Assessing The State Of Each MLB Team and Their Front Office

With the draft over and the trade deadline approaching, now would seem to be a great time to look at the state of each MLB franchise. Which teams are in the right direction? Which teams don’t even have a direction? Which front offices are excelling? Which front offices need changes? Let’s discuss.

*Stats as of Saturday June 8th

Arizona Diamondbacks

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Diamondbacks GM Mike Hazen- Photo Cred: The Green Wave Gazette

Lead Decision Maker: GM Mike Hazen

MLB Team: 32-32, +38 Run Differential 

Farm System (According to Fangraphs): 12th

MVP Sports Talk Draft Grade: A-

After trading Paul Goldschmidt this offseason, it was surprising to see general manager Mike Hazen not go for a full teardown of the roster. However, to his credit, Arizona has remained extremely competitive, ranking in the top ten in run differential. The team has found a building block in second baseman/center fielder Ketel Marte, has received positive returns from the pieces in the Goldschmidt trade (pitcher Luke Weaver, catcher Carson Kelly), and has also made out well in its $21 million investment in third baseman Eduardo Escobar. Meanwhile, their farm system may not be top heavy, but it’s deep with a lot of high-upside prospects. Additionally, with a successful draft that brought in high school outfielder Corbin Carroll, high schools pitchers Blake Walston and Brennan Malone, and college pitcher Drey Jameson, the farm system should be even stronger. Arizona could be accessed of hanging around to closely to mediocrity, but given the overall amount of young talent they have and the general strength of their major league team, I like the direction of this team.

Overall Direction Review: Mostly Positive

Atlanta Braves

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Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos- Photo Cred: LA Times

Lead Decision Maker: GM Alex Anthopoulos

MLB Team: 34-29, +7 Run Differential

Farm System (According to Fangraphs): 3rd

MVP Sports Talk Draft Grade: C+

Sitting just two games out of the division, the Braves are in good shape to make a serious playoff run this season. Obviously, having only the 15th best run differential is a concern,  but this is still a very talented team in a division that has thinned out tremendously. Signing Dallas Keuchel may not work out, but given the team’s reliance on young talent, credit general manager Alex Anthopoulos for acquiring a veteran starting pitcher that can at least help take the load off of them. He also deserves massive credit for how he’s been able to identify two franchise cornerstones, Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies, and sign them to very cheap extensions that will keep them in Atlanta long after they would have been previously eligible to become free agents. Meanwhile, third baseman Austin Riley has emerged as another cornerstone, as has starting pitcher Mike Soroka. With a strong farm system that has both depth and top-heavy talent, Atlanta is set up to dominate this division for many years. I didn’t love their draft, but they still made one great selection in drafting catcher Shea Langeliers, whose defensive skills make him the team’s future franchise catcher. Though this isn’t Anthopolous’ team and he earned a reputation for being aggressive in trading prospects, which worries me, there’s no debate that as of now, they have one of the brightest futures out of any organization.

Overall Direction Review: Overwhelmingly Positive

Baltimore Orioles

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GM Mike Elias- Photo Cred: Baltimore Sun

Lead Decision Maker: GM Mike Elias

MLB Team: 19-44, -122 Run Differential

Farm System (According to Fangraphs): 22nd

MVP Sports Talk Draft Grade: A

The Orioles are not a good baseball team, to be frank. They have the league’s worst record, while also possessing the league’s worst run differential. That is a blessing in disguise for them, however; they are in a good position to land the top overall pick in the draft for the second straight year. They should soon reap the benefits of this year’s draft, in which they selected their new face of the franchise in catcher Adley Rutschman and acquired several impact prospects, which should dramatically improve their farm system. They also have the benefit of having a general manager with an outstanding reputation in Mike Elias, who served as assistant general manager with the Astros during their infamous rebuild; Baltimore is in a great position to have a successful rebuild similar to how Houston did. It may take time and will require patience, but the Orioles should eventually get back to contending with Elias’ three to five-year plan.

Overall Direction Review: Trending The Right Way

Boston Red Sox

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Dave Dombrowski- Photo Cred: theintsports.com

Lead Decision Maker: Pres. Of Baseball Ops. Dave Dombrowski

MLB Team: 33-31, +46 Run Differential

Farm System (According to Fangraphs): 30th

MVP Sports Talk Draft Grade: B

Last year was an incredible season for the Boston Red Sox, who won 108 games and the World Series. With Mookie Betts, Chris Sale, JD Martinez, Xander Bogaerts, and Andrew Benintendi all under control for multiple years (assuming Martinez doesn’t opt out this season), this is a team that should have at least 2-3 more years of contending for a World Series. After that, however, the future isn’t so bright. Betts is a free agent after the 2020 season and has hinted that he won’t take an extension. The issue is, Boston’s payroll is already filled with so many future commitments, that I’m not sure they have the resources to sign him. They also have the league’s worst farm system with extremely little impact talent, though drafting Puerto Rican shortstop Matthew Lugo should help, due to President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski gutting the farm system in his “all-in” approach in trades for Craig Kimbrel, Drew Pomeranz, and Chris Sale. When this era of contending ends, Boston is going to have to go through a painful step back into rebuilding, which I’m not sure they’ll let Dombrowski do; they seem like a prime candidate to try to extend their championship window too long, similar to what the Giants and Nationals have done.

