the best speed in all of baseball, and the team will count on him to be a table-setter.

Cleveland Indians

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    SP Trevor Bauer
    SP Trevor BauerEric P. Mull-USA TODAY Sports

    Return to the postseason.

    Expectations were relatively low for the Indians heading into the 2013 season, and many expected them to begin rebuilding before they signed a handful of veteran pieces in the offseason. The decision paid off, though, and the Indians found themselves in the playoffs, thanks to a surprise performance by their starting rotation and some timely hitting.

    Losing Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir in free agency certainly hurts, while their bullpen has some new faces but still looks like a potential weakness. Still, after playing in October last season, they have every right to set their sights on a return trip this coming season.

    Get Trevor Bauer back on track.

    Selected with the No. 3 pick in the 2011 draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks, Trevor Bauer entered the 2012 season as the No. 9 prospect in the league, according to Baseball America. He was 12-2 with a 2.42 ERA and 10.8 K/9 between Double-A and Triple-A that season, but he struggled to a 6.06 ERA in four big league starts.

    He also clashed with team officials over an unwillingness to change his mechanics, and that may have been part of the reason he was shipped to Cleveland last offseason. At 22 and with a sky-high ceiling, he's capable of replacing Jimenez atop the rotation, but he needs to get things back on track.

    Be patient with Francisco Lindor.

    The Indians have one of the top prospects in baseball in shortstop Francisco Lindor, and he held his own over 21 games at the Double-A level as a 19-year-old last season.

    If he continues to hit, he'll be pushing Asdrubal Cabrera in no time. But the team would be wise not to over expose the youngster, as he represents a key piece of their future.

Colorado Rockies

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    SS Troy Tulowitzki
    SS Troy TulowitzkiDustin Bradford/Getty Images

    Finish the season over .500.

    The Rockies have finished with a losing record in each of the past three years, including last-place finishes in the NL West in each of the past two seasons. They started the 2013 season off hot, sitting atop the division at 27-22 on May 25, before eventually falling off.

    With some solid offseason additions, they have a chance to make some noise this season, though it will likely come down to health and pitching once again.

    Keep Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez healthy.

    There may be no better one-two punch in baseball than Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez when both players are at full strength. Injury limited them both once again last season, though, as Tulowitzki played in 126 games and Gonzalez played in just 110.

    If both players can avoid significant injury, it will go a long way in helping to make the Rockies' offense one of the best in the league.

    Have Brett Anderson pitch to his full potential.

    One of the more intriguing acquisitions of the offseason was the Rockies trade for Oakland A's left-hander Brett Anderson. The 25-year-old earned the Opening Day start in Oakland last season but was limited to just 44.2 innings on the year due to an ankle injury.

    He has not made more than 19 starts since his rookie season in 2009, but he has shown ace-caliber stuff at times when he has been healthy. If the Rockies can find a way to keep him on the field for 30 starts, he could go a long way in improving their rotation behind Jhoulys Chacin and Jorge De La Rosa.

Detroit Tigers

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    SP Max Scherzer
    SP Max ScherzerAl Bello/Getty Images

    Return to the World Series.

    The Tigers have reached at least the ALCS in each of the past three seasons, capturing the AL pennant in 2012 before being swept by the San Francisco Giants.

    They've made some aggressive moves this offseason but still look to be among the teams to beat in the American League. Anything short of another trip to the World Series has to be considered a disappointment.

    Extend Max Scherzer.

    Perhaps the biggest reason for the team's decision to move Prince Fielder was so that they could find a way to retain free-agent-to-be Max Scherzer.

    The reigning AL Cy Young winner is represented by Scott Boras, so an in-season extension may be a long-shot. However, locking him up, one way or another, before the calendar turns to 2015 should be among the team's top priorities.

    A three-peat for Miguel Cabrera as AL MVP.

    After winning the Triple Crown in 2012, Miguel Cabrera turned in another phenomenal season in 2013, despite being hobbled for the final month of the season.

    A return to first base should help keep him at full strength and allow him to focus on his offense, and a fourth straight batting title and third consecutive AL MVP award are certainly within reach for the 30-year-old.

Houston Astros

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    C Jason Castro
    C Jason CastroScott Halleran/Getty Images

    Avoid another 100-loss season.

