With the annual winter meetings now in the rearview and a number of top free agents already signing on the dotted line, it's time for an updated version of our MLB power rankings.
The rankings were last shuffled on Oct. 29 and set a baseline for the offseason. No team is a finished product in the middle of December, so there is plenty of time for teams to still rise and fall, but already some adjusting can be made based on early offseason activity.
As with any offseason power rankings, these took into account both how complete the roster is and how active the team is expected to be going forward, as well as the overall direction the franchise is headed.
With that, here's an updated look at where all 30 teams stand:
Despite the impending loss of Bryce Harper, the Washington Nationals look like an improved team.
The signing of Patrick Corbin to join a rotation that already featured Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg is a big reason, but it's not the only reason. The catcher position has also been upgraded significantly with the additions of Yan Gomes and Kurt Suzuki to replace a Matt Wieters-led group that posted a brutal .214/.304/.320 line last season.
They also found a taker for Tanner Roark and his $9.8 million projected salary, which should provide further flexibility to address second base, the bullpen and perhaps another starter.
The New York Yankees have also been clear winners after making quick work of addressing their starting pitching needs.
CC Sabathia is back on a one-year, $8 million deal, J.A. Happ was re-signed on a two-year pact after going 7-0 with a 2.69 ERA in 11 starts with the team, and James Paxton was acquired for top prospect Justus Sheffield. That trio joins Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka to give the Yankees a starting staff that could be one of the best in the American League.
The focus now shifts to finding a middle infielder to bridge the gap to Didi Gregorius' return from Tommy John surgery and a late-inning arm to offset the potential departures of Zach Britton and David Robertson.
The New York Mets made the biggest splash of the offseason when they acquired Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz from the Mariners—unloading the contracts of Jay Bruce and Anthony Swarzak in the process.
They will need to add a few more pieces to keep pace with the Braves, Nationals and Phillies in the NL East, and the health of the pitching staff remains paramount. If nothing else, that trade signifies they're serious about winning in 2019.
The Atlanta Braves (Josh Donaldson), St. Louis Cardinals (Paul Goldschmidt), Tampa Bay Rays (Charlie Morton, pending a physical) and Philadelphia Phillies (Andrew McCutchen) have also made high-profile additions.
However, all four teams also still have work to do. The Braves have potential holes to fill in right field, atop the rotation and in the bullpen, the Cardinals need to address the bullpen, the Rays are lacking a proven middle-of-the-order run producer—at least until they complete a deal for Edwin Encarnacion, per B/R's Scott Miller—and need more bullpen help, and the Phillies are still mulling a splashy signing after whiffing on Corbin.
Props to the Boston Red Sox for moving quickly to re-sign postseason heroes Nathan Eovaldi and Steve Pearce. They still need to address the departure of Craig Kimbrel, but all signs point to them once again being a force.
Same goes for the defending NL champs, as the Los Angeles Dodgers were able to strike a new three-year deal with Clayton Kershaw while also bringing back Hyun-Jin Ryu on a qualifying offer. Agreeing to a contract with Joe Kelly, as Jorge Castillo of the Los Angeles Times reported, should help stabilize the relief corps, and there's a good chance they're not finished, with trade rumors swirling about a potential deal to move one or more of their outfielders.
The Seattle Mariners and Arizona Diamondbacks won 89 and 82 games, respectively, last season.
Despite their winning records, both teams have seemingly waived the white flag on contending in 2019. The M's traded off Paxton, Cano and Diaz, while the D-backs flipped Goldschmidt ahead of the final year of his contract.
More trades could be coming from both teams, or they could opt for more of a retooling than a full-scale rebuild. Either way, the inevitable slide down the rankings has begun.
The following nine teams have been largely inactive this offseason and will enter 2019 with some expectation of contending. With that in mind, we've taken a quick run through the small moves they have made and what still needs to be done:
Chicago Cubs: The biggest addition for the Cubs this offseason is reliever Rowan Wick. Suffice to say, this team is not one Rowan Wick away from returning to the promised land. Late-inning bullpen help is a must, and the offense could use a few more contract-oriented bats. You have to think something significant is brewing.
Cleveland Indians: The Indians have taken an opportunistic approach to the offseason. They extended Carlos Carrasco and continue to shop Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer in hopes of cashing in on a thin free-agent market, as Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan originally reported. There are still holes to fill in the outfield and behind the plate after trading Yan Gomes. Don't confuse this for a step backward. Their window of contention is still wide-open.
Colorado Rockies: After a late-season push to claim the second NL wild-card spot, the Rockies can't afford to rest on their laurels. Upgrades could be made at catcher and first base, and they'll need to do something about the likely departure of Adam Ottavino, their best reliever.
Houston Astros: Robinson Chirinos was signed to fill the void at catcher and Aledmys Diaz was acquired to ease the loss of utility man Marwin Gonzalez. However, nothing has been done to address the starting rotation, which stands to be without Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers Jr. from last year's staff. Some mix of in-house rookies (Josh James, Framber Valdez, Forrest Whitley) and converted relievers (Brad Peacock, Collin McHugh) could be the answer.
