MLB Power Rankings: Where All 30 Teams Stand Entering 2021-22 Free Agency
With the 2021 World Series in the books, the MLB offseason is officially underway. That means it's time for an updated version of our leaguewide power rankings.
The Atlanta Braves bested the Houston Astros in six games in the Fall Classic, and both teams are well-positioned for title contention in 2022 and beyond. However, both teams also have some glaring questions, starting with the free agency of Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman and Houston shortstop Carlos Correa.
They are not the only teams with questions that need to be answered this winter, though. All 30 teams have to rebuild their rosters for next season.
For our first offseason reshuffling of these rankings, teams are ranked based on their 2022 outlook. That includes how complete the roster is heading into free agency, how active the club is expected to be in the coming months and the overall direction the franchise is headed.
We'll put together fresh versions of these power rankings throughout the offseason, with clubs shifting according to their wheelings and dealings.
For now, this serves as a baseline for those future editions of our offseason rankings.
On a personal note, I want to say thanks to everyone for reading along all season. This was my 10th year authoring our weekly MLB power rankings here at Bleacher Report. Here's to another decade!
30. Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pirates' projected 2022 starting rotation—Steven Brault, JT Brubaker, Dillon Peters, Mitch Keller and Bryse Wilson—speaks to how far this team is from contention. Center fielder Bryan Reynolds, third baseman Ke'Bryan Hayes and shortstop Oneil Cruz are long-term building blocks, but building a viable pitching staff takes time, and financial limitations mean they'll have to largely rely on in-house talent.
29. Texas Rangers
After cleaning house over the past calendar year by shipping out Joey Gallo, Lance Lynn, Kyle Gibson, Elvis Andrus, Rougned Odor and others, the Rangers are now embarking on the early stages of a full-scale rebuild. The eventual arrival of top prospect Josh Jung in 2022 will provide some excitement, but the next few years could be arduous.
28. Baltimore Orioles
At least the Orioles have left-hander John Means to build around on a pitching staff that finished last in the majors with a 5.99 ERA. They also have breakout star Cedric Mullins, outfielder Austin Hays, slugger Ryan Mountcastle and two rising superstar prospects in Adley Rutschman and Grayson Rodriguez. They are still a few years away from making a serious move up the standings, but 2022 could be the turning point.
27. Arizona Diamondbacks
Just two years removed from an 85-win season and a second-place finish in the NL West standings, the D-backs bottomed out with a disastrous 110-loss campaign. Right-hander Zac Gallen and center fielder Ketel Marte could be the centerpieces to retool around or blockbuster trade chips this offseason if the front office is eyeing a bigger rebuild.
26. Washington Nationals
With Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin scheduled to earn a combined $47 million in 2022, the Nationals are in an interesting spot. They have enough money on the books to justify pushing to contend again in the short term, but they have very little in the way of impact talent to build around beyond those high-priced pitchers and Juan Soto. Their most likely move this winter is to tread water, perhaps flipping slugger Josh Bell ahead of his final year of arbitration.
25. Colorado Rockies
The Rockies had a busy month of October, extending right-hander Antonio Senzatela and re-signing first baseman C.J. Cron to a two-year deal. However, shortstop Trevor Story is a virtual lock to sign elsewhere in free agency, and right-hander Jon Gray is also set to hit the open market. Attracting free agents has been a struggle, and the Colorado front office doesn't seem to have any real plan for the future.
24. Chicago Cubs
The Cubs had an NL-worst 5.82 ERA after the All-Star break, and the entire pitching staff will need to be rebuilt around veteran ace Kyle Hendricks this offseason if the North Siders hope to make a quick return to contention. Team president Jed Hoyer has indicated that he expects a "really active" offseason, so new general manager Carter Hawkins has a ton of work to do.
23. Los Angeles Angels
Can the Angels build a viable pitching staff? That's been the overarching question throughout the Mike Trout era, and the front office has whiffed several years running at landing a top-of-the-rotation arm. The rotation stands to lose Alex Cobb and Dylan Bundy, and the bullpen could also lose Raisel Iglesias in free agency. Full seasons from Trout and Anthony Rendon will help, but it doesn't matter much if they can't improve on the mound.
