How All 30 MLB Teams Rank as Potential Free-Agent Destinations

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistNovember 9, 2015

How All 30 MLB Teams Rank as Potential Free-Agent Destinations

0 of 30

    David Banks/Getty Images

    A number of different factors go into determining how attractive each team is to free agents, from the city and its fans to the short- and long-term outlook of the team. What follows is a ranking of all 30 MLB teams to decide which one is the best free-agent destination.

    Now, no free agent is of interest to all 30 teams, and every team can't offer up the same amount of money to each player. However, for the sake of this article, we are assuming that Player X has received the same offer from all 30 teams and has to decide which is the best based on the following factors:

    • Fanbase (1-5): Looking at recent attendance numbers, and simply the reputation of each fanbase, each team received a 1-5 score for its fans.
    • Payroll Situation (1-5): Deciding where to sign is not always about how much money a team can give you. It's also about how much more money the team has to work with when it comes to building a legitimate contender. Each team received a 1-5 score based on its current and future payroll outlook.
    • 2016 Outlook (1-10): Looking strictly at the 2015 season, each team got a score from 1-10 on its chances of winning this coming year.
    • Long-Term Outlook (1-10): Looking ahead at each team's farm system, core of big league talent and future payroll freedom, each team received a score from 1-10 on its long-term chances of success.
    • Tiebreaker: If two or more teams graded out the same, the tiebreakers were their scores in long-term outlook, followed by 2016 outlook, followed by payroll situation and finally fanbase.

    With those four areas in mind, here is a look at which MLB team is the best free-agent destination.

30. Milwaukee Brewers (2015 Rank: 22)

1 of 30

    SP Taylor Jungmann
    SP Taylor JungmannBenny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
    FanbasePayroll Situation2016 OutlookLong-Term OutlookTotal

    Team Overview

    The Milwaukee Brewers nearly won the NL Central title in 2014 before a late-season collapse wound up costing them a playoff spot altogether.

    Fast-forward to 2015 and they were a 94-loss team, and following the deadline trade of Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers this appears to be a team headed for a rebuilding period.

    More pieces could be moved this offseason, most notably Jonathan Lucroy, as the team looks to get younger and cheaper in the years to come.

    In a loaded NL Central, they'll need to rebuild the right way if they want to climb back into contention. The farm system was improved in the Gomez trade, but it's still on the thin side, so this looks like a team with a good deal of work to do.

29. Chicago White Sox (2015 Rank: 24)

2 of 30

    SP Chris Sale
    SP Chris SaleBruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports
    FanbasePayroll Situation2016 OutlookLong-Term OutlookTotal

    Team Overview

    The White Sox were in fact an attractive free-agent destination last year, at least to the likes of Melky Cabrera, David Robertson, Adam LaRoche, Zach Duke and Emilio Bonifacio.

    However, those additions, as well as the trade for Jeff Samardzija, did not lead to the significant level of improvement that many expected.

    The White Sox remain a distant second in their own city and continue to struggled to fill U.S. Cellular Field, so while they may be playing in the large market of Chicago, they're really not getting the big-market benefits.

    There is a solid core in place with Chris Sale, Carlos Rodon, Jose Quintana, Jose Abreu, Avisail Garcia and Adam Eaton, but the farm system is thin and they are still a number of pieces away from being a real threat.

28. Philadelphia Phillies (2015 Rank: 30)

3 of 30

    SP Aaron Nola
    SP Aaron NolaBill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
    FanbasePayroll Situation2016 OutlookLong-Term OutlookTotal

    Team Overview

    The rebuilding efforts are officially underway for the Philadelphia Phillies, as the team has traded off the likes of Cole Hamels, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Ben Revere, Jonathan Papelbon, Antonio Bastardo and Marlon Byrd in the past calendar year.

    What's left is a lot of question marks about who fills out the roster in 2016, a ton of payroll space and a vastly improved farm system thanks in large part to the haul that Hamels brought when he was traded to the Texas Rangers.

    The next couple seasons figure to be about in-house talent assessment and development, so don't expect them to be huge players in the free-agent market.

    However, once they do decide to spend again, they'll be in a similar position to last year's Houston Astros with a rock-bottom payroll and a good young core in place.

