Players soon will be reporting to camps, and yet, some of the top free agents still haven’t signed. So while we wait, let’s take a look ahead toward the start of the 2024 season.
Where does every team stand heading into spring training? Did the Dodgers’ offseason acquisitions push them to the No. 1 spot? Where are the reigning World Series champions in our rankings? And where do Aaron Judge and Juan Soto’s Yankees sit?
Our expert panel has combined to rank every team in baseball based on a combination of what we’ve seen so far this offseason and what we already knew from 2023. We also asked ESPN MLB experts David Schoenfield, Buster Olney, Jesse Rogers and Alden Gonzalez to weigh in with an observation for all 30 teams.
Final 2023 regular-season ranking: 3
The Dodgers’ offseason has been an absolute dream. They splurged for a billion dollars on a transformative two-way player in Shohei Ohtani and a 25-year-old starting pitcher, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who is coming off three consecutive MVPs in Japan. In case that wasn’t enough, they acquired one of the most prized pitchers on the trade market, Tyler Glasnow, and arguably the best corner outfielder in free agency, Teoscar Hernandez. They’re an absolute force, even more so on the heels of another 100-win season.
But it’s still fair to wonder about their rotation. Ohtani won’t pitch until 2025, Yamamoto hasn’t faced major league hitters, Glasnow is not far removed from Tommy John surgery, and Walker Buehler is coming off a second such procedure. Their other starting pitching acquisition, James Paxton, comes with his own injury concerns. — Gonzalez
Final 2023 regular-season ranking: 1
With last season’s record-setting lineup returning, the Braves could have had a quiet offseason, but instead they made two of the more interesting transactions of the winter, trading for left fielder Jarred Kelenic and pitcher Chris Sale. Kelenic was once a top-10 overall prospect but never lived up to the hype in Seattle; he’s still just 24, however, and did improve last season (.253/.327/.419). Sale made 20 starts for Boston last season, his most since 2019, and fanned 125 in 102⅔ innings. He still has top-of-the-rotation stuff if he can remain healthy. — Schoenfield
Final 2023 regular-season ranking: 9
Houston advanced to the American League Championship Series for the seventh consecutive season in 2023, and there are a lot of reasons to believe the Astros could do that again — maybe more so than in past seasons — behind Yordan Alvarez, Alex Bregman and the newly signed Josh Hader. But how dangerous Houston is may largely depend on whether Framber Valdez rediscovers his sinker, which largely abandoned him late in the year. Over his last 10 regular-season starts, he averaged 4⅔ innings and had a 4.29 ERA, and his ERA was 9.00 in the postseason. Houston’s season might come down to this: Can Framber find it? — Olney
Final 2023 regular-season ranking: 5
Is a reunion with Jordan Montgomery inevitable? Don’t bet against it, as agent Scott Boras is in a good position with Rangers brass. Boras directed Corey Seager and Marcus Semien to Texas and undoubtedly helped in moving Montgomery and Max Scherzer there as well via trade last summer. As the Rangers’ RSN situation clears up, they should be able to pounce and set themselves up for a repeat run. And don’t forget, Jacob deGrom is waiting in the wings as he recovers from Tommy John surgery. Texas is in a good position to contend, no matter what happens the rest of the spring. — Rogers
Final 2023 regular-season ranking: 2
In Corbin Burnes, Baltimore now has the veteran ace it needed, and you’d assume that with the promise of financial backing from potential new ownership, the Orioles will add bullpen depth. The O’s won 101 games last season, yet already, this is a much more complete team than in 2024 — and now there’s no question about whether the front office and the owners will spend to plug holes at the trade deadline. Now O’s fans can wonder — and dream — about how quickly Jackson Holliday will make an impact in the big leagues. He is the easy front-runner to win AL Rookie of the Year. — Olney
Final 2023 regular-season ranking: 6
Other than re-signing Aaron Nola and making a run at Yamamoto, it’s been a quiet offseason. They showed interest in relievers Jordan Hicks and Robert Stephenson but failed to sign either one. For now, that leaves Cristopher Sanchez as the No. 5 starter, rookie Orion Kerkering with a prominent role in the bullpen and Johan Rojas and Cristian Pache in center field (with Brandon Marsh in left). In other words, the Phillies didn’t make up any ground on the Braves. — Schoenfield
Final 2023 regular-season ranking: 16
If this master plan had played out the way owner Hal Steinbrenner wanted, Yoshinobu Yamamoto would have taken the Yankees’ money and slotted in behind Gerrit Cole in the rotation. But that didn’t happen, and now the Yankees will go into the season with uncertainty about their rotation depth. Will Nestor Cortes stay healthy? Will the Yankees get what they paid for in the second year of Carlos Rodon‘s contract, at a time when he’s on double-secret probation with Yankees fans? Will Clarke Schmidt evolve? Will they make a late-winter addition? — Olney
