Biggest Winners and Losers of the 2016 MLB Regular Season

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistOctober 2, 2016

Biggest Winners and Losers of the 2016 MLB Regular Season

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    After six months, the 2016 MLB regular season has come to a close.

    None of the wild tiebreaker scenarios came to pass, as the San Francisco Giants and Toronto Blue Jays claimed the final wild-card spots. The postseason will begin Tuesday.

    Before we turn our attention to another exciting October of playoff baseball, now is the perfect time to put a bow on the regular season by naming our biggest winners and losers of 2016.

    Ahead, you'll find a mix of individual players who shined or disappointed, as well as a handful of teams that qualified as the biggest winners or losers of the year relative to expectations.

    That's all capped off with our biggest winner and biggest loser of the year, two teams headed in opposite directions as we look ahead of the playoffs and beyond.

    There is no shortage of candidates for the winner and loser distinctions, so not every player and team deserving of one or the other will be touched on, but this should provide a good overview of how things played out in 2016.


Losers: 2016-17 Free Agents Who Have Hurt Their Stock

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    Colby Rasmus won't be receiving a qualifying offer this time around.
    Colby Rasmus won't be receiving a qualifying offer this time around.Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

    An easy group to identify as some of the biggest losers of the season are the upcoming free agents who turned in a disappointing season.

    Here's a look at the 10 players who cost themselves some money with a mediocre 2016 season:

    • SP Brett Anderson, Los Angeles Dodgers: Anderson finally stayed healthy in 2015 and earned himself a qualifying offer. The health woes resurfaced and limited him to just three starts this year. He'll have to settle for a prove-it deal at substantially less than his current $15.8 million salary.
    • RF Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays: Someone will pay Bautista a good chunk of change, but nowhere near the five-year, $150 million deal he was reportedly seeking (per TSN) at the start of the season. That wasn't going to happen anyway, but after playing just 115 games, the 35-year-old may be forced to take substantially less money and fewer years.
    • SP Andrew Cashner, Miami Marlins: Results have never quite matched up to talent when it comes to Cashner, and this season was no different, as he sported a 5.25 ERA over 132 innings of work. The 30-year-old has quality stuff, but he hasn't earned anything beyond a one-year deal.
    • RP Santiago Casilla, San Francisco Giants: After converting 57 of 67 save chances with a 2.24 ERA the past two seasons, Casilla blew nine saves this season before finally being yanked from the closer's role. At 36 years old, his chances of landing a multiyear deal have shrunk considerably.
    • RP Brett Cecil, Toronto Blue Jays: After pitching to a 2.67 ERA and 11.5 strikeouts per nine innings while averaging 63 appearances over the past three seasons, Cecil was shelled early on in 2016. He straightened things out with a 1.74 ERA and 13.1 K/9 in his last 30 appearances, but that rocky start could give teams reason for pause when it comes to going beyond two years.
    • SP Jorge De La Rosa, Colorado Rockies: De La Rosa had been a steadying presence atop the Rockies rotation dating back to the start of the 2013 season, going 39-24 with a 3.92 ERA (114 ERA+) as one of the few pitchers to enjoy consistent success at Coors Field. However, his ERA spiked to 5.51 this season, and he also missed time with a groin injury.
    • CF Carlos Gomez, Texas Rangers: Gomez saw a significant dip in production last season, but there was some hope that it was a result of a handful of nagging injuries. Instead, he posted a .232 average and .682 OPS in what was another trying season. He had a .905 OPS in 33 games after joining the Texas Rangers, so his stock is on the rise. 
    • 1B Adam Lind, Seattle Mariners: Lind was quietly one of the more productive left-handed sluggers in the league last year, posting an .820 OPS with 32 doubles and 20 home runs. Traded to the Mariners in the offseason, his OPS dipped to .717, and his .286 on-base percentage was particularly troubling.
    • OF Colby Rasmus, Houston Astros: A surprise recipient of a qualifying offer last winter, Rasmus accepted that $15.8 million salary but failed to live up to the price tag. His OPS plummeted from .789 to .641, and he lost playing time in the second half as a result.
    • RP Drew Storen, Seattle Mariners: Someone will take a chance on Storen given his past success in the closer's role, but a 5.23 ERA over 57 appearances means it will almost certainly be an incentive-laden, one-year deal.