27. Colorado Rockies (2015 Rank: 29)

4 of 30

    3B Nolan Arenado
    3B Nolan ArenadoCharles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
    FanbasePayroll Situation2016 OutlookLong-Term OutlookTotal

    Team Overview

    To put it simply, the Colorado Rockies have essentially been spinning their tires as an organization since the team last reached the playoffs in 2009.

    They are working on a run of five consecutive losing seasons and have finished in the NL West cellar three of the past four years.

    Coors Field will never be an attractive destination for free-agent pitchers, while offensive players run the risk of being labeled a result of their surroundings if they sign there and suddenly put up huge numbers.

    The Rockies do have one of the deeper and more talented farm systems in baseball, and further development from former top prospects Jon Gray and Eddie Butler would go a long way in improving the rotation, but for now it's still hard to call them an attractive destination.

26. Miami Marlins (2015 Rank: 10)

5 of 30

    RF Giancarlo Stanton
    RF Giancarlo StantonRobert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports
    FanbasePayroll Situation2016 OutlookLong-Term OutlookTotal

    Team Overview

    The Miami Marlins opened their new stadium with a spending spree back in 2012, signing Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell in an effort to put a winner on the field immediately.

    That plan flopped, and they've been trying to build things up the right way in the years since, relying on homegrown talent and trade acquisitions more than the free-agent market.

    Last offseason the team locked up outfielders Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich, and their top priority this offseason appears to be doing the same with the middle-infield duo of Dee Gordon and Adeiny Hechavarria.

    They have said time and again that they're committed to building a winner around Stanton after he signed a record extension, but for now the team is still on the fringe of having the necessary pieces to contend both short-term and long-term.

25. Oakland Athletics (2015 Rank: 14)

6 of 30

    SP Sonny Gray
    SP Sonny GrayBob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports
    FanbasePayroll Situation2016 OutlookLong-Term OutlookTotal

    Team Overview

    The Oakland Athletics remain one of the most budget-conscious teams in all of baseball, and they have seen a staggering amount of roster turnover as a result.

    Trading off guys like Josh Donaldson and then seeing the team nose-dive to the bottom of the standings makes it hard to keep the fanbase engaged on a year-in and year-out basis, but they did have some terrific crowds when the team was contending.

    For now, this does not look like a team that is ever going to be in the mix to sign a huge free agent, and after a 94-loss season they clearly have some work to do to get back to contending.

    Bargain hunting is the name of the game for the A's, so if you're a low-level free agent looking for a chance they may be an attractive destination. For the marquee guys, though, the money and in-house talent level just isn't there right now.

24. Tampa Bay Rays (2015 Rank: 26)

7 of 30

    SP Chris Archer
    SP Chris ArcherJoe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
    FanbasePayroll Situation2016 OutlookLong-Term OutlookTotal

    Team Overview

    The Tampa Bay Rays have an awful ballpark that they struggle to fill on a daily basis, and they have to work around one of the smallest payrolls in all of baseball that has resulted in a number of star players departing in free agency or trades over the years.

    However, despite all of that, this is a team that has won at least 80 games in six of the past seven seasons and made the playoffs four times during that span.

    They have one of the best starting rotations in baseball, led by the young trio of Chris Archer (27), Jake Odorizzi (25) and Drew Smyly (26), and it's not out of the realm of possibility to think they could contend in 2016.

    However, money is always going to be an issue for the Rays until they build themselves a new stadium or leave the Tampa area altogether. There are certainly less attractive destinations, though.

23. Cincinnati Reds (2015 Rank: 19)

8 of 30

    1B Joey Votto
    1B Joey VottoJoe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
    FanbasePayroll Situation2016 OutlookLong-Term OutlookTotal

    Team Overview

    The Cincinnati Reds find themselves at a crossroads this offseason.

    They fell to the back of the pack in the NL Central this past season and have traded off Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, Mat Latos and Alfredo Simon in the past calendar year ahead of all four starting pitchers reaching free agency.

    They'll almost certainly do the same this winter with closer Aroldis Chapman prior to what will be his last year of team control, but how far beyond that they opt to rework the roster remains something of a mystery.

