These 12 teams won the MLB offseason

March 17th, 2024

The Dodgers and Padres will play games that count in the 2024 Seoul Series this week, while prominent free agents are still available, while 28 teams are still in their camps in Florida and Arizona.

So, the regular season, Hot Stove season and Spring Training season are ALL HAPPENING AT THE SAME TIME!

Given the unusual circumstances, we’ve delayed our discussion of “Winter Winners.” With the likes of Blake Snell, Jordan Montgomery and J.D. Martinez still on the market, we could have delayed it even further, but we’re kind of running out of time here.

Last year, the Mets and Padres topped this list … then became the latest prominent example of how winter wins don’t count in the actual win column. But we still believe in doling out kudos to clubs that make the effort to improve, and, as of now, we can say these 12 teams had the best offseasons of the bunch.

1. Dodgers
It’s hard to buy a World Series championship, but you can definitely buy your way to the top of this list!

In signing Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto after trading for Mookie Betts and signing Freddie Freeman in recent years, the Dodgers might have assembled the best super group since the Traveling Wilburys (look it up, kids!). And the starting staff that ran out of gas and arms last year is way deeper now with Tyler Glasnow and Yamamoto (to say nothing of a healthy Walker Buehler).

Per FanGraphs, Teoscar Hernández has the sixth-highest projected WAR of any of the free-agent position players from this offseason, and you almost forget he’s on the Dodgers now. We’d list the other guys Los Angeles added, but the internet doesn’t have enough bandwidth. Stacked winter, stacked team.

2. Orioles
Fresh off a 101-win season in which they announced their arrival as an elite team, the O’s had the trade capital to do pretty much whatever they wanted this winter. They did something pretty darn significant in landing 2021 NL Cy Young winner Corbin Burnes from the Brewers. He gives Baltimore its most polished starting asset in a generation, and the importance of his arrival was amplified all the more by the early news that Kyle Bradish is nursing an elbow injury.

The Orioles are also banking on veteran Craig Kimbrel improving a bullpen that lost closer Félix Bautista to Tommy John last summer.

3. D-backs
Their work gets buried next to that of the Dodgers (and let’s face it, they might get buried by the Dodgers in the division). But the D-backs understood the assignment: A young, without-a-huge-payroll team that made a rousing and largely unexpected run to the World Series was worthy of additional investment.

Arizona plugged its holes by lengthening the rotation with Eduardo Rodriguez and adding thump to the lineup in the forms of Joc Pederson and Eugenio Suárez, while also bringing back Lourdes Gurriel Jr. after his first All-Star season.

4. Royals
If you’re measuring these teams strictly by potential improvement in the win column, then you could possibly put the Royals at No. 1 on the list, given how much stability they’ve added to a club that lost 106 games last year.

Of course, even a 20-win improvement wouldn’t be enough to make it to October. But the Royals merit kudos for raising their floor with the additions of Michael Wacha, Seth Lugo, Will Smith, Chris Stratton, John Schreiber, Nick Anderson, Hunter Renfroe, Garrett Hampson, Adam Frazier and others. And the extension of Bobby Witt Jr. was a major, major victory for this small-market squad.

5. Padres
It feels a little strange including the Padres here, given that they traded away a potential future Hall of Famer in 25-year-old Juan Soto, lost Josh Hader in free agency and will, in all likelihood, eventually lose reigning NL Cy Young winner Blake Snell in free agency, too.

But front offices work on budgets, and Padres president of baseball operations A.J. Preller deserves credit for using a more limited budget to make the most of that difficult situation by deepening his club’s pitching pool with the Soto trade package fronted by starter Michael King. And of course, because Preller is Preller, the Padres wound up landing one of the market’s most coveted starters -- White Sox ace Dylan Cease -- just before departing for Korea to augment what is suddenly a very intriguing rotation.

The Padres lost some huge names but will still enter the season as a viable playoff contender. That’s hard to pull off.

6. Giants
Evaluators are divided on the level of impact Jung Hoo Lee will make in MLB, but his plus contact skills should lengthen the lineup, and his defense should be a big improvement in center field. Jorge Soler brings the Giants the power they sorely needed. Matt Chapman is at worst a valuable defender at the hot corner who could recapture his All-Star-caliber offense on a low-risk deal. Also, it will be interesting to see what the Giants get from trade acquisition Robbie Ray upon his expected second-half return from Tommy John surgery and if Jordan Hicks can stick as a starter.

Oh, and if you’re going to make a change at manager, you can do a lot worse than to land three-time Manager of the Year Bob Melvin.

7. Yankees
Given the uncertainty surrounding Gerrit Cole right now, it’s fair to assert -- as Yankees fans have for months -- that more than the signing of Marcus Stroman needed to be done in the Yanks’ rotation.

But to acquire a player of the caliber of Juan Soto is undoubtedly the kind of thing that lands you on an offseason “winners” list, and he now pairs with Aaron Judge to form one of the most fearsome twosomes in the game. The Yanks further deepened their outfield picture with Alex Verdugo and Trent Grisham.

8. Braves
In acquiring and subsequently jettisoning Marco Gonzales, Evan White and Matt Carpenter, the Braves took on some bad contracts in order to achieve what they expect to be some good outcomes. They added some edge to a group that underperformed the last two Octobers by betting on health and a bounceback from Chris Sale, and they are hoping Jarred Kelenic can reach his offensive ceiling.

Those are both iffy propositions, so the Braves’ winter was not a runaway winner (and obviously, bettering last year’s 104-58 record is a tall, if not impossible, task). But when you add in the work done to improve the bullpen depth with Reynaldo López, Aaron Bummer and Ray Kerr, it counts as a quality offseason for the always-creative (and recently extended) Alex Anthopoulos, their head of baseball operations.

9. Astros
With so much already on the books, Houston was not expected to do much on the free-agent front. So the splurge on closer Josh Hader was a very pleasant surprise -- and perhaps a necessary one, given the free-agent departures of Héctor Neris, Ryne Stanek and Phil Maton and the offseason shoulder injury that sidelines Kendall Graveman.

The Astros also locked up Jose Altuve to an extension through 2029, which is good for the soul.

10 (tie). Reds, Cubs and Cardinals
These three clubs provide three variations of the same theme: Making an earnest enough effort in the offseason to merit inclusion on the list, but not doing enough to come away as the clear favorite in the wide-open NL Central.

One of 2023’s most pleasant surprises, the Reds built off the momentum they established for themselves by deepening their pitching staff with Frankie Montas, Nick Martinez, Emilio Pagán and Brent Suter. The addition of Jeimer Candelario to the crowded infield picture was a little puzzling when it happened, but the importance of Candelario’s professional approach and power increased substantially with the suspension of top prospect Noelvi Marte.

If managers matter (and it says here they do), the Cubs notched one of the bigger skipper scores in recent memory by swiping Craig Counsell from the rival Brewers. They also brought back Cody Bellinger on what looks to be a relatively low-risk deal and added Shota Imanaga to the rotation and Héctor Neris to the bullpen. Trade acquisition Michael Busch is an intriguing, Major League-ready infielder with power.

Only 25 pitchers threw 180 or more innings last season. The Cardinals had one of them in Miles Mikolas. Now, they have four of them with the additions of Sonny Gray, Kyle Gibson and Lance Lynn. There is healthy skepticism about the specific way in which the Cardinals addressed their rotation needs, because this is an older group (and the position player group added age with the signings of Brandon Crawford and Matt Carpenter). But at a point when they could have retreated after a bad year, the Cardinals instead filled holes.