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

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistNovember 8, 2018

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

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    Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

    In the coming months, MLB free agents will sign gaudy contracts. Even if the 2018-19 class isn't as great as advertisedas Bleacher Report's Danny Knobler arguedmega bucks will be handed out. 

    Which franchises will be most and least attractive to players seeking lucrative contracts? To answer that, let's consider a few factors, with each ranked on an admittedly subjective 1-10 scale:

    • Atmosphere: This weighs ballpark, market size, attendance and other variables, such as the history and pedigree of the franchise.
    • Payroll: Teams that spend more are equipped to hand out lucrative contracts, though we also considered payroll flexibility.
    • Can they win now? A chance to compete on the October stage and win a title is paramount for many if not all free agents.
    • Can they win later? Players inking multiyear deals want to believe their team won't merely compete in 2019, but down the road as well.

    In case of a tie, we broke it with the higher "Can they win later?" score.

30. Miami Marlins

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    Mark Brown/Getty Images

    Atmosphere

    Marlins Park is an over-the-top facility befitting the glitz and glam of South Beach. It echoed with silence rather than cheers in 2018, however. The Marlins ranked dead last in attendance in 2018, with a scant 10,013 fans per game. Next season should be equally dismal.

    Score: 2

       

    Payroll

    The new ownership group fronted by fall-guy Derek Jeter had one directive last winter: Slash the payroll. They did exactly that by trading Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich et al. 

    Catcher J.T. Realmuto may be on the block this offseason, and the odds of the Fish inking any big contracts stand somewhere between "zero" and "are you freaking kidding me?"

    Score: 1

            

    Can they win now?

    There's young talent on the roster and in the pipeline for Miami. But in a relatively deep division with a mandate to spend virtually nothing, the short, the glib answer is heck no.

    Score: 1

       

    Can they win later?

    Even here, the news isn't great. If the Marlins keep losing and trading assets, they'll eventually stockpile enough MiLB pieces to be a factor.

    For now, they've got the game's No. 27 farm system, according to Bleacher Report's Joel Reuter. At the big league level, touted names such as outfielder Lewis Brinson (.199 average in 109 games) underperformed.

    Score: 3

            

    Total score: 7

29. Kansas City Royals

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    Atmosphere

    During the glory years of 2014 and 2015, Kansas City Royals fans proved they'll come out for a winner. Unfortunately, they don't have a winner now.

    The Royals sunk to last place in the American League Central at 58-104 and concurrently ranked 23rd in attendance. Kauffman is a quiet place these days.

    Score: 4

       

    Payroll

    The Royals ranked 19th in payroll in 2018, per Spotrac, and figure to fall further in 2019 as they initiate a needed rebuild. The chances of them inking any notable free agents are low, much as nostalgic fans may hope for a return of beloved third baseman Mike Moustakas. 

    Score: 1

       

    Can they win now?

    K.C. hedged its bets last winter and allowed free agents Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer to walk while re-upping Moustakas. Oops. This offseason, they'll surely shed salary where they can and add minor leaguers with an eye on the future. 

    Score: 1

        

    Can they win later?

    The Royals sit at No. 23 in Reuter's farm system rankings and lack organizational depth. More 100-loss seasons will yield more high draft picks and should improve their standing, but for the moment, the long-term prognosis isn't a lot better than the near-term prognosis.

    Score: 3

       

    Total score: 9

28. Baltimore Orioles

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    Atmosphere

    The Baltimore Orioles finished an embarrassing 47-115 in 2018, the worst record in baseball. Despite that, they drew more than 20,000 fans per game to Camden Yards.

    It still left them 26th in attendance, but given what a horrible product the O's put on the field, it's a testament to the Baltimore faithful's long-suffering devotion. If and when the Orioles cobble together a winner, the fans will return. 

    Score: 4

            

    Payroll

    The Orioles ranked 20th in baseball in payroll in 2018. They've got a ludicrous amount of dead money tied up in first baseman Chris Davis and will be looking to cut where they can in 2019 and beyond.

    Baltimore will be shopping from the bottom shelf this winter, and even those free agents might take a hard pass.

    Score: 1

       

    Can they win now?

    Baltimore's only goals in 2019 will be avoiding 100 losses (unlikely) and continuing a painful, protracted rebuild. 

    Odds are, it'll get worse before it gets better.

    Score: 1

          

    Can they win later?

    Trading Manny Machado, Zach Britton and Jonathan Schoop last season boosted Baltimore's farm system, which Reuter ranks No. 18 in the game. 

    There's hope on the horizon, though a lack of MLB-ready pitching means a possible resurgence is years away.

    Score: 4

       

    Total score: 10

27. New York Mets

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Atmosphere

    The Mets ranked 15th in the game in attendance in 2018, but we have to grade on a curve considering they play in one of MLB's largest markets.

    They've always been New York's other team, but it felt like that could change when they won the pennant in 2015. Now, injuries and regression have shoved them back to second-tier status in the Big Apple.