    They have a solid crop of young starting pitchers and a some good high-end talent in the farm system, but it's still tough to see this team contending in the near future. If they do choose to go full rebuild and also unload guys like Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce, they could find themselves even further down this list.

22. Atlanta Braves (2015 Rank: 23)

9 of 30

    1B Freddie Freeman
    1B Freddie FreemanDale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
    FanbasePayroll Situation2016 OutlookLong-Term OutlookTotal

    Team Overview

    The Atlanta Braves aggressively overturned the roster last offseason when they traded off Justin Upton, Jason Heyward, Craig Kimbrel and Evan Gattis.

    As a result they have a ton of payroll space and a deep farm system, but they also have some significant work to do before they are again in a position to contend.

    The X-factor to their future outlook is the new stadium that is set to open following the 2016 season, as that could motivate the team to expedite their rebuilding plans in an effort to put a competitive team on the field in Year 1.

    There are good core pieces in place in Freddie Freeman, Shelby Miller and Julio Teheran, and the combination of payroll space and terrific minor league depth makes the future bright. But the short-term outlook is still enough to keep them near the bottom of these rankings.

21. Detroit Tigers (2015 Rank: 6)

10 of 30

    RF J.D. Martinez
    RF J.D. MartinezRick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
    FanbasePayroll Situation2016 OutlookLong-Term OutlookTotal

    Team Overview

    Working on a run of four consecutive AL Central division titles, the Detroit Tigers stumbled badly in 2015 and finished the year in last place at 74-87.

    David Price, Yoenis Cespedes and Joakim Soria were traded at the deadline, but that doesn't necessarily mean this team is set to start rebuilding, as all three players were upcoming free agents and the team desperately needed to add talent to a thin farm system.

    In fact, with $104.8 million tied up in the likes of Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander, Victor Martinez, Ian Kinsler and Anibal Sanchez this upcoming season, the team will almost certainly be looking to contend in 2016.

    A still-thin farm system and the huge money committed at the back end of the Cabrera and Verlander deals hurts the long-term outlook, but a 6/10 grade for the 2016 outlook could certainly change with a few big pieces added to the roster.

20. San Diego Padres (2015 Rank: 27)

11 of 30

    SP Tyson Ross
    SP Tyson RossJake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
    FanbasePayroll Situation2016 OutlookLong-Term OutlookTotal

    Team Overview

    The San Diego Padres went all-in last offseason under new general manager A.J. Preller, and the result was actually three less wins than the previous season as the team finished a disappointing 74-88.

    The bulk of the team's additions came on the trade market, with Justin Upton, Craig Kimbrel, Matt Kemp, Wil Myers and Derek Norris all acquired via trade, and as a result the farm system has been somewhat tapped out.

    That hurts the team's long-term outlook, and there is also clear work to be done in the short-term, as they could be a busy team this winter once again.

    Petco Park will always be an attractive destination for pitchers, and the beautiful weather in San Diego doesn't hurt their case any, but at this point the Padres still look like a second-tier destination for free agents.

19. Baltimore Orioles (2015 Rank: 15)

12 of 30

    CF Adam Jones
    CF Adam JonesTommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
    FanbasePayroll Situation2016 OutlookLong-Term OutlookTotal

    Team Overview

    The Baltimore Orioles ran away with the AL East title in 2014 with a 96-66 record, but they were a .500 team this past season and they're set to potentially lose a ton of talent in free agency.

    Chris Davis, Wei-Yin Chen, Matt Wieters, Darren O'Day, Gerardo Parra and Steve Pearce will all be on the open market this winter, and it's not out of the question to think all six players could wind up signing elsewhere.

    As a whole, the Orioles generally don't spend a ton in free agency, as their recent success has been due in large part to homegrown talent and getting good value out of bargain additions.

    Camden Yards is definitely a chip in their favor, but in terms of both the short-term and long-term outlook of the team there is enough of a question mark to keep them relatively low in these rankings.

    Note: The Orioles and Padres tied across the board, so the Orioles got the nod for the higher spot due to having the better record in 2015.

