MLB Power Rankings at the Start of the 2019 Season
Opening Day is finally upon us.
Among other things, that means we can finalize our MLB power rankings for the start of the 2019 season.
The rankings have steadily shuffled all offseason as notable free agents have signed and teams have completed blockbuster trades. Now, the time has come to set baselines for the upcoming season with one final set of tweaks.
Within the rankings, we've provided a closer look at each team's biggest move of the offseason and 2019 forecast.
Off we go.
30. Baltimore Orioles
Biggest Offseason Move: Selecting SS Richie Martin in the Rule 5 draft
It speaks to the current mindset of the Baltimore Orioles that their biggest offseason move was a Rule 5 draft selection. That said, the O's seem prepared to give Martin the bulk of the playing time at shortstop after they cut ties with minor league free-agent signing Alcides Escobar.
The 24-year-old is a good fielder, and he hit .300/.368/.439 with 43 extra-base hits and 25 steals in a breakout season at Double-A last year.
Another 100-loss season seems inevitable for an Orioles team essentially starting from scratch with no real controllable assets around whom it can build. This season will be all about in-house development as Baltimore tries to identify which players could become long-term pieces.
29. Miami Marlins
Biggest Offseason Move: Trading C J.T. Realmuto
After shipping out Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Dee Gordon last offseason, the Miami Marlins finally pulled the trigger and dealt their most valuable remaining asset—All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto, who was sent to the Philadelphia Phillies.
That trade brought back highly regarded pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez, who immediately became the No. 1 prospect in the Miami system. It also netted Jorge Alfaro, who has five years of team control remaining and provides an immediate replacement for Realmuto at catcher.
The youth movement is in full effect for the Marlins, and there's a good chance their record will dip even lower than last year's 63-98 mark in a vastly improved NL East. The young rotation of Jose Urena (27), Trevor Richards (25), Pablo Lopez (23), Sandy Alcantara (23) and Caleb Smith (27) could surprise some people. Finding another Brian Anderson to build around would be nice.
28. Detroit Tigers
Biggest Offseason Move: Signing 2B Josh Harrison to a one-year, $2 million deal
The Detroit Tigers did well to pluck Mike Fiers and Leonys Martin from the scrapheap last year and turn them into trade chips, and they took a similar approach this offseason. But Josh Harrison has a chance to play a more significant role than just potential trade fodder.
"He's a positive person, a leader who has proven himself at this level. He's another guy who can help improve our situation this year, and maybe beyond," manager Ron Gardenhire told reporters. "He helps us not only as a player on the field, but he's a teacher. If we're going to have some young players on the field, he can help them, too."
The 31-year-old is hitting .359/.468/.564 with six extra-base hits in 47 plate appearances this spring.
The Tigers will continue developing guys like Jeimer Candelario, Christin Stewart and Matthew Boyd while also welcoming more prospect talent to the majors over the course of the upcoming season. An eventual trade of Nicholas Castellanos could also net more intriguing farmhands. They're still in the early stages of rebuilding, but they're headed in the right direction.
27. Kansas City Royals
Biggest Offseason Move: Signing 2B Whit Merrifield to a four-year, $16.25 million extension
The Kansas City Royals balked at the idea of trading second baseman Whit Merrifield amid a teardown of the roster, and they backed that up this offseason by signing the late-bloomer to a four-year extension that includes a club option for 2023.
The Royals front office has made it clear they want this retooling stage to be a short one by targeting MLB-ready prospects in recent trades and holding onto Merrifield. This just serves as further confirmation they won't be blowing things up any further.
While the Royals may be hoping for a quick turnaround in their climb back toward contention, the road ahead appears to be lengthy. They do have some nice players around whom they can build, including Adalberto Mondesi, Brad Keller, Jakob Junis and Merrifield, but they still have a lot of work to do.
26. Toronto Blue Jays
Biggest Offseason Move: Signing SP Clay Buchholz to a one-year, $3 million deal
The Toronto Blue Jays added Clay Buchholz, Matt Shoemaker and Clayton Richard this offseason in an effort to strengthen a starting staff that was hit hard by injuries in 2018.
Buchholz, 34, is the most intriguing name of the bunch after he posted a 2.01 ERA and 1.04 WHIP in 16 starts with the Arizona Diamondbacks last season. He'll stay behind at extended spring training after signing late but could join the rotation by mid-April. If he stays healthy, he could be one of the offseason's biggest steals.