    The Astros have not had a winning season since 2008, and they have lost at least 100 games in each of the past three seasons while they continue to rebuild the team from the ground up.

    Another last-place finish in the AL West seems all but certain, but they have made some nice additions this offseason and should get a boost from some of their top prospects as well.

    Avoiding another 100-loss season would be a small step in the right direction.

    Extend Jason Castro.

    The Astros only have a few players they can build around at the big league level. They've already extended second baseman Jose Altuve, and they look to have a pair of solid arms in Jarred Cosart and Brett Oberholtzer.

    However, there's little question that catcher Jason Castro was the best player on the team in 2013.

    Finally healthy, the former No. 10 pick in the 2008 draft hit .276/.350/.485 with 18 home runs and 56 RBI while earning his first trip to the All-Star Game. Locking the 26-year-old up would give the team one more piece to the long-term puzzle as they continue to move back toward contention.

    Get Jonathan Singleton and George Springer entrenched as everyday starters.

    The Astros have two of the top offensive prospects in baseball in first baseman Jonathan Singleton and center fielder George Springer, and getting both players established as everyday starters in the majors this coming season looks like a legitimate goal.

    Springer still strikes out a lot and could go through some growing pains, but there is no ignoring his .303/.411/.600 line with 37 home runs and 45 steals between Double-A and Triple-A last season.

    Meanwhile, Singleton saw his development sidetracked by a 50-game drug suspension, but with plus plate discipline and plenty of raw power, he should yet be an impact bat in the middle of the lineup. 

Kansas City Royals

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    SP Yordano Ventura
    SP Yordano VenturaChristian Petersen/Getty Images

    Make the playoffs.

    The Royals have not made the playoffs since 1985, and their 86-76 record this past season was their first winning season since 2003.

    A 17-10 month of September kept them in the hunt for a wild-card spot down the stretch, and if they can avoid another slow start offensively, they could be the surprise playoff team of 2014.

    Work Kyle Zimmer and Yordano Ventura into the starting rotation.

    A vastly improved starting rotation was the biggest reason for the Royals' success this past season, as their starters ERA improved from 5.01 (26th) in 2012 to 3.87 (12th) this past season.

    Jason Vargas will replace the departed Ervin Santana in what could be a slight downgrade, but top prospects Yordano Ventura and Kyle Zimmer both figure to make their presence felt before the season is over. Both have frontline stuffthough Ventura may yet wind up as a closerand are capable of pushing the staff over the top in the second half if they continue to develop.

    Finally get a breakout season from Mike Moustakas.

    Mike Moustakas looked to be in for a big year after a terrific spring, but instead, he finished the season with a disappointing .233/.287/.364 line and just 12 home runs in 472 at-bats.

    He seemed to figure some things out in August, when he hit .301/.338/.397, but he dropped off to .195/.239/.333 line in September. He's still just 25, and the potential remains for a .280 BA/30 HR/100 RBI season if he can figure things out.

Los Angeles Angels

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    1B Albert Pujols
    1B Albert PujolsLisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

    Make the playoffs.

    The Angels have been among the biggest disappointments in all of baseball the past two years, finishing third in the AL West and missing the playoffs in both seasons after making the splash signings of Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson heading into 2012 and then Josh Hamilton this past offseason.

    With an improved pitching staff and the potential for a bounce-back season from both Pujols and Hamilton, the playoffs are certainly within reach. At this point, anything short of a trip to the postseason would be a huge disappointment.

    Get 60 home runs and 200 RBI from Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton.

    Albert Pujols will make $23 million this coming season, while Josh Hamilton will earn $17.4 million. With that kind of investment, the Angels certainly expect more than the combined 38 home runs and 143 RBI the duo contributed last season.

    Both players remain more than capable of putting together 30-HR/100-RBI seasons in the middle of the Angels' lineup, and living up to that potential would go a long way toward helping the Angels reach expectations.

    Post a team ERA under 3.75.

    Last season, the league average team ERA was 3.87, with 16 teams putting up a mark lower than that. The Angels were not among those teams, as their 4.24 ERA ranked 24th in the majors and 11th in the American League.