    Score: 3

          

    Payroll

    The Mets spent the sixth-most money in the Senior Circuit yet finished 77-85, 13 games out of first place in the NL East.

    New general manager Brodie Van Wagenen indicated the Mets will retool rather than rebuild. Perhaps ownership agrees and is ready to loosen the purse strings. Stay tuned.

    Score: 5

       

    Can they win now?

    This question depends entirely on the Mets' offseason philosophy. They have talent, including NL Cy Young Award contender Jacob deGrom, but they also have uncertainty spread across the roster. Will they spend enough to address it? 

    At the risk of repeating ourselves, stay tuned. 

    Score: 3

            

    Can they win later?

    The Mets have some interesting prospects, including shortstop Andres Gimenez, but their farm system checks in at No. 21.

    The MiLB cavalry won't be enough to save them unless they start selling. Painful though it may be for the Queens contingent, deGrom would fetch a hefty return.

    Score: 2

         

    Total score: 13

26. Detroit Tigers

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    Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

    Atmosphere

    The Detroit Tigers are plunging into an overdue rebuild. Not surprisingly, they dipped from 16th in attendance in 2017 to 22nd in 2018. The Motor City is a strong baseball town. But after years of contention, the painful part is nigh.

    Score: 3

          

    Payroll

    The Tigers trimmed their payroll from fifth in baseball in 2017 to 17th in 2018. Expect the trend to continue, and don't hold your breath for any significant signings.

    Score: 2

            

    Can they win now?

    Despite selling assets and shedding dollars, the Tigers finished third in the American League East. 

    That said, they play in the game's weakest division and they lost 98 games. Hobbled star Miguel Cabrera played only 38 games and is owed at least $30 million annually through at least 2023.

    The Tigers might avoid the cellar in 2019, but they're not going to contend. 

    Score: 2

            

    Can they win later?

    Here's where the good news starts. The Tigers have quietly rebuilt a once-fallow farm system to the point where Reuter now ranks it No. 11 in baseball. 

    A rich class of pitching prospects fronted by right-handers Matt Manning and Casey Mize portends good things to come.

    Score: 6

         

    Total score: 13

25. Cincinnati Reds

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    John Minchillo/Associated Press

    Atmosphere

    The Great American Ball Park is a lovely yard, especially for hitters. Then again, the last-place Cincinnati Reds finished third-to-last the NL in attendance. 

    A slugger looking to pad his stats might look past the lackluster fan enthusiasm, but at the moment, Cincinnati is not a prime destination.

    Score: 5

       

    Payroll

    The Reds checked in at 25th in payroll in 2018. Franchise star Joey Votto is owed at least another $132 million, including a $7 million 2024 buyout.

    Don't expect Cincinnati to throw around anything close to that kind of cash this winter. They're rebuilding, and superstar deals are not on the menu.

    Score: 1

         

    Can they win now?

    The NL Central is a tough division. The Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals all should contend in 2019.

    The Reds, meanwhile, will bide their time after a 95-loss season and hope to join the party down the road.

    Score: 2

         

    Can they win later?

    Speaking of contending down the road, the Reds have a top-heavy farm system highlighted by infielder Nick Senzel, right-hander Hunter Greene and outfielder Taylor Trammell, all of whom profile as potential future stars.

    Senzel is coming off elbow surgery, and Greene and Trammell need more seasoning. But they offer hope for the future and compelling reasons for the Reds to exercise patience. 

    Score: 6

          

    Total score: 14

24. Texas Rangers

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    Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

    Atmosphere

    The Texas Rangers sunk to the bottom of the AL West in 2018 and finished 19th in attendance. Typically, Arlington is a fine place to play baseball, but the Rangers are limping toward a retool if not an outright rebuild.

    Until further notice, the Houston Astros are the Lone Star State's team.

    Score: 3

            

    Payroll

    The Rangers had the 16th-highest payroll in MLB in 2018. They also initiated a sell-off by trading key pieces, including left-hander Cole Hamels.

    Expect them to shave more payroll in 2019, though it's possible the front office will spend modestly and attempt to tread water.

    Score: 4

         

    Can they win now?

    The Astros are the class of the AL West. The Oakland Athletics won a surprising 97 games in 2018. The Los Angeles Angels and Seattle Mariners have playoff aspirations.

    That leaves the Rangers with slim odds of rising from last place in the near-term unless they unexpectedly splurge on the free-agent market.  

    Score: 2

           

    Can they win later?

    The Rangers have talent in a farm system Reuter ranked No. 15 in baseball. Burgeoning outfielders Leody Taveras, Willie Calhoun and Julio Pablo Martinez highlight the system. Behind them, there's a wealth of high-upside pitching.

    With the right mix of patience and player development, the Rangers could stock their outfield and pitching staff with young, cost-controlled players in the not-too-distant future.