Final 2023 regular-season ranking: 4
Maybe the biggest question for the Rays going into the offseason was whether Wander Franco — who was supposed to be the face of the franchise — would be available to the team in 2024. His future status seems more uncertain than ever, because no matter when his legal situation is resolved, he still faces discipline from MLB, as well as persistent visa questions. Without Franco, can the Rays come close to matching their offensive production of 2023, when they led AL East teams in runs? — Olney
Final 2023 regular-season ranking: 12
The D-backs have responded to their surprising World Series run by doubling down, adding Eduardo Rodriguez to the middle of their rotation and injecting Eugenio Suarez and Joc Pederson into the middle of their lineup. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. was brought back, too, solidifying left field. Arizona has done a nice job adding the pieces that would make its roster more complete. The concerns it had heading into October about the depth in the rotation and the back end of the bullpen are not nearly as prevalent. The D-backs’ biggest question heading into 2024 is more overarching: Are they good enough to once again take down the mighty Dodgers? — Gonzalez
Final 2023 regular-season ranking: 8
It really seems impossible that Toronto didn’t make the playoffs last season despite having the best rotation in the majors, but that fact really underscores how poorly the offense performed in 2023. The Jays were 16th in home runs and 14th in runs scored in the majors, surprising numbers for a team that has Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., so the mystery surrounding Toronto in 2024 is: How can a lineup that is largely the same be better? The one major change so far is the addition of Justin Turner, who effectively replaces free agent Brandon Belt. — Olney
Final 2023 regular-season ranking: 11
Deep breath. With a perhaps lower-than-anticipated payroll budget, president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto has been up to his usual creative approach to team building. To recap: Mitch Garver, Jorge Polanco, Luis Urias, Mitch Haniger, Luke Raley, Samad Taylor, Seby Zavala, Carlos Vargas and Austin Voth are in. Gone are Teoscar Hernandez, Eugenio Suarez, Robbie Ray, Jarred Kelenic, Justin Topa, Anthony DeSclafani (who was only barely here), Jose Caballero, Mike Ford, Tom Murphy, Marco Gonzales and Isaiah Campbell. Is the new group better? Hard to tell. The rotation remains intact, although bullpen depth looks like an issue, and Haniger and Urias will have to bounce back from miserable seasons. — Schoenfield
Final 2023 regular-season ranking: 13
Unlike the Rangers’ relationship with Boras, the Cubs haven’t lined up with his clients over the recent past. It’s a built-in roadblock to a reunion with Cody Bellinger or a match with third baseman Matt Chapman. And it’s a risky game of chicken for both sides. Bellinger might not have another big market available to him, while the Cubs won’t have much of an offense without him. The team isn’t likely to blink, believing their second-ranked farm system, according to ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel, is about to explode. Will Boras blink? Perhaps he’ll be forced to accept a smaller deal — but no one knows how this will shake out. — Rogers
Final 2023 regular-season ranking: 7
Is Milwaukee in transition or can it continue to contend with new manager Pat Murphy? Signing Rhys Hoskins addressed several needs, as the Brewers have had a rotation of first baseman over the past several seasons. Not anymore, though — Hoskins should provide power and leadership on a team that lost its stalwarts on the mound, first Brandon Woodruff to free agency and now Corbin Burnes in a trade with Baltimore. So one step forward on offense but one step back on the mound, where Milwaukee will struggle to replace quality innings lost. It’s the big question heading into spring: Who will step forward at the top of the rotation after Freddy Peralta? — Rogers
Final 2023 regular-season ranking: 15
Cincinnati worked more quickly than a lot of teams in shoring up its pitching staff this offseason, signing four free agent pitchers and corner infielder Jeimer Candelario. If anything, the Reds might have to alleviate a logjam in the infield, but that’s a good problem to have. Their spring is about keeping their team healthy — especially a staff that lost youngsters Nick Lodolo and Graham Ashcraft last season. There should be no excuses this year as the Reds have talent throughout the roster. They could be a sneaky pick in a wide-open division. — Rogers
Final 2023 regular-season ranking: 10