    The additions of Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs to the rotation, Joe Smith to the bullpen and the intriguing minor league free-agent signing of Mark Mulder should give them a chance to improve as a staff.

    If they can just get their ERA below league average, they have the offensive weapons to make a run.

Los Angeles Dodgers

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    SP Clayton Kershaw
    SP Clayton KershawScott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

    Reach the World Series.

    The Dodgers looked be on their way to a disappointing season early on, but they caught fire at the end of June and wound up running away with the NL West title.After knocking off the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS, they were ousted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS.

    With the money they have invested in their team and the talent they have on their roster, anything short of a World Series appearance in 2014 is a disappointment at this point.

    Extend Clayton Kershaw.

    Another dominant season cemented left-hander Clayton Kershaw as the best pitcher in the game today, as he went 16-9 with a 1.83 ERA and 0.915 WHIP to win his third straight ERA title and second Cy Young in three seasons.

    The 25-year-old is set to hit free agency at the end of the 2014 season, and it seems unlikely the free-spending Dodgers will let him get away. He may very well become the first $300 million man in baseball history, and at this point, it's hard to argue with that asking price given what he has already accomplished and the fact that he is just entering the prime of his career.

    Keep Matt Kemp healthy.

    Not too long ago2011 to be exactmany considered Matt Kemp to be the best all-around hitter in the game. Though he lost out to Milwaukee's Ryan Braun for NL MVP honors that season, he hit .324/.399/.586 with 39 home runs and 40 steals.

    Injuries have limited him to just 179 games the past two seasons, though, including just 73 this past season. Getting him back to MVP form would give the Dodgers one more weapon in their lineup and would help make the $128 million he is due over the next six years easier to swallow.

Miami Marlins

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    RF Giancarlo Stanton
    RF Giancarlo StantonSteve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

    Avoid serious injury to the starting rotation.

    As bad as the Marlins were in 2013, their young starting rotation gave plenty of reason for optimism, and it was not just 21-year-old phenom Jose Fernandez who pitched well.

    The rotation, as a whole, posted a 3.87 ERA, good for eighth in the NL and 13th in the MLB. They did so with the likes of 22-year-old Jacob Turner (20 GS, 3.74 ERA) and 23-year-olds Nathan Eovaldi (18 GS, 3.39 ERA) and Henderson Alvarez (17 GS, 3.59 ERA). Keeping that group healthy will be key for the Marlins moving forward.

    Extend Giancarlo Stanton.

    The Marlins have turned away suitors for Giancarlo Stanton time and again, and reaching an extension with the 24-year-old slugger could put the rumors to bed once and for all.

    He's not eligible for free agency until after the 2016 season, but buying out his arbitration yearsand perhaps a year or two beyond thatwould lock up one of the best young hitters in the game.

    Give Christian Yelich 500-plus at-bats.

    Top prospect Christian Yelich made his big league debut last season as a 21-year-old, and he more than held his own over 240 at-bats, hitting .288/.370/.396 with 12 doubles and four home runs.

    He has the tools to be a superstar, and while he could deal with some ups and downs in his first full season, penciling him in everyday in center field will help his development.

Milwaukee Brewers

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    SP Tyler Thornburg
    SP Tyler ThornburgBenny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

    Post a winning record.

    A late-season push in 2012 saw the Brewers finish 83-79, and they entered the 2013 season with modest expectations to at least stay relevant in the NL Central. Instead, they found themselves battling the Cubs to avoid a last place finish, going 74-88 to finish fourth in the division.

    Getting back over .500 seems like a realistic goal in a division that could again have three playoff teams.

    Stay healthy offensively.

    After leading the NL in scoring during the 2012 season, the Brewers fell off significantly this past year with Aramis Ramirez and Corey Hart both missing significant time and Ryan Braun suspended.

    With the emergence of Carlos Gomez and Jean Segura as impact bats, as well as the return of Braun, they have the pieces to once again rank among the most potent offensive attacks in the NL if they can stay healthy.

    Get breakout seasons from Wily Peralta and Tyler Thornburg.

    The starting rotation will again be anchored by veterans Yovani Gallardo and Kyle Lohse, with Marco Estrada likely to be the No. 3 starter once again after another solid season in 2013.

