MLB, Top 5 list

Top 3 Most Improved Teams this MLB Off-Season

Baseball is officially back! Spring training games are well underway  a fun time for all 30 teams. They all get a clean slate and have an equal opportunity to chase a division title and World Series title in the beginning of March. Every team had a different agenda this off-season to put their teams in the best situation possible.

Here are my top three most improved teams based on the off-season. All of them have championship aspirations and the moves they made are going to be a huge part of the chase for a World Series title.


1. The Chicago Cubs

The Chicago Cubs have quickly become the darlings of baseball with their magical playoff run last year. Theo Epstein is the mastermind of another historical organizational turnaround, he has taken the Cubs from the laughing stock of baseball to on the cusp of a World Series championship.


How it has happened 


Epstein has done it through the draft and keen trades since arriving in the Windy City. They have taken advantage of their high draft picks in recent years getting young sluggers Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, and Javier Baez whom all have quickly become opposing pitcher’s nightmare.

In addition, on July 5, 2014 Epstein was able to swindle Addison Russell from the Oakland A’s, who was the A’s top prospect at the time for pitchers Jason Hammel and Jeff Samardzija. The A’s were pushing for a deep playoff run, so it made sense at the time, but now they’re experiencing buyer’s remorse as Russell has become another key piece to the Cubs roster.

Epstein four-year plan is coming the other rather nicely because he was able to bolster the roster this off-season with veteran quality players to complement these young studs that have proven they can play and at times dominate.

This off-season they added outfielder Jason Heyward, veteran starter John Lackey, utility man, Ben Zobrist, and outfielder Dexter Fowler. These four moves on paper make the Cubs look unstoppable. Let’s take a look at why all four of these players are perfect for the Cubs in their quest for a championship.


Jason Heyward 8 years 184 Million

Jason Heyward was one of the most coveted free agents on the market this off-season. He cashed in big-time when he signed with the Chicago Cubs for eight years worth $184 million.

This is a great deal for both sides for many reasons. Hayward is just 26 years of age and still in the prime of his career. Hayward’s best asset is the fact that he is one of the elite defenders in the league. He is a three-time Gold Glover and since entering the league in 2010, he has the most defensive runs saved with 122 a pitcher’s best friend.


Hayward has been a tad inconsistent on offense throughout his career. However, in Chicago he has experienced great success batting .311 and a .376 on-base percentage. That prior success and being plugged into an already stacked lineup that will feature Dexter Fowler, Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, Anthony Rizzo and Ben Zobrist the skies the limit for Jason Heyward who is comfortable in the friendly confines. He doesn’t have to put too much pressure on himself with the other quality players around him in the Windy City.


Ben Zobrist 4 years 56 Million

Zobrist was another highly coveted free agent by many because of his versatility chose to take less money to go to Chicago. This is a very comfortable situation for Zobrist as he is reunited with Joe Madden, who was his manager in Tampa. This is a good move for the Cubs because he gives great at-bats forcing the pitch counts up and just taking what teams give him.

That is key for a team that is full of guys that are not afraid to strike out a time or two. He might’ve been overpaid just a little bit because the Cubs will primarily use him at second base. However, he can give guys days off when needed because he can play the infield and the outfield. He is a great veteran presence as well, these young guys can go pick his brain and learn how to be a professional from Zobrist.


John Lackey 2 years 32 million

John Lackey another quality pickup for the Cubs adding depth to their starting rotation that has the reigning Cy Young award winner Jake Arrieta and John Lester. He’s an innings eater averaging 191 innings pitched per year, preserving the bullpen. The bullpen is the one concern for the Cubs because they are a little bit inexperienced and inconsistent.

He also has a lot of postseason experience, which always helps a young roster with very little outside of last season. His personality will also fit well in the Chicago clubhouse because he is so fiery and intense he will get young guys to focus when needed. The cherry on top is the Cubs were able to take two key players from the St. Louis Cardinals their arch rival.

fowler Dexter Fowler 1 year 8 million

This move should have never happened as Dexter Fowler had agreed to a three-year deal with the Baltimore Orioles. The deal fell through because the Orioles were not willing to give Fowler and opt out of his contract. He decided to go where ” his heart is” this move is good for the Cubs because Jason Heyward can go back to his primary position of right-field that is less taxing than center field. It also deepens the lineup, as Fowler will most likely lead off with his great speed setting the table for this ridiculous lineup. This deal is also cheaper than it would’ve been if he accepted the qualifying offer at the beginning of the off-season.

As we all know sports aren’t won on paper, but with these four moves plus the plethora of young studs they have littered throughout their roster,  they will have a great chance to win that long awaited championship.


2. The Detroit Tigers

The Detroit Tigers have always been known as big spenders chasing their first championship since 1984. This off-season was no different as they added slugger Justin Upton, frontline starter Jordan Zimmerman and experienced closer Francisco Rodriguez. The Tigers in recent years have been ravaged by injuries and bullpen blunders that have cost them dearly. These additions will make the AL Central race very entertaining to watch.


Justin Upton 6 years 132 million

The Detroit Tigers have always been known as big spenders chasing their first championship since 1984. This off-season was no different as they added slugger Justin Upton, frontline starter Jordan Zimmerman and experienced closer Francisco Rodriguez. The Tigers in recent years have been ravaged by injuries and bullpen blunders that have cost them dearly. These additions will make the AL Central race very entertaining to watch.

