Next Wednesday, MLB spring training camps will open across Arizona and Florida. Cactus League and Grapefruit League play is tentatively scheduled to begin before the end of the month. There are still a large handful of free agents who remain unsigned, but most teams know what their rosters and lineups will look like come Opening Day. The hot stove finally warmed up in the last month, and we have a good feel for what to expect on the field in 2021.
As expected amid a pandemic, it was a watered-down offseason. And while some teams made big splashes, a few could-be contenders might not have done enough to take a step forward this season. With that in mind, we’re putting the spotlight on three clubs who could still use an addition or two to improve their outlook for 2021.
The Philadelphia Phillies offseason has been filled with lots of ups and downs. At the start of the offseason, it appeared as if owner John Middleton was committed to cutting payroll and that the team would probably be out of the running for top free-agent catcher J.T. Realmuto. Well, that got turned upside once Dave Dombrowski was unexpectedly brought into the front office as president of baseball operations in December. Ultimately, they got a deal done for Realmuto. And, that along with bringing back Didi Gregorius helps. But, they haven’t done much else, nothing else in the eye-popping sense that their division rival Mets have done this winter.
The Phillies also made some upgrades to their historically bad bullpen, but their Opening Day lineup figures to look a lot like the one they used in 2020 when they finished below .500, and their rotation could use another addition. The Phillies have Bryce Harper on their payroll during his prime and they’re competing in a very strong National League East. There’s no time to waste here.
The Los Angeles Angels hired a new general manager this offseason after five consecutive losing campaigns, but as of writing this, they did not sign a single top-50 free agent (CBS Sports ranked Jose Quintana as No. 52) to help Mike Troutn return to the postseason. The Angels are star-heavy — along with Trout, they’ll have Anthony Rendon and Shohei Ohtani in 2021 — but it’s been far too long since a playoff run. The pressure was on in Anaheim, but it just doesn’t seem like they did enough to breakthrough in 2021.
For the Angels, offense isn’t their problem. The area of most concern is their rotation. The 2021 six-man rotation is currently set to include Andrew Heaney, Dylan Bundy, Quintana, Alex Cobb, Griffin Canning and Ohtani. Quintana didn’t pitch for half of 2020 due to a thumb injury, but he will (along with Fowler) reunite with former Cubs manager, Joe Maddon. With Heaney, Bundy and Canning last season, the trio combined for a 3.91 ERA in 34 starts. But in the other 26 games, Angels starters combined for an atrocious 9.22 ERA. So, sure, that’s improved depth from last season, but the Angels failed (again) to add any frontline starters, and they watched the best pitcher on the market sign with their crosstown rival. There are still a handful of remaining free-agent upgrades available, so it might be worth it for the Angels to take a good look at who else they can add.
The Minnesota Twins were awfully quiet throughout the first half of this offseason. But as of late, they’ve managed to go out and make some improvements. They acquired Gold Glove shortstop and ninth-ranked free agent Andrelton Simmons, reunited with Nelson Cruz on a one-year deal, signed veteran lefty J.A. Happ to a one-year deal, and got reliever Alex Colome to strengthen their bullpen. But the reigning AL Central champs are going to be up against an also improved Chicago White Sox club and without the luxury of an expanded playoff field.
Minnesota could use more pitching help, both in the rotation and in the bullpen. Are you following along with the theme here? While the Twins did make some key additions, they also suffered some key losses in the departures of starters Jake Odorizzi and Rich Hill via free agency (though an Odorizzi and/or Hill reunion still remains a possibility at this point and time with both currently unsigned) along with relievers Trevor May, Tyler Clippard, Matt Wisler and Sergio Romo. The current rotation of No. 1 Jose Berrios, No. 2 Kenta Maeda, No. 3 Michael Pineda, No. 4 Happ and No. 5 Randy Dobnak (plus in-house option Devin Smeltzer) is solid and should figure to be productive. But is this roster primed to help the Twins break their postseason losing streak of 18 games next year and make a deep run in October? I can’t confidently say yes.
Honorable mentions: Cardinals (yes, they got Nolan Arenado but they can do more), Athletics (are the reigning AL West champions even trying to stay contenders?), Brewers (kept most of their 2020 squad, but need to do more to stay competitive)