So I wrote about the five teams I believe have the best chance to improve significantly in 2015 -- think a 10-game improvement or more.
Writing about the five teams that have improved the least is much easier.
1. Atlanta Braves (79-83)
Well, let’s see: They traded away the player with their highest WAR in 2014 (Jason Heyward); they traded away their leading home run hitter and RBI guy (Justin Upton); they traded away their starting catcher who hit 22 home runs (Evan Gattis); they’ve lost Ervin Santana and Aaron Harang, who combined for 64 starts.
Did the Braves overreact to a bad season? After all, two years ago they won 96 games; the year before, they won 94. And they had a young base of talent. General manager John Hart said he believes the Braves can compete in 2015, but he has to say that. The Braves are punting the next two years, hoping the young talent they received in the Heyward, Upton and Gattis trades will be ready when they move into their new park.
2. Philadelphia Phillies (73-89)
After consecutive 73-win seasons, GM Ruben Amaro finally realized it’s time to rebuild. It may be awhile before the Phillies crack .500 again. Longtime shortstop Jimmy Rollins is gone and Cole Hamels may be next. Will Chase Utley follow? Will Cliff Lee be dealt once he proves he’s healthy? And will Amaro find a home for Ryan Howard?
The Phillies had a great run from 2007 to 2011 with five consecutive division titles and a World Series title. It was a fun team and Phillies fans should appreciate those years. But 2015 isn’t going to provide much joy.
3. Colorado Rockies (66-96)
New general manager Jeff Bridich inherited a team that has lost 96, 88, 98 and 89 games the past four seasons and done ... nothing. OK, he traded Rob Scahill to the Pirates for minor league pitcher Shane Carle. There were a couple of other equally minor deals. Of course, when you lose 96 games it’s because you don’t have enough talent, so you can’t necessarily blame Bridich for his lack of activity, at least on the trade front. Instead, the Rockies will apparently count once again on Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez to be healthy and some of the young hitters and pitchers to improve. Good luck. It’s too bad the team isn’t better as the fans have remained supportive despite the lousy seasons of late.
4. San Francisco Giants (88-74)
The Giants are different from the first three teams here as they should once again be competitive, but they haven’t done much to improve a team that snuck into the playoffs as a wild-card team. It’s not necessarily from a lack of effort: They tried to re-sign Pablo Sandoval and were certainly breathing heavily over Jon Lester, but all they’ve done is re-sign in-season acquisition Jake Peavy and sign Norichika Aoki to replace Mike Morse as the fourth outfielder.
Could the Giants still improve? Maybe, but that means depending on Tim Lincecum having his first good year in three years, Matt Cain coming back from elbow surgery and veterans Peavy and Tim Hudson remaining healthy and productive. That seems like a lot of question marks in the rotation.
5. Milwaukee Brewers (82-80)
The American League teams have been more active because the parity across the league is so compact. Really, only the Twins look like a team that you have stretch scenarios to see them as a playoff team. The National League, meanwhile, has the Braves, Phillies, Rockies and Diamondbacks clearly looking up at the rest of the league.
Anyway, the Brewers just traded away Yovani Gallardo to open a spot for Jimmy Nelson in the rotation, but they didn’t receive any impact talent in return and now the rotation is starving for depth. They did trade for Adam Lind to play first base but I doubt we’ll see a Cecil Cooper 1980 season out of him. Their best hope for improvement is a bounce-back year from Ryan Braun following two seasons of injuries. In a division in which the Cubs and Reds could both be better, it’s hard to see how the Brewers are going to see an increase in the win column.