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Five teams that can still win the offseason

MLB.com @RichardJustice

We're reluctant to finalize our list of offseason winners because, as you may have heard, there are some prominent unsigned free agents. Not just Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, either.

There are plenty of chances for teams to win the offseason, and between now and Opening Day that's likely to happen as both teams and players reconsider their options.

We're reluctant to finalize our list of offseason winners because, as you may have heard, there are some prominent unsigned free agents. Not just Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, either.

There are plenty of chances for teams to win the offseason, and between now and Opening Day that's likely to happen as both teams and players reconsider their options.

One thing almost certainly slowing the market at this point doesn't get enough attention: With the game trending younger and with so many prospects being fast-tracked to the Major Leagues, dozens of teams are eager to get a better look at their top prospects.

Having seen what Ronald Acuna Jr., Juan Soto, Miguel Andujar did last season, other teams want to give their best kids every chance to succeed before pursuing veteran free agents.

That pursuit will happen at some point because, let's face it, not every kid is going to burst onto the scene the way Acuna and the others did in 2018.

That said, here's the up-to-date look at the offseason winners:
1. Mets
2. Yankees
3. Cardinals
4. Phillies
5. Nationals

Now for the fun part. So many really good players are still available that a bunch of teams could still win. Again, while we rightfully focus on Machado and Harper, there are options available for the bullpen (Craig Kimbrel), rotation (Dallas Keuchel and Gio Gonzalez), third base (Mike Moustakas), outfield (Adam Jones) and designated hitter (Evan Gattis).

That's a partial list. Let's consider a modest proposal or two and check out what the final standings could look like:

Phillies
Proposal:
Machado would like nice in a Phillies uniform. So would Harper. How about both of them? You just blew my mind.
Bottom line: The Phillies have had a very good offseason in adding J.T. Realmuto, Jean Segura, Andrew McCutchen and David Robertson. But there's going to be a brutal fight for the five National League postseason berths, with at least 11 teams seeing a realistic path to October. The Phils still have some work to do and remain in the mix for one of the superstars. If the Phillies do get to the postseason, they've got a rotation that might get them to the World Series.

Nationals
Proposal: Re-sign Harper.

Bottom line: Whether that happens or not, the Nationals are better positioned to get to the World Series than at any other time in the past eight seasons. Rather than being held hostage by the Harper negotiations, general manager Mike Rizzo added the No. 1 free-agent starter (Patrick Corbin) and upgraded his team at second base (Brian Dozier), bullpen (Trevor Rosenthal), catcher (Yan Gomes and Kurt Suzuki) and bench (Matt Adams). He added two other rotation pieces in Anibal Sanchez and Jeremy Hellickson.

Red Sox
Proposal: Re-sign Craig Kimbrel.

Bottom line: Let's not bury the lead: the Red Sox might be baseball's best team, whether they do anything else or not. In re-signing Steve Pearce and Nathan Eovaldi and having a healthy Tyler Thornburg for the bullpen, president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has checked all the boxes. Only thing is, with the Red Sox and Yankees, everything is connected. While the Yanks were building the game's best bullpen this offseason, Dombrowski appears to be counting on relievers with closer stuff (Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier), which is not the same as actually having done it. Kimbrel would be an excellent finishing touch, and we're not even sure Boston needs him, other than to win the coveted "We Won the Offseason" title.

Braves
Proposal: Sign Kimbrel.

Bottom line: We won't even mention to GM Alex Anthopoulos that Keuchel would be a nice fit, too. To add Josh Donaldson and Kimbrel in the same offseason is all anyone can ask. Combine those two with a nice core and a very good farm system, and the Braves appear to be off and running for another string of postseason appearances.

Astros
Proposal: Sign Harper and Keuchel.

Bottom line: Let's think big. The Astros have a championship window that will not be open forever. Harper would give them another cornerstone player with George Springer, Michael Brantley, Josh Reddick and Yuli Gurriel headed for free agency after the 2020 season. It helps that Harper hits left-handed, since Houston's core players are right-handed hitters. With four veteran starters headed for the open market after this season, Keuchel would give the Astros a veteran presence beyond 2019.

Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.

Bryce Harper, Dallas Keuchel, Manny Machado