    The X-factors will be Wily Peralta (11-15, 4.37 ERA) and Tyler Thornburg (3-1, 2.03 ERA), as both are capable of turning in a breakout performance in what will be their sophomore campaigns. 

Minnesota Twins

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    3B Miguel Sano
    3B Miguel SanoKim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Avoid a last-place finish in the AL Central.

    The AL Central was a tight three-team race last season, with the Minnesota Twins (66-96) and Chicago White Sox (63-99) being out of it early.

    Both of those teams have made significant additions this offseason, though they will likely not be enough to climb into contention, so avoiding a last-place finish will be a realistic goal for the Twins from a record standpoint.

    Trim a full run off their starters' ERA.

    The Twins ranked dead last in starting pitcher ERA this past season by a wide margin, as their 5.26 mark was a full 0.45 worse than the 29th-place Toronto Blue Jays.

    They have taken steps to improve that this offseason by signing free agents Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes while also bringing back Mike Pelfrey.

    They may not be done either, as they have been linked to Bronson Arroyo all offseason and were recently reported to be "kicking the tires" on Matt Garza, according to Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN.

    Be patient with Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton.

    The Twins' farm system is one of the best in baseball, and it boasts two potential superstars in outfielder Byron Buxton and third baseman Miguel Sano. The 20-year-old Buxton split last season between Single-A and High-A, while 20-year-old Sano was a step ahead with half seasons at High-A and Double-A.

    Both players could make a case for a call-up to Minnesota by mid-season, but with the Twins unlikely to be in a position to contend, there is no reason to start their arbitration clocks.

    Another year in the minors for both, with perhaps a September call-up, seems like the best course of action for a Twins organization that has a bright future ahead of it.

New York Mets

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    SP Matt Harvey
    SP Matt HarveyBrad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

    Finish third in the NL East; improve upon 2013 record.

    The Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals appear ready to fight it out for NL East supremacy once again this coming season, and while the Mets may not be able to contend with either of them, they have improved this offseason.

    A 74-88 record netted them a third-place finish in the division last season, and finishing third once again while improving upon that record seems like a realistic expectation for the Mets this coming season.

    Figure out a long-term answer at shortstop.

    The shortstop position was an absolute mess for the Mets last season, with a group led by Omar Quintanilla and Ruben Tejada hitting a combined .215/.285/.276 with all of three home runs.

    Whether it is signing Stephen Drew, pulling off a trade or getting Tejada back on track, the Mets need to figure out the shortstop position for 2014 and beyond.

    Give Rafael Montero and Noah Syndergaard a long look in the second half.

    When Matt Harvey presumably returns in 2015, the Mets could potentially boast one of the best starting rotations in all of baseball.

    Zack Wheeler, Dillon Gee and Jon Niese are all good young arms, and they will likely be joined at some point in 2014 by top prospects Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero.

    Giving those two guys enough of a look in the second half to determine how the rotation should stack up in 2015 will be important, as the Mets could have a good problem on their hands once Harvey returns.

New York Yankees

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    SP CC Sabathia
    SP CC SabathiaBrad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

    Win the AL East.

    The Yankees narrowly missed the postseason in 2013 with a patchwork lineup and wildly inconsistent starting rotation.

    With the additions they have made this offseason, and the return of Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter, their offense should be vastly improved. Meanwhile, the rotation will likely see at least one more piece added before the offseason is over, and Michael Pineda could give them a boost as well.

    Expect them to push the rival Boston Red Sox for the AL East title this coming season.

    Stay healthy.

    This one should almost go without saying after last season, as Mark Teixeira (15 G), Derek Jeter (17 G), Alex Rodriguez (44 G) and Curtis Granderson (61 G) all missed significant time in 2012, and a number of other players hit the DL as well throughout the season. 

    They remain one of the older teams in baseball, so they'll again be as susceptible to injuries as anyone, but they have to keep their superstar core on the field if they hope to turn things around.

    Get CC Sabathia back on track.

    CC Sabathia had been a rock at the top of the Yankees' rotation since joining the team in 2009, going a combined 74-29 with a 3.22 ERA while averaging 226 innings per season in his first four years in New York.