22. Minnesota Twins
Expecting to contend in the AL Central in 2021 after winning back-to-back division titles, the Twins instead plummeted to the bottom of the standings. The pitching staff was largely to blame, though the offense also took a step backward, and the decision to trade controllable starter Jose Berrios at the deadline raises some questions about whether they view themselves as a contender in 2022. If they decide to sell further, Byron Buxton, Josh Donaldson and Taylor Rogers are all attractive trade chips.
21. Kansas City Royals
The Royals quietly went 38-35 after the All-Star break, and they look like a dark horse to contend next season with a good offensive core in place and the top prospect trio of Bobby Witt Jr., Nick Pratto and MJ Melendez knocking on the door. A veteran arm to anchor their young rotation and an improved bullpen would go a long way.
20. Detroit Tigers
With the resources of a major-market team and a payroll that ranked 24th in the majors in 2021 at $86.3 million, the Tigers are a sleeping giant on the upcoming free-agent market. With Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal poised to anchor the starting rotation for years, Jeimer Candelario coming into his own, and uber-prospects Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene expected to debut in 2022, this team could be ready to make some noise.
19. Oakland Athletics
The Athletics are projected for more than $25 million worth of raises to their arbitration-eligible players, which could create a serious roster crunch. The fact that manager Bob Melvin jumped ship to take the San Diego Padres job even though the A's exercised his 2022 option could be a sign of what's to come this offseason. They consistently do more with less than any team in baseball, but this winter is going to be a challenge.
18. Miami Marlins
Pitching wins championships, and the Marlins' cup runneth over in that department. Improving a lackluster offense will be the focus this offseason, and team CEO Derek Jeter has indicated it's going to be an "active" offseason for the first time since his ownership group took control. The Marlins have money to spend and a ton of trade capital; it's just a matter of pulling the right strings.
17. Cincinnati Reds
An 11-15 month of September torpedoed the Reds' playoff hopes, and they're now at a crossroads this offseason. They could shop Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray and others in an attempt to retool, or they could make a strong push to keep Nick Castellanos if he opts out and essentially run it back with the same roster that was in the hunt for a playoff berth for much of the year. If they choose the latter path, the bullpen needs a serious overhaul.
16. Cleveland Guardians
With a rotation of Shane Bieber, Zach Plesac, Aaron Civale, Cal Quantrill and Triston McKenzie, the Guardians are going to be relevant. It's a question of how much they can do to improve an offense that ranked 18th in the majors in runs scored. However, a tight-fisted front office doesn't make navigating free agency easy, and if they can't make inroads on extension talks with Jose Ramirez, he could be the next superstar out the door.
15. New York Mets
Owner Steve Cohen is not going to stop spending until the Mets are a viable contender. That's worth keeping in mind if you think this ranking is too high for a team that finished a disappointing 77-85 in his first year on the job. Re-signing Javier Baez feels more and more like an inevitability, but they will also need to decide what to do with Marcus Stroman and Noah Syndergaard, both of whom are free agents as well.
14. St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals stormed up the standings and into the playoffs with a 22-7 record in September, and they did it with an ancient starting rotation and the same offense that underperformed for much of the year. The offensive core of Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado, Tyler O'Neill and Dylan Carlson is terrific, and the bullpen is loaded with quality arms, but the rotation will require some offseason tinkering.
13. Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies have a long to-do list this offseason, from shoring up the back of their starting rotation to sorting out the left side of the infield to figuring out who plays center field, but they also have a lot of talent to build around. A full season of Ranger Suarez in the starting rotation, top prospect Bryson Stott getting a shot at the shortstop job and Alec Bohm returning to form could provide an in-house solution to several of those problems.
12. Boston Red Sox
Until the Red Sox add multiple arms to their pitching staff, it's hard to view them as a top-10 team looking ahead to 2022. In theory, Tanner Houck and Connor Seabold could slot into the back of the starting rotation, and Rule 5 standout Garrett Whitlock could anchor the bullpen, but that's a lot of faith to put in three young arms. They can't afford to sit on their hands in an ultra-competitive AL East race.
11. San Diego Padres
New manager Bob Melvin inherits an extremely talented Padres team that was perhaps the biggest disappointment of 2021. A healthy Mike Clevinger will be a welcome addition to the rotation and Dinelson Lamet is also a potential X-factor, but the bullpen needs to be addressed. More importantly, some form of cohesion needs to occur in what was a divided clubhouse down the stretch.