Los Angeles Angels: The Angels sport a projected rotation of Andrew Heaney, Jaime Barria, Tyler Skaggs, Felix Pena and Nick Tropeano. That's not going to get them a playoff spot in the American League. Pinch-hitting extraordinaire Tommy La Stella was a nice under-the-radar pickup and slugger Justin Bour—who agreed to a deal Wednesday, per Passan—added a needed left-handed presence. But there's still a lot to do.
Milwaukee Brewers: To keep pace in the NL Central, the Brewers could start by re-signing Wade Miley or finding a suitable replacement. A second baseman to bridge the gap to top prospect Keston Hiura would also be welcome, and the non-tenders of Dan Jennings and Xavier Cedeno might mean a lefty reliever is on the shopping list as well.
Minnesota Twins: Jonathan Schoop (1/$7.5M) and C.J. Cron (1/$4.8M) were nice low-risk additions on one-year deals, and that might be all the Twins do this offseason on the position-player side of things. However, the pitching staff could use at least one more quality starter to join Jose Berrios, Kyle Gibson and Jake Odorizzi, while the bullpen is sorely lacking in late-inning experience.
Oakland Athletics: The A's were the biggest surprise of 2018. If they don't do something to address the starting rotation, they might be the biggest disappointment of 2019. They cobbled together a starting staff last year with the likes of Edwin Jackson, Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson. Expect some similar scrapheap additions later in the offseason. Until then, it's tough to rank them any higher than No. 16.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Deadline deals to acquire Chris Archer and Keone Kela were made with an eye on contending in 2019. Trading Ivan Nova and his $9.2 million salary to the White Sox will give them some flexibility to add a piece or two in free agency. Finding a taker for Francisco Cervelli ($11.5M) would serve the same purpose.
Checking In with the Non-Contenders
The remaining spots in the rankings all belong to teams who are not expected to contend in 2019, whether they're set to embark on a rebuild or are already in the midst of that process.
Take that with a grain of salt. The Athletics almost certainly would have appeared in this section a year ago, and they ended up winning 97 games. In other words, stranger things have happened.
That said, most of these teams are either set to embark on a rebuild or have already blown things up and are still building back toward contention.
The San Francisco Giants, Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays are three teams facing the need to rebuild, while the Baltimore Orioles, Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals and Miami Marlins are in the early stages of that process after losing 90-plus games a year ago.
The focus for these teams as far as free agency is concerned should be on adding low-cost veteran talent that can potentially be flipped at the trade deadline for prospects.
Some examples so far include Matt Moore (DET), Billy Hamilton (KC), Tyson Ross (DET), Jesse Chavez (TEX), Chris Owings (KC) and Jordy Mercer (DET), pending a physical.
Three teams to watch that could be this year's version of the A's are the Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati Reds and San Diego Padres. All three teams lost at least 95 games a year ago, but they have some promising young talent and appear willing to spend in free agency.
The White Sox (Ivan Nova) and Reds (Tanner Roark) have both added a veteran starter to their rotation via trade, while the Padres have been a popular name on the rumor mill and have the farm system to be serious players for anyone who becomes available.
Top Remaining Free Agents
As a preview for what's still to come this offseason, let's take a quick look at the top remaining free agents at each position.
- C: Yasmani Grandal, Wilson Ramos, Martin Maldonado, Jonathan Lucroy, Devin Mesoraco
- 1B: Wilmer Flores, Matt Adams, Mark Reynolds, Hanley Ramirez
- 2B: Jed Lowrie, DJ LeMahieu, Daniel Murphy, Brian Dozier, Ian Kinsler
- 3B: Mike Moustakas, Yangervis Solarte
- SS: Manny Machado, Jose Iglesias, Freddy Galvis, Adeiny Hechavarria, Alcides Escobar
- OF: Bryce Harper, A.J. Pollock, Michael Brantley, Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, Jon Jay, Melky Cabrera, Carlos Gonzalez, Avisail Garcia, Denard Span
- UT: Marwin Gonzalez, Asdrubal Cabrera, Josh Harrison, Derek Dietrich, Daniel Descalso
- DH: Nelson Cruz
- SP: Dallas Keuchel, Wade Miley, Anibal Sanchez, Gio Gonzalez, Derek Holland, Clay Buchholz, Jeremy Hellickson, Trevor Cahill, Matt Harvey, Yusei Kikuchi
- RHRP: Craig Kimbrel, Adam Ottavino, David Robertson, Joakim Soria, Cody Allen, Shawn Kelley, Kelvin Herrera, Bud Norris, Greg Holland, Brad Brach, Sergio Romo, Ryan Madson, Adam Warren
- LHRP: Zach Britton, Andrew Miller, Jorge De La Rosa, Jake Diekman, Justin Wilson, Jerry Blevins, Tony Sipp, Dan Jennings