Nov 2, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; A general view of the marquee with fans celebrating after game seven of the 2016 World Series against the Cleveland Indians outside of Wrigley Field. Cubs won 8-7. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports. MLB.
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It’s now 2017, which means we can officially start counting the days down until pitchers and catchers report and start looking forward at the prospect of a clean slate of MLB games.
2016 was a rough year all the way around. Celebrity deaths ruled the headlines and Twitter seemingly cursed 2016 each and every day. At first thinking last year was cursed was fun. Right around the middle of January it stopped being fun and the year went to hell. But it’s 2017 now! Time for some fresh optimism, and with a new year comes New Year’s resolutions.
We’re going to take a look at one resolution that each team should make heading into the 2017 season. Some will be fun. Some will be more serious. Others will be “just stay healthy” in so many words. For one team in particular, it’s just survive what is likely to be a terrible, no good, awful season. Ok, it’s the Padres. They’re not going to be very good. Good luck San Diego!
We’re going to run through these division by division to put forth some semblance of order, so if you’re looking for your favorite team, just click until you see a team that boils your blood and you’ll be close.
Alright, that’s enough chatter from me on the setup. Let’s get to some resolutions!
Sep 23, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa (1) celebrates with second baseman Jose Altuve (27) after making a defensive play during the fifth inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports. MLB.
Try beating the Texas Rangers every now and again. After going 4-15 against their in-state rivals in 2016, it’s not hard to see why the Astros missed the playoffs last year. The additions of Josh Reddick, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran have people buzzing of what may be for Houston in 2017, but in order to take the division they’ll have to post better than a .210 winning percentage against Texas.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
I would love to just have their resolution be to shorten their damn name because I am tired of typing that novel, but we’re a super serious site and I will act accordingly. The Angels resolution for 2017 will be to live up to all of the posts that are being written about them like this one or this one. They could be an under the radar club, but nobody is expecting them to challenge for a playoff spot necessarily. Being in the conversation at the end of the year would be a big plus for the club, however.
As the 2016 playoffs began, the talk in the baseball community was that the Rangers were a bit fraudulent, with the main source of their trickery being their run differential which ended up at a meager +8. They were then swept out of the ALDS by Toronto. Given the fact that they won 95 games last season, that +8 means that they basically won all of the close games and lost a fair amount of the blowouts. Their streak of one-run luck likely won’t last for another season, so the Rangers are going to have to prove to the rest of MLB that they weren’t pretenders in 2016.
Since winning appears to be off the table, let’s go with what has been the big news story out of Oakland this offseason–their front office. In 2017 the club has to continue to make a connection with their fans. The hiring of Dave Kaval has been a good first step and has bought some goodwill from the fan base, but the A’s will have to keep that momentum going. Signing a player to a long-term deal would be a nice start, and it doesn’t even have to be Sonny Gray (who it may actually make sense to trade once his value reestablishes itself). Locking up youthful players at a low cost is something that winning teams tend to do. Jose Altuve is going to make significantly less than the $10M that the A’s will be paying Billy Butler to not play for them. Signing someone like Ryon Healy or Khris Davis to an extension to buy out his arbitration years and a couple of years of free agency would be a nice gesture both to both players, and the fans.
Make. The. Playoffs. In Ichiro Suzuki‘s rookie season in 2001 the Seattle Mariners won 116 games and made the playoffs. Since then they have been watching every playoff game from home. Maybe that’s why it rains so much in the Pacific Northwest? I want to see Felix Hernandez in October. I want to see the Mariners finally live up to their billing. I want it to stop raining in Seattle!
Oct 17, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw (22) throws during today. MLB.
San Diego Padres
Survive 2017 and have fun?
The DBacks spent some money last winter and those moves didn’t quite pan out. With a healthy outfield headed into 2017, their pitcher’s performances should rise solely based on the improved defense playing behind them. It’ll be hard for Shelby Miller to duplicate his horrendous 2016 season. Zack Greinke has either completely lost it, or will come better prepared to handle pitching in the desert next season. There is some room for optimism here. The Diamondbacks need to be cautiously aggressive with their next slew of moves. Their window is now, while they have Paul Goldschmidt, so adding on could be prudent, but not at anything close to the cost that it took to acquire Miller.
This one is easy. Just don’t have the worst ERA in baseball. Ok, they had the 28th ranked team ERA in 2016 (4.92) ahead of just the Twins and Diamondbacks, but in 2014 and 2015 they ranked dead last. In 2013, they also ranked 28th, but then fell back. This is the time for the Rockies to start building towards a playoff run and they’re going to need some solid pitching performances to do it. They’ll have to battle the thin air and opposing batters, but they have the talent to start making the climb closer to the middle of the pack.