This will be a rebuilding year for the Blue Jays. That said, it's one that should generate plenty of national attention thanks to the impending arrival of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., the No. 1 prospect in baseball. Others such as Danny Jansen, Bo Bichette, Kevin Smith, Sean Reid-Foley and Trent Thornton could also make their marks as rookies, and the future looks bright.
The next few years could be tough from a win-loss standpoint, though.
25. Texas Rangers
Biggest Offseason Move: Signing RP Jose Leclerc to a four-year, $14.75 million extension
Jose Leclerc was quietly one of 2018's most dominant relievers, posting a 1.56 ERA, 0.85 WHIP and 13.3 K/9 with 12 saves and 15 holds in 59 appearances.
The Texas Rangers rewarded him with a four-year extension that includes club options in 2023 and 2024. Still, that team-friendly deal doesn't provide any guarantee he'll stay put. If anything, the long-term contract enhances his trade value. We saw a similar situation with Brad Hand and the San Diego Padres before he was traded to the Cleveland Indians last summer.
The Rangers are a tough team to peg. If they were to throw in the towel and rebuild, they have a lot of attractive potential trade chips on the roster. But they still seem committed to the present, based on their offseason activity. This might be a team with too much talent to justify rebuilding and not enough talent to contend legitimately.
24. San Francisco Giants
Biggest Offseason Move: Not trading SP Madison Bumgarner
The San Francisco Giants' biggest offseason move was a non-move.
By holding onto Madison Bumgarner rather than taking the best offer available this winter, they made the 2020 free agent one of the most compelling players in baseball. The decision to wait could pay off big for the Giants, or we could see a repeat of Josh Donaldson and the Toronto Blue Jays from a year ago if he escapes on the open market.
If and when the Giants do trade Bumgarner, the move would kick off a long-overdue rebuild. Relievers Tony Watson and Will Smith also have obvious value, while second baseman Joe Panik could become a target if he rebounds from a disappointing season.
You just never know with this team, though. Maybe it'll hover around .500 through the first three months and then gut the farm system for some aging veterans and an outside shot at a wild-card spot.
23. Chicago White Sox
Biggest Offseason Move: Signing LF Eloy Jimenez to a six-year, $43 million extension
This could become the new normal if the current service-time system is not overhauled. Before playing his first MLB game, Eloy Jimenez signed a contract that could pay him at least $75 million over the next eight years if both his club options are exercised.
Now, rather than hiding him in the minors for a few weeks as a means of securing an extra year of team control, the Chicago White Sox can pencil him into the Opening Day lineup.
Whiffing on Manny Machado was a big blow to Chicago's hopes of a major turnaround in 2019. This is a team on the rise, but a playoff spot still seems out of reach as it waits on more help from the farm system and lines up its next major free-agent target.
That said, the White Sox could still tack 10-plus wins onto last year's 62-100 record.
22. Seattle Mariners
Biggest Offseason Move: Trading Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz
The blockbuster deal to send Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz to the New York Mets kicked off a busy offseason for the Seattle Mariners and went a long way toward restocking a thin farm system. After it hung on the fringe of contention the past several years, this team finally has a clear new direction.
Along with adding Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn in the marquee swap, the M's acquired Justus Sheffield, J.P. Crawford, Erik Swanson, Shed Long and Dom Thompson-Williams in a handful of other trades. They also signed Japanese standout Yusei Kikuchi to a three-season deal that includes four option years.
All those guys are potential long-term pieces.
The cost of building a brighter future will likely involve taking a few steps backward in 2019. For a team that hasn't been to the playoffs since 2001, what's another few years if it means becoming a sustainable contender?
21. Arizona Diamondbacks
Biggest Offseason Move: Trading 1B Paul Goldschmidt
The Arizona Diamondbacks looked set to blow up the roster when they traded Paul Goldschmidt to the St. Louis Cardinals on Dec. 5. Instead, that was the extent of their offseason wheeling and dealing, and the trade brought back a pair of MLB-ready players in starter Luke Weaver and catcher Carson Kelly.
That they opted for a package of current contributors rather than high-ceiling prospects is a good indication Arizona is not yet ready to waive the white flag on this current core.
Props to the D-backs for still trying to contend when so many others are tanking.
That said, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Colorado Rockies are clearly better teams, and the San Diego Padres are ready to make a push. The NL West could force their hand. In the right scenario, Zack Greinke, Robbie Ray and David Peralta are all attractive trade chips.
