MLB offseason grades 2.0: Which teams passed — and which teams failed

The Athletic’s MLB offseason grades 1.0.

By Tim Britton, Grant Brisbee and Aaron Gleeman

According to a report by an economics professor at Yale University, roughly 80 percent of all grades handed out to undergraduate students last year were As. Too bad for major-league executives, then, that they don’t attend Yale (at least not anymore, in several cases). The grading is going to be harsher here.

The best teachers, of course, are kind enough to allow for revision. We first did this exercise in early February, when 14 of the top 40 on The Athletic’s big board were still available. In the time since, 10 of those 14 players have signed, Dylan Cease was traded, and we made it through the Grapefruit and Cactus league seasons. So we’ve handed red pens back to Grant Brisbee (AL and NL West), Tim Britton (AL and NL East) and Aaron Gleeman (AL and NL Central) to re-evaluate the entire body of offseason work done around the league. We’re looking at key additions, key departures and whether teams addressed their largest needs — which we identified at the start of the offseason.

In our system, there’s no room for the nuance and/or equivocation of pluses and minuses; you get a full letter grade, period. Some teams have improved their grade since last time — see the San Francisco Giants — while many others have stood pat.

Worth noting: wins above replacement and the payroll estimates both come from FanGraphs.

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• Back-end starting pitcher ✅
• Third baseman ✅
• Corner outfielder 🟡
• Designated hitter ✅

2024 payroll estimate

$167 million

2023 payroll

$116.2 million

The Diamondbacks won the National League pennant, but even they’d admit they did it with an imperfect roster. The rotation was two deep for most of the year (Gallen and Kelly, then turn off the telly?), and they hit 30 fewer homers than the average National League team, which helps explain how they were outscored in the regular season. They entered the offseason needing a reliable starting pitcher and some power.

They had one of the tidiest offseasons of any team, then, getting that reliable starting pitcher in Eduardo Rodriguez and adding power from the left and right sides of the plate with Joc Pederson and Eugenio Suárez, who combined for 37 homers last year. They also re-signed Lourdes Gurriel Jr., which helps more than a little. The goals were simple and obvious, and so were the solutions.

Still, both Pederson and Suárez are imperfect hitters. The former is one of the worst active hitters against left-handers, and the latter led the AL in strikeouts for the second straight season with a slugging percentage that dipped under .400 for the first time in his career. They’ll help, but the ceiling could have been higher.

Update, March 26:: Well, well, well. The Diamondbacks, those slithery rascals, weren’t done with the offseason. They got one of the best pitchers available for one year, $25 million, which is about $100 million to $125 million less than expected. They couldn’t whiff on another Madison Bumgarner gambit, but this is exactly how you spend the money you make in an unexpected pennant-winning season. Bump that B grade up and max it out.

Grade: A

Back-end SP

3B

COF

DH

• Front-end starting pitcher 🟡
• Setup ✅
• Corner outfielder 🟡

2024 payroll estimate

$231 million

2023 payroll

$203.1 million

Alex Anthopoulos conducted his offseason as if eluding a tail, meandering down backstreets only to double back toward his ultimate destination. That’s how Atlanta ended up trading for and then trading away four different players in the same offseason, not to mention Matt Carpenter, whom they acquired and then released.

In a way, though, Atlanta is trying to elude a tail: those vexing Phillies. Less relevant than how many more regular-season wins it can squeeze out of the roster is how many more October victories it can generate. In that regard, there are a couple high-ceiling plays here. Maybe a former top prospect in Jarred Kelenic fully realizes his potential and becomes another part of Atlanta’s enviable position player core. And maybe Chris Sale is still Chris Sale, capable of being a lights-out left-handed starter when the lights are brightest. For a team whose starting depth has crumbled the past two autumns, pushing the chips in on Sale represents quite the gamble.

Grade: C

Front-end SP

Setup

COF

• Front-end starting pitcher ✅
• Back-end starting pitcher 🟡

2024 payroll estimate

$97 million

2023 payroll

$60.9 million

It doesn’t take long for an offseason to change swiftly, not when a change in ownership is followed by the long-awaited acquisition of an ace. In a three-day stretch bridging January and February, the Orioles went from a quiet winter to maybe the loudest one in the American League.

