With almost four months between the end of the World Series and the start of spring training, there is a lot of time for teams to improve their rosters through trades or free agency. That gives hope to the fan bases of teams who didn’t so well one season but may take a leap forward the next. Here are five teams who have the potential for a big turnaround in 2019.
The Reds finished 67-95 in 2018, putting them in last place in the NL Central, so they had an active offseason in an attempt to improve their team and be more competitive this season.
The Reds’ biggest transaction this winter came a few days before Christmas when they made a seven-player trade with the Dodgers. In the deal, they acquired OFs Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp — who combined to hit 44 home runs last season — along with C Kyle Farmer and SP Alex Wood. Wood figures to slot in near the top of the Reds’ rotation along with another trade acquisition, Sonny Gray, who they acquired from the Yankees in January.
With veteran 1B Joey Votto continuing to anchor the offense, the Reds look to be significantly improved this season, though it may be tough for them to compete at the top of the Central with teams like the Brewers and Cardinals.
New York Mets
The Mets play second fiddle to the Yankees in New York, and their performance the last couple of seasons hasn’t helped matters. Coming off a 77-85 record and fourth-place finish, they decided to build around their young starting rotation and added to the offense and bullpen this winter.
Like the Reds, the Mets’ biggest splash came in a seven-player trade. In the deal with the Mariners, the Mets acquired veteran 2B Robinson Cano and closer Edwin Diaz, who had an MLB-best 57 saves last season. They also signed some notable free agents, including C Wilson Ramos, 3B Jed Lowrie, and RP Jeurys Familia.
Acquiring a closer like Diaz should help the Mets become more successful in closing out games after they had just 41 saves from their bullpen last season. They’re in a tough NL East, but the Mets have a chance to get back up to around the .500 mark this season.
The Twins didn’t have a horrible season in 2018, finishing the year at 78-84, but they still need to take a step forward to compete for a potential playoff spot. They may be ready to do that with some of the moves they made in the offseason.
On offense, they added veteran DH Nelson Cruz, who — despite turning 38 in July — hit 37 home runs last season, along with 2B Jonathan Schoop. On the mound, they’re finally going to see SP Michael Pineda in action; they signed him as a free agent in December 2017 but he missed all of last year after undergoing Tommy John surgery in July 2017. Pineda will slot into the middle of the rotation behind Jose Berrios and Kyle Gibson. Helping the Twins in their turnaround attempt is the fact that they’re in the AL Central, which saw three of its teams lose at least 98 games last season.
Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays’ biggest addition probably isn’t a trade acquisition or a free agent signee, but rather a prospect who should be called up a few weeks into the season. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is considered by many to be the top prospect in baseball. He likely won’t be with the big-league team for the start of the season, but there’s a good chance the third baseman will get the call early in the season, and he should make an impact right away.
The Blue Jays did add a couple pitchers to the rotation this winter, trading for SP Clayton Richard and signing SP Matt Shoemaker. The Blue Jays won’t have much of a chance to win the AL East with the Yankees and Red Sox in the division, but they should see an improvement over last season’s 73-89 mark.
San Diego Padres
When you sign a 26-year-old free agent coming off a 37-homer season to a $300 million contract, you get on this list. That’s what the Padres did when they added Manny Machado, a potential MVP candidate, on a 10-year deal to be the anchor of their lineup for the next decade.
Machado was one of the two big free agents available this winter, and the Padres seemingly came out of nowhere to lock him up. They also signed veteran 2B Ian Kinsler back in December. And like the Blue Jays, they have a highly touted prospect who should begin the year in AAA but reach the majors at some point in 2019. For the Padres, that player is Fernando Tatis Jr., who should be called up sooner than later.
The full turnaround for the Padres is probably a couple years away, but they likely accelerated it when they signed Machado, who should help them improve upon last season’s 66-96 record and potentially avoid another last-place finish in the NL West.