10. New York Yankees
The New York Yankees rode a 21-8 month of August to a postseason berth, but they went just 16-14 with a minus-seven run differential from Sept. 1 through the end of the year before falling to the rival Boston Red Sox in the AL Wild Card Game.
Sorting out the starting rotation behind ace Gerrit Cole will be one focus of the offseason. Controllable arms Jordan Montgomery, Luis Severino, Domingo German, Nestor Cortes Jr. and Luis Gil are among the team's in-house options, but adding a quality No. 2 starter could go a long way.
The infield alignment of Gleyber Torres at second base, Gio Urshela at shortstop and DJ LeMahieu at third base could stand to be upgraded one way or another, and center field is also a question mark with Aaron Hicks struggling to stay healthy. The Yankees have money to spend and big-market pull, but they have work to do to shore up the roster.
9. Seattle Mariners
The Seattle Mariners went 42-29 after the All-Star break en route to their first 90-win season since 2003, but the longest postseason drought in the sport continues on after they finished two games back in the AL wild-card standings.
With a 2021 payroll that was more than $80 million under the club's peak spending from a few years ago, there may be no team better positioned to make a huge splash in free agency. Seattle also has a good core in place to build around.
Outfielder Jarred Kelenic and right-hander Logan Gilbert found their footing as the season progressed, and there is more top prospect talent on the doorstep led by outfielder Julio Rodriguez. The Mariners could be one big bat and a few quality additions to the pitching staff away from a return to the postseason.
8. Toronto Blue Jays
With a dynamic young offensive core of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Teoscar Hernandez and George Springer to build around, the Toronto Blue Jays are built for long-term success.
However, there are some big questions to answer this offseason, starting with Robbie Ray and Marcus Semien both hitting the open market.
Semien led the team with 7.1 WAR in 2021, but Ray is arguably the more indispensable piece as the ace of the staff. Left-hander Steven Matz is also a free agent after posting a 3.82 ERA in 150.2 innings.
Shoring up the starting rotation around Hyun-Jin Ryu, Jose Berrios and Alek Manoah and bolstering the bullpen around Jordan Romano could be enough to push them over the top in the AL East race.
7. Milwaukee Brewers
The strength of the Milwaukee Brewers roster is one of baseball's best starting rotations, and it will return intact with Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, Freddy Peralta, Eric Lauer and Adrian Houser all controllable through at least the 2024 season.
The question is the offense, which ranked 12th in runs scored, 20th in team OPS and 18th in home runs, before getting shut out in Game 2 and Game 3 of the NLDS against the Atlanta Braves.
Outfielder Avisail Garcia has a mutual option, and after leading the team in home runs (29) and RBI (86) losing him would be a major blow. Young infielders Willy Adames and Luis Urias have the potential to be long-term building blocks, but the team needs more middle-of-the-order thump to support a pitching staff that has a chance to be baseball's best in 2022.
6. Chicago White Sox
The Chicago White Sox have built a roster capable of title contention, and it's hard to find a glaring hole that they need to address this offseason.
Free-agent left-hander Carlos Rodon is headed for a significant raise over the one-year, $3 million contract he signed last winter. The only other notable player who could depart is second baseman Cesar Hernandez, who has a $6 million club option.
High-priced reliever Craig Kimbrel also has a $16 million club option, and early reports indicate that the White Sox will exercise his option and then trade him this offseason.
Healthy seasons from Yasmani Grandal (93 games), Luis Robert (68 games) and Eloy Jimenez (55 games) will go a long way offensively, while hard-throwing Michael Kopech is waiting in the wings to step into Rodon's open spot in the rotation.
The talent is there; now it's time for this group to prove something in October.
5. San Francisco Giants
The 2021-22 offseason was supposed to be when the San Francisco Giants made their move from rebuilding to contending, with several high-priced veterans coming off the books and sufficient time for one of baseball's best farm systems to start churning out MLB contributors.
Their push up the standings came a year sooner than expected, culminating in a 107-win season and an NL West title. Losing to the rival Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS was disappointing, but it's hard to call the 2021 season anything but an unmitigated success.