18. Seattle Mariners (2015 Rank: 16)

13 of 30

    SP Felix Hernandez
    SP Felix HernandezJoe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
    FanbasePayroll Situation2016 OutlookLong-Term OutlookTotal

    Team Overview

    The Seattle Mariners have proven to be significant players on the free-agent market in recent years, signing Robinson Cano to a massive 10-year, $240 million deal two years ago and then landing Nelson Cruz with a four-year, $57 million pact last winter.

    Despite that newfound aggressiveness on the market, the team has still not been to the playoffs since 2001.

    In fact, after falling one game short of reaching the playoffs in 2014, they won 11 less games this past season and ranked as one of the most disappointing teams in the league.

    However, there is still a ton of talent on the roster with a good mix of young players and established stars; it's simply a matter of adding the few missing pieces to push the team over the top.

17. Minnesota Twins (2015 Rank: 28)

14 of 30

    3B Miguel Sano
    3B Miguel SanoBruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports
    FanbasePayroll Situation2016 OutlookLong-Term OutlookTotal

    Team Overview

    The future looked bright for the Minnesota Twins entering the 2015 season, as they had one of the best farm systems in all of baseball and were set for an influx of young talent at the big league level.

    While they failed to reach the playoffs, they wound up being relevant far sooner than expected en route to an 83-79 record and second place finish in the AL Central.

    The starting pitching remains the big weakness, and after spending significant money on Ricky Nolasco and Ervin Santana in free agency, they may be a bit gun shy about making another big free-agent signing.

    The Twins are not a big market team by any means, but with so much young, controllable talent they could still be in a position to make a splash in free agency in the near future. On long-term outlook alone, the Twins have to be considered a relatively attractive destination right now and that will only improve in the years to come.

16. Cleveland Indians (2015 Rank: 25)

15 of 30

    SS Francisco Lindor
    SS Francisco LindorCharles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
    FanbasePayroll Situation2016 OutlookLong-Term OutlookTotal

    Team Overview

    The biggest free-agent signings in Cleveland Indians history both came in the same offseason when the team added Nick Swisher (four years, $56 million) and Michael Bourn (four years, $48 million) in an effort to jump-start the offense.

    Those deals did not exactly work out, though the team did well to unload both players for Chris Johnson in August, freeing up some payroll room in the process.

    The Indians fell short of expectations this past season, but they still have the pieces to contend, led by a terrific starting rotation and a budding superstar in shortstop Francisco Lindor.

    They also have one of the most underrated farm systems in baseball at their disposal, so more help is on the way. The payroll situation is really the only thing holding the Indians back at this point as far as their attractiveness as a free-agent destination is concerned.

15. Texas Rangers (2015 Rank: 17)

16 of 30

    SP Yu Darvish
    SP Yu DarvishKevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
    FanbasePayroll Situation2016 OutlookLong-Term OutlookTotal

    Team Overview

    There might not be a more complete team in baseball heading into the offseason than the Texas Rangers, as outside of finding one starting pitcher to fill out their rotation there are really no glaring needs.

    That bodes well for a team that was among the best in baseball over the final month of the season and is set to welcome back ace Yu Darvish at some point in 2016 after he missed the entire 2015 season following Tommy John surgery.

    The Rangers have never been afraid of handing out big contracts, and they have significant money committed to Prince Fielder, Cole Hamels, Shin-Soo Choo and Elvis Andrus for at least the next two years and several more in some cases.

    The one thing that hurts them a bit is their long-term outlook, as they gave up three top prospects who were close to reaching the majors to acquire Hamels at the deadline and also saw top prospect Joey Gallo struggle mightily this past season.

14. Los Angeles Angels (2015 Rank: 9)

17 of 30

    CF Mike Trout
    CF Mike TroutGary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
    FanbasePayroll Situation2016 OutlookLong-Term OutlookTotal

    Team Overview

    The Los Angeles Angels made one of the biggest free-agent splashes of all time prior to the 2012 season when they signed both Albert Pujols (10 years, $240 million) and C.J. Wilson (five years, $77.5 million), but that has yet to result in a World Series title.

    While the team has been bogged down a bit by their payroll commitments in recent years, they will soon be in a fantastic position financially.

