1 big (but reasonable) goal for each team
With Spring Training under way, it is perfectly natural for us to start getting our expectations for each team into focus. The glory of this time of year is that everyone’s 0-0 and in the best shape of their lives, and the sky’s the limit. But in reality, every fanbase has its own expectations. It’s not “Win the World Series or Bust” -- at least not for everybody. It’s “Beat Expectations, or We’ll Find Someone Who Will.” That’s the name of the game.
Let’s take a look at a “reasonable goal” for each team. Some teams think they can win at all. Some just want to reach the playoffs. Some teams just want to take a noticeable step forward. What’s a reasonable expectation for each team? Here are our guesses.
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
Blue Jays: Win the division
It’s probably time, right? The Blue Jays haven’t won the AL East since 2015 -- and they hadn’t won it since 1993 before then -- and they still haven’t quite broken through with the mass of talent they have on their roster. It’s time to get one, or we’re going to start wondering if they ever will.
Orioles: Make the playoffs
If the Orioles had only made it to, say, 77 wins last year -- which would have still been a 25-win improvement on the previous season -- the goal would be just to get over .500, a real achievement. But they already did that by winning 83 games. So playoffs or bust this season and, surely, moving forward.
Rays: Make the playoffs
The Rays tend to go in fits and starts. They didn’t reach the playoffs the first 10 years of their existence, then made it four of the next six years, then missed five straight years and have now made it four years in a row. History tells us one small step back can turn into a bigger one.
Red Sox: Give the fanbase reason to believe
I personally don’t remember seeing Red Sox fans as frustrated as they are right now and, considering this is the Red Sox, that’s saying something. They did sign franchise icon Rafael Devers to a contract extension, so that should help lift some spirits, and they’ll need Masataka Yoshida to be the OBP machine he was in Nippon Professional Baseball.
Yankees: Win the World Series
This is always the goal in the Bronx, though it has been 14 years since they last reached the World Series.
Guardians: Win the division
The Guardians won their first postseason series since 2016 last year, and that’s not nothing. But as much as we’d like to swing big here and say, “ALCS or bust,” Cleveland needs to establish itself as the top team in the AL Central before we start getting too cocky here.
Royals: Establish the young core
The Royals have quietly built a nice little batch of young players in their lineup, from Vinnie Pasquantino and MJ Melendez to, of course, Bobby Witt Jr. -- their can’t-miss (right?) superstar. But Kansas City hired a new head of baseball operations (J.J. Picollo) and a new manager (Matt Quatraro). This is the year for those folks to figure out which players they are building the team around.
Tigers: Be better than last year
Every team wants to do this, of course, but wow, last year was something of a disaster relative to expectations. The young phenoms need to start showing something. Tigers fans need some hope.
Twins: Win the division
The Twins didn’t quite make it all the way back atop the AL Central last year, but they made real progress. And more to the point: You don’t re-sign Carlos Correa to finish second.
White Sox: Stay the course and see what happens
There was just a little bit too much going on last year on the South Side. The goal for the White Sox now is to keep people healthy, have a straightforward strategy and hope their talent can carry them. There are worse bets: There really is a lot of talent here, still.
Angels: Get Mike Trout a playoff win
Will this be the last year Trout plays with impending free agent Shohei Ohtani? Maybe! The Angels quietly had a smart offseason, and there’s an undeniable sense that this could be the last rodeo. There may be no team in baseball with more on the line this year than the Halos.
Astros: Win another World Series
No team has repeated since the 1998-2000 Yankees, and this year, only one team can.
Athletics: Take a step forward
The A’s actually made the playoffs for three straight years, from 2018-20. It sure feels long ago, though, doesn’t it? Between Esteury Ruiz, JJ Bleday and Ken Waldichuk, Oakland has added some interesting young players over the past year, and they should get every chance to prove themselves.
Mariners: Play more postseason home games
Remember, if the Mariners had not beaten the Blue Jays in Toronto in the Wild Card Series, we still would have gone 20-plus years without Seattle fans seeing a home playoff game. But now that we’ve seen one (and it was only one) ... we want more.
Rangers: Finish over .500
The big spending on Jacob deGrom, Nathan Eovaldi, Corey Seager and Marcus Semien over the past two winters would certainly imply that the Rangers want more than this. But Texas hasn’t won more games than it has lost since 2016. One step at a time here, people.
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
Braves: Get back to the World Series
Is that expecting too much? This sure looks like one of the most talented teams in baseball, and if they win the division, they’ll surely have a bye straight to the NLDS. You want a new Braves dynasty? This is the year to start making it happen.
Marlins: Get over .500
It seems like a modest goal, but the last time the Marlins finished over .500 in a full season was ... 2009. Can you believe that? Jazz Chisholm Jr. was 10 in 2009! They need him to stay healthy and become the player we all believe he can be in his new spot out in center field.
Mets: Make the World Series
OK, some might say win the World Series, but it’s hard to imagine any Mets fan seeing the season as a failure if they reached the World Series but lost it. OK, well, it’s not that hard to imagine some fans seeing it that way.
Nationals: Find three key pieces
The Nats are just trying to dig their way back toward relevance, and a great way to do it would be to find some guys to build around moving forward. The Juan Soto trade return is a great place to start.
Phillies: Get back to the playoffs
As the Phillies can tell you better than anyone, all you've got to do is get in.
Brewers: Win the division
This division has two or maybe three real challengers, and the Brewers are certainly one of them. A division title would go a long way toward washing the bad taste of the end of last year out of everybody’s mouths.
Cardinals: Win an NLCS game
Hopefully more for St. Louis fans, but at least one. The last time the Cardinals won an NLCS game? Would you believe 2014? (And they lost that series, 4-1, to the Giants.)
Cubs: Get back to .500
It seems ambitious for the Cubs to get back to the playoffs, though you can squint and see it if you try. But third place in the division is the floor here, and they could go even higher if everything falls right.
Pirates: Have Cutch teach the young guys
The Pirates have more young talent than you realize, but they have a long way to go before being big league ready. Having a franchise icon like Andrew McCutchen back to usher them in is a masterstroke of a move.
Reds: Move up the standings
You can’t let Joey Votto finish last in his last (?) year in Cincinnati, can you?
D-backs: Live up to the “sleeper team” talk
It’s increasingly difficult to come up with “sleeper” teams in preseason predictions, but Arizona is one straight from central casting: Young, a little better last year than you remember, with top-shelf starters atop the rotation and a dynamic young position player with Rookie of the Year hype in Corbin Carroll. But you remember who everyone’s sleeper team was last year, right? Detroit.
Dodgers: Win the World Series
Until they win one in a stadium that’s at full capacity in a full season, their “dynasty” of the last decade will still feel a little unfulfilled.
Giants: Make the playoffs
People are probably lower on the Giants heading into this year than they were two years ago ... and we saw what happened then. They won’t have to get near that 107-win total to get back in the playoffs.
Padres: Win the division
Obviously, you want to do more, but all told, beating the Dodgers in the postseason and then outpacing them in the division the next season would be a pretty fantastic and satisfying feeling for Padres fans.
Rockies: Get a monster season from Kris Bryant
Bryant was actually good last year when he played (127 OPS+), but injuries limited him to 42 games. He was the Rockies' signature signing last offseason, and if he can keep that performance going for a full season, Colorado could be a lot better than people expect.