Winners: 2016-17 Free Agents Who Have Boosted Their Stock

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    Ian Desmond won't be forced to settle for a one-year deal this time around.
    Ian Desmond won't be forced to settle for a one-year deal this time around.Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

    An easy group to identify as some of the biggest winners of the season are the upcoming free agents who turned in an impressive season.

    Here's a look at the 10 players who earned themselves some money with a standout 2016 season:

    • RP Joe Blanton, Los Angeles Dodgers: Blanton rebounded to relevance last season with a 2.84 ERA and 9.4 K/9 over 36 appearances in his new role as a reliever, earning a one-year, $4 million deal from the Dodgers. The 35-year-old was even better this season with a 2.48 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and a team-high 28 holds in 75 appearances.
    • CF Ian Desmond, Texas Rangers: Desmond settled for a one-year, $8 million deal from the Rangers and a move to the outfield after generating little interest on the free-agent market. He slumped a bit in the second half, but he still had a .782 OPS and his fourth career 20/20 season while proving he can play a passable center field.
    • RP Neftali Feliz, Pittsburgh Pirates: Feliz was one of the most promising young relievers in the game after winning AL Rookie of the Year honors in 2010 and racking up 72 saves in his first two seasons. Injuries took a toll from there, but his electric stuff remained, and the Pirates took a chance with a one-year, $3.9 million deal. The 28-year-old emerged as their primary setup man with a 3.52 ERA and 29 holds in 62 appearances, and a multiyear deal awaits this winter.
    • SP Rich Hill, Los Angeles Dodgers: Despite missing over two months with a groin strain and then a blister, Hill still proved more than enough for a substantial raise over the one-year, $6 million deal he signed last winter. The 36-year-old went 12-5 with a 2.12 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 129 strikeouts in 110.1 innings, and a three-year deal seems likely for the top starter on the market.
    • 1B/OF Brandon Moss, St. Louis Cardinals: Moss led the Cardinals offense at times this season, posting a .784 OPS with 28 home runs and 67 RBI. He's also added some value with his versatility, splitting his time between first base and the corner outfield spots. He's a fringe candidate for a qualifying offer, and that will go a long way in determining his market.
    • 1B Mike Napoli, Cleveland Indians: Signed to a one-year, $7 million deal, Napoli became the first right-handed hitter to launch 30 home runs in an Indians jersey since Ellis Burks in 2002. The 34-year-old has some shortcomings with a low batting average and limited defensive skills, but his bat alone will be worth a multiyear deal and a raise.
    • SP Ivan Nova, Pittsburgh Pirates: Pitching guru Ray Searage strikes again. Nova came to the Pirates at the deadline with a 4.90 ERA and 1.36 WHIP over 97.1 innings of work with the Yankees. He followed that up by going 5-2 with a 3.06 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and a sterling 52-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 64.2 innings with the Pirates, leaving him as a legitimate top-five option on this year's starting pitching market.
    • UT Sean Rodriguez, Pittsburgh Pirates: A useful utility player throughout his career who re-upped with the Pirates on a one-year, $2.5 million deal, Rodriguez enjoyed the best offensive season of his career with an .859 OPS, 16 doubles and 18 home runs in 342 plate appearances.
    • LF Michael Saunders, Toronto Blue Jays: Saunders played just nine games in 2015 while battling a knee injury, and he was lucky that the starting left field job was waiting for him when he returned this season. An .815 OPS with 32 doubles and 24 home runs made him a surprise All-Star, and he's a shoo-in for a multiyear deal.
    • RF Mark Trumbo, Baltimore Orioles: All it took the Orioles to acquire Trumbo was backup catcher Steve Clevenger and the willingness to absorb Trumbo's $9.15 million salary. In return, they got an AL-leading 47 home runs and 108 RBI, and someone will pay up for that power production this winter.

