While the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers have dominated the 2023 Major League Baseball offseason headlines thanks to attention-grabbing acquisitions of superstars Juan Soto and Shohei Ohtani, they are not the only teams who have shrewdly improved their rosters going into next season. The following three MLB teams have made multiple quality transactions to build on this year’s success or go from rebuilding to contention.
Three MLB Teams Having Underrated Offseasons
Kansas City Royals
In the middle part of the 2010s, the Kansas City Royals were among the best teams in the American League. Featuring a dynamic bullpen and a talented offense led by first baseman Eric Hosmer, catcher Salvador Perez, and outfielder Alex Gordon, the Royals lost the 2014 World Series to the San Francisco Giants. The following year, they defeated the New York Mets for their second World Series title in team history. The Royals have yet to return to the playoffs as all their key players except for Perez left through free agency or trades, and the small-market team has struggled to win games in recent years.
In 2023, they finished 56-106, with only the Oakland Athletics losing more games. The club’s pitching continued to struggle, and they failed to score enough runs to compensate. Kansas City is rebuilding around 23-year-old shortstop Bobby Witt Jr, the second overall pick in 2019’s MLB Draft, who became the fifth player in MLB history to total 20 home runs and stolen bases in his rookie season in 2022. This year, Witt took his game to another level as he became more consistent defensively and shined at the plate, batting .276 with 30 home runs, 96 RBIs, 49 stolen bases, and an MLB-leading 11 triples.
As a result of the club’s $105 million free-agent frenzy, the first-ever Royal to blast 30 homers and steal 30 bases in the same season will hopefully have more support in 2024. They traded for pitchers Kyle Wright and Nick Anderson from the Atlanta Braves. Wright won 20 games in 2022, but the injury bug hit him this year, and he will miss all of 2024 due to off-season shoulder surgery to fix an injury that ailed him all season. Anderson has shown glimpses of effective relief pitching with the Braves and Tampa Bay Rays but also suffered a shoulder injury in 2023. Kansas City further addressed its bullpen by signing Will Smith and Chris Statton, two players in the champion Texas Rangers’ bullpen, to one-year contracts, with Stratton’s containing an option for a second year. The Royals hope Smith can make more history with them as the veteran left-hander, who started his career in Kansas City in 2012, is the first player in North American sports history to be part of the last three league champions.
Moving on to starting pitchers, the Royals are signing former San Diego Padres Michael Wacha and Seth Lugo to reinforce their rotation. Wacha will earn $32 million over two years, and Lugo agreed to a three-year $45 million contract. Both pitchers are coming off good years as Wacha went 14-4 with a 3.22 ERA in 24 starts, and Lugo went 8-7 with a 3.5 ERA in 26 starts.
Lastly, Kansas City signed free-agent hitters Garrett Hampson and Hunter Renfroe to impact their lineup. Hampson can play multiple positions, while outfielder Renfroe will bring his powerful bat into this team’s everyday lineup.
Like the Royals, the Detroit Tigers are another rebuilding AL Central squad. However, they appear closer to playoff contention after finishing 78-84 in 2023. In future Hall-of-Famer Miguel Cabrera‘s final season, the Tigers fell short of the playoffs for the ninth straight year. Their offense was the main problem as Cabrera was a shell of his former self, and shortstop Javier Báez had a second-straight season of failing to live up to the contract the Tigers gave him as a 2021 free agent. On the other hand, young hitters Spencer Torkelson, Riley Greene, and Kerry Carpenter performed well and will be significant parts of this team for years to come. Torkelson emerged as a big-time power threat, hitting 31 home runs this year after scuffling in his rookie season last year.
In November, Detroit traded for outfielder Mark Canha from the Milwaukee Brewers to add a veteran, experienced hitter to its offense. The team also reinforced its pitching staff with the additions of free agent reliever Andrew Chafin and starters Kenta Maeda and Jack Flaherty. The latter two will likely slot into the starting rotation after budding left-handed ace Tarik Skubal.
After upgrading at third base with the acquisition of Eugenio Suárez earlier this offseason, the Arizona Diamondbacks filled their other pressing need on December eighth. The reigning National League champions signed free-agent left-handed starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez to a four-year $80 million contract that could reach $100 million if the fifth-year option is triggered. Rodriguez, formerly with the Tigers, gives the Diamondbacks a fourth reliable starter, likely resulting in fewer bullpen games, a strategy the team had to use in the playoffs. It will be interesting to see if the Snakes do anything in response to the Dodgers signing Ohtani and reportedly trading for Rays’ ace pitcher Tyler Glasnow. One option is to sign free-agent J.D. Martinez or deal for Randy Arozarena to fill their need for a right-handed hitter.
The Royals are proving that a small-market team can spend money to improve their roster if they want to. Surprisingly, they have spent more than bigger market teams like the Mets, Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox, and Chicago Cubs. Nevertheless, that may change once unsigned big names like Cody Bellinger and Matt Chapman come off the board.
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