Happy 2024, baseball fans! With the first pitch of the season just over two months away, it’s time to take a look at the state of teams across the league and see how they’re doing with their “New Year, New Team” resolutions. At this point in the offseason, several teams have already cashed in on their between-season goals, finding ways to bolster their rotation or add a big bat to the middle of the lineup to make a playoff push.
This article is not about those teams.
No, today, we’re instead looking at those teams that, for one reason or another, are finding themselves on a downward trajectory as they head into next season. Whether it be losing key players to free agency, embracing a much-needed rebuild, or whiffing on the big names in the free agent market, these teams have taken a turn for the worse in 2024.
Before we begin, let’s set a few ground rules:
- This isn’t a straight-up “Worst Offseasons” list—the rankings here primarily consider a given franchise’s on-the-field major league product. Some teams may have made moves that benefit the organization as a whole but at the cost of losing current major league talent. Other teams may not have made any significant moves, which is certainly disappointing, but still maintain a competitive roster. In a nutshell, these rankings encapsulate teams whose chances at a playoff spot, division title, or World Series have taken the biggest hit compared to last year.
- Players who are still outstanding free agents are considered “losses” for teams they initially played for, even if that team has a strong chance to re-sign them. Key examples include Blake Snell, Jordan Montgomery, and Cody Bellinger.
- Things change. FAST. About a week ago, the Chicago Cubs would have been a strong contender to make this list, but the additions of Shota Imanaga, Michael Busch, and Yency Almonte over a couple of days strongly improved their case. If you’re reading this on Thursday or Friday, things may have already changed for one or more of these teams!
With that said, let’s get to work on the top 5 fallers from this offseason!
Congratulations to the Texas Rangers, winners of the 2023 World Series! Your reward is a tumultuous offseason of injuries, free-agent departures, and TV broadcasting purgatory. While the Rangers emerged victorious in 2023, it’s important to remember that they nearly missed the postseason, with a regular season series finale win against the Mariners being just enough to send them to October. Though the Rangers are returning much of the offensive firepower that made them such a force to be reckoned with (the loss of C/DH Mitch Garver certainly hurts the offensive flexibility), the real issue for the defending champs lies in the pitching depth lost to free agency and injury. Martín Pérez, Will Smith, and Chris Stratton all departed in free agency, while Max Scherzer is expected to miss a good chunk of time as he recovers from surgery to repair a herniated disk. The big pitching question mark for the Rangers is southpaw Jordan Montgomery, who remains a free agent following a career year in 2023. If the Rangers can convince Montgomery to return, it will go a long way in helping the defending champs return to the playoffs. If not, things may get dicey for the Rangers rotation while they wait for their stars to heal up.
I’m a firm believer in the idea that the worst thing a movie can do is be boring. Sure, there are plenty of awful movies out there, but I’d much rather spend 90 minutes laughing my way through a viewing of The Room than slog through the latest 3-hour Transformers film. The point I’m making here is that, after winning their first playoff game in nearly 20 years, the defending AL Central champs have had an absolute snoozefest of an offseason, with reliever Josh Staumont being their only addition thus far. At this point, plenty of teams have committed to a directionality of their team and taken a plunge on at least a couple of players, but the Twins haven’t done much besides shrink their payroll by letting the vast majority of their rotation walk. Take the Cardinals, for example, who signed Cy Young runner-up Sonny Gray away from the Twins. You’ll be hard-pressed to find many Cardinals fans thrilled about the acquisitions of fellow ODIEs (Old Dude Innings Eaters for the uninitiated) Lance Lynn and Kyle Gibson, but at least the Cardinals are doing something. In addition to Gray, the Twins have seen Kenta Maeda and Tyler Mahle walk in free agency, with the former going to the division rival Tigers. If they were in a more competitive division, the Twins would be higher on this list, but for now, their neutral-gear approach earns them the number 4 spot.
Should the sting of the almost signing of Shohei Ohtani contribute to this ranking? Probably not. Does it anyway? At least subconsciously, it’s hard for it not to. After missing the third wild card spot by a single game in 2023, the Blue Jays have done their best impression of hitters facing ace Kevin Gausman and struck out on every big free agent signing. Kevin Kiermaier and Isiah Kiner-Falefa are the only free agent signings of note for the Jays, making the playoffs a tough ask in what remains a very competitive AL East division. There’s still plenty of time for them to re-sign free agents Matt Chapman or Brandon Belt or take a bigger plunge in free agency with other options like Cody Bellinger or Blake Snell, but as things currently stand, the Jays are one of the bigger fallers of this offseason.
In 2023, the Angles rostered Shohei Ohtani. In 2024, the Angels no longer roster Shohei Ohtani. That right there should be enough to earn them their placement on this list, but let’s break things down just a little bit more. The decision to not trade Ohtani at the deadline for what would have been a king’s ransom for the best half-season rental of all time was questionable enough, but after taking a nosedive post-deadline, the Angels controversially shed six players, including Lucas Giolito and Hunter Renfroe, to waivers to stay under the luxury tax. This mismanagement has left the Angels organization in a poor state heading into 2024, as they have one of the worst farm systems in the league and, oh yeah, no longer have Shohei Ohtani. The Angles have not made any significant moves to replace their best hitter and pitcher, instead opting for low-cost signings like Luis García, Willie Calhoun, and Zach Plesac. If Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon continue to display significant health risks, this looks like an Angels team unlikely to have hopes to contend for a playoff spot. There’s still time to make an addition or two in free agency, but for now, the Angels take the #2 spot for biggest fallers on our list.
Let’s start with the obvious: the blockbuster trade of Juan Soto to the New York Yankees was a massive blow to the Padres lineup, even if the return package of Michael King, Drew Thorpe, and others was a solid return for one year of the superstar outfielder. Soto’s presence in the lineup is a near-impossible one to replace, but the changes in San Diego don’t come close to ending there. Blake Snell, Michael Wacha, Seth Lugo, Nick Martinez, and Josh Hader are all free agency losses for the Padres, creating a massive void in the pitching staff that King and other assets from the Soto trade will have to work hard to fill. Considering all of this alongside the departure of manager Bob Melvin, it’s clear that the 2024 Padres couldn’t be much more different from their 2023 counterparts. The Padres haven’t had a bad offseason by any means, as they’ve accrued assets via trade and made a splash in the international market by signing relievers Yuki Matsui and Woo Suk Go, but the departure of so many key pieces of what was once a team gunning for a championship means that they take our top spot for biggest fallers of the offseason. Here’s hoping the rebuild goes smoothly.
So there we have it: five teams who, in my opinion, have taken a significant step back during the offseason. We may wake up tomorrow and the Rangers have bolstered their rotation, or the Angels have found a way to add an impact bat to their lineup, but for now, this is how things stand. In a few days, we will look at the brighter side and tackle the Top 5 Risers from the offseason. Take a wild guess at who’s going to be #1.