Going into the offseason, rumors about where free agents Bryce Harper and Manny Machado were going to land varied in location as well as contract length and value. In the end, both Harper and Machado did not sign until well into February 2019. The offseason was one of extremes as far as individual teams. Some teams made very few moves, instead sticking to existing contracts or young rosters, while others made significant alterations, both buying and selling for the upcoming season. This is all in preparation for the 2019 MLB season, which begins March 20 in Tokyo as the Seattle Mariners take on the Oakland Athletics. The season openers for the rest of the league will begin about a week later, on March 28. In addition to play in Japan, this season will see the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees travel across the Atlantic to play in London, the first MLB regular-season game in Europe.
Coming off of a year where they struggled and ended up with a 47-115 record, the Orioles will once again struggle to compete this year—especially in a division where three teams won more than 90 games last season, and will likely be competitive again. Baltimore’s star outfielder Adam Jones’s six-year $85 million contract expired after the 2018 season and the Orioles did not resign him. In the tough free agent market, the five-time All-Star still remains without a team just weeks away from Opening Day.
Boston Red Sox
After winning the World Series, the Red Sox remain a similar team to last year. However, their bullpen has two noticeable openings. Closer Craig Kimbrel rejected his qualifying offer and remains unsigned, while Joe Kelly was given a three-year contract by the Dodgers in December. Despite these losses, they will still be competitive. The Sox were able to resign starter Nathan Eovaldi and first baseman Steve Pearce; right fielder Mookie Betts is also coming off of a stellar season in which he won AL MVP.
New York Yankees
Now on to the tenth year of a World Series drought, the Yankees were expected to be active this offseason. Despite not signing either of the big budget stars in Machado or Harper, they still made some significant acquisitions. Trading for James Paxton will greatly strengthen the Yankees rotation, while the signing of DJ LeMahieu adds another strong bat to an already deep, power-hitting Yankee lineup. Once again, the Yankees will have a strong bullpen, after signing Adam Ottavino from the Rockies to complement Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, and Zack Britton.
Tampa Bay Rays
As another team facing a deeply competitive division, the Rays did not make any major moves this year to seriously compete. Looking to the future and hoping to build around a deep farm system and Cy Young winner Blake Snell, the Rays traded for Mike Zunino, who brings strong defense and a potential for power. They also signed free agent starter Charlie Morton who will provide a solid number two in the rotation behind Snell.
Toronto Blue Jays
The most interesting story to watch within the organization will be the development of Vlad Guerrero Jr. He turns 20 soon and despite many thinking he is ready, it may be weeks until he is called up. The Jays also reached a deal with veteran starter Clay Buchholz, who will help a rotation in need of pitchers to pick up innings.
Chicago White Sox
The White Sox were reported to be one of the lead contenders for Machado until he signed with San Diego. Without any big changes over the offseason, Chicago could be looking to trade Jose Abreu midseason before his contract expires at the end of this year and he leaves for free agency. On the flip side, outfield prospect Eloy Jimenez is ready to be called up, possibly midseason.
Last year the Indians won the division handily with only 91 wins but were still 13 games ahead of the second place Twins. Cleveland initially considered trading ace Corey Kluber, but no deal was reached. Meanwhile, the front end of the Cleveland rotation will remain strong, led by Kluber and Trevor Bauer. Additionally, both Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor are coming off strong seasons in which they finished third and sixth, respectively, in AL MVP voting.
Detroit signed free agent second baseman Josh Harrison to a one-year $2 million contract in late February. The Tigers also signed Harrison’s teammate from Pittsburgh, Jordy Mercer, who will fill the other middle infield opening. But they still have not made many other offseason acquisitions. As far as players already under contract, starter Michael Fulmer is looking for a bounce back season after struggling last year and undergoing knee surgery.
Kansas City Royals
The Royals certainly added to their already substantial speed on the base paths. They signed free agent Billy Hamilton who was second in the National League in steals last year with 34. This is in addition to Whit Merrifield, who the Royals signed to a four-year extension this year and who also led the American league in steals last year with 45. Despite these positives, disaster struck early in Spring Training when an MRI confirmed that star catcher Salvador Perez would miss substantial time due to an elbow injury.