    He fell off significantly this past season, though, going just 14-13 with a 4.78 ERA, the worst ERA of his 13-year big league career. Perhaps more troubling than anything is the fact that his fastball velocity has dropped from 93.8 to 92.3 to 91.1 over the past three years, according to FanGraphs.

    It will be an important season for the big left-hander, as he may need to reinvent himself here in the second half of his career.

Oakland Athletics

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    3B Josh Donaldson
    3B Josh DonaldsonKelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

    Win a third straight AL West title, advance past the ALDS.

    The A's were one of the bigger surprises of 2012, but they didn't sneak up on anyone this past season when they claimed a second straight AL West title.

    The Texas Rangers have made some big additions this offseason, while the Los Angeles Angels again look tough on paper. Even the Seattle Mariners and Houston Astros have undoubtedly gotten better this winter and will likely make things harder on the A's, if nothing else.

    Still, another division title and a trip beyond the ALDSwhere they have been ousted in each of the past two seasonsis well within reach.

    Get a repeat performance from Josh Donaldson.

    As far as out-of-nowhere performances go, there may have been no bigger surprise in 2013 than A's third baseman Josh Donaldson. The 27-year-old hit .301/.384/.499 with 24 home runs and 93 RBI to finish fourth in AL MVP voting just a year after losing his starting job and being demoted to the minors for much of the season.

    He's likely in for at least a bit of regression, but a similar season from him would be huge for the Oakland offense.

    Don't miss a beat in the rotation without Bartolo Colon.

    Generally, losing a guy who went 18-6 with a 2.65 ERA atop the rotation the previous season would be a dagger to a team, but the A's have the arms to continue on without really missing Bartolo Colon, and they were wise to let someone else pay for his age-41 and age-42 seasons.

    Scott Kazmir was signed to replace Colon, with Jarrod Parker, Sonny Gray, A.J. Griffin, Daniel Straily, Tommy Milone and Drew Pomeranz all vying for rotation spots as well. There is enough talent here for the rotation to be as good, if not better, than last year, given the continued development of their young guys.

Philadelphia Phillies

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    1B Ryan Howard
    1B Ryan HowardHoward Smith-USA TODAY Sports

    Realize it's time to rebuild.

    There may be no team in baseball right now that needs to start rebuilding more than the Phillies. That was apparently not the way the front office saw things, though, as they added veterans Marlon Byrd and Roberto Hernandez and re-signed Carlos Ruiz.

    Not too long ago, they were a force in the National League, but their window to contend for a title has closed, and they need to start looking for ways to get younger and cheaper.

    Keep Ryan Howard healthy.

    The five-year, $125 million extension the Phillies handed Ryan Howard back in 2010 kicked in at the start of the 2012 season. So far, $40 million has gotten the team a .244/.307/.445 line and 151 games played in two years.

    Howard is not going anywhere, so keeping him on the field and getting something out of the $25 million he makes this coming season would be nice. 

    Find a way to get Maikel Franco regular at-bats as soon as he's ready.

    The Phillies farm system is relatively thin, but they have at least one impact bat in Maikel Franco, as the 21-year-old turned in a breakout season this past year.

    Splitting the season between High-A and Double-A, he hit .320/.356/.569 with 31 home runs and 103 RBI. He's currently blocked by Cody Asche at third base, and Asche himself made his big league debut in 2013, but the team needs to clear a path for Franco as soon as he proves himself ready for the majors. 

Pittsburgh Pirates

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    SP Francisco Liriano
    SP Francisco LirianoCharles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

    Return to the playoffs.

    The Pirates reached the postseason for the first time since 1992 this past year, taking the Cardinals to five games in the NLDS. Their return to the playoffs was one of the better stories of 2013, and they have the young pieces and deep farm system to put together a sustained run of success moving forward.

    With full seasons from Gerrit Cole and Charlie Morton in the rotation and the continued development of some of their young hitters, they could actually be better in 2014.

    Get impact debuts from Gregory Polanco and Jameson Taillon.

    The 2013 season saw a pair of top prospects in Starling Marte and Gerrit Cole step into key roles for the Pirates and thrive, and there could very well be two more homegrown talents who arrive in Pittsburgh with a bang this coming season.

    Outfielder Gregory Polanco opened last season in High-A and finished in Triple-A, then capped-off the year by winning the Dominican Winter League MVP. He will likely push Jose Tabata for the right field job sooner rather than later this coming season, and he has plus on-base skills and speed.

