Coming into 2013, the Boston Red Sox had a clean slate after a dismal last place finish in 2012. And the team took full advantage of that, winning the World Series.
It seems that every year, a team that finished in last place takes some positive strides the next season. It may not result in a World Series ring like the Red Sox earned, but at least some teams exhibit improvement.
Last season, the Toronto Blue Jays, Chicago White Sox, Houston Astros, Miami Marlins, Chicago Cubs and Colorado Rockies were the bottom-feeders in their respective divisions. Of this group, it looks like the Rockies are furthest along in attempting to get back to the postseason.
But let’s start with the other teams.
The Blue Jays’ main offseason acquisition has been catcher Dioner Navarro. But keep in mind, the team underwent a complete overhaul last offseason.
Things did not work out to plan last season, but Toronto is still a talented team on paper filled with stars like Jose Reyes, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and R.A. Dickey. The team could still use a starting pitcher and maybe is in the mix for Masahiro Tanaka.
The problem for the Jays is that they play in a tough division. The New York Yankees look much improved, and as mentioned earlier, the Red Sox are the defending World Series champions. Meanwhile, the Rays should still be competitive, and even the Orioles can be dangerous -- not great signs for the Blue Jays.
Moving on to the White Sox, Chicago made a splash by signing Cuban slugger Jose Abreu. But other than that, the offseason has been quiet.
After Chris Sale, the starting pitching staff is suspect, and the bullpen is extremely makeshift. Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko are getting up there in age as well.
The Detroit Tigers, Cleveland Indians and Kansas City Royals all look strong heading into the season, so it doesn’t look too good for the White Sox.
Next up is the Astros, and right up front, this will not be their year. But in their farm system, future pieces continue to get seasoning to the point where this team could turn it around in a few years.
Dexter Fowler and Scott Feldman join the fold and add to Chris Carter’s big power bat. A few other role-type players round out the roster, but the problem is that these role players are viewed as major contributors.
Of all the last place teams, the Marlins will have the most new faces. Garrett Jones will play first base; Rafael Furcal slots in at second base; Casey McGahee is the new third baseman; and Jarrod Saltalamacchia will suit up behind the dish.
These are all nice complementary players to Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Fernandez, but it’s tough to think this core of players can compete regularly with the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals.
The team does have these impressive outfield prospects -- Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Jake Marisnick -- so if these guys can get their feet wet this season, the team could eventually use Stanton as a trade chip to acquire even more young talent.
As for the Cubs, let’s just say that the “Curse of the Billy Goat” will be continuing this year. The key for the Cubs is for Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo to keep getting better.
It was rumored all offseason that Jeff Samardzija would be traded, but he’s still around. The team added a few bullpen arms in Jose Veras and Wesley Wright, and it seems the team is going all in on Tanaka.
But even so, the Cubs have plenty of work to do.
So that leaves the Rockies. Drew Stubbs and Justin Morneau join a lineup featuring a healthy Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, Michael Cuddyer and Wilin Rosario. So even without the veteran presence of Todd Helton, this team should score runs.
But offense has never really been the problem for this team. Pitching in Coors Field, however, is always an issue.
The Rockies traded for Brett Anderson, and Tyler Chatwood was impressive in 20 starts last season. Jorge de la Rosa, Jhoulys Chacin and Juan Nicasio should round out the rotation with Franklin Morales and Jordan Lyles providing insurance.
Sure, the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants should be the class of the NL West, but if the Rockies can manage to play consistent ball, they could set themselves up for a second-half run.
Compared to the other five teams though, there is at least a glimmer of hope coming out of Colorado.
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