The Twins are looking to compete in the Central and pose a potential threat to the Indians’ division title. Over the offseason, they signed Marwin Gonzalez with the hope that he can bounce back to his 2017 season where he was sixth in American League OPS. As a versatile starter, he has played left field but can also cover positions in the infield. Additionally, the Twins signed slugger Nelson Cruz to a one-year $14 million contract.
As more and more of their young stars such as Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa and George Springer begin to hit deadlines for contract extensions or free agency, Houston is going to have to start making decisions about who to keep because they cannot keep them all. As heavy favorites to recapture their division title, they still made moves over the offseason, including signing Michael Brantley, who is coming off back-to-back All-Star years in Cleveland. On the other hand, former Houston ace Dallas Keuchel still remains unsigned after opting for free agency.
Los Angeles Angels
With Mike Trout as the face of the team, the Angels and new manager Brad Ausmus are always looking to compete. However, the pitching may not be there. Reigning AL Rookie of the Year, Shohei Ohtani, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery he received in October, will be relegated to hitting and will not pitch this year out of caution. In an attempt to bolster their pitching staff, the Angels signed free agent Matt Harvey to a one-year contract.
After making a very strong second half run last season that led them to the second wild card spot, the Athletics worked to strengthen their pitching. This included signing free agents Marco Estrada and Brett Anderson, as well as resigning Mike Fiers to lock down the bullpen. The Athletics were also part of the three-team trade that brought Jurickson Profar to Oakland.
General Manager Jerry Dipoto made seemingly endless moves this offseason, including a trade during the Winter Meetings that he made from a hospital bed. The winter saw the Mariners lose Nelson Cruz to free agency and trade Mike Zunino, James Paxton, Jean Segura, Robinson Canó and Edwin Díaz—all within the span of a little over a month. In return, the Mariners acquired speedy outfielder Mallex Smith (Rays) and possible future ace Justus Sheffield (Yankees). The Mariners also signed Japanese star pitcher Yusei Kikuchi, who will help the starting rotation. Looking forward, manager Scott Servais has said Mariners legend Ichiro will play when the M’s open the season in Japan on March 20.
Texas was part of the three-team trade that saw them lose second baseman Jurickson Profar. Fan favorite Bartolo Colón, who turns 46 in May, remains unsigned after struggling last season under a one-year contract with the Rangers. The Rangers are also without franchise player and team leader Adrián Beltré, who retired last fall after a 21-year major league career. Beltré spent the past eight years with Texas, which brought him three All-Star appearances and three Gold Gloves.
As a young team, the Braves are looking to both remain flexible for the future and also to win now and capture the division title again. The early signing of free agent Josh Donaldson to a one-year $23 million contract headlined Atlanta’s offseason, but they also signed veteran catcher Brian McCann, who spent the first nine years of his career with the Braves.
The Marlins are going to be in for a rough year in what is looking to be one of, if not the best divisions in baseball. Miami signed veteran reliever Sergio Romo, but traded All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto to the Phillies for prospects, highlighting the organization’s choice to build for the future at the expense of the present.
New York Mets
With one of the best rotations in the majors, the Mets only strengthened their pitching with the acquisition of dominant closer Edwin Díaz from Seattle. Also included in the Seattle trade was longtime Yankee Robinson Canó, who is returning to New York in a new uniform after sitting out 80 games for a PED suspension last year. This cost the Mets four prospects, including outfielder Jarred Kelenic. Yoenis Cespedes is looking to come back with a good season after a strong start in spring training.
The Phillies are going all in this year. After being presumed favorites to sign Bryce Harper, talks extended to the very end of February when the Phillies inked Harper to the largest contract in baseball and American professional sports history. The contract is worth $330 million over 13 years. Philadelphia also traded for catcher J.T. Realmuto from Miami and shortstop Jean Segura from Seattle. With the playoffs in mind, the Phillies also signed free agents Andrew McCutchen and David Robertson, who will add depth and veteran presence to the roster.
After initially offering Harper $300 million for ten years at the end of last season, the Nationals will have to move on without their star outfielder. However, Washington still has one of the strongest outfields in the league, with youngsters Juan Soto and Victor Robles producing strong numbers and still developing. The Nationals also signed starter Patrick Corbin and added righty Trevor Rosenthal who, with late season acquisition Kyle Barraclough, will provide a strong setup for closer Sean Doolittle.
