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These 5 teams are better than you think

@RichardJustice
February 24, 2020

The Blue Jays, White Sox and Reds are all better, possibly a lot better. The Dodgers, Yankees and Twins are still really good. At least 16 teams believe they’ve charted a reasonable path to the playoffs. Welcome to Major League Baseball in 2020. Seldom has one offseason of comings and

The Blue Jays, White Sox and Reds are all better, possibly a lot better. The Dodgers, Yankees and Twins are still really good. At least 16 teams believe they’ve charted a reasonable path to the playoffs.

Welcome to Major League Baseball in 2020. Seldom has one offseason of comings and goings delivered so many reasons for optimism to so many teams.

That’s why surprises could be hard to find in this landscape. What we’re looking for are the teams that are going to be better than you think. Let’s consider five:

1. Blue Jays
This team has a chance to move up in the American League East and not just because of a tremendous core of young position players, beginning with third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. The progress will be fun to watch, but it’s the sudden influx of veteran starting pitching that opens the door for improvement in 2020. Toronto had a very good (and very underrated) offseason with the addition of four veteran starters -- Hyun-Jin Ryu, Chase Anderson, Tanner Roark and Japanese free agent Shun Yamaguchi -- and the expected return of Matt Shoemaker. The AL Wild Card race figures to be truly wild, but the Blue Jays could be part of it.

2. Padres
The Padres made fewer headlines this offseason, but they continued to get better. Tommy Pham gives them an explosive offensive addition in left field. Trent Grisham is a first-rate defensive addition in center. Garrett Richards is fully recovered from Tommy John surgery and will help take some of the workload from the young starters. Perhaps the biggest improvement will come on the left side of the infield, where the Padres expect to potentially have a pair of superstars in Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr.

3. Rangers
General manager Jon Daniels has delivered perhaps the best starting rotation the Rangers have ever had with offseason acquisitions Corey Kluber, Kyle Gibson and Jordan Lyles joining Mike Minor and Lance Lynn. In addition, Texas has Minor League pitching depth that could prove critical over a long season. If the two veterans in the middle of the infield -- shortstop Elvis Andrus and second baseman Rougned Odor -- have better seasons, the Rangers could make a run at the Astros and A’s in the AL West.

4. Cubs
As the Cubs consider trading third baseman Kris Bryant, here’s another viewpoint: This team is good enough to win a World Series just as it is. For one thing, the National League Central appears to be a wide-open four-team race. For another, the Cubs have talent. Yes, there are legitimate questions about that talent, but if Jon Lester, Yu Darvish, Jason Heyward and Craig Kimbrel perform at a high level -- and who says that’s not possible? -- the Cubs are as good as any team in their division. While Cubs executives seem torn about making another run with this group or beginning a slight teardown to upgrade the Minor League system, they should be very cautious about dismantling a group that might just have one more postseason appearance in it.

5. Red Sox
If you focus too long on what your favorite team doesn’t have, you’ll lose sight of what they do. In this case, there’s Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers and J.D. Martinez in the middle of the lineup; Chris Sale, Eduardo Rodriguez and Nathan Eovaldi at the front of the rotation and Brandon Workman and Matt Barnes at the back of the bullpen. Plenty of teams would love to have that kind of talent. Sure, there are questions about Sale’s health and especially about what the rotation looks like behind the big three. But the Red Sox don’t need a miracle. They just need their main guys to be as productive as they’ve been in the past.

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