Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

MLB News

5 teams that have had sneaky-good offseasons

MLB.com @RichardJustice

So much has happened with the Rangers this offseason that we may eventually see a reshaping of the roster as having the smallest long-term impact. From upgrading the analytics department to hiring a new manager (Chris Woodward) to paving the way for Opening Day 2020 in a new ballpark, the Rangers are undergoing a top-to-bottom renovation.

And then there's the roster.

So much has happened with the Rangers this offseason that we may eventually see a reshaping of the roster as having the smallest long-term impact. From upgrading the analytics department to hiring a new manager (Chris Woodward) to paving the way for Opening Day 2020 in a new ballpark, the Rangers are undergoing a top-to-bottom renovation.

And then there's the roster.

General manager Jon Daniels will have turned over 80 percent of his starting rotation and a significant chunk of his bullpen by Opening Day. Rather than spend big on a single free agent, he invested in numbers.

He hopes there'll be a time in the next year or two when investing in a marquee free agent makes more sense. For now, though, the Rangers are focused on player development and process while remaining competitive.

Other teams have had sneaky good offseasons. While attention was rightly focused on the Yankees, Red Sox, Mets, Cardinals, etc., plenty of other teams may have gotten significantly better.

Let's check out five:

1. Rangers

Key additions: RHPs Lance Lynn, Shelby Miller, Shawn Kelley, Jesse Chavez; LHP Drew Smyly; 3B Asdrubal Cabrera; C Jeff Mathis

Bottom line: Lynn, Miller, Chavez and Kelley will make about $15 million in 2019. Another right-hander, Edinson Volquez, will make $2 million in his comeback season from Tommy John surgery. Daniels is hoping that finding a few bounce-back candidates will give him the best chance of turning the page on a 95-loss season and improving a rotation that had MLB's second-highest ERA. Not all of these signings will pan out, but a few could.

Video: Lance Lynn thinks the Rangers can compete in 2019

2. Nationals

Key additions: LHP Patrick Corbin; RHPs Trevor RosenthalAnibal Sanchez; Cs Yan GomesKurt Suzuki; 2B Brian Dozier

Bottom line: Teams sometimes become paralyzed as they pursue a big-name free agent, especially one of their own. If the Nationals do re-sign right fielder Bryce Harper, they might be favorites in the National League. Even if they don't, they've positioned themselves to win the NL East for the fifth time in eight seasons by making nice upgrades to their rotation (Corbin), bullpen (Rosenthal) and infield (Dozier). No general manager has had a better offseason than Washington's Mike Rizzo.

Video: Corbin on excitement to join Nationals' rotation

3. Rays

Key additions: RHP Charlie Morton; C Mike Zunino; 1B/3B Yandy Diaz; OF Avisail Garcia

Bottom line: The Rays went 41-25 after the All-Star Break as a young core emerged and the opener strategy worked so well that it spawned imitators around the game. The Rays were the first team to use 23 rookies and finish 18 games over .500 (90-72). Having lost 14 games in which the Tampa Bay pitching staff allowed two runs or less, the offseason focus was on more offense, and the club believes it's done that with the addition of Diaz, Garcia and Zunino.

Video: Charlie Morton discusses signing with the Rays

4. Angels

Key additions: RHPs Cody Allen, Trevor Cahill, Matt Harvey; LHP Dillon Peters; C Jonathan Lucroy; 1B Justin Bour; 2B Tommy La Stella

Bottom line: The Angels could be in the mix for a playoff berth if their top two starters -- Tyler Skaggs and Andrew Heaney -- make 30 starts apiece. Offensively, the Angels will be fine if they can avoid being crushed by injuries. General manager Billy Eppler did a nice job of adding depth to the rotation by signing Cahill and Harvey. Allen and Lucroy are low-risk bounce-back candidates. Allen averaged 70 appearances and a 2.62 ERA in the four seasons prior to 2018. Lucroy had an .802 OPS between 2012 and 2017. FanGraphs currently has them pegged for 84 wins, one game behind Tampa Bay for the second AL Wild Card spot.

Video: Cody Allen signed by the Angels

5. Twins

Key additions: RHP Blake Parker; DH Nelson Cruz; 2B Jonathan Schoop; 1B C.J. Cron

Bottom line: The Twins aren't finished shopping for free agents and have been linked to Craig Kimbrel in the rumor mill. Regardless, Cruz, who has averaged 41 home runs the last five seasons, has the ability to transform a lineup. Schoop is only 27 years old and coming a tough stretch with the Brewers at the end of 2018. He's a great bounce-back candidate. The Twins are hoping that center fielder Byron Buxton and third baseman Miguel Sano will be the foundational pieces they were once projected to be, but president of baseball operations Derek Falvey has done a nice job shoring up the roster around them.

Video: Nelson Cruz on signing with Twins

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.

Texas Rangers, Minnesota Twins, Washington Nationals, Tampa Bay Rays, Los Angeles Angels