    Jered Weaver, Wilson, Erick Aybar and Joe Smith will all hit free agency after the 2016 season, after making a combined $54.7 million this coming year, so the team will have a ton of money to spend.

    The farm system is among the weakest in baseball, but they have a controllable starting rotation in place and the best player in the game in Mike Trout locked up through the 2020 season.

13. Kansas City Royals (2015 Rank: 18)

18 of 30

    CF Lorenzo Cain
    CF Lorenzo CainJohn Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
    FanbasePayroll Situation2016 OutlookLong-Term OutlookTotal

    Team Overview

    The Kansas City Royals have drawn up the blueprint for how to win as a small-market team, having relied heavily on homegrown talent while making the most of the free-agent dollars that they do spend.

    For example, this past offseason the team added Edinson Volquez, Alex Rios, Kendrys Morales, Chris Young, Ryan Madson, Franklin Morales and Kris Medlen for a combined $28.875 million in 2015. They went on to post a combined 8.8 WAR, per

    They have a big decision to make this offseason about whether or not to pony up and re-sign Alex Gordon, while they also have to think about potential extensions for the likes of Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas and Alcides Escobar.

    The farm system is somewhat thin at this point, and there's a good chance they won't be able to keep all of those key pieces long-term, but the reigning World Series champ is always an attractive free-agent destination.

12. New York Mets (2015 Rank: 12)

19 of 30

    SP Jacob deGrom
    SP Jacob deGromBrad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
    FanbasePayroll Situation2016 OutlookLong-Term OutlookTotal

    Team Overview

    Despite a trip to the World Series, there are some significant issues that the New York Mets will need to address this offseason before they can be considered serious contenders once again in 2016.

    Chief among those questions is how they will replace the offensive production of Yoenis Cespedes and Daniel Murphy, as they look to avoid regressing back to the anemic offensive team they were prior to the Cespedes trade.

    What they do have working in their favor is a fantastic young pitching staff with plenty of team control, and a deep farm system that should make them serious players for anyone they decide to target on the trade market.

    They remain a distant second to the Yankees as far as the rooting interest of New York is concerned, and their payroll situation is less than ideal in the short-term thanks to the Bernie Madoff settlement, but on the strength of their pitching staff alone the Mets are an attractive landing spot.

11. San Francisco Giants (2015 Rank: 7)

20 of 30

    C Buster Posey
    C Buster PoseyKevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
    FanbasePayroll Situation2016 OutlookLong-Term OutlookTotal

    Team Overview

    The San Francisco Giants are proven winners with three World Series titles in the past six years, and that alone makes them an attractive free-agent destination.

    However, they have some work to do if they want to keep their even-year streak alive, most notably in the starting rotation where Madison Bumgarner could use another front-line starter to help him shoulder the load.

    The fanbase is as good as any in baseball and the ballpark is one of the best around, so that doesn't hurt their case any.

    That being said, the Giants are clearly chasing the Los Angeles Dodgers at this point in the NL West, and with the National League as a whole looking deep, they are far from a sure thing to reach the playoffs in 2016.

10. Washington Nationals (2015 Rank: 3)

21 of 30

    SP Max Scherzer
    SP Max ScherzerEvan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
    FanbasePayroll Situation2016 OutlookLong-Term OutlookTotal

    Team Overview

    No team in the league was more disappointing in 2015 than the Washington Nationals, and change is coming with a new manager at the helm and the likes of Jordan Zimmermann, Denard Span, Ian Desmond and Doug Fister all hitting free agency.

    The New York Mets are not going anywhere, but the Nationals still have the talent to contend, and the eventual arrival of guys like right-hander Lucas Giolito and shortstop Trea Turner will give them some fresh blood to replace the departed talent.

    Bryce Harper was the best player in the NL this past season, and the pitching staff is still a strength behind the trio of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez, with Joe Ross also looking strong in 2015.

    The team has not shied away from big contracts, evidenced by the Jayson Werth and Scherzer deals, and that's not likely to change as they continue to chase a title.