    Score: 6

          

    Total score: 15

23. Tampa Bay Rays

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Atmosphere

    Let's not mince words: Tropicana Field is the ugliest ballpark in MLB. Calling it an eyesore is too kind.

    The Tampa Bay Rays also ranked dead last in the AL in attendance, drawing a paltry 14,258 fans per game. Combine that with the Marlins' dismal turnout, and it's almost like Florida was meant for spring training only.

    Score: 1

       

    Payroll

    In keeping with their low attendance figures, the Rays spent the least of any MLB team in 2018. It's their perennial modus operandi: keep the purse strings tight and hope the farm system and some bargain basement signings yield results.

    Score: 1

       

    Can they win now?

    Surprisingly, the answer to this question is "yes." The Rays traded key pieces at the 2018 deadline including right-hander Chris Archer and finished with 90 wins anyway. 

    The AL East is a tough division, but with possible Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell in the fold, Tampa Bay can't be discounted.

    Score: 7

       

    Can they win later?

    Reuter ranks the Rays system No. 5 in baseball. Assuming he recovers from 2018 Tommy John surgery, Brent Honeywell could join Snell stop the rotation. Two-way stud Brendan McKay has potential as a pitcher and a hitter.

    As per usual, Tampa Bay is well-stocked at the MiLB level.

    Score: 7

       

    Total score: 16

22. Seattle Mariners

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    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    Atmosphere

    The Mariners missed the postseason for the 17th consecutive season in 2018. Erstwhile ace "King" Felix Hernandez has officially tumbled from his throne.

    Despite that, the M's finished a respectable 14th in attendance. The Pacific Northwest is a nice place to live. There are reasons for free agents to sign with Seattle, playoff futility aside.

    Score: 5

            

    Payroll

    The Mariners had the 10th-highest payroll in baseball. They may not be able to spend with the game's richest franchises, but this feels like an offseason in which they'll go all in, especially with slugger Nelson Cruz ticketed for free agency.

    General manager Jerry Dipoto needs to build a winner. If he doesn't, it may be time for him to pack his bags when his contract runs out in a couple years. 

    Score: 6

       

    Can they win now?

    The Mariners won 89 games last season. If they can bolster the starting rotation and replace Cruz's power (assuming he signs elsewhere), they have a chance to break their ignoble postseason drought.

    On the other hand, they play in a stacked division and a top-heavy American League, where the Astros, New York Yankees and defending champion Boston Red Sox make the path to a deep run difficult. 

    Score: 5

            

    Can they win later?

    Now for the really bad news: The Mariners have the worst minor league system in baseball. They want to win at the big league level, meaning they're unlikely to score high draft picks or engineer trades for top MiLB talent.

    Outside of outfielder Kyle Lewis, there's little to be excited about on the Mariners' farm. And even Lewis hit a disappointing .244 with a .306 OBP between High-A and Double-A.

    Score: 1

             

    Total score: 17

21. Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Atmosphere

    The Pittsburgh Pirates sold last winter, shipping out ace Gerrit Cole and outfielder Andrew McCutchen. Then they bought at the trade deadline, acquiring right-hander Chris Archer from the Tampa Bay Rays.

    The result was a fourth-place finish in the NL Central and the third-lowest attendance in MLB.

    The Bucs play their home games in attractive PNC Park. At the moment, however, they're an afterthought by the shores of the Allegheny River.

    Score: 4

            

    Payroll

    The Pirates' payroll ranked 27th in the game, and they could bid farewell to familiar faces including infielder Josh Harrison this winter.

    The Archer trade showed they aren't tossing in the black and yellow towel, but they aren't in the business of handing out whopping contracts.

    Score: 3

            

    Can they win now?

    An 82-79 finish put Pittsburgh squarely in mediocre territory. They'll need to add bats and arms if they want to compete with the Cubs, Brewers and Cardinals in the NL Central.

    It's not impossible, but it's not exceedingly probable. 

    Score: 5

           

    Can they win later?

    The farm system isn't elite. It checks in at No. 17, per Reuter. 

    It features interesting names, however, including right-hander Mitch Keller, who rose to Triple-A in 2018 and should be pitching in The Show next season.

    A low-spending team like Pittsburgh could benefit from more top MiLB chips, but the pieces it has are enough to inspire hope.

    Score: 6

       

    Total score: 18

20. Oakland Athletics

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    Michael Zagaris/Getty Images

    Atmosphere

    The Oakland Athletics have a loyal core of fans who were undoubtedly thrilled with the team's 97-win season and postseason appearance.

    That said, the A's finished 27th in attendance and toil in the shadow of the Giants, even with San Francisco's recent struggles. The East Bay is not a magnet for high-level free agents.

    Score: 3

       

    Payroll

    The A's outspent only the White Sox and Rays in 2018, which made their record and postseason berth all the more impressive.

    They won't magically loosen the purse strings in 2019, meaning executive Billy Beane and Co. will have to work their Moneyball magic once again.

