Congrats to the Kansas City Royals for an awesome playoff run and World Series title. But it's time to move on! (Just kidding, Kansas City. Enjoy your parade today.) Let's have some fun with our initial offseason power rankings.
1. Chicago Cubs
The oddsmakers in Las Vegas have already established the Cubs as the betting favorite to win the World Series and I'm inclined to agree. Coming off a 97-win season, they were starting four rookies in the National League Championship Series and you can expect all four of those players to improve. With so many young players and Anthony Rizzo signed to a team-friendly deal, the Cubs have padding in the payroll to make a big free-agent splash and many expect them to reunite David Price with manager Joe Maddon.
2. Kansas City Royals
If there's one thing we've learned the past two postseasons, it's that the Royals are built for the playoffs. The lack of rotation depth isn't as important -- you can pitch your best relievers more often and for more innings and the contact-oriented approach has scored enough runs. They'll lose Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist but will make a push to re-sign Alex Gordon.
It's not just that the Jays led the majors in runs but it's that they scored 127 more runs than any other team in easily producing the best run differential in the majors at plus-221, the highest since the 2001 Seattle Mariners. That offense returns intact and while you worry a bit about some of the ages of the core players (Jose Bautista will be 35, both Russell Martin and Edwin Encarnacion 33), they should once again score a ton of runs. Price and Marco Estrada are free agents and while Price may walk, look for them to re-sign Estrada and remember that they'll have Marcus Stroman back for the entire season.
They're always up there, right? While they get Adam Wainwright back in a rotation that led the majors in ERA, he may end up replacing free agent John Lackey. The lineup has depth but finished 11th in both runs and home runs, with Jason Heyward likely departing as a free agent.
With one of the best infields in the majors plus one of the best players in Buster Posey, the Giants will score runs -- they were fourth in the majors and second in the National League in runs per game on the road. They'll need to upgrade the defense in center field and look for them to fix the rotation by re-signing Mike Leake and going after another one of the free-agent arms like Lackey, Jordan Zimmermann and maybe even Price. With Tim Lincecum and Tim Hudson off the books, that's $30 million to play with.
You'd think the rotation alone should be good enough to carry the team to 90 wins, but isn't that we said about the Washington Nationals heading into 2015? They'll lose Yoenis Cespedes and probably Daniel Murphy, but Michael Conforto will become the everyday left fielder and Wilmer Flores or Dilson Herrera will replace Murphy at second base. You have to worry about David Wright's ability to stay on the field and GM Sandy Alderson should add roster depth for the entire season, not just for a playoff push.
"The Bill James Handbook" includes a chart called Team Efficiency Summary. Well, the Indians were tied with the Cincinnati Reds for worst team efficiency in the majors. They were expected to create about 698 runs on offense based on their various statistics but scored just 669 runs. They allowed 640 runs instead of an estimated expected total of 587. Their "expected" wins total was 94; instead, they won 81. While 2015 doesn't have anything to do with 2016, I think there's talent here to improve.
It's difficult for a small-market team to keep it going year after year, but the Pirates will be aiming for a fourth straight playoff trip -- and hopefully a division title instead of a wild card. They'll have to replace 37 terrific starts from A.J. Burnett and J.A. Happ (combined 2.81 ERA) and the bullpen will be hard-pressed to repeat its terrific 2015. But they have an MVP candidate in Andrew McCutchen and a solid offense around him.
I'd rank them higher if we knew they were going to re-sign Zack Greinke (who will presumably exercise his option to become a free agent), but that's no guarantee, even with the Dodgers' deep pockets. There will be a new manager to make sense of what many still consider an oddly configured roster and the offense ranked just 12th in the NL in the second half in runs per game.
10. Boston Red Sox
Every year, a team or teams go from under .500 to the playoffs. In 2015, the Mets, Cubs, Houston Astros and Texas Rangers did. So these power rankings are probably already way off. Anyway, the Red Sox are a good bet to improve. They have a base of young position players like Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts and Blake Swihart who should be better in 2016, they won't repeat the Hanley Ramirez left-field disaster, and you know they'll be all-in on a starting pitcher.
11. Houston Astros
The Astros' payroll was one of the lowest in the majors in 2015 and with no major raises coming in 2016, they could be a surprise bidder on the free-agent market. They may go after a starter to replace Scott Kazmir, a first baseman or more bullpen help. They had the youngest lineup in the American League in 2015 and full seasons from Carlos Correa and George Springer could make it better.
12. Washington Nationals
I don't exactly get the Dusty Baker hiring but I also don't understand those who have said the Nationals may rebuild. The Baker hiring suggests that won't be the case and it shouldn't be the case. With Bryce Harper and Max Scherzer you have two of the biggest stars in the game. Denard Span is a free agent and Trea Turner will replace Ian Desmond at shortstop, but 2016 will likely ride on the health and production of Stephen Strasburg, Anthony Rendon, Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth.