San Francisco Giants
While the Giants have been one of the premier franchises since winning their first of three World Series titles in 2010, there is still something that they haven’t done: Reach the playoffs in an odd-numbered year. They’ve fixed their bullpen woes by signing Mark Melancon. They have at least four solid starting pitchers in their rotation. Their core players haven’t aged terribly just yet. This is the year that that streak should break. If they somehow miss out on the dance this year then they’re obviously cursed.
Los Angeles Dodgers
What’s the one thing that most baseball fans can tell you about the Dodgers in recent years? They spend gobs and gobs of money. In 2017 it’s time to make all of that money well spent. They have shown that they can win the division, but they have yet to make it to the World Series. After bringing back most of their own guys this winter, they’re going to attempt to make another run with the squad they’ve had. Either they’re geniuses or they could have used a tweak or two (like to the bullpen). The Dodgers resolution should be to at least make the World Series in 2017, which would show that (presumably) the Cubs can be beaten, and that all of the money that they’re spending was well worth it. Of course winning the darn thing is the ultimate goal, but baby steps.
Sep 4, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians pitcher Carlos Carrasco (59) makes a face into a remote camera during the second inning at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports. MLB.
Kansas City Royals
Don’t be afraid to unload at the trade deadline if the need arises. Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Alcides Escobar, Jarrod Dyson and Danny Duffy are all set to hit free agency after the 2017 season, and those six players accounted for 9.2 wins above replacement last season. It’s not outside the realm of possibility that a couple of these players could return to Kansas City past next year, but that would mean that four of them would be moving on. Each has value on the trade market, and the Royals should take advantage of that if their playoff prospects aren’t looking good.
Be exciting. They may not be good just yet, but they certainly have some players that should make for an exciting ball club including Miguel Sano and Max Kepler. Byron Buxton appeared to turn a corner at the end of 2016, so seeing how he starts off the 2017 MLB season will be interesting. Production out of Buxton and Jose Berrios would mean very good things for the Twins as they look to continue rebuilding.
The AL Central isn’t going to be terribly competitive next year, with only the Cleveland Indians looking like a playoff team. That either means that the Tigers should sign players and go for it (they won’t) or start shedding some salary where they can (ding ding ding). They may not get the kind of returns we’ve been seeing this winter for payers like J.D. Martinez and potentially even Justin Verlander or Miguel Cabrera, but having that financial flexibility along with some shiny new prospects could make for a quick return to contention for the Motor City Bengals.
Chicago White Sox
The White Sox have already traded one ace and another could find a new home before the end of the offseason. They even moved Adam Eaton for an intriguing group of prospects too. It looks like there could be more moves on the way with Jose Abreu and Todd Frazier being asked about in trade talks to varying degrees. While their resolution won’t necessarily be easy to accomplish in 2017, they need to provide some hope for the fans to cling onto this season. Whether that’s bringing up Yoan Moncada and Lucas Giolito on the same day to create some buzz, or just beating up on the Cubs a few times, they have to give their fans a reason to cheer.
I’m not going to be shy about this one. The Indians are one of the three best teams in the American League on paper, and the other two don’t reside in their division. That means that wrapping up the AL Central shouldn’t be terribly difficult with at least two teams in the rebuilding process and another two that could join them by midseason. That said, the Indians need to take their starting rotation and wrap them in bubble wrap. Literally put them in a bubble. That’s how they win the World Series, is with a healthy starting rotation that makes their bullpen even more deadly.
Sep 16, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates left fielder Gregory Polanco (25) is congratulated by center fielder Andrew McCutchen (22) after Polanco hit a two-run home run against the Cincinnati Reds during the first inning at Great American Ball Park. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports
St. Louis Cardinals
The Cubs ruled the NL Central in 2016 and it wasn’t even close. St. Louis finished in second last year but ended up 17.5 games back of the eventual World Series champions. Their goal for 2017 may not quite be to win the division, but making it a bit closer would be a nice boost.
Just try not to have a historically bad pitching staff. While they weren’t quite at the bottom of the league in terms of ERA, their pitching staff is the only one in MLB history to finish with a WAR that ranked below replacement level. Their -0.5 mark for the 2016 season was nearly 6.5 behind the 29th ranked Angels. The Reds are rebuilding, so little improvements make a big difference. Not being historically bad would be a nice start.
Pick a direction. Are they rebuilding or are they retooling for a potential playoff run? The offseason began with rumors of Andrew McCutchen potentially being on the move to numerous destinations. Trading away the face of the franchise is a distinct direction for a small market team. More recently the team has signed free agents Ivan Nova and Daniel Hudson, who are two solid arms to add to the pitching staff. Both have definite upside and certainly didn’t break the bank. With some breaks they could potentially compete for a wild card berth with a couple more upgrades, or they could trade away some assets and build for the future. Either would be welcome, but only one can happen.