    Meanwhile, right-hander Jameson Taillon split last season between Double-A and Triple-A, and he should be in the Pirates' rotation by midseason, as he figures to join Cole atop the staff long-term.

    Keep Francisco Liriano healthy.

    Signed to a one-year, $1 million deal (plus incentives) last offseason, Francisco Liriano proved to be the steal of the winter, as he emerged as the ace of the Pirates' staff and one of the best pitchers in all of baseball.

    He's had a roller coaster ride of a career, and has never put together back-to-back dominant seasons, but with A.J. Burnett gone, the team will need him to anchor the staff once again.

San Diego Padres

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    SP Andrew Cashner
    SP Andrew CashnerHoward Smith-USA TODAY Sports

    Post a winning record.

    The Padres have gone 76-86 in each of the past two seasons, good for third place in the NL West this past year, but they appear to be in a position to take a step forward in 2014.

    With what looks to be an improved starting rotation, a solid bullpen and a developing offense they could be the surprise team of 2014. At the very least, a run at a winning record seems doable.

    Another step forward for Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross.

    The Padres opened last season with Edinson Volquez and Clayton Richard anchoring a subpar starting rotation, and those two wound up being worse than anyone. This year, they look to be in much better shape from a rotation standpoint, thanks to the emergence of Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross last season.

    Cashner was 10-9 with a 3.09 ERA in 31 games (25 starts), while Ross went 3-8 with a 3.17 ERA in 16 games (eight starts). Those two, along with Eric Stults (11-13, 3.93 ERA) and bounce-back candidates Ian Kennedy and Josh Johnson, have the potential to form be a terrific staff.

    Get a bounce-back season from Chase Headley.

    After a phenomenal second half in 2012, the Padres opted against trading Chase Headley last offseason, but they did not come to terms on an extension with him either.

    A disappointing 2013 that saw him hit .250/.347/.400 with just 13 home runs left his value significantly diminished this offseason, and the team has decided to hold onto him once again.

    A free agent at the end of the season, chances are he is moved at the trade deadline. If he can return to his 2012 form, or close to it, it would certainly make for a better return for the Padres in any trade.

San Francisco Giants

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    SP Matt Cain
    SP Matt CainSteve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

    Return to the playoffs.

    After winning two World Series titles in three years, and with essentially the same team in place from 2012, the Giants entered the 2013 season with every intention of making a run at defending their title. Instead, their pitching staff faltered, and their subpar offensive attack was unable to pick up the slack.

    Now, they've added Tim Hudson and Michael Morse to the mix, as they look to return to the postseason. However, it will all depend on whether or not their pitching can return to its previous form.

    A return to ace status for Matt Cain.

    On the surface, Matt Cain did not have an awful 2013 season, going 8-10 with a 4.00 ERA over 30 starts. However, after going 16-5 with a 2.79 ERA in 2012 and signing a six-year, $127.5 million extension, much more was expected from the staff ace. 

    He was 3-4 with a 2.36 ERA in 11 starts after the All-Star break, so there's no reason to think he can't get back on track atop the Giants' rotation in 2014.

    Find a diamond in the rough in Michael Morse.

    A late-bloomer, Michael Morse broke out in a big way as a 29-year-old in 2011, hitting .303/.360/.550 with 31 home runs and 95 RBI for the Nationals. He was solid again in 2012, though injuries limited him to 102 games, and the Nationals dealt him to the Mariners last offseason after re-signing Adam LaRoche.

    The 2013 season was nothing short of a disaster for Morse, as he hit .215/.270/.381 with 13 home runs in 312 at-bats. That said, right quad issues sidelined him for much of the summer, and he also had surgery to remove a bone spur from his left wrist, so it's fair to say that he was not at full strength.

    The Giants took a chance on him with a one-year, $6 million deal this offseason, and he could wind up being a steal.

Seattle Mariners

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    2B Robinson Cano
    2B Robinson CanoJoe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

    Post a winning record.

    The Mariners have not had a winning season since going 85-77 in 2009, and they have not won 90 games since 2003. It's been a busy offseason for them, with the signings of Robinson Cano and Corey Hart, among other acquisitions.