9. Arizona Diamondbacks (2015 Rank: 21)

22 of 30

    1B Paul Goldschmidt
    1B Paul GoldschmidtJeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
    FanbasePayroll Situation2016 OutlookLong-Term OutlookTotal

    Team Overview

    Once the Arizona Diamondbacks rid themselves of Aaron Hill, who is owed $12 million in the final year of his current contract, they will have as enviable a payroll situation as any team in baseball.

    Paul Goldschmidt and Yasmany Tomas are the only two players currently under contract beyond 2016, and Goldschmidt has one of the most team-friendly contracts in all of baseball with just over $40 million owed to him over the next four years including his option year.

    An extension for center fielder A.J. Pollock seems like a good possibility after a breakout season in 2015, but for the most part the Diamondbacks should have significant payroll flexibility in the years to come.

    With a clear need for a front-line starter and a reliable closer, they could be the surprise team of the offseason. They also have a deep farm system that should make them relevant on the trade market and provide more talent down the line.

8. Toronto Blue Jays (2015 Rank: 20)

23 of 30

    3B Josh Donaldson
    3B Josh DonaldsonNick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
    FanbasePayroll Situation2016 OutlookLong-Term OutlookTotal

    Team Overview

    With Mark Shapiro set to take over as team president of the Toronto Blue Jays, we may finally see an end to the team's policy of not signing players beyond five years, which would certainly improve their standing as a free-agent landing spot.

    If they hope to keep David Price atop the rotation or make a run at a similar pitcher to replace him, they'll almost certainly have to change their tune in that department, and it's the rotation that will decide how far they go in 2016.

    The lineup will once again be a juggernaut, but the fact that Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion are both entering the final year of their contracts has to be taken into account on the team's long-term outlook.

    The farm system has also been thinned out thanks to the trades to acquire Price and shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, so it's clear their window to win is right now.

7. New York Yankees (2015 Rank: 8)

24 of 30

    SP Masahiro Tanaka
    SP Masahiro TanakaAndy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports
    FanbasePayroll Situation2016 OutlookLong-Term OutlookTotal

    Team Overview

    Even though they have reined in their spending in recent years, the New York Yankees still have as big of a budget as any team in baseball.

    That being said, what gives them a 5/5 in terms of payroll situation is the money that will be coming off of the books in the near future. Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia and Carlos Beltran are entering the final year of their deals in 2016, and Alex Rodriguez will be off the books the following year.

    The team has also committed to developing their minor league talent rather than shipping it off for veterans, and while they still don't have the deepest farm system in baseball, there is some legitimate impact talent on the way and Luis Severino already showed what he can do down the stretch in 2015.

    All in all, the Yankees remain one of the marquee free-agent destinations, but they are not exactly clear-cut postseason contenders in 2016, so their short-term outlook takes a bit of a hit.

6. Pittsburgh Pirates (2015 Rank: 11)

25 of 30

    CF Andrew McCutchen
    CF Andrew McCutchenCharles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
    FanbasePayroll Situation2016 OutlookLong-Term OutlookTotal

    Team Overview

    Prior to the 2015 season, the Pittsburgh Pirates payroll had never climbed north of $80 million, but when the season came to a close they sat at $99.385, million according to

    This is still a small-market team, but they are no longer handcuffed by their lack of spending ability.

    They have three consecutive postseason appearances under their belt, and with a good core in place at the big league level and one of the best farm systems in baseball they're not going anywhere.

    The NL Central figures to be an absolute dog fight for the foreseeable future, so the Pirates have their work cut out for them if they want to avoid playing for a spot in the wild-card round once again, but this is a clear contender for 2016 and beyond.

5. Houston Astros (2015 Rank: 13)

26 of 30

    SP Dallas Keuchel
    SP Dallas KeuchelJoe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
    FanbasePayroll Situation2016 OutlookLong-Term OutlookTotal

    Team Overview

    The Houston Astros sliced their payroll all the way down to $20.834 million during the 2013 season, according to, as they completely gutted the roster and underwent one of the largest-scale rebuilds in baseball history.

    Their rise back to contention came quicker than expected to put it mildly, as they went from 51 wins in 2013 to 70 wins in 2014 and 86 wins and a postseason berth in 2015.