    Score: 2

       

    Can they win now?

    Oakland made the most of its limited budget in 2018 and can build on that success.

    Most of the key players from '18 are under contract, though infielder Jed Lowrie, catcher Jonathan Lucroy and reliever Jeurys Familia, among others, could bolt via free agency.

    Score: 6

       

    Can they win later?

    The A's always need to develop cost-controlled talent, and they've got some in the wings.

    Left-hander Jesus Luzardo fronts Oakland's No. 12-ranked farm system. If fellow southpaw A.J. Puk recovers from Tommy John surgery, the Athletics could have a pair of aces on their hands.

    Score: 7

         

    Total score: 18

19. Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Atmosphere

    The Arizona Diamondbacks ranked 16th in MLB in attendance in 2018 as they missed the playoffs after a 2017 postseason foray.

    D-backs fans are ready to turn out for their club when it's winning, but Arizona maintains a spring training vibe.

    Score: 5

       

    Payroll

    Arizona was right in the middle of the MLB payroll pack at No. 15 in 2018.

    The Diamondbacks can spend, as they showed with the six-year, $206.5 million deal they gave Zack Greinke in December 2015. Whether they will this winter is another question.

    Score: 5

       

    Can they win now?

    Arizona might lose ace Patrick Corbin to free agency. Center fielder A.J. Pollock is likewise on the market. The Dodgers have made back-to-back World Series appearances, and the Rockies are coming off a second straight wild-card berth.

    The Diamondbacks aren't sunk, but they need to act.

    Score: 6

       

    Can they win later?

    Arizona's farm system ranks No. 19 in the game. Right-handers Jon Duplantier and Taylor Widener could impact the rotation at some point, but neither has advanced past Double-A.

    The best hope is for the Snakes to get better now via trade or free agency.

    Score: 3

         

    Total score: 19

18. Minnesota Twins

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    Atmosphere

    The Minnesota Twins went from a wild-card entrant in 2017 to a sub-.500 team in 2018. To no one's shock, they finished 20th in attendance.

    Twinkies fans are ready to root for the small-market home team, but the Twins have to deliver.

    Score: 4

       

    Payroll

    The Twins will never be big spenders. They were true to character in 2018, as they posted the 10th-lowest payroll in baseball.

    That doesn't mean they won't cut checks, but any rumors that link them to the top free agents are likely so much hot air.

    Score: 3

         

    Can they win now?

    Injuries and underperformance doomed Minnesota in 2018. Ostensible rising stars such as outfielder Byron Buxton took big steps backward.

    If that trend reverses, the Twins could again contend in a weak AL Central. If not, they won't.

    Score: 5

         

    Can they win later?

    Minnesota has stars-in-waiting in the game's No. 6 farm system, including shortstop Royce Lewis, outfielder Alex Kirilloff and right-hander Brusdar Graterol.

    None of those names have advanced beyond High-A, but they offer a healthy dusting of hope for the Twins.

    Score: 7

       

    Total score: 19

17. Chicago White Sox

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    Jason Miller/Getty Images

    Atmosphere

    The Chicago White Sox finished 25th in attendance in 2018 and lost 100 games. They'll forever play second fiddle to the crosstown Chicago Cubs.

    They've also got an exciting young core and play in a major market. Free agents won't flock to the South Side, but they won't automatically thumb their noses at the ChiSox.

    Score: 4

         

    Payroll

    The White Sox spent less money on payroll last season than every team other than the Tampa Bay Rays.

    You can look at that and conclude they won't spend in 2019 as they nurture their young talent. Or, you could say they have a lot of money to toss around in free agency.

    Conclusion No. 1 is likely correct, but Chicago could be sneaky players on the 2018-19 market.

    Score: 4

       

    Can they win now?

    Chicago lost top pitching prospect Michael Kopech to Tommy John surgery. That was a significant blow. And, again, they lost 100 games.

    If their healthy young studs, including infielder Yoan Moncada, truly blossom, there's a chance they could take a leap. Wresting division control away from the Cleveland Indians is a long shot, but a significant jump in the standings is within the realm of possibility.

    Score: 3

         

    Can they win later?

    Even with Kopech's injury, the White Sox boast baseball's No. 4 farm system. Outfielder Eloy Jimenez is poised for success, while right-hander Dylan Cease and outfielder Luis Robert are rising fast.

    Sometimes rebuilds take longer than expected. But Chicago has the potential to become a powerhouse.

    Score: 8

       

    Total score: 19

16. Toronto Blue Jays

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Atmosphere

    The Toronto Blue Jays finished a distant fourth place in the AL East in 2018 and were saved from the basement only by the even-worse Orioles.

    Still, as MLB's only Canadian franchise, the Jays drew an average of more than 29,000 fans, fifth-most in the Junior Circuit.

    Toronto is due for a rough rebuild, but it has a robust, loyal fanbase.

