As usual, certain teams could set a tone for all of baseball this offseason. The Phillies are one of them, with an interesting roster and an aggressive approach to free agency. The Giants could be in this mix as well. Never underestimate the Yankees and Dodgers.
There'll be some surprise clubs as budgets are set, trades discussed and possibilities explored. In the past five seasons, 19 of 30 teams have played in at least one postseason series. In that time, eight franchises have made it to the World Series.
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If you're close, why not go for it?
Let's take a look at five teams that might define this offseason:
1. Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies were 64-49 on Aug. 7 before hitting a wall and finishing 80-82. Only the Reds, Marlins and Giants scored fewer runs down the stretch, and so that's where the search for upgrades will begin. Manny Machado and Bryce Harper are both ideal fits, and it's a good bet Philadelphia will land one of them. Phils fans wondering about Machado's attitude should remember that he averaged 159 games the past four seasons, with 34 doubles, 36 home runs and an .856 OPS. To focus on the postseason stuff would be to miss the point that this is a player on a Hall of Fame track. The Phillies won't stop with one of those, and Michael Brantley, Mike Moustakas and A.J. Pollock could all be getting calls.
2. San Francisco Giants
The Giants have had Harper circled on their to-do list for a couple of years, and while his arrival won't fix everything, it would be a huge step in the right direction. If Harper goes elsewhere, San Francisco will turn to Brantley, Pollock and perhaps Marwin Gonzalez. As for the possibility of trading Madison Bumgarner and starting a rebuild, forget it. That's not the Giants' style, and despite a fourth-place finish in the National League West, they're closer than some think. San Francisco is still looking for someone to head the team's baseball operations, but with Brian Sabean still on hand, the Giants have someone who has put together three championship teams.
3. New York Yankees
The Yankees' front office may have to remind itself that the club just won 100 games, but the theme of the offseason will be focused on the fact that New York finished eight games behind Boston and lost the American League Championship Series to the Red Sox. Watching another Duck Boat parade will be perhaps the greatest motivator for a team that might win the AL East in 2019 without a single dramatic move. But the Yanks will still be busy. While Harper and Machado are the big names New York fans are connecting to their team, the more practical ones are Nathan Eovaldi, Patrick Corbin and Dallas Keuchel to line up in a rotation that is thin behind Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka.
4. Los Angeles Dodgers
Like the Yankees, the Dodgers probably will go back to the playoffs without touching their current roster. But despite a second straight trip to the World Series, it was an unsatisfying season. Here's another place where Harper could be in play. He would add an impact bat to a lineup that needs one, and perhaps get Los Angeles in position to clear this final hurdle. At this point, Harper seems the only big-ticket addition that would be a seamless addition.
5. Atlanta Braves
Four things make the Braves one of the clubs to watch: payroll flexibility; a loaded farm system; a playoff-caliber roster; and a smart, fearless general manager. Because of that loaded farm system, GM Alex Anthopoulos will be one of the executives hoping to pry catcher J.T. Realmuto from the Marlins. With no other pressing needs, Anthopoulos is likely to shop for upgrades at whatever positions become available.