Trading for Corbin Burnes without hurting the current core allowed Baltimore to address its biggest need. Bringing in Burnes felt even more important once second-half surger Kyle Bradish and lefty John Means, who posted an impressive September following Tommy John surgery, went down in spring training. When healthy, this can be one of the AL’s best rotations.

If we’re picking at nits, Craig Kimbrel isn’t quite Felix Bautista at the back end, and there’s probably still room for another reliable arm. But the Orioles made the big move they’ve been waiting for. Not bad for a couple 40-degree days.

Grade: A

Front-end SP

Back-end SP

• Front-end starting pitcher ❌
• Back-end starting pitcher ✅
• Second baseman 🟡
• Designated hitter 🟡
• Right-handed bat ✅

2024 payroll estimate

$177 million

2023 payroll

$181.7 million

We’re into Year 5 and Regime 2 of shrugging our shoulders at what the Red Sox are trying to do. It’s cute to point out the factually correct but still irreconcilable dynamic of this franchise finishing last more than any other while still winning as many titles as anyone over the last dozen years. But this more recent stretch, commencing of course with a certain 2020 trade, feels as aimless as any the Sox have encountered in a generation. When exactly is this team’s window of contention?

Needing an influx of pitching, Boston settled for adding Lucas Giolito and subtracting Chris Sale, then watched Giolito go down for the season. Opening Day is this week and we’re still wondering why Jordan Montgomery isn’t on this team.

Tyler O’Neill lends balance to the lineup, and Vaughn Grissom gives the Sox someone who, in theory, can play a major-league second base once he’s back from injury. But full throttle? I’ve seen real lawnmowers with better giddy up. Sorry, I meant reel lawnmowers.

Grade: D

Front-end SP

Back-end SP

2B

DH

RHB

• Front-end starting pitcher ✅
• Setup ✅
• First baseman ✅
• Third baseman ❌

2024 payroll estimate

$196 million

Waiting (and waiting) for Cody Bellinger paid off, as the Cubs re-signed their top offseason priority and did so for substantially less than he was expected to make, agreeing to a three-year, $80 million deal with a pair of opt outs. They also took manager Craig Counsell away from the rival Brewers for $40 million, made a $53 million bet on Shota Imanaga’s success in Japan translating to MLB and dropped $9 million on veteran setup man Hector Neris, whose shiny 1.71 ERA last season masked a worrisome velocity decline. Counsell is a good skipper, and the two pitcher signings are solid, logical moves, so Bellinger’s return put a nice bow on a successful offseason that looks much better now than it did in early February.

Grade: B

Front-end SP

Setup

1B

3B

• Back-end starting pitcher ✅
• Setup 🟡
• Second baseman 🟡
• Shortstop 🟡

2024 payroll estimate

$145 million

2023 payroll

$181.2 million

New general manager Chris Getz predictably overhauled the roster after a 101-loss season, including finally dealing the White Sox’s top trade chip, Dylan Cease, in the middle of spring training for a solid prospect haul. They’ve hung onto Luis Robert Jr., Andrew Benintendi, Eloy Jiménez and Yoán Moncada, keeping most of last year’s 29th-ranked lineup intact aside from Tim Anderson’s free-agent exit. There were some interesting moves at the margins, including swapping relievers Aaron Bummer and Gregory Santos for quantity-over-quality grab bags and taking an intriguing $15 million flier on starter Erick Fedde returning from Korea, but this has been the disjointed, ex-Royals collecting winter of a team that isn’t quite ready to jump into the full-scale rebuild it likely needs.

Grade: C

Back-end SP

Setup

2B

SS

• Front-end starting pitcher 🟡
• Back-end starting pitcher ✅
• Setup ✅
• Corner outfielder ❌

2024 payroll estimate

$100 million

Among the more active small-market teams, the Reds spent $103 million on free agents Jeimer Candelario, Frankie Montas, Emilio Pagán and Nick Martinez while being linked to other pricey targets who ultimately went elsewhere. They also watched franchise icon Joey Votto leave for Toronto — understandable from an off-field perspective but it will be odd when the Opening Day lineup doesn’t have him at first base. It’s good to see Cincinnati pushing to contend in a winnable division coming off an 82-80 season, but their $104 million payroll ranks just 24th out of 30 teams and injuries have taken a chunk out of their vaunted infield depth.