The Detroit Tigers struck gold when they were able to land free-agent Justin Upton. This seems to be a perfect fit because Upton is one of the premier hitters in baseball. The former first-overall pick of the Arizona Diamondbacks is entering his ninth year and is looking to make a great impact in the Motor City. Upton has been very consistent, even on bad teams. He has a.271 career average and is averaging 21 home runs in his career some of those seasons in pitcher friendly ballparks to boot.

As I said, this seems to be a perfect fit for Detroit because it lengthens an already potent lineup headlined by future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera. He is also very versatile and can hit anywhere in the lineup, giving pitching staffs different look depending on the starter.

Also his age is a big plus, he is just 28 years old and the contract takes him through what is thought to be the prime years of a career. He also is a solid defender in the outfield being nominated for the Gold glove multiple times. Offense has never been the issue for the Tigers the addition of Upton just makes them even scarier and a big threat in the American League.


Jordan Zimmerman  5 years 110 Million

The Detroit Tigers bolstered their starting rotation with the pickup of right-hander Jordan Zimmerman. This is a very solid pickup considering the Tigers have a lot of wear and tear in their rotation with Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez, whom are not spring chickens anymore and have a history of injuries. Zimmerman provides depth and another veteran. The best asset he provides is he is an innings eater and very durable.

Last season with the Washington Nationals, he started 33 games and posted 13-10 record with a 3.66 ERA and pitched over 200 innings. In his career, he is 70-50 with a 3.22 ERA with over 1000 innings pitched. He is a warrior that you want is a part of your pitching staff. I think getting out of the toxic locker room of the Nationals will benefit Zimmerman and having a better offense behind him will result in a really good season.


Francisco Rodriguez 2 years 13 Million

The part of the Detroit Tigers that has held them back from championships in recent years has been their bullpen surrendering so many late leads. They addressed their biggest weakness by signing veteran closer Francisco Rodriguez (K-ROD). The Detroit Tigers bullpen was dismal in 2015 they ranked 27th posting a 4.38 and experienced many heartbreaking losses because of that. The addition of Rodriguez will finally give manager Brad Ausmus confidence in save situations and close ballgames.

The 14-year veteran Rodriguez has seen it all and has been one of the most consistent closers in Major League Baseball over that span. He has converted 386 saves with a 2.69 ERA very good numbers and should get some consideration for the Hall of Fame in my opinion, but he’s not done yet. The signing could be the most underrated of the off-season depending on how the team and Rodriguez perform, but I love this move and it could catapult the Tigers to a World Series Championship

The Detroit Tigers did a great job of bolstering every aspect of their roster and I expect them to be a contender throughout the 2016 season thanks to the front office and their wallets.


3. Boston Red Sox

The Boston Red Sox are looking to rebound from a dismal 2015 season that saw them go from first to last. The Red Sox started this off-season by revamping the front office hiring Dave Dombrowski former head of baseball operations of the Tigers and former general manager of the Atlanta Braves Frank Wren to construct the best 25-man roster possible.

They made two major moves that make them major contenders in the American League East and beyond. They were able to land the best pitcher on the market in David Price and acquired the best closer in baseball over the last several years in Craig Kimbrel.


David Price 7 years 217 Million

The Boston Red Sox definitely opened their wallets for Price, but I think it’s well worth it because it could possibly be a 10-win improvement with Price leaving the starting rotation. David Price has been one of the most consistent pitchers of his time, even though he has bounced around because of money issues and teams not being in contention.

Price went 18-5 with a 2.45 ERA with the Tigers and Blue Jays last season. In his regular-season career, he is virtually untouchable with a record of 104-56 with a 3.06 ERA. Those numbers show you why the Red Sox were willing to give him that contract.

However, the elephant in the room for Price is when the lights are brightest he tends to falter, his postseason record is 14-8 with a 5.12 ERA. He will get a chance to redeem himself with the Red Sox this season and I feel like he will have a great year and help his new team to a deep postseason run.


Craig Kimbrel in Trade

The Boston Red Sox not only bolstered the beginning of the game, but also deepened their options at the end in the game as well acquiring Craig Kimbrel from the Padres. Some baseball executives say the Red Sox gave up too much for Kimbrel prospect wise however they are just prospects and you don’t know how they will pan out. Couple that with Kimbrel’s proven track record as one of the most reliable closers in Major League Baseball. With a bad San Diego Padres team Kimbrel still managed 39 saves and a 2.58 ERA. In his career he has 225 saves and a minuscule 1.63 ERA.

This was a great move for the Red Sox because they’ve had some uncertainty with injuries and inconsistency over the last couple seasons. Kimbrel provides durability and certainty in save situations and close ballgames.

These two moves are exactly what the Red Sox need to get back to their winning ways. The new front office made a great first impression on their fans we will see how it plays out on the diamond, but I think they are once again a scary team.


 These are my three most improved teams this off-season that have greatly improved their chances to win a World Series title this season.  Do you agree?


3 thoughts on “Top 3 Most Improved Teams this MLB Off-Season

  1. Pingback: Discover: Monday Around the Horn « Blogs

  2. Dennis Hogan says:

    Could the Cubs 108 year drought be over as Cassidy sort of implies? That’s the sense here in Chicagoland – although we have had our hopes crushed so many times. It’s about the goat and the curse you see. Maybe, just maybe, the curse will finally end.

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