At long last, our 2019 Season Preview series comes to an end today. The 2019 regular season begins tomorrow afternoon with Masahiro Tanaka vs. Andrew Cashner at Yankee Stadium. It will be Tanaka’s fourth Opening Day start in the last five years. Mel Stottlemyre (seven), Ron Guidry (seven), Whitey Ford (seven), CC Sabathia (six), Lefty Gomez (six), and Red Ruffing (five) are the only pitchers in franchise history with more Opening Day starts than Tanaka. Who knew?
Anyway, we previewed the other four AL East teams earlier today, so now it’s time to wrap up the 2019 Season Preview series with the rest of MLB. Some of those other 25 teams are actually trying to win this season. Crazy, I know. Let’s take a look at those other 25 teams. Come with me, won’t you?
Are they trying? Kinda. Maybe. Not really though.
One paragraph preview: The Diamondbacks traded their franchise player (Paul Goldschmidt) and lost two other core players to free agency (Patrick Corbin and A.J. Pollock), replaced them with no one in particular, and took a flier on a guy who is maybe trying to duck a six-figure tax bill in South Korea. Plus, good gravy their uniforms are so ugly. The D’Backs seem like a franchise doomed to have ugly uniforms forever. The uniforms are salt in the wound that is the 2001 World Series.
Are they trying? Words say yes, actions say not really.
One paragraph preview: The Braves won 90 games and the NL East last year, they have a two-year-old taxpayer funded ballpark, and they cut payroll this year. Last year’s Opening Day payroll: $118.2M. This year’s Opening Day payroll: $110.9M. I guess that’s what happens when a franchise is as much a real estate development company as they are a baseball team. The Braves are everything that is wrong with baseball today.
Are they trying? Not as much as they should be, but yes.
One paragraph preview: Folks are sleeping on the Cubbies. The projection systems hate them, but this is the same team that won 95 games last year even though so much went wrong. Kris Bryant played with a bad shoulder. Yu Darvish got hurt. Jon Lester was so-so. Tyler Chatwood was a disaster. The entire team completely stopped hitting in September. And still, 95 wins! The Cubs aren’t the budding dynasty everyone thought they were three years ago. They’re not a sinking ship either.
Chicago White Sox
Are they trying? Nah.
One paragraph preview: The “they’re adding Manny Machado’s pals (Jon Jay and Yonder Alonso)!” thing was my favorite dumb storyline of the offseason. The White Sox set their fans up for disappointment with the halfhearted free agent pursuits. Machado and Bryce Harper were never going to happen. Also, that Eloy Jimenez extension? Sneaky expensive. Harper made $46.9M during the same six-year chunk of his career and he won an MVP. Eloy gets $43M for those six years. Good for him. Way to negotiate an above-market extension with a player yet to make his big league debut, White Sox. The last time they played in the postseason, Nick Swisher was on their roster.
Are they trying? Yes!
One paragraph preview: The NL Central is brutal — there’s a decent chance the division will feature five teams with a winning record — so I’m not sure their offseason trades will be enough to get back to the postseason, but give the Reds credit. They’re trying. Not enough teams are doing that. Four straight 94+ loss seasons weren’t sitting well with ownership and they made an effort to improve. I sincerely home the Reds are rewarded for it.
Are they trying? Not as much as they should be.
One paragraph preview: The window is about to slam shut. Despite back-to-back-to-back AL Central titles, the Indians cut their Opening Day payroll from $134.9M to $117.7M over the winter. They cut enough elsewhere (Edwin Encarnacion trade, Yonder Alonso trade) that they were able to hold on to Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer, which is so dumb. It is so dumb a contending team is in this position, or wants us to believe they’re in this position. Anyway, Francisco Lindor (calf), Jason Kipnis (calf), and Jose Ramirez (knee) are all hurt, their best outfielder is Leonys Martin, and they have no bullpen. The 2016 World Series loss will be this core’s peak.
Are they trying? Yes. They make a lotta weird moves, but yes.
One paragraph preview: The Rockies just made the postseason in back-to-back years for the first time ever. They probably have the best starting rotation in franchise history as well. Kyle Freeland and German Marquez are studs, and I’m not anywhere close to giving up Jon Gray yet. I want to like the Rockies. I do. Then they go and do things like give Ian Desmond five years and $70M, and I just can’t buy all the way in. The Rockies always seem to make life unnecessarily difficult for themselves.