    Still, they look to be a notch or two below the Texas Rangers and Oakland A's in the AL West at this point. They have a lot of young talent that should only get better, and they could be serious contenders in a year or two, but for now, a winning record would be a start.

    Robinson Cano avoids following in the footsteps of Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton.

    Each offseason there is a clear No. 1 bat on the free-agent market, and that was undoubtedly Robinson Cano this offseason, as he inked a massive 10-year, $240 million deal to join the Mariners.

    Things have not gone well for the top free-agent hitter the past two years, as Albert Pujols got off to a slow start with the Angels before turning things around, and Josh Hamilton had a terrible first year with the Angels.

    Cano moves to a far more pitcher friendly home park in Safeco Field, but he will need to avoid a similar offensive let down.

    Get a big first full season from Taijuan Walker.

    Mariners fans got a glimpse of the future in 2013, as top prospect Taijuan Walker made three starts down the stretch, going 1-0 with a 3.60 ERA and 1.00 WHIP in 15 innings of work.

    Now, the 21-year-old is expected to spend a full season in the rotation, where he has the potential to give the team another ace alongside Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma right out of the gate.

St. Louis Cardinals

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    SP Michael Wacha
    SP Michael WachaGreg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

    Return to the World Series.

    The Cardinals look like the team to beat in the National League as things stand right now.

    They shored up a glaring hole at shortstop by signing Jhonny Peralta, and they should be able to offset the loss of Carlos Beltran by moving Allen Craig to right field and inserting Matt Adams into the everyday lineup. 

    Their pitching should once again be among the best in the business, and their offense looks solid from top to bottom. Anything short of a return trip to the World Series will be disappointing.

    Michael Wacha lives up to the hype.

    After making just 15 appearances (nine starts) during the regular season, Michael Wacha emerged as a star for the Cardinals in the playoffs.The 22-year-old won NLCS MVP honors after out-dueling Clayton Kershaw twice, and he now enters his first full season in the majors.

    Expectations will be sky-high for him as the team's No. 2 starter, but he has the talent to back up the hype.

    Oscar Taveras ends 2014 as an everyday starter.

    Part of the reason the Cardinals opted against re-signing Carlos Beltran was the presence of top prospect Oscar Taveras.

    The team acquired Peter Bourjos from the Angels this offseason, and he'll platoon with Jon Jay in center field to open the season, but it may not be long before Taveras is pushing them both for the everyday center field job.

    The 21-year-old was limited to just 47 games last season due to an ankle injury, but he hit .321/.380/.572 in Double-A in 2012, as he has all the tools to be a star right away for the Cardinals.

Tampa Bay Rays

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    SP David Price
    SP David PriceBob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

    Return to the playoffs.

    Despite having one of the smallest payrolls in the league, the Rays have found ways to win, time and again, making the playoffs four times in the past six years.

    They have always done a great job of bargain-hunting on the free-agent market and developing their own talent, and with David Price likely to be traded, they'll need to overcome yet another obstacle.

    At this point, they are still expected to contend for a playoff spot, though, as they simply know how to win games.

    Find the right package for David Price.

    The Rays will almost certainly trade ace David Price at some point between now and the end of the 2014 season, and they likely would have already had they found the right return package. Pitchers of his caliber don't hit the trade block very often, so the price is understandably high.

    This is the type of trade that will have a lasting impact on the Rays' organization, be it good or bad, and finding the right trade package for Price may be the most important thing the Rays do in 2014.

    Get a bounce-back season from Heath Bell at closer.

    With Fernando Rodney off to greener pastures in free agency, the Rays appear ready to take a chance on Heath Bell as their closer in 2014 after acquiring him from the Diamondbacks in a three-team trade. 

    After three straight 40-save seasons in San Diego, he's saved just 34 games the past two seasons combined with a 4.59 ERA. That said, the Rays have a knack for finding bargain closers, from Troy Percival to Kyle Farnsworth to Rodney, so perhaps they'll hit on another bargain here.

Texas Rangers

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    1B Prince Fielder
    1B Prince FielderRonald Martinez/Getty Images

    Return to the World Series.