Grade: B

Front-end SP

Back-end SP

Setup

COF

• Setup ✅
• Corner outfielder ❌
• Center fielder 🟡
• Right-handed hitter ❌

2024 payroll estimate

$96 million

Despite plenty of roster needs and a $97 million payroll that ranks 28th out of 30, the Guardians have been one of the least active teams this offseason. They made an Enyel De Los Santos-for-Scott Barlow reliever exchange with the Padres and dealt another reliever, Cody Morris, to the Yankees for former outfield prospect-turned-project Estevan Florial. And that’s it, aside from replacing Hall of Fame manager Terry Francona with Stephen Vogt and winning the draft lottery. Cleveland dumped Cal Quantrill, who was due a raise to $6.5 million via arbitration, but opted not to trade ace Shane Bieber. They can compete again in the decrepit American League Central without trying much, but it’s hard not to fault the Guardians’ approach after a third-place finish in baseball’s worst division. Having a less active offseason than the rival Twins takes a real effort. AL Central, baby.

• Front-end starting pitcher ❌
• Back-end starting pitcher ✅

2024 payroll estimate

$145 million

2023 payroll

$172.1 million

The Rockies lost 103 games last season, but their Pythagorean Record was 60-102, so, uh, keep in mind that they were a little unlucky. But it doesn’t help that they slept through the offseason, adding a backup catcher and two starting pitchers who strike out fewer batters than almost anyone else in baseball.

It would appear that the plan is to get hitters to put the ball in play. While they have two of the best defenders in baseball with Ezequiel Tovar and Brenton Doyle, more balls in play at Coors Field is a very, very bad idea. Even with those two, the Rockies’ .321 batting average on balls in play was the 25th-worst in baseball history … but just the sixth-worst in franchise history. That’s because Coors Field is great at turning batted balls into hits. So maybe don’t get pitchers who already allow too many hits. Please hire me as a special consultant, Rockies. I will take my salary in Art Blakey records.

It’s not like you could have expected the Rockies to trade for Corbin Burnes or sign a free-agent starter, but even if you set the bar extremely low, they somehow limboed under it.

Grade: F

Front-end SP

Back-end SP

• Front-end starting pitcher ❌
• Back-end starting pitcher ✅
• Setup 🟡
• Third baseman 🟡

2024 payroll estimate

$108 million

After a surprising second-place finish last season, and their most wins (78) since 2016, the Tigers are starting the long-awaited shift from rebuilding to contending. Eduardo Rodriguez’s departure took a big chunk out of the rotation, but the Tigers added reasonably priced veterans Kenta Maeda and Jack Flaherty to their starter mix and boosted the bullpen with Andrew Chafin and Shelby Miller. Signing top prospect Colt Keith to a pre-debut extension was a smart bet on his future upside, and also likely means he’ll be in the Opening Day lineup. They’ve done a solid job building pitching depth around breakout candidate Tarik Skubal, but Mark Canha and Gio Urshela were the lone additions to a lineup that ranked 28th in runs scored last year and will be relying heavily on young talent like Riley Greene, Spencer Torkelson and Keith to carry them to respectability on offense.

Grade: B

Front-end SP

Back-end SP

Setup

3B

• Back-end starting pitcher ❌
• Catcher ✅

2024 payroll estimate

$239 million

2023 payroll

$179.9 million

It was a ludicrously quiet offseason for the Astros until they signed Josh Hader to the second-biggest contract ever for a reliever. Their entire offseason to that point consisted of a perfectly cromulent backup catcher and a utility player.

At the same time, what were you expecting them to do? If they still believe in José Urquidy’s ability to help — and they clearly do — they didn’t have space in the rotation. The lineup should be as terrifying as ever. They could have squeezed an existing player out for an upgrade, but the returning players weren’t the problem last year. They’re a postseason team that needs postseason toys, and Hader is the perfect example of the genre.