    Even now, they still have just $43.187 million on the books for the upcoming season after topping out with a payroll north of $105 million prior to rebuilding, so it stands to reason that money shouldn't be an issue when it comes to pursuing free-agent targets in the years to come.

    More than anything, though, it's a terrific young core and arguably the best farm system in baseball that makes the Astros such an attractive destination, as they are capable of contending right now but only scratching the surface of their long-term potential.

4. St. Louis Cardinals (2015 Rank: 1)

27 of 30

    SP Carlos Martinez
    SP Carlos MartinezJasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
    FanbasePayroll Situation2016 OutlookLong-Term OutlookTotal

    Team Overview

    The St. Louis Cardinals claimed the top spot in these rankings last year but really didn't do much in free agency as trading for Jason Heyward was the big move of the offseason.

    Now bringing back Heyward becomes their top offseason priority, and it would likely mean shelling out a team-record contract to get that done.

    After winning 100 games last season and making the playoffs 12 times in the past 16 seasons, the Cardinals are the gold standard for sustained success right now.

    That said, with an aging offensive core of Yadier Molina, Matt Holliday and Jhonny Peralta and ace Adam Wainwright also headed for the downswing of his career, the long-term outlook is not quite as bright as the current outlook.

    They develop talent as well as any team in baseball, so there's really no reason to think they won't continue to contend, but they will need young players to continue to step up in the years to come.

3. Boston Red Sox (2015 Rank: 4)

28 of 30

    CF Mookie Betts
    CF Mookie BettsMark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports
    FanbasePayroll Situation2016 OutlookLong-Term OutlookTotal

    Team Overview

    For many teams, the ill-advised money committed to Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval last offseason would have been a huge long-term issue.

    For the Boston Red Sox, it's unfortunate but something that they can absolutely work around as they look to turn things around under new team president Dave Dombrowski.

    While they are more than capable of throwing significant money at free agents, and may very well do that once again this offseason, it's the abundance of young talent both in the majors and in the farm system that has the future looking so bright for the Red Sox.

    David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia and Koji Uehara are all on the downswing, but the next wave of talent is already in place, and that should allow the Red Sox to return to contention and stay there.

2. Los Angeles Dodgers (2015 Rank: 2)

29 of 30

    SP Clayton Kershaw
    SP Clayton KershawKelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
    FanbasePayroll Situation2016 OutlookLong-Term OutlookTotal

    Team Overview

    The Los Angeles Dodgers wrapped up the 2015 season with a whopping $314.168 million payroll total, according to, so at this point it's fair to say that money is no object in their pursuit of a title.

    Clayton Kershaw is locked up long-term, but they will need to sort out the rest of the pitching staff this offseason. Until they do that it's hard to give them a 10/10 on their 2016 outlook.

    The long-term outlook is outstanding, though, as Joc Pederson and Corey Seager have already arrived in the majors and there is a ton more high-end young talent on the way led by left-hander Julio Urias.

    The Dodgers are going to keep throwing money at the roster until they hoist the World Series trophy, and that combined with the young talent up and down the roster makes them as attractive as any team to commit to for multiple years.

1. Chicago Cubs (2015 Rank: 5)

30 of 30

    3B Kris Bryant
    3B Kris BryantJerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
    FanbasePayroll Situation2016 OutlookLong-Term OutlookTotal

    Team Overview

    Who wouldn't want to be a member of the Chicago Cubs team that finally ends that century-plus of losing and brings a World Series title to the North Side?

    That's been true for decades now, but for the first time in a long time it actually looks like winning a World Series title is a realistic possibility.

    Most pointed to 2016 as the year this team would be ready to contend again after a drastic rebuild under Theo Epstein and Co., but they arrived a year ahead of schedule when they won 97 games and reached the NLCS.

    There's not a better offensive core anywhere in baseball as Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber and Jorge Soler are just scratching the surface of their potential and Anthony Rizzo has emerged as a leader and a legitimate superstar.

    The pitching staff still needs some work, but they have two front-line arms in Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester and finding a third could push them over the top.

    The Chicago Cubs have finally returned to relevance, and they're not going anywhere. The mix of young talent, payroll flexibility, recent success and a fanbase that is as dedicated as any in pro sports makes them the most attractive free-agent destination in all of baseball.