    The Rangers won back-to-back AL pennants in 2010 and 2011, but were ousted in the Wild Card round in 2012 before missing the playoffs altogether this past season thanks to a September collapse.

    With a restocked offensive attack and a healthy pitching staff, they again look like one of the best teams in the American League, and they'll be eyeing a return to the Fall Classic as a result.

    Lead the AL in runs scored.

    After leading the AL in runs scored in 2012, the Rangers lost Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli and Michael Young last offseason and saw their offense slip to seventh in the AL in runs scored this past season.

    However, with the August acquisition of Alex Rios and the offseason additions of Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo, they look to be as dangerous offensively as any team in the AL once again. A return to the No. 1 spot in runs scored seems like something to set their sights on at the plate.

    Stay healthy in the starting rotation.

    A total of 11 different pitchers started at least one game for the Rangers in 2013, and only two starters (Yu Darvish and Derek Holland) made more than 20 starts on the year.

    Martin Perez, Matt Harrison and Alexi Ogando are expected to fill out the staff behind them this coming season, and those three will need to stay healthy, as the team is relatively thin behind them. Nick Tepesch and perhaps Colby Lewis could be options, but avoiding injuries will be key for the pitching staff.

Toronto Blue Jays

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    3B Brett Lawrie
    3B Brett LawrieAndy King/Getty Images

    Make the playoffs.

    Despite a wildly disappointing 2013 season that saw the Blue Jays improve by just one win after a bevy of offseason additions, the team enters 2014 with postseason aspirations once againand why not?

    Aside from Josh Johnson, all the pieces that made them a sexy pick to win the AL East last year return, their starting rotation can't be worse than it was in 2013, and their offense remains among the best in baseball. So, a trip to the playoffs remains the goal in Toronto.

    Find five reliable starters.

    R.A. Dickey (14-13, 4.21 ERA), Mark Buehrle (12-10, 4.15 ERA) and Esmil Rogers (5-9, 4.77 ERA) were the only three pitchers on the Blue Jays roster to throw at least 100 innings last season, as the team used a whopping 31 different pitchers.

    Finding three more reliable arms to fill out the rotation behind Dickey and Buehrle is the team's No. 1 priority if they hope to reach the playoffs. A healthy Brandon Morrow and J.A. Happ could both step up, as could former top prospect Kyle Drabek in his return from Tommy John surgery.

    Finally get a breakout season from Brett Lawrie.

    Ever since he hit .293/.373/.580 over 150 at-bats as a 21-year-old rookie in 2011, expectations have been sky-high for third baseman Brett Lawrie, as he has been viewed as future superstar.

    However, injuries have curtailed him the past two seasons, and he's hit just .265/.320/.401 with 22 home runs and 94 RBI in 895 at-bats. He's still only 23, and the potential is still there, so he'll be a breakout candidate once again in 2014.

Washington Nationals

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    LF Bryce Harper
    LF Bryce HarperJoe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

    Win the NL East.

    A horrible start to the season offensively saw the Nationals just one game over .500 at the All-Star break this past year. A strong finish to the season made things interesting, but in the end, they wound up missing the playoffs a year after posting the best record in baseball.

    They will have to battle a good Braves team in the NL East, but as long as they avoid a similar slow start and aren't hit by injuries, they look to have as good a team as any in baseball, on paper, and should have a chance to take the NL East.

    Keep Bryce Harper healthy.

    Bryce Harper looked every bit the part of a superstar in the making in 2013, hitting .287/.386/.587 with 12 home runs through May 26. However, a knee injury cost him all of June, and he wound up playing just 118 games in 2013.

    His energy makes him the clear catalyst of the Nationals offense, and keeping him healthy will be key.

    Lead the MLB in starting pitcher ERA.

    The Nationals already boasted one of the best rotations in baseball with Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann. Then they added Doug Fister in a trade with the Detroit Tigers this offseason, and now their rotation is absolutely stacked.

    They have three solid options to fill the No. 5 spot in Ross Detwiler, Taylor Jordan and Tanner Roark, and as long as they avoid injuries, they could have the best staff in baseball. Their 3.60 starting pitcher ERA ranked seventh in the MLB last season, with the Dodgers 3.13 mark taking the top spot.

    Expect the Nationals to make a run at the No. 1 spot in 2014.