• Front-end starting pitcher 🟡
• Back-end starting pitcher ✅
• Setup ✅
• Closer ❌

2024 payroll estimate

$116 million

2023 payroll

$92.5 million

Surprisingly active for a still-rebuilding team coming off an ugly 106-loss season, the Royals spent $77 million to add Michael Wacha and Seth Lugo to the rotation and another $13 million on corner outfielder Hunter Renfroe. There’s no problem with investing “too early” in some veteran reinforcements — upping their payroll from $90 million to $115 million will undoubtedly lead to more wins and a better fan experience, which shouldn’t be brushed off — but it probably won’t be enough to push for more than .500 unless the AL Central is even worse than expected. It’s still refreshing to see the Royals among the offseason’s biggest free-agent spenders, and their $288.7 million extension with Bobby Witt Jr. was even better. Rebuilding doesn’t have to mean not spending.

Grade: B

Front-end SP

Back-end SP

Setup

Closer

• Front-end starting pitcher ❌
• Setup ✅
• Third baseman ❌
• Corner outfielder ❌
• Designated hitter ❌
• Left-handed bat ✅

2024 payroll estimate

$173 million

2023 payroll

$212.2 million

The real offseason need for the Angels was a throw pillow embroidered with, “‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” So if someone could send them one of those, they’d really appreciate it.

Hey, the 2001 Mariners somehow won 116 games the first season since 1988 that they played without Alex Rodríguez, Randy Johnson and Ken Griffey Jr. Maybe the Angels will shock the world and do just fine in a post-Ohtani world.

That’s unlikely, though, so it appears that they plan to build a bullpen with a chance to thrive. This helps them prevent runs in the near term, and it might make them one of the trade deadline’s most popular teams.

Grade: C

Front-end SP

Setup

3B

COF

DH

LHB

• Front-end starting pitcher ✅
• Back-end starting pitcher ✅
• Shortstop ❌
• Corner outfielder ✅
• Left-handed bat ✅

2024 payroll estimate

$304 million

2023 payroll

$222.6 million

Ha ha, look at these fools. One of their offseason needs was a shortstop, and they didn’t even get one. They also needed a front-end starting pitcher, so they signed two of them, but one of them is injured and probably won’t even pitch this season. The other one didn’t even have a single Win Above Replacement in the majors last year. What a disastrous offseason.

Grade: F

Phew. That felt good. But it’s a lie, of course. The Dodgers had one of the greatest offseasons in the history of the sport, securing the sport’s biggest star to add to their Stable of Stars, and at these price points, those stars can hit. There wasn’t enough room in the key additions to add Teoscar Hernández, who gives them a chance to have six 30-homer hitters, or James Paxton, who seems like the perfect high-ceiling arm for the Dodgers’ pitching lab to tinker with.

The Dodgers needed an ace, and they have one now (Yoshinobu Yamamoto), along with one next season (Shohei Ohtani) and one who just needs better health to get there (Tyler Glasnow). It’s worth pondering just how many games they could win with the Rockies’ rotation, though. My guess is 98 games, give or take, which would be more than enough to win the NL West. Instead, they’ve built a roster where a 100-62 record would be a disappointment.

Grade: A

Front-end SP

Back-end SP

SS

COF

LHB

• Shortstop 🟡
• Catcher ❌

2024 payroll estimate

$102 million

2023 payroll

$92.6 million

How do you build momentum after a surprise postseason appearance? Go all-in on some bigger names than usual? Run it back with the same cast, supplemented at the fringes? Or watch the general manager resign and then sit out the offseason? Well, give the Marlins points for novelty, again.

Miami entered the offseason coming off an 84-win playoff season but with significant questions to answer about its chances of replicating that success, especially with Sandy Alcantara out for the season. Then Kim Ng left rather than be demoted, and the Marlins hired Peter Bendix away from the Rays — one of the few additions they made all winter.

The biggest one is Tim Anderson, who represents a buy-low bounceback candidate at an area of dire need at shortstop.

• Back-end starting pitcher ✅
• First baseman ✅
• Third baseman 🟡
• Designated hitter 🟡

2024 payroll estimate

$110 million

2023 payroll

$118.8 million

It’s been a tough offseason for the Brewers, who traded ace Corbin Burnes to the Orioles for prospects and lost president of baseball operations David Stearns to the Mets and manager Craig Counsell to the Cubs. Normally those three things might signal a team in rebuild mode, but the Brewers are coming off a division-winning, 92-victory season in what still looks like a very winnable National League Central. They’re clearly still planning to contend, under new leadership and without Burnes, as incoming Orioles prospects DL Hall and Joey Ortiz are both MLB-ready. The Brewers spent $34 million on free-agent slugger Rhys Hoskins. Milwaukee’s most exciting offseason move was signing yet-to-debut top prospect Jackson Chourio to an extension worth as much as $142.5 million over 10 years, a smart bet on their present and future.

