At the beginning of every Major League Baseball season, all 30 teams harbor various hopes and dreams culminating in a World Series trophy. Usually, teams with supportive ownership that gives them a fair shot on and off the field (Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves) have a better chance of achieving their goals than less well-run franchises (Oakland Athletics and Colorado Rockies).
The Texas Rangers entered 2023 with high expectations after hiring new manager Bruce Bochy to coach the Marcus Semien and Corey Seager-led roster. Their high-powered offense dominated the American League all season. Bochy’s playoff magic appeared again as the three-time champion with the San Francisco Giants managed the Rangers to their first World Series victory in five games over the upstart, underdog Arizona Diamondbacks. Texas will have a target on its back as the other 29 franchises aim to prevent the club from becoming the first repeat champ since the New York Yankees won three straight titles from 1998-2000.
While nobody expects Oakland or Colorado to be any good in 2024, the following five organizations face increasing pressure to bring home a championship.
Five Must-Win MLB Teams in 2024
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
The star-studded, high-payroll Dodgers have dominated the National League West division over the past decade. In 2023, they went 100-62, finishing the regular season in first place for the tenth time in the past 11 years. Yet, the Dodgers suffered an early playoff exit to a division rival for the second straight year as the Diamondbacks did what the San Diego Padres achieved in 2022. Thus, the Dodgers have only won the 2020 World Series title, coming out on top after a shortened 60-game season.
Desperately wanting another World Series title, the Dodgers have spent over $1 billion this offseason, heavily improving an already-loaded roster. As a result of the money spent and players acquired, it feels like a World Series or bust situation, and the team’s expectations will be sky-high. Opposing pitchers will have to work around a lineup that likely starts with Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, $700 million man Shohei Ohtani and could also include fellow offseason acquisitions Jason Heyward, Manuel Margot, and Teoscar Hernández. Future Hall-of-Famer Clayton Kershaw’s outlook remains uncertain, but the team reloaded its rotation to ensure dominance regardless. Free-agent pitcher Yoshinbu Yamamoto got $325 million to join Ohtani in LA, and the team gave Tyler Glasnow a new contract after acquiring him and Margot in a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays.
2) New York Yankees
Yankees’ fans are eager for the club to return to the Fall Classic as the 27-time champions have not made the World Series since their last championship in 2009. Following a disappointing 2023 season in which the club failed to live up to expectations and make the playoffs, the Yankees’ only offseason move so far has been their blockbuster trade for elite hitter Juan Soto from the Padres. They gave up multiple talented pitchers in that trade, and given Carlos Rodón’s uncertainty, the club seems likely to sign or trade for another pitcher before the season starts. With Soto in his final season before free agency, a 28th championship would do a lot to convince the superstar to re-sign in the Bronx and give this historic franchise the aura it has been missing in recent years.
3) Cleveland Guardians
The Cleveland Guardians have the longest World Series drought in MLB. The team that has not won one since 1948 finished runner-up in 2016 to a Chicago Cubs team that broke its historic hundred-year drought. With a first-year manager in Stephen Vogt and less payroll flexibility than these first two teams, the Guardians may face more challenges embarking on a deep playoff run this year. However, the AL Central division is always wide-open, and Cleveland has a superstar in third baseman Jose Ramírez and an envious farm system that continually drafts and produces quality young pitchers. Their latest two are Tanner Bibee and Gavin Williams, who immediately translated their ability to the Major Leagues as 2023 rookies.
4) Philadelphia Phillies
During the past two MLB playoffs, the Philadelphia Phillies, led by superstars Bryce Harper and Kyle Schwarber, eliminated divisional rival Atlanta Braves in an early round and made multiple postseason memories in front of their rabid fanbase. Yet, they fell short against the Houston Astros in the 2022 World Series and then lost to the Diamondbacks in last year’s NL Championship Series. Seeking to keep the band back together, the Phillies re-signed ace pitcher Aaron Nola in free agency, setting the group up for another chance to make a deep playoff run and finally earn a World Series title that this core has come increasingly close to achieving. With Bryce Harper signed for the long haul, he will have many chances to win his first World Series, but players will age or get injured, and the Phillies’ contention window could close before they notice.
5) Baltimore Orioles
In 2023, the Baltimore Orioles won 101 games and the AL East division, largely thanks to an explosive lineup comprising young, athletic players eager to make their mark in MLB. AL Rookie of the Year Gunnar Henderson and elite catcher Adley Rutschman led the way on offense, and imposing closer Félix Bautista mowed down hitters before succumbing to Tommy John surgery that will sideline him until 2025. The Orioles have more talent coming through their minor leagues, highlighted by shortstop Jackson Holliday, their selection with the first overall pick in the 2022 amateur draft. They could stand to win a World Series sooner rather than later because it is unlikely that the team’s owners would be willing to keep all their starters once their salaries increase and they reach free agency.
Ultimately, these are just a few of the many teams looking toward this new campaign as a chance to right the wrongs of last season and bring glory to their fans and communities. Given the amount of talent across baseball, it would not be surprising if 2024 brings more upsets on the way to crown the eventual World Series winner.
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