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5 clubs that could still win the offseason

Talent remains there for the taking on market
MLB.com @philgrogers

Some things sound better than they are.

For instance, there's the idea of a baseball team "winning the offseason" with its trades and free-agent signings. Who wouldn't want to go into the next season with the expectation of significant improvement?

Some things sound better than they are.

For instance, there's the idea of a baseball team "winning the offseason" with its trades and free-agent signings. Who wouldn't want to go into the next season with the expectation of significant improvement?

Trouble is, those pesky standings are organic and non-linear. What happens in April and May often matters more than work upgrading the roster in December and January. It's one thing to expect a team to improve and another altogether to turn projections into reality.

Hot Stove tracker

The Cubs did it a couple years ago, winning the World Series after adding Jason Heyward, Ben Zobrist and John Lackey during a $272-million spending spree. But that was the same year that the Giants signed Johnny Cueto and Denard Span, traded for Jeff Samardzija and could win only a National League Wild Card spot.

The Red Sox similarly created World Series hype by adding Chris Sale, reliever Tyler Thornburg and first baseman Mitch Moreland last offseason, but they got bounced in the American League Division Series by the Astros, who helped themselves more than we knew when they signed Charlie Morton and added a bunch of veterans, including Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran.

But, hey, you can do a lot worse than that. The Red Sox did in Theo Epstein's last year in Boston, missing the postseason after trading for Adrian Gonzalez and signing Carl Crawford before the 2011 season.

The Padres and White Sox were the talk of the offseason three years back but we'll forgive you if you've forgotten.

The Padres won 74 games in 2015 after acquiring Matt Kemp, Justin Upton and Wil Myers. The White Sox won 76 games after trading for Samardzija and signing free agents David Robertson, Melky Cabrera and Adam LaRoche.

Maybe next season will be one where the team getting the most pats on the back in Spring Training will walk away with the hardware, as the Cubs did in 2016. That would be good news for the Yankees (Giancarlo Stanton) and Astros (Gerrit Cole, Hector Rondon, Joe Smith), who are leading the offseason standings.

But this remains fluid. Here are five teams that could win this offseason with a move or two:

1. Red Sox
We've been waiting for this little two-step since the Hot Stove season opened: Sign J.D. Martinez to play left field and trade Jackie Bradley Jr. for an arm or two.

A move could happen shortly after the ice is broken in the Red Sox-Martinez/Scott Boras negotiations, if it ever breaks. While Bradley is the superior defensive center fielder, scouts are convinced Andrew Benintendi would be fine between Martinez and Mookie Betts.

Video: MLB Tonight talks J.D. Martinez's free agency

2. Phillies
Assuming Rhys Hoskins is as comfortable in left field as at first base, adding Carlos Santana will be one of the best moves of the offseason. It will make even the Nationals' pitching staff pay attention in meetings.

Santana alone probably isn't enough to make the Phillies immediate contenders. But what if the Phillies can slip in and sign Alex Cobb -- or even Jake Arrieta or Yu Darvish? Put a front-of-the-rotation piece in front of Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez and Nick Pivetta or Ben Lively and Spring Training in Clearwater, Fla. will be about a lot more than the burgers at Frenchy's.

Video: Zolecki on Phillies' rumored interest in Cobb

3. Rockies
Everybody loves their reconstructed bullpen -- Wade Davis and Bryan Shaw jump on board and Jake McGee stays, signing a three-year deal -- and sees value in adding Chris Iannetta as a replacement for Jonathan Lucroy. But it's unclear how the outfield corners will look on Opening Day.

What about this? Since the Rockies don't want to block prospect Ryan McMahon by signing Eric Hosmer, which would allow Ian Desmond to move to the outfield, why not jump in late and sign Lorenzo Cain or even Martinez. Imagine him lifting blasts into Colorado's thin air.

Video: ARI@KC: Cain robs Marte with difficult running grab

4. Cubs
Looking ahead to upcoming negotiations on local television contracts, Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenney said, "It's a good time to be us." He's right, yet the Cubs haven't yet pulled off a splashy move this offseason.

They have been tied to Darvish since the Winter Meetings. Adding him or re-signing Arrieta would vault the Cubs back in the discussion of top rotations. If they did that and pulled off a trade for either an established closer like Brad Hand, Roberto Osuna or Alex Colome, they'd look a lot more like the team that won 103 games in 2016 than last year's 92-win team.

Video: Yu Darvish actively talking with Cubs

5. Brewers
Maybe this will prove to be another tease for fans, like the Justin Verlander and Sonny Gray rumors last summer, but recent reports have linked the Brewers to Arrieta and Marlins center fielder Christian Yelich, who seems likely to get his wish and be traded. Put either Yelich or Arrieta on a Brew Crew team that has added free agents Jhoulys Chacin and Boone Logan and it becomes a much more serious threat to the Cubs. Find a way to add Arrieta and Yelich and the Brewers might just win the offseason. Maybe the NL Central next season too.

Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com.

Milwaukee Brewers, Philadelphia Phillies, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Colorado Rockies, Jake Arrieta, Lorenzo Cain, Alex Cobb, Yu Darvish, J.D. Martinez, Christian Yelich