Grade: C

Back-end SP

1B

3B

DH

• Front-end starting pitcher ❌
• Center fielder 🟡
• Right-handed hitter 🟡

2024 payroll estimate

$128 million

2023 payroll

$153.7 million

Ownership’s mandate to shrink payroll by $30 million increased the degree of difficulty for an already tricky offseason for the Twins, who lost Sonny Gray and Kenta Maeda to free agency and traded Jorge Polanco. Aside from veteran starter Anthony DeSclafani, who was hurt right away, the Twins’ only MLB additions are 37-year-old first baseman Carlos Santana, backup outfielder Manuel Margot and relievers Justin Topa, Steven Okert, Jay Jackson and Josh Staumont. Minnesota will clearly be relying on prospects and other minimum-salaried young players to fill lots of gaps this season where veteran depth covered them well in 2023. It’s undeniable the Twins subtracted veteran talent coming off their first playoff series win in two decades, but it’s still their division to win.

Grade: C

Front-end SP

CF

RHB

• Front-end starting pitcher ❌
• Back-end starting pitcher ✅
• Setup 🟡
• Corner outfielder 🟡
• Designated hitter ✅

2024 payroll estimate

$324 million

2023 payroll

$330.7 million

The Mets did more or less what they said they would back at the trade deadline: Conduct a quieter offseason with fewer high-profile additions than in years prior. They still aggressively pursued Yoshinobu Yamamoto but fell short when he took a similar offer from the Dodgers. Their headline addition came the day the NCAA Tournament started, when they finally signed J.D. Martinez.

On the one hand, the Mets have improved their outfield defense, added some depth to their bullpen and finally have someone to bat behind Pete Alonso. On the other, their Plan B after missing out on Yamamoto is underwhelming for a rotation now stocked with No. 4 starters, aiming to win out with quantity over established quality. The ultimate problem with the Mets’ offseason may be this: The 2023 season happened. It happened for Luis Severino and Harrison Bader, for Jorge López and Jeff McNeil, for Starling Marte and Brett Baty. Avoiding overreactions to one season is, in general, a wise mindset to take in this sport, and some of those players will perform closer to their track record this year than last. But the Mets are counting on rebounds almost across the roster, and it’s hard for that many coin flips to go your way.

Grade: C

Front-end SP

Back-end SP

Setup

COF

DH

• Front-end starting pitcher 🟡
• Third baseman ❌
• Corner outfielder ✅
• Center fielder 🟡
• Left-handed batter ✅

2024 payroll estimate

$297 million

2023 payroll

$277.7 million

In acquiring Juan Soto from the Padres, the Yankees made the single best move they could have made this winter. They needed a left-handed bat, they needed a corner outfielder, they needed a younger star — they got the best option to fill all three. Soto alters the entire dynamic of New York’s lineup.

The Yankees’ other moves largely work, as well. Marcus Stroman signed for less (and shorter) than expected. Trent Grisham is a nice throw-in for a team that could use a legit center fielder. And New York’s made its usual solid moves to lengthen its bullpen, even if it eschewed larger-scale additions there.

But we’re tough graders. The trade for Alex Verdugo didn’t make a lot of sense once Soto came aboard. There’s still a lot of reliance on players deep into their 30s. Hal Steinbrenner said they need to bunt more? We can’t give that an A.

Grade: B

Front-end SP

3B

COF

CF

LHB

• Front-end starting pitcher ❌
• Back-end starting pitcher ✅
• Setup ❌
• Closer ❌
• Third baseman ✅
• Shortstop ❌
• Corner outfielder ❌
• Center fielder ❌
• Utility ❌
• Right-handed bat ❌
• Left-handed bat ❌

2024 payroll estimate

$57 million

2023 payroll

$56.9 million

Their biggest offseason need was for owner John Fisher to get some birria tacos at La Santa Torta, walk around Lake Merritt, stop at Oaktown Spice Shop on the way out and think, “You know, this place is awesome. I love Oakland. Why would I want to leave?” The second-biggest need was for the Blue Fairy to appear and turn team president Dave Kaval into a real boy, just like he’s always dreamed of.

