That’s right, we aren’t even going to let the Cubs enjoy their first World Series championship in 108 years. Chicago has a target on its back and 29 other teams already are anxious to dethrone the new champs. Here’s the obscenely early look at which teams have the best chance to win it all next season:
There’s a gross overabundance of offensive talent with Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Schwarber, Willson Contreras, Addison Russell and Javier Baez, and all five members of the majors’ best rotation are under contract for 2017 (Jason Hammel has a team option). And that defense … wow. Dexter Fowler and Aroldis Chapman are free agents, but there are internal replacements (Albert Almora, Hector Rondon) available — and money to spend.
Boston Red Sox
They’ll need to replace that David Ortiz guy, but they have one of the majors’ best young offensive cores with Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Andrew Benintendi and Jackie Bradley Jr. The rotation has two aces in Rick Porcello and David Price, and the bullpen has a lights-out closer in Craig Kimbrel.
Michael Brantley will rejoin an offense that features budding stars in Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez and Tyler Naquin, and starters Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar will be fully recovered from their late-season injuries. Oh yeah, and Andrew Miller is signed through 2018.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Imagine a full season of Clayton Kershaw and Corey Seager, combined with a healthier rotation. There are some big free-agent decisions to make (Kenley Jansen, Justin Turner, Chase Utley) and a large trade chip (Yasiel Puig) to put in play, but there is also some payroll flexibility.
We suspected Bryce Harper wasn’t healthy for much of the 2016 season, and that was confirmed after the Nationals’ NLDS exit. He’ll be at 100 percent and motivated to return to MVP form, and Washington will get a full season of Trea Turner. The Nationals would be even higher if there was even an ounce of certainty about Stephen Strasburg’s ability to serve as 1B to Max Scherzer’s 1A.
New York Mets
Just about everything that could have gone wrong in 2016 did go wrong, yet the Mets still made the postseason. Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler should be ready for the start of the season, though there is the little matter of re-signing or replacing Yoenis Cespedes. But, my oh my, that rotation – if it can stay healthy.
San Francisco Giants
They need to finally find some pop and rebuild their broken bullpen, but the foundation for success remains with Madison Bumgarner, Buster Posey, Hunter Pence, Brandon Crawford and Bruce Bochy. The Giants are one team that doesn’t need to worry about the rotation, allowing them to spend on offense.
Things were going so well before Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish faded down the stretch and in the postseason; they should be fine, but the back end of the rotation must be addressed. Rougned Odor is nearing superstar level, but the lineup needs a big bopper after losing Prince Fielder to injury and potentially losing Ian Desmond to free agency.
They took several surprising steps forward in 2015 but a big step backward in 2016, never able to fully recover from their 7-17 April. But this lineup still features Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman, George Springer and Evan Gattis. And a deep rotation, anchored by 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel, should rebound.
New York Yankees
The Baby Bombers nearly won a wild card with their impressive late-season run, fueled mainly by rookie Gary Sanchez. There will be growing pains and there are rotation questions, but the Yankees should be among the busiest squads this offseason as they clearly are capable of rebuilding and contending simultaneously.