20. Pittsburgh Pirates
Biggest Offseason Move: Trading for SS Erik Gonzalez
The Pittsburgh Pirates' big moves came last summer when they acquired starter Chris Archer and reliever Keone Kela at the deadline with an eye on the 2019 team. This was a quiet offseason by comparison, highlighted by a series of small-scale moves to acquire Erik Gonzalez, Lonnie Chisenhall, Melky Cabrera, Jordan Lyles and Francisco Liriano.
The glovework of Gonzalez, who will replace the departed Jordy Mercer as the starting shortstop, could have the biggest impact.
With the Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers all looking like legitimate postseason contenders—and the Cincinnati Reds making a strong push to improve—the Pirates may have fallen to the bottom of the NL Central pecking order. Anywhere from 70 wins and a last-place finish to 85 wins and wild-card contention seems possible for this team.
19. Los Angeles Angels
Biggest Offseason Move: Signing CF Mike Trout to a 12-year, $426.5 million extension
Wow, that's a big number.
The narrative for the past several seasons has revolved around the Los Angeles Angels "wasting" Mike Trout and needing to do everything they can to win before he presumably jumps ship and signs elsewhere. This extension changes that, but only slightly.
They're still wasting a generational talent if they can't do any better than a pair of one-year deals for Matt Harvey and Trevor Cahill.
Dallas Keuchel, anyone?
This is exactly what a .500 team looks like.
The Angels have some star power, some intriguing young talent and way too many question marks to earn consideration as a legitimate contender. They were 80-82 in both 2017 and 2018. Dollars to donuts they hover right around that mark again this year.
18. Minnesota Twins
Biggest Offseason Move: Signing DH Nelson Cruz to a one-year, $14.3 million deal
The Minnesota Twins finished 23rd in home runs (166) and 18th in OPS (.723) as a team last season, and the DH spot posted a brutal .682 OPS with just 15 home runs and 56 RBI.
Over the past five seasons, Nelson Cruz has posted an .897 OPS while averaging 41 home runs and 104 RBI.
Square peg, meet square hole.
It's easy to forget this Twins team is just a year removed from winning 85 games and making the playoffs. The additions of Cruz, Jonathan Schoop and C.J. Cron should help bolster the offense, but questions persist on the pitching side, especially in the bullpen.
If things break right, this team could make another run at a wild-card spot. A lot will have to break right, though.
17. San Diego Padres
Biggest Offseason Move: Signing 3B Manny Machado to a 10-year, $300 million deal
A year after they signed Eric Hosmer to an eight-year, $244 million contract, the San Diego Padres made a splash on the free-agent market once again.
Machado figures to be significantly more impactful than Hosmer, who posted a disappointing 1.4 WAR in his first San Diego season. The signing also clearly pushes up the timetable for contention, which should mean early promotions for a number of top prospects as the Padres look to climb into the NL playoff picture.
Expect a marked improvement over last year's 66-96 finish. Just how much improvement will likely depend upon a patchwork pitching staff that could receive a major boost if guys like Chris Paddack, Logan Allen and Cal Quantrill prove MLB-ready. At the very least, a winning record for the first time since 2010 appears to be within reach.
16. Oakland Athletics
Biggest Offseason Move: Trading for 2B Jurickson Profar
Given Jed Lowrie's departure in free agency and Franklin Barreto's struggle to establish himself at the MLB level, the Oakland Athletics entered the offseason with a hole at second base.
Jurickson Profar, fresh off a long-awaited breakout season with the Texas Rangers, proved the answer. The 26-year-old was acquired in a three-team, seven-player deal after he posted a 105 OPS+ with 35 doubles, 20 home runs and 10 steals while playing all over the field defensively.
An awful lot went right for the A's to win 97 games last season, especially with a starting rotation in which 15 different pitchers made at least one start and only the now-injured Sean Manaea pitched more than 120 innings. Duplicating that magic will be tough.
That said, Oakland has an excellent position-player core in place, and the eventual arrivals of Jesus Luzardo and A.J. Puk could propel the team into contention once again.
15. Cincinnati Reds
Biggest Offseason Move: Trading for SP Alex Wood and RF Yasiel Puig
Not only did this deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers add a quality starter to the Cincinnati Reds rotation and an impact bat to the middle of the lineup, but it also spelled the end of the disastrous Homer Bailey contract.