But, fine, the A’s needed semi-competent pitchers in the rotation, if only to spare their younger pitchers from being worked too hard. Alex Wood and Ross Stripling should be fine, especially in the spacious Coliseum, and FanGraphs projects everyone in the rotation to have an ERA under 5.00. That doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it is, relatively speaking. Adding a competent third baseman in J.D. Davis will also go a long way.

Still, last year’s team lost 112 games, and it doesn’t seem like that’s their absolute floor. If the baseball gods mix some injuries in, this team might set records. The wrong kind.

Grade: D

Front-end SP

Back-end SP

Setup

Closer

3B

SS

COF

CF

Util.

RHB

LHB

• Front-end starting pitcher ✅
• Closer ❌
• Setup ❌
• Corner outfielder 🟡
• Right-handed bat 🟡

2024 payroll estimate

$246 million

2023 payroll

$243.0 million

In terms of actual additions, this was a light offseason for the Philies. They announced in early November that Bryce Harper would play first base permanently, they re-signed Aaron Nola at the start of the winter and extended Zack Wheeler at the end. The only new piece to the puzzle is Whit Merrifield, signed to be a do-everything fill-in.

Status quo isn’t inherently a bad thing, not when the team came a Game 7 away from repeating as National League champions. The Phillies didn’t have a lot they had to do this winter, once Nola was retained. Extending Wheeler checks off the biggest to-do for next offseason. Merrifield helps the bench, but the bullpen can feel a touch shallow.

Grade: B

Front-end SP

Closer

Setup

COF

RHB

• Back-end starting pitcher ✅
• First baseman 🟡

2024 payroll estimate

$85 million

2023 payroll

$73.3 million

Pittsburgh added a trio of veteran left-handers to the pitching staff in setup man Aroldis Chapman and starters Marco Gonzales and Martín Pérez, and brought in center fielder Michael A. Taylor late, but it was otherwise a pretty uneventful offseason for the Pirates. Andrew McCutchen is back for a second potential farewell season and there are several young bats with the upside to have breakthrough years, but trading for Rowdy Tellez is the biggest addition to a lineup that scored the NL’s third-fewest runs last season. Pittsburgh’s payroll sits at just $85 million, a modest bump from last season’s $70 million and still lower than every other MLB team except the lowly Oakland A’s, making it hard to give better than a water-treading offseason grade. After going from 62 wins in 2022 to 76 wins in 2023, the front office hasn’t put the Pirates in position for another sizable jump.

• Front-end starting pitcher ✅
• Back-end starting pitcher ✅
• Setup ✅
• Center fielder ❌
• Catcher ❌

2024 payroll estimate

$167 million

2023 payroll

$248.9 million

It’s not hard to understand why the Padres traded Juan Soto. He wasn’t going to re-sign with them, which left them an injury away from getting nothing more than a compensatory draft pick for him after the season. It was daring to trade for him, and it was just as sensible to trade him away.

There’s no way to make up for the loss of a generational talent in the lineup, but the Padres have punted Soto’s spot in left entirely, going with old friend Jurickson Profar. Jackson Merrill isn’t legally able to have a bloody mary on a 5:30 a.m. flight, like God intended, but any contributions from him in center field would make the Padres feel better about their present and future. The same goes for Michael King, a fresh face in the rotation who toes the line between untested and incredibly exciting.

It’s not hard to understand why the Padres didn’t re-sign Blake Snell, but it means the Padres are also down a Cy Young Award winner. The good news is they replaced him with the second-place finisher in the AL Cy Young voting the season before, which works as a baseball move and as a metaphor for what the organization is trying to do. The Dylan Cease trade was thrilling and pragmatic at the same time. Thragmatic. It was your mother telling you “But we have Blake Snell at home” and actually making some sense, though you’d never admit it.

The team’s other offseason plan was to build a bullpen that can shorten games, and they might have succeeded there, with Yuki Matsui, Wandy Peralta, Enyel De Los Santos and Woo Suk Go (since optioned) all added to the roster. It’s a varied group of pitchers with different styles, and they should be able to match up with any lineup in the late innings.

Still, the Padres lost two wildly important and valuable players in the same offseason, though. Necessary or not, there’s no way to sugarcoat that.