No team seems more affected by the murky RSN situation than the Twins, who spent the winter more focused on managing payroll than on upgrading the roster. They lost ace Sonny Gray to free agency, traded Jorge Polanco and largely bypassed winter markets. All of that means that more than ever the Twins will need their core stars to stay on the field — and Byron Buxton (who says he intends to return to center field), Carlos Correa and Royce Lewis all have extensive injury histories. — Olney
Final 2023 regular-season ranking: 17
The Padres, still shaken by the death of revolutionary owner Peter Seidler, decided to cut costs this offseason and will field a far less talented team in 2024. Juan Soto and Hader are gone. Eventually Blake Snell will be, too. They’ve replaced them with a slew of controllable starting pitchers — largely through Soto’s trade to the Yankees — and a completely replenished bullpen. But they still desperately need help in the outfield and could use another bat at first base and/or designated hitter. Another top-of-the-rotation starter would certainly help, too, but it would have to come via trade. — Gonzalez
Final 2023 regular-season ranking: 19
Theo Epstein is going to go down in history as the greatest general manager ever because he conquered the Mount Everest and the K2 of World Series droughts, with the Red Sox in 2004 and then the Cubs in 2016. But it seems strange that adding him to the front office will be the biggest move of the offseason for a Red Sox team that needs help all over the place. Boston needs more offensive production, more pitching — but the front-burner question is whether manager Alex Cora signs an extension. — Olney
Final 2023 regular-season ranking: 22
Are the Mets good? Are they bad? Somewhere in the middle? Probably somewhere in the middle. Their big goal was to sign Yamamoto, and once that didn’t happen, they focused on second-tier (Sean Manaea, Luis Severino, Harrison Bader) and third-tier free agents (Jorge Lopez, Joey Wendle). They acquired Adrian Houser and Tyrone Taylor from the Brewers. They’ll need bounce-back seasons from Starling Marte and Jeff McNeil and improved results from youngsters Francisco Alvarez and Brett Baty. — Schoenfield
Final 2023 regular-season ranking: 25
The Cardinals filled all their holes this offseason but did quantity replace quality? Age was the theme of their pitching acquisitions, but that’s at least offset by 21-year-old shortstop Masyn Winn, who is on the verge of taking over up the middle. And don’t forget outfielder Jordan Walker, who has a year under his belt and quietly performed well for a bad team last year. But the biggest questions surround starters Kyle Gibson and Lance Lynn. Can they perform at the back of the rotation while Sonny Gray and Miles Mikolas hold down the front? That answer will go a long way to determining the outcome of the Cardinals season. — Rogers
Final 2023 regular-season ranking: 21
If you’re looking for a sleeper pick, you could do worse than Detroit climbing in the AL Central after an improved second-half showing. The talent that the Tigers have collected in recent years is beginning to manifest. But look, Detroit is not going to climb unless there is more consistent offense; the Tigers finished 28th in runs scored in 2023. Will young players such as Riley Greene and older players such as Javy Baez generate more runs? — Olney
Final 2023 regular-season ranking: 20
Everyone loves the young rotation here, as Tanner Bibee, Gavin Williams and Logan Allen all had promising rookie seasons, but Cleveland has failed to address what was the worst power-hitting outfield in the majors in decades (a combined 18 home runs). They did acquire Estevan Florial from the Yankees and he hit 28 home runs in Triple-A but with a ton of swing-and-miss (144 strikeouts in 101 games). Prospect George Valera hasn’t developed the power once expected and hit .211 in Triple-A. Where will the offense come from? — Schoenfield
Final 2023 regular-season ranking: 18
The Giants ranked dead last in innings from their starting pitchers last season. They’ve responded by … signing a longtime reliever whom they’ll convert to a starting pitcher and trading for a former ace who won’t return until midseason at the earliest. Maybe Jordan Hicks is excellent out of the rotation and Robbie Ray, coming off Tommy John surgery, miraculously finds his Cy Young form over the last two months of the regular season. But there are nonetheless major questions within this rotation, not the least of which is Alex Cobb‘s return from hip surgery. The lineup also has plenty of holes, even after the Jung Hoo Lee signing. — Gonzalez
Final 2023 regular-season ranking: 14
The Marlins made the playoffs in 2023 — and have essentially sat out the offseason, which isn’t quite the same as the fire sale that followed the 1997 World Series title but isn’t exactly encouraging for Marlins fans, either. New president of baseball operations Peter Bendix has done more evaluation than maneuvering, which isn’t necessarily the wrong decision here for a team that was outscored by 57 runs, has a weak farm system and will be without Sandy Alcantara while he recovers from Tommy John surgery. — Schoenfield
Final 2023 regular-season ranking: 23