Losers: Biggest Flops of 2016

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    Sonny Gray did not live up to his status as an ace in 2016.
    Sonny Gray did not live up to his status as an ace in 2016.Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

    Here's a look at 10 star-caliber players who came up well short of expectations in 2016:

    • SP Chris Archer, Tampa Bay Rays: Archer was a breakout ace in 2015 when he made his first All-Star appearance and finished fifth in AL Cy Young voting. This season, he went 9-19 with a 4.02 ERA despite striking out 233 hitters in 201.1 innings, and he allowed a whopping 30 home runs.
    • SP Sonny Gray, Oakland Athletics: Another pitcher who joined the upper echelon of starters with a third-place finish in AL Cy Young voting last year, Gray might have been the prize of the trade deadline if not for a terribly disappointing season. The 26-year-old still has a ton of upside, but he has some work to do to rebuild his stock after posting a 5.69 ERA and making just 22 starts while battling injury.
    • RF Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals: The reigning NL MVP started off strong with a 1.121 OPS in April, but he hit just .235/.367/.392 with 15 home runs in 531 plate appearances over the last five months. Playing through injuries may have been the root of the problem, but he was disappointing regardless of the reason.
    • SP Matt Harvey, New York Mets: The season began for Harvey with talks of a future $200 million contract and a potential run at the NL Cy Young Award. It ended with him having last pitched on July 4 and sporting a 4-10 record with a 4.86 ERA over 17 starts.
    • RF Jason Heyward, Chicago Cubs: Heyward was once again a stud with the glove, tallying 18 DRS and a 22.9 UZR/150, per FanGraphs. However, his .230/.306/.325 batting line left a lot to be desired and made the first regular season of his eight-year, $184 million deal a flop.
    • CF Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates: A perennial NL MVP candidate since establishing himself as the everyday center fielder in Pittsburgh, McCutchen suffered through the worst season of his career. He's not the only one to blame for a disappointing season by the Pirates—more on that in a bit—but his superstar status makes his negative-WAR performance particularly tough to stomach.
    • SP Shelby Miller, Arizona Diamondbacks: Dansby Swanson arrived in the the majors and looked right at home, while Ender Inciarte was a rock-solid 3.8-WAR player. Meanwhile, Miller looked lost, pitching to a 6.15 ERA and spending some time in the minors. This has a chance to go down as one of the worst trades of all time.
    • RF Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles Dodgers: A .281/.338/.561 line since returning to the majors in September redeemed him a bit, but this was still another disappointing season for the onetime phenom. A parting of ways could still be coming this offseason.
    • SP Tyson Ross, San Diego Padres: Expected to be a hot commodity at the trade deadline, Ross instead made just one start in 2016—on Opening Day—before taking up season-long residence on the disabled list. Offseason shoulder surgery remains a possibility, according to Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune, as he looks to rebound in what will be his final year of team control.
    • SP Jordan Zimmermann, Detroit Tigers: Things started off swimmingly for Zimmermann in his first season with the Tigers, as he went 5-2 with a 1.50 ERA over his first seven starts. However, he was shelled for 11 hits and eight runs on May 16, and he wasn't the same afterward, going 3-5 with a 7.51 ERA in 10 starts and one relief appearance while also missing significant time with various injuries.

Winners: Breakout Stars of 2016

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    It's easy to forget now that Kyle Hendricks was the clear No. 5 starter in the Chicago Cubs rotation at the start of the season.
    It's easy to forget now that Kyle Hendricks was the clear No. 5 starter in the Chicago Cubs rotation at the start of the season.Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

    Here's a look at 10 players who made the leap from solid performer to legitimate star in 2016:

    • CF Jackie Bradley Jr., Boston Red Sox: Always a standout defender, Bradley came into the season facing questions about whether he would ever hit enough to be an everyday player after posting a .213 average and .638 OPS over his first 785 plate appearances. Those questions were answered this season by a .267/.349/.486 line that includes 30 doubles, 26 home runs and 87 RBI and was highlighted by a 29-game hitting streak.
    • RP Zach Britton, Baltimore Orioles: Already one of the top closers in the league after saving 73 games in 81 chances with a 1.77 ERA the past two seasons, Britton took his game to another level. The 28-year-old nailed down all 47 of his save chances with a 0.54 ERA and allowed only one earned run since the start of May.
    • SP Kyle Hendricks, Chicago Cubs: The clear-cut No. 5 starter in the Cubs rotation at the start of the year, Hendricks led all qualified starters with a 2.13 ERA this season. The 26-year-old doesn't post eye-popping strikeout numbers, but his pinpoint command has made him the breakout pitcher of 2016.
    • 1B Wil Myers, San Diego Padres: Injuries limited Myers to 87 and 60 games the past two seasons, but he broke out with a healthy season in 2016. He posted a .797 OPS with 29 doubles, 28 home runs and 28 stolen bases as a rare power-speed threat at first base and looks like a cornerstone piece of the rebuilding Padres.
    • UT Jose Ramirez, Cleveland Indians: Ramirez was ousted from the starting shortstop job when Francisco Lindor showed up last year, but he reclaimed a key place in the Indians lineup with a breakout performance. After splitting his time between third base and left field early in the season, he settled in as the everyday guy at the hot corner, hitting .312/.363/.462 with 46 doubles, 11 home runs, 76 RBI and 22 stolen bases while batting .355 with runners in scoring position.
    • C Wilson Ramos, Washington Nationals: Ramos picked a great time for a career year, as he's set to hit free agency in the offseason. The 29-year-old raised his OPS from .616 to .850 while hitting .307 with 25 doubles, 22 home runs and 80 RBI. However, a torn ACL has put his future with the Nationals and his free-agent stock in jeopardy.
    • SP Aaron Sanchez, Toronto Blue Jays: After a dominant run in the eighth-inning role last season, Sanchez joined the rotation full-time this spring and transitioned better than anyone could have hoped. The hard-throwing righty was an All-Star for the first time and forced the Blue Jays to alter their plans of shutting him down when he emerged as the ace of the staff.
    • SS Corey Seager, Los Angeles Dodgers: The heavy favorite for NL Rookie of the Year honors when the season began, Seager not only locked up that award, but he also emerged as a legitimate NL MVP candidate. The 22-year-old is a superstar in the making and already the best position player on the NL West-champion Dodgers.
    • SS/3B Jonathan Villar, Milwaukee Brewers: Expected to be little more than a placeholder until top prospect Orlando Arcia was ready, Villar instead turned in perhaps the most out-of-nowhere breakout performance of the season. A career .236/.300/.353 hitter over 658 plate appearances entering the year, he hit .285/.369/.457 with 38 doubles, 19 home runs and an NL-leading 62 stolen bases.
    • LF Christian Yelich, Miami Marlins: Already one of the best young hitters in the game, Yelich more than doubled his previous career high of nine home runs with 21 long balls this year to emerge as a legitimate run producer for the Marlins. His .298/.376/.483 line speaks to his well-rounded offensive game, and at 24 years old, there's still room to improve.

Loser: St. Louis Cardinals

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    It was a trying season for Michael Wacha and much of the Cardinals' starting rotation.
    It was a trying season for Michael Wacha and much of the Cardinals' starting rotation.Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

    The St. Louis Cardinals were baseball's best team during the 2015 regular season, piling up 100 wins on the strength of the league's best pitching staff.

    This year, they were left watching helplessly on the final day of the season as the San Francisco Giants extinguished their playoff hopes by clinching the No. 2 wild-card spot with a win.

    Their stable of arms was historically good last season, posting a 2.94 team ERA and a 2.99 starters' ERA to help carry a solid, if not unspectacular, offense that averaged 3.99 runs per game.

    In 2016, the offensive attack was improved, as the Cardinals led the NL in home runs with 225 and upped their run production to 4.81 runs per game.

    However, the pitching staff fell to 12th in the league with a 4.08 team ERA, and the starting rotation dropped to 13th with a 4.33 ERA.

    Carlos Martinez performed well in the role of staff ace, but the rest of the team's starters were largely inconsistent to the point that the rookie tandem of Alex Reyes and Luke Weaver was leaned on heavily down the stretch.

    Disappointing seasons from what were thought to be up-and-coming stars in Kolten Wong and Randal Grichuk also qualify as negatives this season, though both players still have a chance to reach their full potential in the years to come.

    For a team that has been able to author such impressive sustained success with 12 playoff appearances in the past 16 years, expectations for the Cardinals are a bit different than a lot of other teams.

    Going from the best record in baseball to watching from home as the postseason begins is enough to earn them a spot among the season's biggest losers.

Winner: New York Yankees

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    A breakout performance from rookie Gary Sanchez is just one reason the Yankees are winners in 2016.
    A breakout performance from rookie Gary Sanchez is just one reason the Yankees are winners in 2016.Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    For the third time in the past four seasons, the New York Yankees will be watching from home when the postseason begins, but that doesn't mean this has not been a wildly successful campaign.

    Sellers at the deadline for the first time in recent memory, the Yankees ended up flipping veteran outfielder Carlos Beltran and relievers Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller.

    In return, they added a bounty of high-level prospects to an already stocked farm system, good enough for them to claim the No. 1 spot in Bleacher Report's final farm system update of the year.

