We haven't had a Hot Stove season like this one in years, and here's more good news for baseball fans -- there are still more free agents looking for jobs, and many teams, if not most, are not done wheeling and dealing.
In other words, offseasons -- even without the games, the cold brews and bobbleheads -- can be fun, and this one sure has been. And with six weeks remaining until pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training, there's still time to do more.
A new year brings new hope for a slew of teams that were not in the postseason conversation in 2019. The Reds and White Sox, who finished fourth and third in their respective divisions in '19, are among the most improved and appear ready to make a push in 2020. Still more clubs -- the Angels, Rangers, Padres, Mets, Phillies and Marlins, just to name a few -- have taken steps to put a better product on the field next season.
This makes for great theater, and it also makes the process of compiling Power Rankings at this point in the offseason incredibly challenging. After all, we're judging teams, simultaneously, on how they performed last year and how they look on paper heading into this year.
But our voting panel of six took a stab at it nonetheless. Presenting the first MLB Power Rankings of 2020:
1. Yankees (ranked No. 3 on our final 2019 regular season list)
The Yankees had one glaring issue to fix this offseason -- fortify a starting rotation whose lack of depth was partly responsible for their AL Championship Series loss to the Astros. The Yankees' record-setting contract agreement with Gerrit Cole, the top free agent on the market, all but ensured a lack of starting pitching won't be an issue next October. If the Yankees can avoid that other record-setting element from their '19 season -- the number of players who landed on the injured list -- they should be, at the very least, favorites to win the pennant.
2. Dodgers (2)
The Dodgers have been one of the quietest teams this offseason but remain the favorites to win the National League West title for an eighth consecutive year, and even months before Opening Day, it's not a stretch to say their chances to win the NL pennant are favorable. That doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement, especially with regard to their abrupt and shockingly early exit from the playoffs in '19. But even with the loss of Hyun-Jin Ryu, who signed a four-year pact with the Blue Jays, the rotation is in good hands with Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler, and most of the stacked lineup will be back this year.
3. Astros (1)
The Astros have uncertainty lingering this winter as they await the Commissioner's ruling following a lengthy investigation into alleged sign-stealing schemes. On the field, the Astros need to add a starting pitcher. Not only did they lose Cole and innings-eater Wade Miley, but two projected starters -- Lance McCullers Jr. and Jose Urquidy -- are bound to be closely monitored, and possibly limited, following their recoveries from Tommy John surgery (McCullers missed '18, Urquidy, '17). Years ago, the Astros' window of winning was prognosticated to last through 2020, the final year before many of the core players would become free agents. The Astros will contend in '20, but the pathway to the AL West title will be a little harder to navigate, given the improvement of several teams in the division.
4. Twins (4)
The Twins blew past expectations with 101 wins in 2019, the second-most in club history, and set an all-time Major League record with 307 home runs. Their swift Division Series loss to the Yankees marred what was an otherwise spectacular season. They recently addressed a major need, one that could help them defend that AL Central title: They acquired two starting pitchers – left-hander Rich Hill and right-hander Homer Bailey. Hill had elbow surgery last year and won’t return until June, and Bailey spent the 2019 season proving his worth after struggling through several seasons marred by injury and ineffectiveness. But the duo provides veteran depth for the Twins, which could be advantageous down the stretch.
5. Rays (7)
Following manager Kevin Cash's hilarious postgame assessment of Game 1 of the AL Division Series -- "We got Verlander'd" -- there was reasonable speculation that this ALDS would be brief, in the form of a three-game sweep by Houston. Turns out, the only thing standing in the way of the Rays advancing to the ALCS was Cole, whom most opposing hitters found to be impenetrable for the majority of October and was so in Game 5 of that series. This is a good time to be a Ray, and the outlook for '20 is favorable. The Rays could return their bullpen without making any outside moves, and it would still be considered the best one in baseball, even with three months remaining until the season opens. They could use a right-handed hitter to make up for some of the offensive production lost when Avisaíl García signed with the Brewers.
The rest of the Top 20:
6. Braves (No. 6 on our final 2019 regular season list)
7. Nationals (8)
8. Cardinals (9)
9. A’s (5)
10. Phillies (16)
11. D-backs (12)
12. Cubs (13)
13. Reds (18)
14. Indians (11)
15. Brewers (10)
16. Red Sox (14)
17. White Sox (NR)
18. Mets (15)
19. Angels (NR)
20. Rangers (NR)