Other than signing Aroldis Chapman, the Pirates haven’t made many changes to their roster this winter. They might simply be hoping that this is the year their young but talented group comes through for longer than a month or two. Pittsburgh garnered headlines last spring but faded as the calendar turned to summer and the pitching staff crumbled. But former first overall pick Henry Davis got his feet wet, the young staff got needed experience and shortstop Oneil Cruz is healthy again. It’s still probably not enough to compete for six months, but the Pirates will be a thorn for some teams with manager Derek Shelton keeping his players motivated through good and bad times. — Rogers
Final 2023 regular-season ranking: 24
The Angels were dealt the most devastating blow imaginable when they lost Shohei Ohtani to the crosstown rival Dodgers this offseason. They have yet to replace him as a starting pitcher and haven’t really replaced him as a hitter, either. Angels GM Perry Minasian has done a nice job deepening his bullpen but hasn’t done much else outside of adding veteran outfielder Aaron Hicks. The Angels, with a farm system that ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel recently ranked dead last heading into 2024, need plenty more help offensively and could use a top-of-the-rotation starter to boost a young staff. But unless they splurge on Cody Bellinger or Snell, it’s hard to see how they access that without significantly compromising their active roster. — Gonzalez
Final 2023 regular-season ranking: 29
Hey, at least the Royals are trying to get better, although there are mixed opinions on the overall quality of the additions: Seth Lugo, Michael Wacha, Will Smith, Chris Stratton, Garrett Hampson, Adam Frazier, Hunter Renfroe. Lugo and Wacha are the biggest keys, two guys who were pretty good last season and will help what was a terrible rotation. If Brady Singer bounces back and Cole Ragans is indeed the real deal that he was in the final two months of 2023, it will be the best rotation for the Royals since their World Series years. — Schoenfield
Final 2023 regular-season ranking: 26
The Nationals acquired Nick Senzel from the Reds and signed Joey Gallo, two moves that would have been much more exciting a few years ago. Senzel was the second overall pick in 2016 but battled injuries and put up a 77 OPS+ over five seasons with the Reds. He’ll get a chance to be the regular third baseman. Gallo has two 40-homer seasons and hit 38 as recently as 2021, but his batting averages haven’t been great the past three seasons: .199, .160 and .177. Since going to the Yankees at the trade deadline in 2021, he has produced just 1.2 WAR. — Schoenfield
Final 2023 regular-season ranking: 27
The White Sox are treating the offseason like they’re coming off a 100-win year instead of the 102 they actually lost. It has translated to some interesting pickups but mostly on the margins. Erick Fedde is an example. He’s part of a rebuilt starting staff that still features Dylan Cease — but for how long? Cease is likely to begin, but not finish, the season with the team, as trade talks will heat up again come summertime. The biggest question marks this offseason are in right field and second base, positions Chicago hasn’t nailed down for several years. Newcomer Nicky Lopez will get time at second while Gavin Sheets might be the Opening Day right fielder. Rinse and repeat. The White Sox are stuck in neutral — at best. — Rogers
Final 2023 regular-season ranking: 28
The Rockies’ pitching staff, which will be without both German Marquez and Antonio Senzatela for at least the first half, posted a major-league-worst 5.67 ERA last season. The front office responded with the additions of Cal Quantrill, Dakota Hudson and Anthony Molina, the latter a Rule 5 pick. That probably won’t cut it. The offense — despite playing half its games at Coors Field, of all places — was only 20th in OPS. Rather than make additions there, the Rockies will seemingly just hope for more health from Kris Bryant, more development from Ezequiel Tovar and more awesomeness from Nolan Jones. So, yeah, there are still plenty of questions about the Rockies heading into 2024. It’s much harder to find answers, frankly. — Gonzalez
Final 2023 regular-season ranking: 30
The big question for the A’s heading into 2024 is a simple one: When are they actually going to try again? They stripped their roster down to the studs while seeking a permanent home last season, and though they have since settled on Las Vegas, they still seemingly have no idea where they will play from 2025 to 2027. The A’s have lost a combined 214 games over the past two seasons, and there’s no indication they won’t lose at least another 100 more in 2024. All of their offseason additions have come on the margins. — Gonzalez
Vogelbach’s slow HR trot draws ire of Yanks’ Cole
Cole, making his spring debut Friday night, gave up a two-run home run and a triple before manager Aaron Boone pulled him during a 1-2 count six batters into the Yankees’ 8-4 win over the Toronto Blue Jays.