    Score: 7

       

    Payroll

    Toronto sat at 11th in MLB's payroll rankings in 2018. After suffering through a losing season and trading third baseman and former franchise cornerstone Josh Donaldson at the waiver deadline, they're likely to sink in the spending standings.

    The Red Sox and Yankees are the class of the AL East, and the Tampa Bay Rays are a stealth contender. The Jays, meanwhile, need to hit the reset button.

    Score: 3

       

    Can they win now?

    As stated, the Jays are chasing the Red Sox, Yankees and Rays in their division. Their chances for contention in 2019 are dim.

    That said, it might not be long before they're relevant again...

    Score: 2

       

    Can they win later?

    Toronto has the third-best farm system in baseball, fronted by second-generation stars-in-waiting Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette.

    Guerrero, in particular, appears ready to take the big leagues by storm after posting a 1.073 OPS in the minors last season.

    Score: 8

       

    Total score: 20

15. Cleveland Indians

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Atmosphere

    Despite winning another AL Central title, the Cleveland Indians finished 21st in attendance.

    Perhaps it's fatigue over the Tribe's current MLB-record title drought; the club hasn't hoisted a Commissioner's Trophy since 1948. Fans can be forgiven for getting impatient.

    Score: 6

       

    Payroll

    The Indians ranked 14th in payroll in 2018. There have been rumblings they might listen to offers on top stars, including ace Corey Kluber.

    The Indians might also spend to bolster their bullpen and outfield and go for another AL Central crown. But they aren't in the business of cutting cartoonish checks.

    Score: 5

       

    Can they win now?

    In a notably weak division, the Indians don't need to spend big to be the favorites. However, if they want to challenge the Red Sox, Yankees and Astros for American League supremacy and win a long-overdue championship, they'll need to spend, trade or both.

    Score: 7

           

    Can they win later?

    Right-hander Triston McKenzie and third baseman Nolan Jones are interesting prospects, but overall the Indians' No. 25-ranked farm lacks notable talent.

    Unless Cleveland wants to expand its budget, it'll need to change that soon.

    Score: 3

       

    Total score: 21

14. San Diego Padres

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    Gregory Bull/Associated Press

    Atmosphere

    Petco Park is an enjoyable venue made nicer by the lovely San Diego weather. The Friars finished 18th in attendance, a predictable outcome given their last-place finish in the NL West.

    There's enough to like about San Diego, however, to make it an attractive destination.

    Score: 5

       

    Payroll

    The Pads ranked 24th in payroll in 2018 despite signing first baseman Eric Hosmer to a franchise-record eight-year, $144 million contract.

    Another deal of that size is unlikely for San Diego this winter, but they maintain enough financial flexibility to spend if they see fit.

    Score: 5

       

    Can they win now?

    The NL West is a deep division, with the Dodgers, Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies all positioned as legitimate contenders.

    The Padres could climb out of the cellar in 2019, but it'll be another year or two before they contend for anything more than also-ran status.

    Score: 2

       

    Can they win later?

    San Diego is permitted to gaze ahead and dream big.

    They have the best farm system in the game, per Reuter, with top-tier prospects such as infielder Fernando Tatis Jr. and left-hander MacKenzie Gore in the pipeline. Catcher Francisco Mejia and infielder Luis Urias are ready to make an MLB impact.

    Within a few seasons, the Padres could be the toast of the division thanks to drafting and development.

    Score: 9

          

    Total score: 21

13. Los Angeles Angels

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    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    Atmosphere

    The Los Angeles Angels rolled into 2018 with ample hype. They employed Mike Trout, the best player on the planet, and improbably landed two-way Japanese star Shohei Ohtani.

    Then they melted into a puddle of mediocrity and finished 80-82. Their massive market helped them finish sixth in attendance. They remain a notable destination, but they also take a backseat to the Dodgers.

    Score: 5

       

    Payroll

    The Halos ranked seventh in payroll last season and are reportedly hoping to make Trout an Angel for life. Albert Pujols' albatross contract might limit their ability to spend, but the Angels can at least theoretically sign gaudy deals.

    Score: 6

       

    Can they win now?

    Catching the Astros would require bold action, but the Angels could insert themselves into the AL wild-card mix with a few choice upgrades to the starting rotation and offense. Ohtani's comeback from Tommy John surgery is another X-factor.

    Short of roster-altering signings and trades, the Angels won't be title favorites in 2019. As long as they have Trout, though, they have hope.

    Score: 5

         

    Can they win later?

    Los Angeles is steadily rebuilding its farm system, which Reuter ranks No. 14 in baseball.

    Outfielder Jo Adell is a fast-rising star in the offing, while right-hander Griffin Canning could soon own a spot in the big league rotation.

    Score: 6

          

    Total score: 22

12. San Francisco Giants

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    John Hefti/Associated Press

    Atmosphere

    AT&T Park is among the nicest ballparks in baseball. The San Francisco Giants, not coincidentally, finished fourth in attendance despite a second consecutive losing season.