Grade: C

Front-end SP

Back-end SP

Setup

CF

C

• Front-end starting pitcher ✅
• Shortstop 🟡
• Center fielder ✅
• Right-handed bat ✅
• Left-handed bat ✅

2024 payroll estimate

$208 million

2023 payroll

$187.9 million

The biggest need of the offseason for the Giants was for the Dodgers to not do all that. The second-biggest need was for ownership and the front office to show signs of life and impress an increasingly impatient and cranky fan base. They … did it? They did it! They SURE TOOK THEIR SWEET TIME ABOUT IT, but they did it.

The Giants started the offseason with Jung-Hoo Lee, a charismatic, young and exciting player with athleticism. He slaps the ball all over the field, which makes him a welcome contrast to the lumbering, three-true-outcome heroes the Giants typically feature throughout the lineup, but for months he was one of only a handful of upgrades. The relative inaction left those cranky fans with questions like, “Are they expecting Wilmer Flores or Michael Conforto to be the cleanup hitter?” and “Is there a way to get Jeff Suppan out of retirement?”

Jorge Soler was the first leak in the transaction dam, giving the Giants their best chance at a 30-homer season since Barry Bonds was forced into retirement. Then they finally, finally, finally consummated the deal for Matt Chapman that seemed like it could happen a few seconds after the 2023 World Series ended. The coup of the offseason, though, was getting Blake Snell on a short-term deal, giving them last year’s Cy Young winner without giving up future flexibility.

Are the Giants a threat to the Dodgers in the NL West? Er, no. But they did a whole heckuva lot to compete with the second tier of the National League, and with three wild-card spots (and a recent tradition of random wild-card teams finding themselves in the World Series), it’s not just window dressing. The first draft of this section, written a month ago, gave the Giants a D. It’s been an entertaining month since then.

Grade: A

Front-end SP

SS

CF

RHB

LHB

• Corner outfielder 🟡
• Right-handed bat ✅

2024 payroll estimate

$139 million

2023 payroll

$137.5 million

Bless Jerry Dipoto, who absolutely loves making 38 different moves that make you unsure if the Mariners are better. I think they’re better than they were last season, if only because Jorge Polanco and Mitch Garver can whomp pitches over the fence, which was something the Mariners were already OK at.

There was no huge free-agent splash, though, and the Mariners’ payroll remains closer to the Guardians than the Rangers, which is a shame, considering how outstanding the rotation projects to be. It’s a rotation that should prompt some derring-do on the open market, but they’re getting “Let’s try Mitch Haniger again” instead. It was a brutally thin offseason for position players, yes, but Dipoto loves thinking outside of the box, then trading that box for two smaller boxes so he can think between the boxes. There had to have been a trade or seven that could have led to more runs than this.

As is, the Mariners should pitch well, and they should hit just OK. It’ll be enough to contend. But this offseason should have been exciting enough to make them AL West favorites.

• Front-end starting pitcher ✅
• Back-end starting pitcher ✅
• Closer ❌

2024 payroll estimate

$181 million

2023 payroll

$176.6 million

Rebuilding the ragged rotation was clearly the Cardinals’ offseason focus, and they moved very quickly to sign 34-year-old Sonny Gray and 36-year-olds Lance Lynn and Kyle Gibson to provide veteran stability. That trio combined to make 97 starts and eat 560 innings last year, but Lynn (5.73 ERA) and Gibson (4.73) weren’t good and it was Gray’s first season throwing more than 140 innings since 2019. Gray is a big upgrade even if he’ll have a hard time sustaining last year’s homer-suppressing magic, but the rest of St. Louis’ offseason was seemingly spent raising the floor — or bringing back an old friend in Matt Carpenter — rather than raising the ceiling. For a team that lost a shocking 91 games in 2023 and plans to resume its “always a contender” status, that may not be enough.