But the Yankees’ ace reappeared in the second inning — that’s allowed in spring training — to smoothly complete his workday, retiring the side in order and facing two more hitters in the third inning. In all, he allowed two earned runs on four hits across the two-plus innings. He threw 39 pitches.
“I’m executing the way I want to execute there,” Cole said.
The only issue Cole had Friday had nothing to do with his own performance. It was with Blue Jays designated hitter Daniel Vogelbach, who punctuated his two-run blast off Cole in the first inning with a bat flip and trot that bothered the right-hander.
“What’s the day?” Cole said. “Are we still in February? March 1st? Yeah, he enjoyed that homer.”
Asked if he would remember Vogelbach’s enjoyment, Cole replied: “I don’t forget a lot of things.”
Cole, 33, was one of the few bright spots during the Yankees’ disappointing 2023 season. The right-hander went 15-4 with a 2.63 ERA in 209 innings across 33 starts. The performance earned him his first Cy Young Award.
This year, he tops a starting rotation with a few question marks. Friday was a solid start even if he didn’t finish the first inning.
“It was good to be out there again,” Cole said, “and yeah, the stuff was pretty good.”
Sources: Giants, 3B Chapman agree on $54M deal
The deal also includes opt-outs after the first and second year of the agreement.
Chapman’s deal is very similar in structure to that of Cody Bellinger, who re-signed with the Chicago Cubs last week, with his highest salaries at the outset of the contract. Like Bellinger, Chapman also has the built-in opportunity to test the market again if he has a better season offensively than in 2023.
Chapman, who turns 31 in April, won his fourth Gold Glove Award in 2023 with the Toronto Blue Jays. Since the start of the 2018 season, he ranks first among all players at that position in defensive runs saved and he is third in outs above average.
As Chapman moved into free agency this fall, however, some talent evaluators privately expressed doubts about their interest in him because of his offensive performance — 71 homers over the past three seasons, but with a .226 batting average and 537 strikeouts in 446 games.
His 2023 season was a microcosm of the good and bad he’s generated at the plate: After starting very well and batting .384 in April, he flatlined, generating a .205/.298/.361 slash line the rest of the way. Evaluators noted his trouble against fastballs.
The Giants have had difficulty signing high-end free agents in recent winters, with their overtures to Aaron Judge and others turned down. The addition of Chapman should complement what is expected to be a good pitching staff — including sinkerballer Logan Webb.
The New York Post first reported Chapman’s deal with the Giants.
Rodon allows 4 HRs vs. prospects in sim game
“I don’t want to give up homers, but I’m glad I give it up to our guys,” Rodon said. “Makes them feel good about themselves.”
Josh Breaux, Agustin Ramirez, Ben Rice and Jose Rojas went deep. After Rojas’ homer in the final inning, Rodon struck out three of his final four batters, including top prospect Spencer Jones twice.
“I had some sequences there at the end,” Rodon said. “Got some work on curveballs and work on the cutter, so it’s good.”
While the outing wasn’t great, Rodon feels healthy and that’s most important after an injury-marred 2023 where he went 3-8 with a 6.85 ERA in 14 starts.
Rodon, 31, is in the second year of a six-year, $162 million contract he signed with the Yankees last winter.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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