The Cubs just broke a streak that had lasted longer than a century. What else could they possibly do? Time to build a dynasty! With a young roster and some solid veteran presence, the Cubs will definitely get a boost offensively from the addition of Kyle Schwarber. How they perform after losing Dexter Fowler to the Cardinals will be interesting to watch, but they should be good enough to overcome it and go deep into the postseason once more.
Last year Brewers fans received a glimpse of Orlando Arcia at shortstop and were treated to many, many stolen bases from the legs of Jonathan Villar. Introducing some new prospects from the pipeline should be on the docket in 2017 to pair with former top prospect Arcia and last season’s acquisition in Villar. Josh Hader and Brett Phillips are a couple of names from the Carlos Gomez trade that could make an appearance over the course of the season, and Phil Bickford (once he’s back from a 50-game suspension) from the Will Smith deal is another pitching prospect to keep an eye on. There is talent on the farm in Milwaukee, but seeing some of that talent at the big league level could go a long way.
Sep 11, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Zach Britton (53) pitches in the ninth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. The Orioles won 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
To show the baseball world that they’ve learned their lesson, they should have Zach Britton pitch in every game in 2017, regardless of the score.
Boston Red Sox
They paid the price to acquire Chris Sale, and now they’re expected to be able to take on all comers. It’ll be interesting to see how the club performs sans David Ortiz, but they should have enough talent to compensate for his loss. While a World Series trophy is obviously the ultimate objective, even if they lost in a hard fought series with a team like the Indians or Astros, it would be a relative success. They’ll have this group for a couple of seasons and 2017 may require a slight learning curve.
Tampa Bay Rays
Just trade one of their pitchers already. While it’s easy to say this from the outside looking in, Rays pitchers are always involved in trade discussions. As a small market team they need to make sure they get maximum value on their assets in order to have a chance at competing every few years, but at some point their assets are going to start to lose some value. Tampa is likely getting close to that point with a couple of their current pitchers. The time is nigh for a move.
Toronto Blue Jays
With Edwin Encarnacion signing with Cleveland and Jose Bautista rejecting the club’s qualifying offer earlier this winter, it’s certainly conceivable that the Jays could be headed in a new direction. New faces, new expectations, the works! Embrace the change and give your image a makeover. Turn over a new maple leaf.
New York Yankees
Actually I kind of like the direction that New York is headed. They have spent some money in free agency to supplement a team that’s getting younger and has prospects on the way. Their resolution is to stay the course. Obviously if a trade comes up for a top pitcher to potentially take over the staff in 2018 it would make sense to move some of the talent they now have in the minors, but building for the future while potentially being able to potentially compete today is an interesting proposition.
Oct 11, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper (34) reacts after a called third strike in the third inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers during game four of the 2016 NLDS playoff baseball series at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
New York Mets
The Mets have two relatively simple resolutions for 2017. The first is baseball related and the second is for my own personal enjoyment. The more important of the two (this can be debated) is to do everything they can to keep their rotation healthy. Skip starts. Be cautious. Anything it takes to give the Mets a full stable of arms should they reach the playoffs. The second is to make sure Noah Syndergaard tweets at least once a day, because he is definitely worth the follow.
The Phillies have made a habit of adding pitchers that are entering the final year of their contract while having underperformed the previous year. For 2016 it was Jeremy Hellickson, who accepted a qualifying offer this offseason. This year it was Clay Buchholz. Neither is signed for 2018. Those two starters along with a number of their newly added free agent relievers should be on the trade block at the deadline. The Phillies could have likely received a decent package for Hellickson last year, but decided to hold on to him. This year they should be a little more aggressive in helping their rebuilding process.
Some people are getting super excited about the moves that the Braves have made and saying they could compete for a playoff spot. I’m not quite that high on the club, but I do think that they’re going to be much improved. That’s why in 2017 I want to see them upset some teams. Ruin some playoff hopes. Wreck havoc!
After being a middle of the road team in a number of statistical categories in 2016 the Marlins have added Brad Ziegler and Junichi Tazawa to their bullpen to give them four to five reliable relief arms at the moment. If Giancarlo Stanton can stay healthy this team will have a fearsome bat in the middle of their lineup, and as long as Dee Gordon doesn’t miss a chunk of time due to suspension, he should be a good table setter for the Fish. They could surprise some people in what should be a more competitive NL East that people are making it out to be. If not this year, then when?
2017 has to be the year that the Nats finally meet expectations. They can make the playoffs but can’t win a series. They’ve added Adam Eaton, who was a six win player last year. Again, they’re looking pretty good on paper, but will they be good enough to beat the Cubs, Giants, Dodgers or Mets? If they don’t, there could be a mass exodus from some of their top players (Bryce Harper) in free agency when they get the chance.