    Maybe Giants fans are drunk on the three championships in five years the team won from 2010 to 2014. Maybe it's the giant Coke bottle slide or the beautiful waterfront view.

    While top sluggers may not want to take their home hacks in San Francisco's marine layer, it's a beloved destination for most.

    Score: 8

          

    Payroll

    The Giants had the second-highest payroll in 2018. They've also got more cash committed than any other club through 2021.

    That means they're willing to spend in general, but that they might not be gung-ho to hand out any massive contracts in the near term.

    Score: 6

          

    Can they win now?

    It remains to be seen what direction the Giants will go under new president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi. Maybe ownership will cut him a blank check with a mandate to win now; maybe they'll order him to sell assets such as ace Madison Bumgarner and restock the farm.

    Stay tuned.

    Score: 5

          

    Can they win later?

    The Giants farm system checks in at No. 24. Highly regarded catcher Joey Bart could one day supplant franchise icon Buster Posey behind the dish, and outfielder Heliot Ramos brings toolsy potential.

    Beyond that, this is a system in rebuild mode that may be a top priority for Zaidi and Co.

    Score: 4

            

    Total score: 23

11. Milwaukee Brewers

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Atmosphere

    The Brewers brought enthusiasm back to Milwaukee in 2018. They won the division title over the Cubs in a one-game playoff and advanced to Game 7 of the National League Championship Series.

    Along the way, they ranked 10th in attendance in a market no one would call gargantuan. Good on you, Brew Crew faithful.

    Score: 7

       

    Payroll

    The Brewers' budget placed them 22nd in '18. Then again, they signed center fielder Lorenzo Cain for five years and $80 million, so they aren't averse to spending money.

    Milwaukee probably won't be in on the winter's top free agents, but don't discount the possibility of a surprise marquee signing.

    Score: 5

       

    Can they win now?

    Of course they can. The Brewers won the NL Central and got to to the doorstep of the World Series. The next level is within reach, though they could use an ace-level starting pitcher and some bullpen depth.

    Score: 8

       

    Can they win later?

    The Crew's farm system ranks a distant No. 26. Toolsy outfielder Corey Ray and infielder Keston Hiura carry high-upside potential, and there is young talent on the MLB roster, but in all, Milwaukee's farm is ho-hum.

    All the more reason to go all-in now and try for a championship that's suddenly within reach.

    Score: 4

         

    Total score: 24

10. Chicago Cubs

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    David Banks/Getty Images

    Atmosphere

    Wrigley Field is one of the most iconic parks in baseball. The Cubs drew the fifth-most fans in either league.

    The North Side can be a cold, blustery place when the Cubbies aren't winning, but it's steeped in a combination of history and passion.

    Score: 8

          

    Payroll

    The Cubbies ranked fourth in payroll in 2018. They might not be big spenders this offseason, especially after exercising veteran left-hander Cole Hamels' $20 million option.

    But if they want to spend, they will, as evidenced by the $126 million pact they handed to Yu Darvish last winter.

    Score: 7

       

    Can they win now?

    The Cubs won the World Series and buried the billy goat in 2016. They lost to the Dodgers in the National League Championship Series in 2017. In 2018, they didn't make it past the NL Wild Card Game.

    That sounds like they're trending in the wrong direction, but the Cubbies boast a wealth of offensive talent led by third baseman Kris Bryant and enough pitching to get them back to the playoffs.

    Score: 8

          

    Can they win later?

    The Cubs farm system ranks 29th in baseball and doesn't feature any can't-miss blue chips.

    That's what happens when you engineer big trades and go all-in on the present.

    Score: 2

          

    Total score: 25

9. Washington Nationals

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    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Atmosphere

    The Washington Nationals finished a distant second in the NL East and missed the playoffs, but they pulled in the 11th-most fans in 2018.

    It's too much to say they're the top story in the nation's capital; that title belongs to someone else. But D.C. fans obviously care about their baseball club.

    Score: 7

           

    Payroll

    Only the Red Sox, Giants, Dodgers and Cubs spent more than Washington. You read that correctly...the Nats outspent the Yankees in '18.

    They ended up with only an 82-80 record to show for it and may now watch superstar Bryce Harper exit via free agency. But they have shown a willingness to loosen their purse strings.

    Score: 7

           

    Can they win now?

    Harper's impending departure casts a pall over the Nationals' future. They've still got ace and possible 2018 NL Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer, though, along with a decent supporting cast.

    If they can lure Harper back or spread the money they would have spent on him around to other areas, including the infield and bullpen, they could contend.

    Score: 6

          

    Can they win later?

    The Nationals farm system ranks No. 20 in baseball. That's not great news.

    The good news? Outfielder Juan Soto turned 20 years old last season and is a finalist for 2018 NL Rookie of the Year. Outfielder Victor Robles is also poised to make a big league splash.