Granted, the Reds had to take on Matt Kemp's pact to make the trade work. But it still looks like a great move for Cincy, especially if Puig is properly motivated by a change of scenery and a contract year.
The additions of Wood, Tanner Roark and Sonny Gray to a starting rotation that also features breakout candidate Luis Castillo completely change the complexion of this team. The Reds already had a solid offense (4.3 runs per game, No. 18 in MLB) and a decent bullpen (4.14 ERA, No. 16). If the rotation can just pull its weight, wild-card contention is not out of the question.
14. Colorado Rockies
Biggest Offseason Move: Signing 3B Nolan Arenado to an eight-year, $260 million extension
After back-to-back postseason trips, the Colorado Rockies pulled the trigger and locked up the face of the franchise when Nolan Arenado signed a massive eight-year extension ahead of his final year of team control.
This is a good indication the front office is serious about winning with the current core. And why not? Securing Arenado could also mean someone like Brendan Rodgers or Colton Welker eventually becomes the centerpiece of a blockbuster trade to address another area of need.
The Rockies' young starting rotation, led by German Marquez and Kyle Freeland, is the real deal, and the offense should get a boost from the addition of Daniel Murphy and a potential breakout season from David Dahl. The big question here is the relief corps, especially after Adam Ottavino walked in free agency. If high-priced veterans Jake McGee, Bryan Shaw and Wade Davis can live up to their salaries, a third consecutive postseason trip could be forthcoming.
13. Tampa Bay Rays
Biggest Offseason Move: Trading for C Mike Zunino
Some might single out Charlie Morton's two-year, $30 million deal to serve as the No. 2 starter behind Cy Young winner Blake Snell as the biggest move of the offseason. There's certainly a case to be made.
However, the addition of a standout defensive catcher who brings stability to a position that has been a revolving door in recent years could have the biggest impact. Mike Zunino is an excellent pitch-framer, controls the running game, does a great job handling the staff and serves as a consistent 20-homer threat at a position that has long been an offensive black hole—aside from Wilson Ramos' brief tenure.
The Tampa Bay Rays won 90 games last season and will benefit greatly from full seasons by Tommy Pham, Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows, along with the additions of Morton and Zunino. As usual, they'll go as far as their pitching can carry them. If the "opener' approach works again at the back of the rotation, that could be all the way to the postseason.
12. Milwaukee Brewers
Biggest Offseason Move: Signing C Yasmani Grandal to a one-year, $18.25 million deal
The Milwaukee Brewers got a .237/.294/.363 line from the catcher position last season as the quartet comprised of Manny Pina, Erik Kratz, Jett Bandy and Jacob Nottingham split time.
That made splurging on Yasmani Grandal an easy decision, especially since it's just a one-year commitment and he provides a clear upgrade for a team positioned to win now.
The performance of the young trio in the starting rotation—Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff and Freddy Peralta—will go a long way toward determining whether the Brewers are once again contenders for the NL Central crown. The offense is solid even with some likely regression, and the bullpen is stacked. It will all boil down to health and a largely unproven starting staff.
At worst, Milwaukee is a wild-card contender.
11. New York Mets
Biggest Offseason Move: Trading for 2B Robinson Cano and RP Edwin Diaz
This was the busiest offseason in years for the New York Mets, and it all started with the blockbuster deal to acquire Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz from the Mariners on Dec. 3.
The five-year, $137.5 million extension Jacob deGrom signed Tuesday, per ESPN.com, deserves a mention here, as well. Still, it was the big trade with the Seattle Mariners that showed the Mets were serious about improving the roster and building a winner in 2019, so that gets the nod as the biggest move of the offseason.
This is clearly an improved team with postseason potential.
That said, the Mets have a few more question marks than the rest of the NL East contenders. Namely, who steps up if one of the starters goes down with an injury? Considering the rotation has dealt with so many health issues in recent seasons, they did remarkably little to add depth behind the five projected starters. That's reason enough for pause.
10. Cleveland Indians
Biggest Offseason Move: Signing SP Carlos Carrasco to a four-year, $47 million extension
The Cleveland Indians have done an excellent job locking up core players with early, team-friendly extensions in recent years, and they nailed down another this offseason when Carlos Carrasco signed on through the 2023 season.
The Cleveland front office engaged in a number of head-scratchers this winter, namely the trade of Yan Gomes and the lack of attention paid to the outfield. The Carrasco extension was a home run, though.