    The farm system also improved significantly when outfielder Blake Rutherford—considered by most to be a top-five talent in the 2016 draft class—fell to the Yankees at No. 18 overall, and right-hander Chance Adams took a huge step forward as arguably the biggest breakout prospect of 2016.

    The newfound focus on young talent represented a massive shift in organizational philosophy and has positioned the Yankees for near-term success and given them the flexibility to be ultra-aggressive on the free-agent market in a few years.

    At the same time, an amiable parting of ways with perennial distraction Alex Rodriguez came when he was released from the final season of his contract and given a special adviser role in the front office.

    As for the on-field product in the second half, most expected the Yankees to fade into the background after hanging on the fringe of contention prior to selling.

    Instead, they went 17-11 in August and climbed back into the wild-card race behind the otherworldly production of rookie Gary Sanchez.

    After being recalled from the minors on Aug. 3, Sanchez tallied 20 home runs and 42 RBI in 52 games, pushing his way into the AL Rookie of the Year conversation and giving the Yankees an exciting young star to usher in this new era.

    Throw in a healthy season from Masahiro Tanaka, a return to usefulness by CC Sabathia and a breakout offensive season for shortstop Didi Gregorius, and there's a lot that went right in 2016, even if they won't be headed to the postseason.

Loser: Pittsburgh Pirates

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    An injury-plagued campaign from ace Gerrit Cole was a big part of a disappointing season for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
    An injury-plagued campaign from ace Gerrit Cole was a big part of a disappointing season for the Pittsburgh Pirates.Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

    After 20 years of losing seasons, the Pittsburgh Pirates finally looked like a team positioned for an extended run of success.

    Three consecutive postseason appearances and a 98-win showing in 2015 left them as one of the top dogs in the National League heading into 2016, so what went wrong?

    To put it simply, a lot.

    Let's start with star center fielder Andrew McCutchen, who suffered through the worst season of his career with a .255/.336/.430 line and an inconceivable negative-0.7 WAR.

    Then there's ace Gerrit Cole, who followed up a fourth-place finish in NL Cy Young voting by going 7-10 with a 3.88 ERA in 116 innings of work while missing significant time to injury.

    There have been plenty of positives along the way as well.

    Bargain free-agent signings such as David Freese, Matt Joyce, John Jaso and Neftali Feliz all turned out to be key contributors. Starling Marte took the next step toward stardom, and Gregory Polanco turned in a breakout season as well.

    In the end, the team was unable to overcome a shaky starting rotation (4.67 ERA, 22nd in MLB) and porous defense (110 errors, tied for third in MLB), two areas that had been a strength in recent seasons.

    There's still plenty of reason for optimism going forward.

    Cole should bounce back with a return to health, and promising young arms Jameson Taillon, Tyler Glasnow and Chad Kuhl all got their feet wet this season. The same goes for Josh Bell, who seems poised to take over as the starting first baseman next season.

    The team was also able to unload Francisco Liriano at the trade deadline and will no longer be paying Mark Melancon close to eight figures, so it should have some flexibility to spend in free agency.

    Still, relative to expectations, few teams were more disappointing than the 2016 Pirates.

Winner: Boston Red Sox

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    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    It's difficult to believe the Boston Red Sox were a 78-84 team just one year ago.

    An 11-game winning streak in September pushed them to the front of an ultra-competitive AL East race, and they held on to win the division title. 

    So how did their latest worst-to-first turnaround come to pass?

    The offseason additions of David Price and Craig Kimbrel helped, but it's stretched far beyond those two marquee acquisitions.

    The offense was the best in baseball in the regular season, averaging 5.42 runs per game with an .810 team OPS that speaks to just how dangerous the lineup was top to bottom.

    Mookie Betts emerged as a superstar, David Ortiz is authoring the greatest final season in baseball history, Bradley Jr. is one of the breakout stars of 2016, and Dustin Pedroia is once again an elite-level producer.

    That's to say nothing of the emergence of Sandy Leon behind the plate, a bounce-back season from Hanley Ramirez and the arrival of prospects Andrew Benintendi and Yoan Moncada, who are expected to make a significant impact in 2017 and beyond.

    It's the pitching staff that has seen perhaps the biggest transformation, though.

    Price has given the team a marquee name to front the staff, but it's a resurgent Rick Porcello and unheralded knuckleballer Steven Wright who have been the team's best starters this season.