Are they trying? lol no
One paragraph preview: There is no reason to watch the Tigers this year. I guess maybe Miguel Cabrera could go back to being an all-world hitter with good health, otherwise there’s nothing to see here. Most rebuilding teams at least have that one exciting young player to build around. The Tigers have … Jeimer Candelario? His best case is what, fifth best player on a contending team? On the bright side, they expect to start spending again in 2021 or 2022.
Are they trying? Yup.
One paragraph preview: The Astros are obnoxiously good. They’ll miss Charlie Morton more than they’ll miss Dallas Keuchel, and Morton has injury issues. Wade Miley is a competent back-end starter and youngsters like Josh James and Forrest Whitley have high-end upside. The lineup is deep — Carlos Correa hit .180/.261/.256 (45 wRC+) following his midseason back injury last year and there’s just no way that’ll happen again — and they don’t strike out, and the bullpen is sneaky great. Whoever wins the 2019 American League pennant will have to go through Houston.
Kansas City Royals
Are they trying? Nope.
One paragraph preview: Five-year rebuild followed by three years of contention followed by another five-year rebuild seems not great for baseball. Is that really the best small market teams can hope for, or is that just what fans have been conditioned to believe? At least the Royals got a World Series title out of their rebuild. So many other teams are rebuilding nowadays that it’s inevitable three or four of them will completely screw it up. I’m not sure why a non-Royals fan would pay attention to the Royals this year. World Series champs to irrelevance in four years. Impressive.
Los Angeles Angels
Are they trying? Yes, bless their hearts.
One paragraph preview: Mike Trout is the greatest player I’ve ever seen. Shohei Ohtani is one of the most fun players I’ve ever seen, though Tommy John surgery means he can hit but not pitch this year. The Angels gave out a bunch of one-year contracts over the winter (Matt Harvey, Cody Allen, Justin Bour, Trevor Cahill, etc.) and it felt like sticking a band-aid on a roster aching for more substantial moves. They’ll get back to the postseason while Trout is in his prime … right?
Los Angeles Dodgers
Are they trying? They are. I mean, I think they are.
One paragraph preview: The Dodgers have won six straight NL West titles and have lost back-to-back World Series, and they actively got worse this winter. Yasmani Grandal was replaced with washed up Russell Martin. Yasiel Puig was replaced with A.J. Pollock. Matt Kemp and Alex Wood weren’t replaced at all. The Dodgers always seem to be one reliever short in the postseason and their solution was … Joe Kelly? Los Angeles has cut nearly $50M off their Opening Day payroll since 2017. I’m picking them to lose the World Series ever year until they prove me wrong.
Are they trying? hah
One paragraph preview: “(It’s) impossible to win every single game. One thing you always remember is the experience you had while you were at the park. We want it to be a positive experience,” said CEO Derek Jeter earlier this month. Imagine Jeter the ballplayer saying “it’s impossible to win every single game.” Wild. Anyway, Jeter’s comments are so perfect for baseball in 2019. The team is completely indifferent to winning, but they want you to show up to the park and give them your money anyway.
Are they trying? Yes.
One paragraph preview: The Brewers won a Game 163 tiebreaker last year and finished with the National League’s best record, then they upped their Opening Day payroll nearly $30M to a franchise record $120.4M this year. That is exactly what a team in Milwaukee’s position should do. They’re good, there were opportunities to get better over the winter, and they jumped on them. They didn’t feed their fans any of that nonsense about having to lock up their core down the line or make sure they have payroll flexibility. It’s nice to know at least one MLB owner still wants to win.
Are they trying? Yes, but they’re definitely not all the way in.
One paragraph preview: The position player core is really, really good. They have a chance to be above-average at every position except maybe catcher. The rotation and bullpen look a little short right now, and I’m surprised they haven’t made a more aggressive push for Dallas Keuchel and/or Craig Kimbrel. I mean, I’m not surprised, but you know what I mean. Joe Mauer’s $23M salary came off the books and the Twins lowered their Opening Day payroll approximately $10M over the winter. I kinda feel like all the Twins fans I saw complaining about Mauer’s contract all those years had this coming.
New York Mets
Are they trying? They are! Good for them.
One paragraph preview: I liked the Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz additions, I liked re-signing Jeurys Familia, I liked the depth moves (Jed Lowrie, Keon Broxton, J.D. Davis, etc.). Their top three starters (Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler) threw 553.2 innings with a 2.60 ERA last season, which is bonkers, and doesn’t it feel like they need that to happen again to have a shot at the postseason? The Mets are going to screw this up somehow. They just are. It’s in their DNA.
