With only a couple of weeks left in the 2023 Major League Baseball season, the status quo of every team is well-defined, from World Series Contenders to playoff hopefuls to woeful 100-plus loss rebuilding clubs.
The Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Baltimore Orioles have matched promising preseason expectations. On the other hand, the Padres, Yankees, Mets, Cardinals, and Angels have all underachieved. These five clubs are unlikely to make the playoffs after entering this season with high expectations and star-studded rosters.
Biggest Underachievers in Major League Baseball
Los Angeles Angels
The Los Angeles Angels (67-77) squandered the final year of Japanese two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani’s contract as they will miss the playoffs again despite having Ohtani and Mike Trout, two of the best players in the league.
Injuries have limited Trout to 18 homers in 82 games. Ohtani, the frontrunner for AL MVP, is batting .304 with 44 home runs and 95 RBIs and has pitched to a 10-5 record with a 3.14 ERA and 167 strikeouts in 132 innings. Unfortunately, Ohtani’s body gave out as he tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow a few weeks ago, preventing him from pitching again this season and clouding his future earnings as an impending free agent.
Wanting to make the most of Ohtani’s last season as an Angel, the team traded for two pitchers (Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez) and two hitters (Randal Grichuk, CJ Cron) at the trade deadline. However, the Angels continued to lose and waived Giolito and Lopez a couple of weeks after acquiring them.
St. Louis Cardinals
The St. Louis Cardinals (63-80), one of the oldest and most successful MLB franchises, are in the midst of their first losing season since 2007. This year has represented a stark turnaround as the team is in danger of finishing in last place after winning the division last year in club legends Albert Pujols’ and Yadier Molina’s final seasons. The Cardinals pitching has been a weakness, exemplified by 42-year-old Adam Wainwright’s 3-11 record and ERA over eight in the 18-year veteran’s last MLB season.
New York Mets
The New York Mets (65-77) have also endured a disappointing season. They entered this season with a record $353 million payroll spread across a talented roster that harbored World Series aspirations.
In free agency, billionaire owner Steve Cohen’s team re-signed multiple contributors from last year’s squad, including starting center fielder Brandon Nimmo and closer Edwin Diaz. They also attempted to replace longtime top starting pitcher Jacob DeGrom by signing future hall-of-famer Justin Verlander and Japanese pitcher Kodai Senga to pair with Max Scherzer.
However, Diaz got hurt in the World Baseball Classic, Verlander started the season injured, and the Mets failed to win enough games. As a result, they waved the white flag at the trade deadline, trading Verlander back to the Houston Astros and Scherzer to the Texas Rangers in exchange for some top minor-league prospects. Already looking to next year, in addition to retaining elite talents like Nimmo, first baseman Pete Alonso, and shortstop Francisco Lindor, former Brewers’ highly regarded general manager David Stearns will become the Mets’ new President of Baseball Operations.
San Diego Padres
Before the 2023 season started, excitement swirled around the San Diego Padres organization. Despite not having rising young superstar shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. all of last season due to injury and a PED suspension, they made it to the National League Championship Series with a loaded roster led by superstar third baseman Manny Machado and talented starting pitchers Yu Darvish and Blake Snell.
At last year’s trade deadline, they added star power, trading for elite outfielder Juan Soto from the Washington Nationals and dominant left-handed closer Josh Hader from the Milwaukee Brewers. Ahead of manager Bob Melvin’s second season, the Padres rewarded Machado with a new 11-year contract extension and signed longtime Boston Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogarts to an 11-year contract in free agency, moving Tatis Jr. to right field.
The Padres (68-77) face an eight-game deficit in the Wild Card race even though their stars have generally performed well this season. Snell is a leading candidate for the NL Cy Young Award, and Soto, Machado, and Tatis each have more than 20 home runs and 70 RBIs. A Padres team that has scored 61 more runs than it has allowed has been somewhat unlucky in one run (6-22) and extra-inning games (0-11). The club with the third-highest payroll in the league added some veterans during this year’s trade deadline to position them for a second-half run, but that has not happened, and time is running out to salvage the season.
New York Yankees
The 27-time World Series Champion New York Yankees are about to miss the playoffs for the first time since 2016. The club with the second-highest payroll in the league is 71-72, 20 games behind first-place Baltimore and eight games back in the wildcard race.
In the offseason, they signed reigning American League (AL) Most Valuable Player Aaron Judge to a nine-year, $360 million contract in free agency after he carried their offense last year, hitting an MLB single-season record 62 home runs. This year, Judge and fellow oft-injured slugger Giancarlo Stanton have each missed many games with injuries, affecting the team’s offense, which has the fewest hits out of all 30 MLB teams, even less than the woeful Oakland Athletics.
Additionally, the team’s pitching has not been up to par except for AL Cy Young Award candidate Gerrit Cole, who is having another excellent season, and Domingo German’s perfect game against the A’s. $160 million free-agent signee Carlos Rodon started his first season in New York on the injured list and has not pitched well since being activated, holding a 2-5 record and 6.60 ERA in 10 starts. As the team has not met expectations, general manager Brian Cashman’s and manager Aaron Boone’s jobs could be at risk.
Some of these squads may turn things around next year. Regardless, the fact that high-payroll teams have so grossly underachieved signifies that money doesn’t automatically lead to wins or success.