At a time when the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs are using the offseason to shed payroll, many other MLB teams are taking advantage of the talent available this winter.
Teams are recognizing the opportunity that is coming for the 2020 season. Playoff spots, including division crowns, will be up for grabs and several front offices have already made huge moves to improve their clubs for next season.
Given all of the moves that have already gone down, we should see plenty of shakeup in the standings next season. It will be a year when many teams that were rebuilding a few seasons ago, will now turn the corner and be in the thick of playoff races.
Here are five MLB teams that can surpass expectations and surprise everyone in the 2020 season.
San Diego Padres
The Padres showed steady growth this past season with flashes of what this team can become. It served as an opportunity for the team’s rookies to develop, while the front office recognized holes it needed to address this offseason.
San Diego’s acquisition of Zach Davies gives it a mid-rotation starter that pairs nicely with front-line pitchers Chris Paddack and Dinelson Lamet. It will pair nicely with the late-inning bullpen trio of Drew Pomeranz, Andrés Muñoz and Kirby Yates. Together, with the rotation depth and extensive options in the bullpen, it gives the Padres a playoff-caliber pitching staff.
Every contender needs a star and San Diego boasts two with Manny Machado and Fernando Tatīs Jr. Both are perennial All-Star talents, but what will give this team am even greater boost next season are the additions of Tommy Pham, Jurickson Profar and growth from Francisco Mejía. After winning 70 games in ’19, the Padres could win 87-plus next year and compete for a wild-card spot.
Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays are similar to the Padres. They used the 2019 season as a chance to bring up their top prospects and allow them to adjust to MLB. Now with experience on their belt, Toronto’s front office focused its effort on building an experienced pitching staff to pair with the young lineup.
Hyun-Jin Ryu comes with significant durability concerns, but he’s also one of the best southpaws in baseball when healthy. He’ll pair with Chase Anderson and Tanner Roark, two starters capable of eating innings. A trade for David Price, which remains a possibility, would further strengthen a rotation that is significantly better than it was in 2019.
This will still be a team carried by the lineup. Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Cavan Biggio and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. are the heart of this team’s present and future. A lineup of baseball bloodlines, the core can lead one of MLB’s most storied franchise back into contention.
Credit to Cincinnati’s front office and ownership. This is a team committed to making big moves. It started last offseason and continued this winter. After adding Trevor Bauer and Sonny Gray in 2019, the Reds made boosting their lineup a priority before 2020.
There were few better power bats available this winter than Mike Moustakas. While he might not be a strong fielder at second base, the veteran is a sure bet for 30-plus homers in Cincinnati and this team needed more run production. The addition of Wade Miley will also strengthen the end of this rotation, giving the Reds one of the best pitching staffs in baseball.
While St. Louis might be the favorite to win the NL Central right now, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if Cincinnati wins it. This is now a balanced team that can compete with anyone in the NL and is a threat for 90-plus wins in 2020 after winning only 75 last season.
In a year that saw Arizona trade away Paul Goldschmidt and Zack Greinke, the team still demonstrated plenty of talent and reason for fans to stay optimistic. The Diamondbacks finished 11th in runs scored (813) and 12th in ERA (4.25), creating belief that this team can make a jump in 2020.
Signing Madison Bumgarner gives Arizona an ace to replace Greinke in the rotation. He’ll be joined by Luke Weaver, a key piece of the Goldschmidt trade, who returns next season after missing much of 2019 with elbow problems. Robbie Ray is a high-upside starter with the risk mitigated by placing him in the middle of Arizona’s rotation. Meanwhile, Mike Leake and Merrill Kelly are above-average starts in the back of the rotation, which could lead to the Diamondbacks finishing top-10 in ERA next year.
The Diamondbacks fell short of a wild-card spot last year, but they will be right in the thick of the playoff race this coming season. Arizona also has the talent in its farm system to make a big acquisition in 2020 that puts this team over the top. If that happens, it could compete with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves.
Chicago White Sox
The White Sox were committed to making additions this winter with an eye on contending in 2020. Of course, the arrival of the 2020 season will bring more than just veterans to Chicago.
The White Sox strengthened the middle of their rotation with Dallas Keuchel. The southpaw will be a great mentor to Lucas Giolito, Dylan Cease and Reynaldo Lopez. Keuchel will also provide far greater stability to Chicago’s rotation. Additionally, Gio Gonzalez will step in as a back-end starter and eat innings until another young pitcher is ready.
Chicago’s lineup won’t struggle to score runs either. Yoán Moncada, Tim Anderson and Eloy Jiménez are All-Star caliber players. Meanwhile, José Abreu’s bat will provide plenty of punch to this lineup. Of course, the addition of All-Star catcher Yasmani Grandal further strengthens this lineup and his elite pitch-framing skills will do wonders in 2020. Oh, this team also has top prospects Nick Madrigal and Luis Robert on the way. Right now, Chicago should be the favorite to win the AL Central in 2020.