Grade: C

Front-end SP

Back-end SP

Closer

• Front-end starting pitcher ❌
• Shortstop 🟡
• Catcher ❌

2024 payroll estimate

$97 million

2023 payroll

$73.2 million

That ❌ is supposed to mean that a team neglected a need. We didn’t think we needed a special icon for a team that stared straight at its biggest need and grabbed a shovel to dig a deeper hole. But that was the move for Tampa Bay, which looked at a rotation crushed by elbow surgeries and still wanted to up the challenge by dealing Tyler Glasnow to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Look, there’s no team we’d trust more in facing that challenge: Maybe Zack Littell can be a rotation regular for 32 starts in the AL East. Maybe Ryan Pepiot and Taj Bradley are ready for steps forward and Jake Odorizzi turns back the clock. Maybe Jeffrey Springs is back by the second half of the season to supplement Zach Eflin and Aaron Civale at the top. We wouldn’t bet on it anywhere else, but here? We’ll ponder it.

Because if that rotation is serviceable, the offense is good with the chance to take another leap forward with Junior Caminero and Curtis Mead knocking on the door.

• Front-end starting pitcher ❌
• Setup ✅
• Closer ✅
• Designated hitter ❌

2024 payroll estimate

$221 million

2023 payroll

$195.9 million

There’s still a chance that the Rangers can get that front-end starting pitcher, and it might even be Jordan Montgomery, who helped them win their first World Series. Even if they get Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer and/or Tyler Mahle back before the end of the season, they’ll have a pretty basic rotation until then. Compare the FanGraphs projections for the Rangers’ rotation with the A’s rotation. It’s almost spooky.

The AL West won’t allow for a lot of grace when it comes to winning the division, and the competition should be fierce for wild-card spots, too. Just getting by with the incumbent starting pitchers seems like a great way to fall behind in one or both races. David Robertson and Kirby Yates might help shorten games, but we’re still talking about a couple of relievers in their late 30s with a recent history of injuries.

Good thing the Rangers can mash, then. That will give them a chance. But Michael Lorenzen isn’t the difference maker fans were hoping for. Unless they come away with Montgomery at the last second, it’s hard not to be bored with their sleepy offseason.

Grade: D

Front-end SP

Setup

Closer

DH

• Second baseman ❌
• Third baseman 🟡
• Corner outfielder 🟡
• Designated hitter ✅
• Right-handed batter ✅
• Left-handed batter 🟡

2024 payroll estimate

$225 million

2023 payroll

$209.9 million

The most memorable part of the Blue Jays’ offseason was a tweet declaring who was decidedly NOT in Toronto (nor headed there, at the moment or eventually). Overall, the Jays’ winter suffered from expectations quickly heightened by their pursuits of Shohei Ohtani or Juan Soto. In a vacuum, bringing back Kevin Kiermaier and in Justin Turner are fine moves; in this vacuum, they leave a kind of…void.

Offensively, Toronto is hunting rebounds across its lineup, especially from Vladimir Guerrero Jr. But whatever positive regressions accrue there may be mitigated by the loss of Matt Chapman at third, with the light-hitting Isiah Kiner-Falefa (.655 OPS over the last three seasons) slated for significant time on the infield. Who wouldn’t love a Joey Votto renaissance, except for pitchers in the AL East?

Yariel Rodriguez is an intriguing add to the pitching staff. Whereas Alek Manoah’s probably going to be better than his nightmarish 2023, Toronto shouldn’t count on 128 starts from the other four members of their likely rotation. Rodriguez, who excelled in Japan, following a shift to the bullpen, could be a candidate for more innings here.

• Back-end starting pitcher ❌
• Setup 🟡
• First baseman 🟡
• Third baseman 🟡

2024 payroll estimate

$125 million

2023 payroll

$101.2 million

The Nationals are applying the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” adage to their approach to free agency. And so after picking up good trade deadline bait off the non-tender scrap heap each of the past two offseasons (Kyle Schwarber and Jeimer Candelario), they’ll try again with Nick Senzel. Senzel, at least, comes with additional years of control, so he can be a longer-term play.

Of course, Washington is not applying the “If it’s obviously broke, go forth and fix it” adage to several parts of its roster, especially a pitching staff that ranked near the bottom of baseball in both starter and reliever ERA. Josiah Gray and MacKenzie Gore are a decent start to a young rotation, but there’s ample space here and in the bullpen for veteran assistance.

Grade: C

Back-end SP

Setup

1B

3B

go-deeper

GO DEEPER

Playoff Paths: How every major-league team can make the postseason

(Top photo of Blake Snell with his new team: Andy Kuno / San Francisco Giants / Getty Images)