13. Texas Rangers
Assuming Yu Darvish returns from Tommy John surgery to run alongside Cole Hamels in the rotation, the Rangers may be favorites to win the AL West again. I love Rougned Odor and Adrian Beltre is becoming an ageless wonder (and future Hall of Famer).
If you want a potential playoff sleeper, here's a good pick. The D-backs can score runs and catch the ball. The rotation, however, ranked 23rd in the majors in ERA. They won 79 games, so even some minor upgrades in the starting rotation will be a big boost. And if they can lure a legitimate No. 1 starter to the desert, this could be one of those sub-.500 teams that rises to the postseason.
15. Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays went 2-13 in extra innings. If they'd instead gone 8-7, they would have won 86 games and tied the Astros for the second AL wild-card spot. Their starters ranked sixth in the majors in ERA and that was without Alex Cobb and with Drew Smyly making just 12 starts. So the same question will linger: Can they find offense?
The Angels' offense fell from first in the AL in runs to 12th, even though Mike Trout once again put up MVP-caliber numbers. Albert Pujols hit 40 home runs but at a big trade-off: He hit just .244 with a .307 on-base percentage, so he didn't really do much to push the Angels closer to the playoffs. They'll need a third baseman and their left fielders were the worst in the majors. They'll pay Josh Hamilton about $24 million to play for the Rangers.
17. New York Yankees
They had the oldest lineup in the AL last season but the old guys were actually productive. Can you count on Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira combining for 64 home runs again? They have Greg Bird ready to replace Teixeira and at some point they'll work Aaron Judge into right field. We know the back of the bullpen is dominant, so the big offseason question will be whether the Yankees look to upgrade their rotation with a free-agent signing. If they get a Price or Greinke, they'll move up these rankings.
18. Minnesota Twins
I'm going to spend the winter dreaming of Miguel Sano home runs.
19. Miami Marlins
Another of your sub-.500 sleepers. They obviously have a nice base of talent but will need full seasons from Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Fernandez and a return to form from Marcell Ozuna. If the front office and ownership make some smart moves -- good luck -- the Marlins could take advantage of a division that still includes the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies.
20. Detroit Tigers
You can point to the Price trade as when the Tigers went downhill, but that's not really an accurate portrayal of the season: After going 15-8 in April, they were under .500 every month the rest of the season. The good news: Justin Verlander looked very good down the stretch. The bad news: The pitching staff allowed the most runs in the league, and that was with Price making 21 starts.
21. San Diego Padres
Who knows? Justin Upton is a free agent, the rotation was a disappointment and they still need a shortstop. It should be an interesting offseason once again in San Diego.
A reason the White Sox could be a sleeper is that they have obvious holes to fill: Their second basemen had the worst wOBA in the majors ... and so did their third basemen. These were holes going into 2015 and weren't fixed in 2014, either.
24. Seattle Mariners
They need a catcher, a center fielder, a first baseman, a corner outfielder, maybe a starting pitcher or two (if they don't bring back Hisashi Iwakuma) and the bullpen went from the best ERA in the majors to a train wreck. But at least Jack Zduriencik is gone.
Like the Mariners, they'll be facing an AL West where the Astros and Rangers may both be better, and possibly the Angels depending on their moves. The A's never recovered from all the blown saves early in the season and then collapsed in September with a 10-20 record. Do they retool even more by shopping Sonny Gray?
Now we get to the dregs of the NL. The AL has enough parity that it wouldn't surprise if even the Mariners and A's competed for the playoffs, but these bottom-five teams will all be pretty bad. Many expect the Brewers to continue tearing down the current roster, which could mean a Jonathan Lucroy trade and maybe Ryan Braun, if they can find a taker.
27. Colorado Rockies
Hey, they went 11-3 against the Braves and Phillies! (Sorry, I know that's not much to go on, Rockies fans.) It's the same old story here: No pitching, can't score on the road. Nolan Arenado had a breakout season with 40 home runs and an MLB-leading 130 RBIs, but I'd like to see him boost that .323 OBP.
28. Cincinnati Reds
Owner Bob Castellini is very competitive, but the Reds should face reality: They're not going to compete with the Cubs, Cardinals and Pirates. So trade Aroldis Chapman, trade Jay Bruce, maybe even deal Todd Frazier, whose value will never be higher.
29. Atlanta Braves
They have a lot of young pitching, but most of it was bad. The offense was the worst in the majors. They went 25-48 in the second half. Yuck. The final year in Turner Field will not have a memorable send-off.
30. Philadelphia Phillies
I could be wrong here. It's very possible that the Phillies will be better than the Braves.