Simply put, the starting rotation of Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, Mike Clevinger and Shane Bieber alone is good enough for the Indians to be overwhelming favorites in the AL Central. Production from the piecemeal outfield and the stability of a reworked bullpen will ultimately determine whether they are serious title contenders.
9. Washington Nationals
Biggest Offseason Move: Signing SP Patrick Corbin to a six-year, $140 million deal
The Washington Nationals put the money they saved from the departures of Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy and Gio Gonzalez to good use and signed the best available starter on the market to a six-year, $140 million deal.
Lefty Patrick Corbin will slot in nicely between righties Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, and he should be viewed as the real deal after backing his breakout 2018 numbers with a sterling 2.47 FIP.
Bolstering the catcher position with the additions of Yan Gomes and Kurt Suzuki is also worth a mention after Nationals backstops hit a pitiful .214/.304/.320 last year.
Could the Nationals really be a better team without Harper? Maybe not directly, but a strong follow-up season from Juan Soto and the arrival of top prospect Victor Robles could go a long way toward replacing his production.
Meanwhile, newcomers Patrick Corbin, Brian Dozier, Anibal Sanchez, Kyle Barraclough and Trevor Rosenthal undoubtedly make this a better roster. This could be the year they finally get over the hump and win a playoff series.
8. Atlanta Braves
Biggest Offseason Move: Signing 3B Josh Donaldson to a one-year, $23 million deal
An injury-plagued season ruined Josh Donaldson's chances of landing a massive long-term deal, but he still showed enough down the stretch to snag a $23 million pillow contract from the Atlanta Braves.
The 33-year-old had a 146 OPS+ with three home runs in 16 games once he finally returned to action with the Cleveland Indians, and anything even remotely resembling that level of production over a full season would make him worth every penny.
Bringing back veteran clubhouse leader Nick Markakis on a one-year, $6 million deal is also notable.
For all the shiny moves the Philadelphia Phillies, Washington Nationals and New York Mets made this offseason, the Braves are still the reigning division champs. They have a dynamic young offensive core and a good pitching staff that should receive a significant boost from the bevy of high-ceiling pitching prospects knocking on the door.
We're picking them to finish second here, but another division title wouldn't be the least bit surprising.
7. St. Louis Cardinals
Biggest Offseason Move: Trading for 1B Paul Goldschmidt and then extending him
The St. Louis Cardinals have not had a true middle-of-the-order slugger since Albert Pujols packed up and left for the Los Angeles Angels. That changed on Dec. 5 when they acquired perennial MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt from the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The D-backs were motivated to move their star with free agency lurking next offseason, and the Cardinals used the acquisition as an opportunity to sign him to a long-term deal without having to compete against the rest of the market.
A five-year, $130 million extension will keep the 31-year-old in St. Louis through the 2024 season.
While the Cardinals have missed the playoffs three years in a row, they averaged just under 86 wins during that stretch and were in the thick of things every year. Adding Goldschmidt to the middle of the lineup and Andrew Miller to the back of the bullpen will go a long way—perhaps long enough to snap that streak before it reaches four years.
6. Philadelphia Phillies
Biggest Offseason Move: Signing RF Bryce Harper to a 13-year, $330 million deal
Though the Philadelphia Phillies went out and added J.T. Realmuto, Jean Segura, Andrew McCutchen and David Robertson this offseason, their biggest move doesn't require any debate. The Harper signing completely changes the core makeup of this team and creates an offense that rivals any in the National League.
It also makes Philadelphia an attractive free-agent destination going forward, which could help when it looks to add an impact starter behind Aaron Nola.
The Harper signing was enough to vault the Phillies to favorite status in the NL East. That said, winning the division title is far from guaranteed. By not signing a veteran starter, they're placing a lot of eggs in the "Nick Pivetta, Zach Eflin and Vince Velasquez take another step forward" basket.
This still looks like a playoff team, and Pivetta is one of my favorite breakout candidates in 2019.
5. Chicago Cubs
Biggest Offseason Move: Exercising a $20 million option on Cole Hamels
Tip of the cap to the Chicago Cubs for finally getting involved in the recent extension trend by signing Kyle Hendricks to a four-year, $55.5 million extension Tuesday, per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.
The biggest move of the offseason was still the decision to exercise a $20 million option on 35-year-old Cole Hamels.
The veteran left-hander was brilliant down the stretch after joining the Cubs, posting a 2.36 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in 12 starts. Chicago had no money left to spend after picking up that option, though, and settled for a few small-scale additions while the rest of the division improved.