Despite losing the division to Milwaukee, the Cubs did not make any major moves this offseason. In a division that is growing more competitive, Chicago is placing their bets on existing players. After investing $126 million over six years in Yu Darvish last offseason, the organization is hoping he can have a bounce back year after only starting eight games last season.
The acquisition of Sonny Gray in a trade with the Yankees has the potential to boost the rotation if Gray can recover from the struggles he had in New York. Additionally, a large trade with the Dodgers brought outfielder Yasiel Puig and left hander Alex Wood to Cincinnati. This still may not be enough to compete with the Brewers and Cubs at the top of the division.
In his first year in Milwaukee, NL MVP Christian Yelich helped lead the Brewers to a division title by one game. The combination of Yelich and Lorenzo Cain at the front of the lineup looks to be strong again. This will only be helped by the signing of Cain’s former teammate from Kansas City, Mike Moustakas. The Brewers are trying Moustakas at second base because Travis Shaw is a stronger defender at third, Moustakas’s previous home. They also signed veteran Yasmani Grandal, who will bring leadership behind the plate and in the clubhouse.
Losing second baseman Josh Harrison to free agency marks the end of the McCutchen era for Pittsburgh. This offseason, the Pirates have not sought high budget talent, instead focusing on reliable veteran players. Signing veteran pitchers Francisco Liriano and Brandon Maurer to minor league contracts with invites to spring training has the potential to add much needed depth to the pitching staff behind ace Chris Archer.
St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals are making moves to be in the running for the division title with Milwaukee and Chicago. An underreported trade with Arizona brought first baseman Paul Goldschmidt to St. Louis for this year. In other good news for the Cards, they resigned veteran righty Adam Wainwright to a one-year contract after pitching for the team since 2005. An elbow injury limited Wainwright to 40 innings last year, but after a strong ending to the season, he provides a veteran presence and support for younger staff members.
From being in the playoff hunt deep into the season, the Diamondbacks have lost three of their four franchise players, with only Zack Greinke remaining. The face of the franchise for almost the past decade, Paul Goldschmidt, was traded for prospects in December. Additionally, left hander Patrick Corbin left in free agency and signed with Washington. He was followed by outfielder A.J. Pollock who signed with the Dodgers out of free agency in January. Still on the team, Ketel Marte is being moved from middle infield, where he has played his whole career, to fill a gap in the outfield.
Despite losing both Ottavino and LeMahieu in free agency to the Yankees, the Rockies secured a big win with the recent agreement of a contract extension for third baseman Nolan Arenado. The extension is worth $260 million over the next eight years. Colorado also signed Daniel Murphy to a two-year contract.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Even in a year where injuries posed troubles for Los Angeles, the Dodgers still managed to win their division. Young star shortstop Corey Seager is coming off a year in which he struggled with injuries, playing only 26 games before getting Tommy John surgery. Seager’s return could point to why the Dodgers did not pursue Machado as strongly as some expected. Ace Clayton Kershaw is currently slotted for opening day after a year that was cut uncharacteristically short due to injuries that limited him to his second lowest innings count in the past ten years.
San Diego Padres
With the number one farm system in the majors, the Padres are looking to compete in the upcoming years. By far their biggest move was signing Manny Machado to a ten-year $300 million contract. There was a lot of excitement in the organization about the signing, so much that the team store had jerseys for sale before the deal was official and they had to be pulled. In the infield, the Padres also signed free agent veteran Ian Kinsler. Regarding San Diego’s strong prospect pool, shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., catcher Francisco Mejia and second baseman Luis Urias should all be called up at some point this year.
San Francisco Giants
In good news for the Giants, catcher Buster Posey is in the starting lineup in Spring Training after season-ending hip surgery last August. He could soon be moving to first base as his body can only take so many more years behind the dish. A healthy Madison Bumgarner can provide a major boost to the rotation after being hurt for part of last season. Additionally, despite not winning the competition for Harper, San Francisco acquired Derek Holland and Drew Pomeranz to bolster the back half of the rotation. In sad news, manager Bruce Bochy has announced that he will retire after this season, leaving behind an era of three championships for San Francisco.