    Deadline additions Drew Pomeranz and Brad Ziegler helped plug the remaining holes on the staff, and a strong finish to the season from Eduardo Rodriguez has him looking like a potential impact player in October.

    All the pieces are in place for this Red Sox team to make some noise in the postseason and to be the team to beat in the AL East in the years to come with an impressive young core.

    Losing Big Papi will be tough, but the team is in good hands with Betts, Bradley Jr. and Xander Bogaerts representing the future of Red Sox Nation along with up-and-coming stars Benintendi and Moncada.

Loser: Kansas City Royals

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    Mike Moustakas played just 27 games before suffering a season-ending injury.
    Mike Moustakas played just 27 games before suffering a season-ending injury.Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

    That sound you hear is the Kansas City Royals' window to contend for another World Series title slamming shut.

    After a magical run to a World Series title in 2015, the Royals came up short in their encore performance with an 81-81 record and a third-place finish in the AL Central standings.

    So, what's next for the team that rose from the ashes of perennial losing seasons to win back-to-back AL pennants?

    That's a good question.

    A dominant bullpen and scrappy offense was unable to make up for the Royals' shortcomings in the starting rotation this season, and it's hard to see where that gets any better in the immediate future.

    Danny Duffy has turned into a front-line option, but he's not an ace, and Ian Kennedy is better served as a No. 3 or No. 4 starter on a contender.

    Behind those two is Yordano Ventura, who will never be what the Royals envisioned him becoming, Edinson Volquez, who is likely on his way out the door with a $10 million mutual option for 2017, and the uninspiring veteran duo of Chris Young and Jason Vargas.

    The free-agent market won't provide much help with a barren starting pitching crop, and it remains to be seen just how much financial flexibility the Royals have after the payroll soared to an all-time high of $131.5 million this year.

    Eric Hosmer, Kelvin Herrera and Duffy are still in arbitration and not going to get any cheaper, which brings us to the next area of concern.

    Hosmer is set to hit free agency for the first time following the 2017 season, and the same goes for Wade Davis, Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas and Alcides Escobar. The following offseason, it's Duffy and Herrera who hit the open market.

    The Royals will not be able to afford to keep that entire core intact, and the homegrown pipeline has run dry with the farm system checking in at No. 26 in our end-of-season rankings.

    It's hard to see this team trending anywhere but down for the foreseeable future.

Winner: Texas Rangers

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    Nomar Mazara and Rougned Odor are a big part of the present and future for the Texas Rangers.
    Nomar Mazara and Rougned Odor are a big part of the present and future for the Texas Rangers.Michael Zagaris/Getty Images

    The Texas Rangers finished the 2015 season on a roll, going 38-22 from Aug. 1 until the end of the season to make up eight games in the standings and claim the AL West title.

    A full season of deadline pickup Cole Hamels and a return to health by Yu Darvish made them a popular pick to win the AL pennant when Opening Day of the 2016 season rolled around, and seven months later, that still seems like a solid pick.

    They've battled through injuries once again, trotting out 11 different starting pitchers and dealing with a career-ending injury to Prince Fielder and just 47 games out of Shin-Soo Choo.

    However, that hasn't stopped them from posting the best record in the AL at 95-67, as they've been in the driver's seat of what was expected to be a hotly contested AL West all season.

    They've sat atop the division standings since May 29 and have held a lead of at least five games since July 30.

    Despite that dominance, they did not simply sit on their hands when the trade deadline rolled around, pulling off a pair of huge deals to acquire Carlos Beltran from the Yankees and Jonathan Lucroy and Jeremy Jeffress from the Milwaukee Brewers.

    Those trades cost them some quality prospect talent, but they significantly improved their title chances in 2016, and the farm system is by no means drained with Yohander Mendez and Ronald Guzman headlining a group with plenty of upside.

    Carlos Gomez was also a terrific under-the-radar addition, posting a .905 OPS with eight home runs and 24 RBI in 33 games with the Rangers after being released by the Houston Astros.

    Meanwhile, former top prospects Nomar Mazara (21) and Rougned Odor (22) emerged as impact bats at the MLB level and represent a bright future for a team that has done a great job in recent years acquiring outside talent and still developing homegrown contributors.

    Looking ahead to October, the Rangers secured home-field advantage throughout the postseason, and that's no small feat considering they posted a 53-28 record in Arlington this season.