The idea that the Cubs' improvements will come from in-house players makes perfect sense. Yu Darvish provided nothing last year. Kris Bryant was hurt. The back of the rotation was in flux before the Hamels acquisition. Catcher Willson Contreras was overused and ran out of gas down the stretch.
This remains the most talented team in the division, and it has a lot of room to improve over last season, during which it still won 95 games.
4. Houston Astros
Biggest Offseason Move: Signing LF Michael Brantley to a two-year, $32 million deal
Many expected the Houston Astros to make a run at signing slugger Nelson Cruz. Instead, they added left fielder Michael Brantley to an already potent offense.
Brantley, 31, proved he was healthy in 2018 after he missed significant time to injury the previous two seasons. He hit .309/.364/.468 with 36 doubles, 17 home runs and 12 steals, and he fits nicely as a run producer in the middle of the lineup even if he doesn't have 30-homer power.
As long as the Wade Miley-Collin McHugh-Brad Peacock portion of the starting rotation can hold its own—at least until Josh James is healthy and top prospect Forrest Whitley is ready to make the jump—the Astros will again be in the title hunt. Full seasons from Roberto Osuna and Ryan Pressly should make the bullpen a major strength, and a bounce-back performance from a healthy Carlos Correa would also be a huge in-house boost.
3. Los Angeles Dodgers
Biggest Offseason Move: Signing CF A.J. Pollock to a five-year, $60 million deal
The Clayton Kershaw extension always seemed like a foregone conclusion, so we'll go with the A.J. Pollock addition as the biggest move of the Los Angeles Dodgers' offseason.
Pollock has a dynamic mix of power and speed, and he's capable of playing solid defense in center field, so it's not hard to see why he was able to land a $60 million contract. However, he's played 140 games just once in his seven-year career.
Luckily, the Dodgers have enough payroll flexibility and roster depth to take a chance on someone like him. If he misses time, Cody Bellinger, Joc Pederson, Chris Taylor and Kike Hernandez are all capable of lining up in center field.
A healthy Clayton Kershaw will be important for the Dodgers, but Walker Buehler is capable of stepping into the role of staff ace and a full season of health from Hyun-Jin Ryu would also help. Corey Seager and Justin Turner also missed significant time to injury last season, so that's another potential area for internal improvement.
The Colorado Rockies aren't going away, and the San Diego Padres are charging hard. But this is still the team to beat in the NL West.
2. New York Yankees
Biggest Offseason Move: Trading for SP James Paxton
The New York Yankees addressed the need for starting pitching help by re-signing J.A. Happ and CC Sabathia. They also pulled off a trade to acquire James Paxton from the Seattle Mariners.
Paxton has struggled to stay healthy, but he's one of the best left-handed starters in the game when operating at 100 percent. Over the past two seasons, he's posted a 3.40 ERA (2.95 FIP) and 1.10 WHIP while averaging 182 strikeouts in 148 innings. If he can make even 25 high-quality starts, the Yankees can fill in the gaps.
The Yankees have an offense that stacks up against any in baseball and a loaded bullpen that got even better with the addition of Adam Ottavino and re-signing of Zack Britton.
It all comes down to starting pitching. Luis Severino and Sabathia will start the season on the injured list, Paxton has a long injury history, Happ is 36 years old and Masahiro Tanaka is still pitching with a partially torn UCL. Can that group hold it together for a full season?
1. Boston Red Sox
Biggest Offseason Move: Signing SP Chris Sale to a six-year, $160 million extension
The Boston Red Sox have focused on taking care of their own this offseason.
They re-signed both Nathan Eovaldi and Steve Pearce after the two played pivotal roles in the 2018 postseason run, then they locked up ace Chris Sale on a six-year extension over the weekend. Free agency awaited Sale next offseason, but the Red Sox kept one of baseball's premier pitchers from hitting an open market in which anything can happen.
Assuming his arm issues and dip in velocity down the stretch have been remedied, that deal was a no-brainer.
The Red Sox had the highest-scoring offense in baseball last season. They also have a rotation anchored by Sale, a resurgent David Price, innings-eater Rick Porcello, a full season of Nathan Eovaldi and a healthy Eduardo Rodriguez.
The question is the bullpen, though it's not necessarily a glaring issue. If Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier can bring the success they enjoyed in setup roles to ninth-inning situations, this team has everything it needs to get back into the World Series.