This off-season included some massive shake-ups in the Majors so far, including big free agents, some trades, and injury news regarding those lost last season. But what prediction post is complete without some bold guesses? Here are some of mine.
The Yankees will miss the playoffs: I’m well aware of all the money the Yankees spent this winter, with numbers estimating close to half a billion dollars in total contracts. But last I checked, money isn’t the immediate solution for problems this day and age. The Yankees spent a good chunk of money on a new-looked outfield, including Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran, more money on a new catcher, Brian McCann, and a Japanese import pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, all while watching as Alex Rodriguez got suspended for the entirety of the season. All those are good things, but here come the not so good. The entire infield is full of question marks. Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira are both coming off season-long injuries, with latest reports that Teixeira won’t even be at 100% this whole year. Patch-up replacements Kelly Johnson and Brian Roberts aren’t strangers to the DL either. Along with that, the back end of the rotation as well as the bullpen are not as reliable as the Yankees would like. Also, their farm system is nearly non-existent. Money can’t solve those problems to the tune of playoffs this time around.
The Royals will contend for a wild card: For the first time in a while, the Kansas City Royals had a good season. 86-76 is a tremendous mark, for a team that’s been perpetually rebuilding since George Brett retired. But, now, they have one of the better up-and-coming cores of players including the likes of Alex Gordon, James Shields, and Eric Hosmer. The team had a fun vibe last year, celebrating with barbecue sauce and a light-up deer in the clubhouse. Their rotation took a hit, when Ervin Santana told them he won’t be returning, but still hasn’t found a new home, but that won’t deter them. They made a few smaller moves, picking up Nori Aoki, Jason Vargas, and Omar Infante, to go along with most of their club last year. Look for them to be that fun-loving team people can’t help but root for, because they are always underdogs. They may be a year or two away with the same group, but they are certainly on the rise.
The Nationals will make a title run: I’ve been behind this notion for a couple of years, but this year seems like the window is wide open for them. The deepest rotation in baseball got deeper with the acquisition of Doug Fister from Detroit, to go along with phenom Stephen Strasburg, reliable Gio Gonzalez, and up-start Jordan Zimmermann. Young guns Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon are another year older and experienced, and will begin to really tear up the NL East with their youth along side veterans like Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth, and Adam LaRoche. The bullpen is also solid, with Rafael Soriano, Tyler Clippard, and Craig Stammen. There isn’t really a weak spot on this team, and they are among the most complete teams in baseball. Expect big things from DC this season.
The Reds will miss the playoffs: This one’s tough, mainly because the group that they have has the look of a playoff team. But an off-season loaded with questions has me questioning their playoff possibility. The departure of Shin-Soo Choo is a big one, leaving a massive hole in centerfield, as well as in the lineup. The Reds are looking for help in speedster Billy Hamilton, but as a rookie, he will have his mistakes. Another question that will hover over this team is at second base, Brandon Phillips. The question isn’t how he’ll play, but how long he’ll play in Cincinnati. Questions rose all over the winter about whether he would be traded, with the Yankees seemingly as the top destination. If the Reds struggle, the calls to trade Phillips will get louder, which is bad news for the Reds, likely triggering an impulsive move. The team also is in limbo about what to do with Aroldis Chapman, the fire-throwing closer, whether to keep him or put him in the rotation. Last time a team had that question, they were following the Joba rules. If the Reds don’t keep pace with the Cardinals and Pirates, expect them to be on the outside looking in come September.
The Mariners will miss the playoffs: Last year, I wouldn’t call this bold. This year, they decided to dust off their wallets and spend some money, bringing in Robinson Cano, Corey Hart, and Logan Morrison. Despite having a great 1-2 punch in the rotation, with Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma, the rest of the rotation is filled with younger guys with little to no experience on a major league mound. Also, the lineup has exactly one name in it that would scare people, and that’s Cano. With a team that was just recently assembled, it’s hard to judge. Look at last year’s Blue Jays. They scored the big off-season move, trading for the Miami Marlins, and finished well behind the other 4 teams in the AL East. The Mariners are likely destined for a similar performance in the West, with the Rangers, A’s, and probably the Angels still ahead of them in terms of talent and veteran know-how. They showed some life by spending money, but they are still a year or two away from making noise again.