It’s Jan. 6, and if you are still sitting there staring at the Hot Stove waiting for it to get consistently toasty -- despite San Diego trying its level best to make the offseason as interesting as possible so far -- you are not alone. (I cannot recommend my colleague
It’s Jan. 6, and if you are still sitting there staring at the Hot Stove waiting for it to get consistently toasty -- despite San Diego trying its level best to make the offseason as interesting as possible so far -- you are not alone. (I cannot recommend my colleague Mike Petriello’s breakdown of every offseason transaction more, but I sure wish he had more work to do.) There are a variety of theories as to why this offseason is moving so slowly, but none of them are satisfying to me, because none of them have done what I want them to do, which is make some transactions happen.
I began to wonder, even, whether I would ever see any transactions, or if I were in some sort of eternal Hot Stove purgatory, where rosters would just be frozen in place forever. Maybe this will happen; maybe all these teams know something I don’t. Thus, today, I tried to imagine what it would be like if these were the rosters, if there are teams who have been idle so far (which is to say, most of them, save the Padres, White Sox, maybe the Braves) who actually feel like they’re in a position to succeed in 2021 without making any moves at all.
And while I want each of these teams to go make moves, I wonder if there are arguments for some of them. So today, we look at five teams that haven’t made any major moves ... but may be just fine with that and, maybe, might be just as good or even better than they were last year.
The Brewers did make the playoffs last year, albeit the expanded version, but looking at their roster and results, it remains a little astounding as to how. Christian Yelich, the perennial MVP candidate and centerpiece of the whole franchise, had a historically terrible year, hitting just .205 ... and he still might have been the best hitter on the whole team? Sure, that bullpen was great, and Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes were impressive, but still: How in the world did this team almost reach .500?
The good news is that there’s plenty of room for improvement up and down this roster, from Keston Hiura (who hit .212) to Avisaíl García (who only had two homers) to of course Yelich, whose upside remains “best player in baseball.” The Brewers haven’t brought in anyone, but they haven’t lost anyone either. If just those three hitters take a step or two forward, this should be an above .500 team again ... which means, in that division, they’re a surefire playoff contender.
2. Blue Jays
It was awfully exciting last year when the Jays, with all that young hitting talent, went big to bring in Hyun Jin Ryu, and it was even more exciting when it worked. Toss in a Robbie Ray at the Trade Deadline, get improvement from those young stars and next thing you know, you have a playoff team. The Blue Jays haven’t made any major moves like that one this year, and while they’re rumored to be potentially in on some free agents, the major pieces all seem to be in place.
Young flamethrower Nate Pearson could be in the rotation for a full season, which is like an addition of its own, and there are no major holes anywhere. This division is still tough, with the defending American League champs and the Yankees still swinging at each other and the Red Sox not likely to stay dormant for much longer, but the Jays were a good team last year, and if they run it back out there in 2021, they’ll be good again.
This is a frustrating item for Cardinals fans, who have been increasingly agitated by the front office’s stasis and seeming lack of ambition. (The dropping of Gold Glover Kolten Wong didn’t help either.) But there is some logic for the Cardinals sitting this offseason out. While they do have some holes in that lineup, particularly in the outfield, they have plenty of options to fill them, from Dexter Fowler to Harrison Bader to Austin Dean to Justin Williams to Lane Thomas to Gold Glover Tyler O'Neill to top prospect Dylan Carlson.
The strategy of recent years has been to throw bodies at the outfield problem; there are still plenty of bodies with which to do so. They also still have a deep bullpen and a steady rotation with many options. They lack a top-shelf star, other than the aging Paul Goldschmidt, but they also have the contracts of Fowler, Matt Carpenter and Andrew Miller all coming off the books next winter. With no one else in this division stepping forward, the Cardinals are as good a bet as any to win it. It’s a timid strategy, sure, but it might not be an absurd one.
Surprise, surprise, the defending champs, who dominated the regular season and overwhelmed everyone in the postseason, are stacked with talent even if they don’t add any more. You can maybe make an argument there’s a hole at third base if Justin Turner doesn’t re-sign, but the Dodgers have many other options there, from Edwin Ríos to Chris Taylor to Max Muncy to Matt Beaty. The Dodgers are loaded everywhere else and even add talent they didn’t have last year without having to do anything at all by welcoming back David Price, who elected not to play in 2020. The Dodgers aren’t going anywhere for a long, long time, whether they do anything or not.
To be fair, the Nationals have made a move this offseason, fairly recently, trading for Josh Bell. That’s not a nothing transaction -- it’s possible Bell could be their cleanup hitter -- but let’s not get carried away: This is a guy who hit .226 with eight homers last year. Anthony Rendon he is not. (If Bell plays like he did last year, he’s basically a switch-hitting Eric Thames.) The hope for the Nationals to improve in 2021 rests with all the returning players, particularly the return of Stephen Strasburg, who threw only five dreadful innings in 2020 before undergoing surgery. That rotation is always going to be the team’s strength, and if they get back up to speed, the Nats can compete. Oh, and Juan Soto is just going to keep getting better. That doesn’t hurt either.