    Painful as it would be to watch Harper go, Washington has his heirs apparent in hand.

    Score: 5

             

    Total score: 25

8. St. Louis Cardinals

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    Matt Marton/Associated Press

    Atmosphere

    St. Louis Cardinals fans get a lot of well-deserved credit for being some of the savviest and classiest in the game. The Cards finished third in the NL Central in 2018 and missed the playoffs, yet they trailed only the Dodgers and Yankees in attendance.

    St. Louis isn't a massive market, but it is a pretty darn good place to play baseball.

    Score: 7

          

    Payroll

    The Redbirds spent the eighth-most money in baseball in 2018 and missed the dance.

    That could lead to belt-tightening, but they're an interesting dark-horse contender for some of the winter's top free agents. Fancred Sports' Jon Heyman linked them to infielder Manny Machado in September, and those rumors aren't likely to go away.

    Score: 7

          

    Can they win now?

    With ample pitching depth and, presumably, money to spend, the Cardinals can absolutely compete with Chicago and Milwaukee in the NL Central.

    They'll need to do some work this winter to make it happen, though, including bolstering the offense around Matt Carpenter, who put together an MVP-caliber campaign.

    Score: 6

         

    Can they win later?

    The Cardinals farm system isn't the gaudiest in the game, but they've graduated a number of youngsters, especially pitchers, to the MLB level.

    Jack Flaherty and Alex Reyes headline a list of hurlers who could anchor the Cards for years to come and continue their tradition of quietly and consistently cranking out big league talent from their minor league ranks.

    Score: 6

       

    Total score: 26

7. Colorado Rockies

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Atmosphere

    The Colorado Rockies won a wild-card spot in 2018 and pulled in the seventh-most fans in MLB. Say what you want about the Mile High effect and humidors and whatnot...Denver is a swell place to play, for hitters in particular.

    Score: 8

          

    Payroll

    The Rockies had the 13th-highest payroll in either league and gave a record-breaking contract to closer Wade Davis.

    It remains to be seen how they'll allocate their dollars in 2019, but Colorado is obviously willing to spend when it sees an opportunity.

    Score: 6

         

    Can they win now?

    The Rox are looking up at the Dodgers in the NL West and have the Diamondbacks to contend with as well. But as long as they retain NL MVP contender Nolan Arenado and maintain a modicum of pitching depth, they'll be a factor.

    Score: 7

          

    Can they win later?

    The Rockies have the game's No. 13 farm system and are poised to graduate infielder Brendan Rodgers, who could supplant free-agent second baseman DJ LeMahieu. Right-hander Peter Lambert is another name to watch, as either a future contributor at Coors Field or a trade chip.

    Score: 6

         

    Total score: 27

6. Philadelphia Phillies

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    Laurence Kesterson/Associated Press

    Atmosphere

    Philadelphia Phillies fans are notoriously rough on the home team. Hence, despite the Phils' modest resurgence in 2018, they ranked 17th in attendance. Fair enough.

    Philadelphia is a great baseball town when the club is winning, however, despite the inevitable boo birds.

    Score: 6

        

    Payroll

    The Phillies finished 23rd in payroll in '18 and have a ton of capital to spend. Thus the rumor they might sign Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.

    Will that happen? Probably not. But it speaks to the Phillies' enviable financial flexibility.

    Score: 8

       

    Can they win now?

    The Phillies finished under .500 but were in contention for much of the year. Their pitching staff is loaded with potential, exemplified by emerging ace Aaron Nola.

    If they add a star such as Harper or Machado (let alone both), the Phils will be a force to be reckoned with.

    Score: 7

       

    Can they win later?

    Philadelphia has the No. 8 farm system in baseball, highlighted by young right-handers Sixto Sanchez and Adonis Medina.

    Infielders Scott Kingery and J.P. Crawford no longer count as prospects after graduating to MLB, but they're part of a youthful, forward-looking picture in the City of Brotherly Love.

    Score: 8

           

    Total score: 29

5. Boston Red Sox

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    Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

    Atmosphere

    Boston finished ninth in attendance in 2018, which seems low for a World Series winner, but they were second overall in attendance percentage.

    Here's the bottom line: Fenway Park is Fenway Park, and there's nothing better than playing for the defending champs.

    Score: 9

          

    Payroll

    The Red Sox spent more than any club in 2018, and they got their money's worth. They should be willing to dole out more bucks to buttress the back end of the bullpen, either by re-signing closer Craig Kimbrel or inking his replacement.

    Score: 8

          

    Can they win now?

    They just won the World Series. They employ likely AL MVP Mookie Betts and will retain most of the same cast that bathed in champagne and confetti.

    So...yeah. They can win now.

    Score: 9

          

    Can they win later?

    While Boston is well-positioned in the near term, it lacks organizational depth. The Sox farm system ranks 28th in baseball.

    Executive Dave Dombrowski went all-in on the present. It worked, but Boston may pay the piper in the coming years.