Are they trying? In their own little Oakland A’s way, yes, they’re trying.
One paragraph preview: The A’s nearly chased down the Astros last season despite having like two and a half starting pitchers. I loved the Jurickson Profar pickup and Marco Estrada is a pop-up pitcher tailor made for whatever they’re calling the Oakland Coliseum these days. They’re going to score a lot of runs and the bullpen should be great as well. Trying to work that magic with the rotation two years in a row? Iffy, but not impossible.
Are they trying? Oh hell yes.
One paragraph preview: No team improved as much as the Phillies this winter. They secured huge upgrades at catcher (J.T. Realmuto), shortstop (Jean Segura), and right field (Bryce Harper), added Andrew McCutchen and David Robertson on top of those guys, and are moving Rhys Hoskins back to his natural first base. He was at -24 DRS in left field last year. The Phillies improved offensively and defensively. I kinda wish they would’ve just said eff it and signed Keuchel and Kimbrel as well, but oh well. A big market team acting like a big market team shouldn’t be this refreshing.
Are they trying? No. If you think the Pirates are trying, your standards are too low.
One paragraph preview: Their Opening Day payroll has gone from $99.9M to $95.8M to $86.3M to $70.0M the last four years. They traded Gerrit Cole for a third starter (maybe) and a platoon third baseman who’s already lost the job, then traded three highly regarded young players for Chris Archer. They made those trades about eight months apart. Way to turn the Andrew McCutchen’s nine years in Pittsburgh into three postseason wins, guys.
St. Louis Cardinals
Are they trying? Indeed.
One paragraph preview: Paul Goldschmidt was a great pickup, even if it pushes Matt Carpenter back to third base. Andrew Miller and Jordan Hicks are a fun end-game combination. My guess is Alex Reyes replaces Dakota Hudson in the rotation before the All-Star break. Jose Martinez and Tyler O’Neill are starting caliber players stuck on the bench. They’re really good. Boring team gets boring preview.
San Diego Padres
Are they trying? Oh indeed.
One paragraph preview: Props to the Padres for swooping in to sign Manny Machado when no other team wanted him. They’re also going to carry tippy top prospect Fernando Tatis Jr. on the Opening Day roster. Why? Because their best possible roster includes Tatis. That’s the way it should be. The Padres probably won’t win much this year, but their farm system is outrageously good, and so many of their top prospects (like Tatis) will arrive this summer. When you have a great young talent base like San Diego, you can make huge gains one year to the next, like the 2012-13 Pirates (79 wins to 94 wins), the 2014-15 Cubs (73 wins to 97 wins), and the 2017-18 Braves (72 wins to 90 wins).
San Francisco Giants
Are they trying? Not really.
One paragraph preview: Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, Johnny Cueto, Evan Longoria, Mark Melancon, Buster Posey, and Jeff Samardzija are owed $361.7M over the next few seasons. They combined for +10.8 WAR in 2018. Yikes. The Giants plucked Farhan Zaidi from the rival Dodgers to run their new baseball operations group, so they’re getting some much needed fresh perspective in the front office. They’ll be back in contention before you know it.
Are they trying? They won 89 games last year and decided it was time to rebuild, so no.
One paragraph preview: It takes a special kind of cheap to attach a player as valuable as Edwin Diaz to a bad contract to shed as much money as possible. Also, I like that the Mariners traded their best players for prospects whose best case scenario is the guys they gave up (James Paxton for Justus Sheffield, Jean Segura for J.P. Crawford), and those guys apparently weren’t good enough to win with, thus necessitating a rebuild. A strong contender for the most clueless franchise in the game.
Are they trying? Nope.
One paragraph preview: The Rangers have the most “this team would be good in 2013” roster in baseball. Hunter Pence! Asdrubal Cabrera! Edinson Volquez! Lance Lynn! Drew Smyly! Shelby Miller! Logan Forsythe! The Rangers acquired all those guys on purpose this offseason. I guess you could build around Rougned Odor and Joey Gallo, maybe Nomar Mazara too, but yeah. There’s not much here. An underrated mess of an organization.
Are they trying? Yup.
One paragraph preview: The Nationals went 82-80 last year they’re going to win more games this season because they were never a true talent 82-win team, and the “they’re better off without Harper!!!” hot takes will be everywhere. Preemptively, I am 100% here for Harper dingering the Nationals into oblivion the next 13 years. Washington’s due for another soul-crushing NLDS defeat, aren’t they? At least future manager Joe Girardi will inherit quite a bit of talent in 2020.