The first step this offseason will be deciding whether to make a serious push to re-sign in-house free agents Kevin Gausman, Anthony DeSclafani, Kris Bryant and Brandon Belt.
If the pitchers walk, shoring up the rotation around budding ace Logan Webb will be the top priority. If Bryant or Belt walks, finding a middle-of-the-order corner bat moves to the top of the to-do list.
The offseason is already off to a rough start with the report from Andrew Baggarly of the Athletic that potential future Hall of Fame catcher Buster Posey is set to retire.
With money to spend and a taste for winning, expect a busy winter.
4. Tampa Bay Rays
The Tampa Bay Rays won the AL East title with a payroll of only $72.5 million, cruising to the division crown by eight games over the New York Yankees ($203.6 million) and Boston Red Sox ($184.5 million).
Those ongoing financial constraints mean arbitration-eligible players like Tyler Glasnow ($5.8 million projected salary), Manuel Margot ($5 million), Ryan Yarbrough ($4.4 million) and Joey Wendle ($4 million) could all be shopped this offseason as a means of saving a few bucks. They could also look to move Kevin Kiermaier's $12.2 million salary by attaching a prospect and dumping him ahead of the final year of his contract.
Luckily, the Rays' player development system continues to churn out big league talent.
The offense will be led by Wander Franco, Brandon Lowe, Austin Meadows and Randy Arozarena, while young pitchers Shane McClanahan, Shane Baz, Luis Patino and Drew Rasmussen represent the future of the starting rotation. Even with no major outside additions, this organization knows how to win games.
3. Los Angeles Dodgers
I wrote an entire article on all of the offseason questions the Los Angeles Dodgers have to answer this winter, but here are the main things to know that could reshape the team's roster:
- Cody Bellinger is a non-tender candidate.
- Kenley Jansen is a free agent.
- Chris Taylor is a free agent.
- Corey Seager is a free agent.
- Clayton Kershaw is a free agent.
- Max Scherzer is a free agent.
For most teams, that type of potential talent exodus would be more than enough reason to send them tumbling down the rankings. For a Dodgers team that led baseball with a $269.5 million payroll, it's just another day at the office.
Bringing back one or both of Scherzer or Kershaw to join Walker Buehler, Julio Urias and Tony Gonsolin in the 2022 rotation would effectively plug the biggest roster hole. They could then turn their attention to finding a way to keep Swiss army knife Chris Taylor while also adding complementary pieces in free agency.
The Dodgers are going to spend money. It's just a question of how.
2. Houston Astros
The biggest offseason storyline for the Houston Astros is how they'll go about replacing Carlos Correa at shortstop if he winds up signing elsewhere.
However, that isn't the only potential area of roster turnover.
Key relievers Kendall Graveman, Brooks Raley and Yimi Garcia are also free agents, while future Hall of Famers Zack Greinke and Justin Verlander will hit the open market as well.
The rotation seems to be in good hands with Lance McCullers Jr., Framber Valdez, Luis Garcia and Jose Urquidy leading the way and Jake Odorizzi signed for another year, but they could still look to bring one of those veterans back on a short-term deal. They'll need to address the bullpen one way or another around Ryan Pressly and Ryne Stanek.
The core of baseball's highest-scoring offense all returning beyond Correa, and with a young rotation on the rise, the Astros' window is still wide open heading into 2022. They have some big decisions to make this offseason, though.
1. Atlanta Braves
No team is better set up for long-term success than the Atlanta Braves.
With Ronald Acuna Jr., Ozzie Albies and Austin Riley making up the offensive core and Max Fried, Ian Anderson and Mike Soroka also controllable long term, the Braves have a dynamic group of young stars to build around.
Re-signing Freddie Freeman will be the No. 1 priority this winter, and it's almost impossible to imagine him in another uniform. Beyond that, bolstering the bullpen and perhaps exploring an extension with shortstop Dansby Swanson, who is entering his final year of arbitration, will also be on the to-do list.
General manager Alex Anthopoulos pulled all the right strings at the trade deadline, and with no glaring roster holes, he can focus on similar complementary moves this offseason. Whether that means bringing back one or more of Joc Pederson, Jorge Soler and Adam Duvall or exploring other options, the team's standing as a title contender for the foreseeable future will make Atlanta an attractive landing spot.