    Score: 5

         

    Total score: 31

4. New York Yankees

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    Atmosphere

    The new Yankee Stadium might not technically be the House that Ruth Built, but it's still a place anyone should want to play.

    The Yankees led the AL in attendance. There's nothing quite like wearing pinstripes. Enough said.

    Score: 9

       

    Payroll

    After spending years as baseball's big, bad budget bullies, the Yanks have slipped a tad in the payroll ranks. They finished sixth in spending in 2018 in an effort to remain under the luxury tax.

    There have also been indications that they might not be in on either Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, the top prizes of the free-agent class. That could be a wise decision.

    That said, the Yankees will spend somewhere. Most likely, they'll allocate dollars to a starting rotation that was their undoing in the playoffs.

    Score: 7

        

    Can they win now?

    New York won 100 games and set an all-time single-season record for home runs by a team with 267. Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton front an offensive attack that is positively Ruthian.

    If the Yankees net an ace this winter, they'll be a credible threat to Boston for supremacy in the AL East and the American League.

    Score: 8

          

    Can they win later?

    The Yankees graduated infielders Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres in 2018, and both are candidates for AL Rookie of the Year.

    Add outfielder Clint Frazier and left-hander Justus Sheffield, and you've got an impressive stable of young talent that should set New York up for long-term success.

    Score: 8

           

    Total score: 32

3. Atlanta Braves

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    Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

    Atmosphere

    The Braves reside in a shiny new ballpark and drew the 12th-most fans in the game in 2018 as they surged back to relevance with a division title.

    As the buzz increases around this up-and-coming club, expect that attendance figure to climb.

    Score: 7

         

    Payroll

    Atlanta spent in the middle tier in 2018 with an 18th-ranked payroll.

    It has financial wiggle room going forward and could be a sneaky player in free agency, though with its wealth of young talent the team might not want to overcommit to any current free agents.

    Score: 7

          

    Can they win now?

    The Braves proved beyond a doubt they can win now with their 2018 division title. The fact that their roster is stacked with cost-controlled young rising stars underscores the point.

    There's always the possibility for backsliding, but for the moment Atlanta is sitting pretty.

    Score: 9

              

    Can they win later?

    The Braves' MLB squad is loaded with burgeoning studs, including outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. and the middle-infield duo of Ozzie Albies and Dansby Swanson.

    On top of that, they boast the No. 2 farm system in baseball with an array of intriguing arms that should carry them into the future.

    Score: 9

          

    Total score: 32

2. Houston Astros

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Atmosphere

    The Astros failed to repeat in 2018, but they did rank eighth in attendance. Minute Maid Park is an attractive yard, especially for hitters.

    Overall, the vibe is good in Houston.

    Score: 8

            

    Payroll

    The 'Stros doled out the ninth-most ducats last season and figure to be major players in free agency, especially with left-hander Dallas Keuchel on the market.

    Look for Houston to either re-sign Keuchel or replace him with a comparable arm, as well as address holes at catcher and in the bullpen.

    Score: 8

          

    Can they win now?

    The Astros are the class of the AL West and a legitimate title contender. Their loss to Boston in the ALCS should motivate them to add pieces and get back to the promised land.

    Score: 9

       

    Can they win later?

    Outfielder Kyle Tucker and right-hander Forrest Whitley highlight a Houston farm system that ranks No. 7 in the game. Behind them there are more riches, including powerful Cuban Yordan Alvarez.

    The 'Stros don't need a ton of reinforcements behind stars such as second baseman Jose Altuve and shortstop Carlos Correa, but they're about to get them anyway.

    Score: 8

          

    Total score: 33

1. Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    Atmosphere

    The Dodgers extended their title drought past three decades but also led baseball in attendance.

    Say what you want about beach balls and fans who leave early to beat the traffic—the Dodgers are a major draw in Southern California.

    Score: 8

            

    Payroll

    The Dodgers dipped to third in spending in 2018 but remain open for business.

    They already re-upped ace Clayton Kershaw to a three-year, $93 million extension and ought to be in the market for Bryce Harper as well.

    Honestly, it would be shocking if Los Angeles didn't make a seismic splash this winter.

    Score: 9

                

    Can they win now?

    Six consecutive division titles and two straight World Series appearances just about say it all. Yes, it's easy to pick on the Dodgers for spending so much and enjoying so much regular season success only to fall short at the finish line.

    But they're in the hunt annually, and that likely won't change anytime soon.

    Score: 9

          

    Can they win later?

    Somehow, despite being perennial contenders, the Dodgers have the game's No. 10 farm system. Outfielder Alex Verdugo is poised to be a significant factor next season. After that, there's a fine mix of young catchers (Keibert Ruiz and Will Smith) and high-upside arms (Dustin May, Mitchell White).

    The Dodgers don't need such a deep farm, but they've got one.

    Score: 8

              

    Total score: 34

            

    All statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference unless otherwise noted.