another item from “random ideas from laying in bed”. There’s still plenty of time before spring training to change this, and some teams are hurt because they haven’t filled the obvious hole and will get to it. Also, I can’t fake caring about the AL right now.
top tier – legit championship level teams
* Phillies – well, duh.
* Cubs – They won 97 games with no one having a career year, and are only losing Kerry Wood of any significance with obvious plans to add more. (No, by the end, Jim Edmonds was not significant.) They’re going to be fine.
* Mets – insta-bullpen. Except K-Rod might have some issues and unless you’re a desperate team for bullpen help (and the Mets are), it’s tough to have much faith in Putz. The career peak for closers is short and it may already be over. But they were a near 90 win team that’s already fixed a major weakness, that’s enough to be here.
2nd tier – teams with question marks that still could compete
* Diamondbacks – Everyone overrates the Diamondbacks so I might as well. I don’t think their young talent made as much progress as figured last year. Chris Young was 24 and has time to improve, but he also hit 248/315(!!)/443 in 625 at bats last year. So bad. I keep forgetting Orlando Hudson is a free agent (and a big money one, probably), which won’t help. You can pretty much surround Webb/Haren with nothing and be a contender to me, and they actually have some here.
* Dodgers – I’m least sure about this one. Where do you rate a playoff team that’s lost it’s offense MVP and it’s top start and it’s unclear if either are coming back? Penny and Maddux (who weren’t much good) and Furcal (who was) are gone too. I tend to rate them hihghly because there’s younger talent that might actually not be blocked in some places. But who knows.
* Marlins – they won in 1997, and won six years later in 2003, so here we are in 2009. Team is already on an upswing and just needed better run prevention. Like pitchers having insane years, which has also happened here before. This is as good a reason as any.
3rd tier – long shots, but at least they have hope
* Brewers – everyone knew last year was the all or nothing year, and I wasn’t so sad to see CC going to DHland to confirm it. However, if they had any young pitches decent or better besides Gallarado, they’d be one level up. Gallarado was pretty awesome before getting hurt and I think he’s legit, but they kinda need 11 other pitchers and I don’t know that there’s another above average pitcher here. There’s enough average guys to make them interesting, but they really could use someone at the end of the bullpen.
* Cardinals – As could they. They’ve got the hitting too, and while there’s no one that scares me like Gallarado, they seem to be slightly better as a group. (I still have trouble believing in half of them, but okay.) Since Kerry was linked to the Indians, the most important free agent for this division is Brian Fuentes. One of St. Louis or Milwaukee ought to end up with and immediately move up a level, and the other is going to end up with a big hole and a leap of faith to believe Trevor Hoffman or Juan Cruz could fill it.
* Rockies – Not as good as they were in 2006, not as bad as they were in 2007 when half the team got hurt. Then again, with no Matt Holliday, I don’t know what the idea is for offense. They could probably make up for some of it by starting a league average CF this year, as opposed to Willy Taveras.
* Astros – I never know what to make of this team. They finished better than they actually were, again, but then the finish is all that matters. I don’t know that they’re going to be any better this year with Berkman, Tejada (who really fell off the second half), and Carlos Lee moving one more year past their peak.
4th tier – no hope
* Braves – Atlanta going after AJ Burnett surprised me, because it doesn’t feel like they’re at the point in the team’s cycle where spending a lot on a free agent pitcher makes sense, and they’ve been shedding payroll for years. They do finally have Mike Hampton’s deal off the books (as bad as the signing was, no one gives the Braves ‘credit’ for taking crazy salary responsibility in their trade, which turned out to be over 10% of their total salary the last three years for a guy who barely played.) They’re missing Teixeira, and while Chipper is obviously not done, he can’t be expected to put up the same numbers as last year. I don’t expect to put the Braves in this category, because they’re the Braves, and I expect them to win more than 72 games next year for pretty much the same (empty) reason, but I can’t make a case for them winning a pennant.
* Padres – it’ll be interesting to find out if a divorce moves a team sale along faster than a tax evasion scheme. They – the current ownership and the MLB – surely want the Cubs deal to get done soon so maybe they can talk one of the losers into taking this mess. Not sure what’s going to be left, it’ll be almost as bad as…
* Nationals – so, legit, they’re going with the Orioles Way here? Not the famous one, the one from this decade where they have not enough good players but decide to spend crazy on one name player to “change the image.” And they keep losing anyway, because they’re still bad. I still will be shocked when Texiera turns out to be years older and in the next Mitchell Report (though I guess Manny makes more sense here.)
* Giants – or maybe it was the Giants plan first? I don’t know. They’re still bad.
* Pirates – they MAY be moving in the right direction here
* Reds – almost surely not. Did you know they’ve only lost 100 games once?