    There have been some bumps along the way, and things have definitely not gone how they drew them up, but the Rangers are right where they hoped to be.

Biggest Loser: Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Things looked incredibly bright for the Diamondbacks following the Zack Greinke signing.
    Things looked incredibly bright for the Diamondbacks following the Zack Greinke signing.Ralph Freso/Getty Images

    The team that makes the most noise during the MLB offseason often becomes a popular pick to contend for a title, and that's exactly what happened with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

    Will Leitch of Sports on Earth cautioned against that kind of runaway optimism back in March, though:

    It has been forgotten a little bit, in the wake of their offseason spending spree, that the D-backs were a plucky, fun little team last year. They were floating around .500 and even hinting at Wild Card contention well into August, and they had all sorts of fun stories, from pitcher-turned-hitting-star David Peralta to late-bloomer A.J. Pollock to ... wait, Welington Castillo hits homers now? The team played hard and scrapped, and Arizona did the whole Tony La Russa thing that makes fans of his teams love him and everybody else want to throw him through a window.

    The problem, I'd argue, is that it made La Russa and general manager Dave Stewart think they were a lot closer to being a contending team than they were. Going out and signing Zack Greinke and trading for Shelby Miller -- trading a lot for Miller -- are the moves a team that just needs a couple of more pieces makes. I'm not sure the D-backs are a couple of pieces away. Pollock, in particular, is a candidate to regress, and Paul Goldschmidt can't have that good of a season again, can he? It seems this offseason the D-backs were fighting the last war: They had hitting, they needed pitching, so they went out and got pitching. But hitting isn't constant. Arizona's bats could take a step back and erase whatever gains the team's pitching moves achieved.

    This is still a .500 team, and maybe the D-backs will get hot and make a run. But before the Miller trade and the Greinke signing, Arizona was the third-best team in this division. I suspect it still is.

    Turns out that wasn't nearly cautious enough.

    At 69-93, the D-backs were an unmitigated disaster.

    The Miller trade looks like one that will haunt the organization for years to come after he posted a 6.15 ERA. Greinke came nowhere near living up to his mega-contract. Peralta and Pollock both contributed next to nothing, and the pitching staff as a whole was once again a glaring issue with a 5.09 ERA to rank 30th in MLB.

    A bounce-back season from Jean Segura and a power surge from Yasmany Tomas give the offense hope going forward, but it's hard to see this current roster contending for an NL West title.

    It'll be a big offseason for La Russa and Stewart. The clock is ticking on their time holding the reins if they don't turn things around.

Biggest Winner: Chicago Cubs

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    Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

    The Chicago Cubs began the 2016 season with sky-high expectations, and aside from a brief bump in the road heading into the All-Star break, they have been the best team in baseball with a dominant showing en route to a 103-58 record.

    Joe Maddon continues to be the perfect manager to lead a young roster, as he gets the most out of a group with unique versatility.

    Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant were one of the most dominant one-two punches in baseball in the regular season, but they were far from the only weapons for an offense that averaged 4.99 runs per game.

    Addison Russell proved to be a capable run producer stepping into a more significant role. Ben Zobrist was exactly what the team was hoping for with his professional approach and on-base abilities. Dexter Fowler remains an underrated catalyst at the top of the lineup. And all season long, different players made big contributions behind that star core.

    It's the pitching staff that elevated this team to another level, though.

    Jon Lester followed up what many considered to be a disappointing debut in Chicago with perhaps the best season of his career, and his biggest competition for NL Cy Young honors is teammate Hendricks, who went from clear-cut No. 5 starter to a front-line arm.

    Jake Arrieta didn't match his otherworldly second-half numbers from a year ago, but he was solid once again, and 29 other teams would love to have John Lackey and Jason Hammel penciled in as their No. 4 and 5 starters.

    The bullpen was the one glaring weakness in the first half, and the team addressed that at the trade deadline with a deal to land controllable left-hander Mike Montgomery and then a blockbuster trade for the flame-throwing Chapman.

    Despite shipping out top prospect Gleyber Torres in the Chapman deal, among others, the farm system is still an asset, and Eloy Jimenez has emerged as a top-tier prospect.

    Anything short of a World Series title this season will be a crushing blow for Cubs fans, but this team is built to win for the foreseeable future. Looking at the regular season, it's hard to call anyone else the biggest winner of 2016.

    All stats courtesy of unless otherwise noted.