Overall Direction Review: Fine For Now, but Certainly Starting To Be Shaky

Chicago Cubs

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Theo Esptein- Photo Cred: cubswire.usatoday.com

Lead Decision Maker: President of Baseball Ops. Theo Esptein

MLB Team: 35-27, +55 Run Differential

Farm System (According to Fangraphs): 21st

MVP Sports Talk Draft Grade: C-

President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein will always be a hero in Chicago for building the team that ended the Cubs’ 108-year playoff drought, but the moves he has made since to extend Chicago’s championship window can be described as puzzling. He traded two huge prospects in outfielder Eloy Jimenez and pitcher Dylan Cease for starting pitcher Jose Quintana, who has mostly disappointed with a 3.75 FIP with the team. He also signed pitchers Yu Darvish (6 years, $126 million) and Tyler Chatswood (3 years, $38 million) to contracts that haven’t worked out, while picking up Cole Hamels’ $20 million club option hurt the team’s ability to address more important needs this offseason. Still, this is one of the best team’s in baseball, as evidenced by their record and run differential; the Cubs are certainly the favorite to win this division. At some point, they’ll need to pay third baseman Kris Bryant, first baseman Anthony Rizzo, among others, which is why Epstein’s failed signings, in addition to strange $43 million investment in closer Craig Kimbrel, could compromise the team’s future. Chicago doesn’t have a lot of well-regarded prospects, but they have a large quantity of high-upside prospects, though a lackluster draft didn’t help them restock young talent. This is a team that will certainly be contenders in the near future, but Rizzo and Bryant’s upcoming free agency, and the lack of high-end talents, could cause this team to have to take a step back at some point.

Overall Direction Review: Similar to Red Sox, but Slightly Better Due To More Young Talent

Chicago White Sox

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Rick Hahn- Photo Cred: Chicago Tribune

Lead Decision Maker: GM Rick Hahn

MLB Team: 30-33, -49 Run Differential

Farm System (According to Fangraphs): 4th

MVP Sports Talk Draft Grade: A-

The White Sox front office clearly believes that the team is ready to contend soon, evidenced by their heavy pursuit of Manny Machado. They missed on Machado, and still lack a star/face of the franchise, but the future is still shining bright in the South Side. Albeit in a weak division, the White Sox have been competitive this season and could even challenge the Indians for the second best team in the division, which would be an obvious step in the right direction. Starting pitchers Lucas Giolito (2.63 FIP) and Carlos Rodon (3.55 FIP) have established themselves as pieces to build around in the rotation, while the selection of first baseman Andrew Vaughn gives them an elite offensive force to build around, one that could be ready as soon as next season. There’s still a lot of work to be done, particularly with adding more impact position players (Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson have benefited heavily from the BABIP gods), but with an elite farm system, they have the flexibility to add from within or make a blockbuster trade, setting themselves up perfectly to be a force in this division for years to come hopefully.

Overall Direction Review: Positive, Though There Still Is Not Enough Talent Currently in The Majors

Cincinnati Reds

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Dick Williams- Photo Cred: The Athletic

Lead Decision Maker: Pres. of Baseball Ops. Dick Williams

MLB Team: 28-35, +37 Run Differential

Farm System (According to Fangraphs): 6th

MVP Sports Talk Draft Grade: A-

This offseason, Reds President of Baseball Operations decided to add to their major league team, despite finishing last in the division the previous year. He brought in Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, and Alex Wood from the Dodgers, acquired starting pitcher Tanner Roark from the Reds, and also traded for starting pitcher Sonny Gray. So far, the results are mixed. Gray (2.95 FIP) and Roark (3.29 FIP) have fared well, but Puig has struggled, Kemp was released, and Wood has yet to pitch in a game this season due to injury. Meanwhile, the team is seven games below .500, yet they rank in the top ten in run differential. Some turnaround can be expected, but they’re currently 7.5 games back in the division; it may be too late for them to contend this season. Still, Puig is a nice trade chip as a pending free agent if he bounces back, and the same can be said about Roark and even Wood if he comes back healthy. They still have plenty of young talent in the majors with third baseman Eugenio Suarez, center fielder Nick Senzel, and ace Luis Castillo, and definitely could contend next season. They also have a top ten farm system with high-upside prospects in outfielder Taylor Trammell and pitcher Hunter Greene, to go along with their last two first-round picks in third baseman Jonathan India and starting pitcher Nick Lodolo. This is an underrated team set to win now and in the future.

Overall Direction Review: Very Positive

Cleveland Indians

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Chris Antonetti- Photo Cred: Sporting News

Lead Decision Maker: Pres. of Baseball Ops. Chris Antonetti

MLB Team: 33-31, -12 Run Differential

Farm System (According to Fangraphs): 13th

MVP Sports Talk Draft Grade: A

The winners of the AL Central three straight seasons, the Indians were fully expected to win the division for a fourth straight season. However, that clearly won’t be the case; they are 9.5 games back of the first place Twins and have a negative run differential despite having a relatively easy schedule. They are still in contention for the second wild card, but given their run differential, it’s likely they’ll quickly fall out. So it goes for a team whose owners decided that rather than continue to be a strong team, they’d rather cut the budget. It’s a tough job for President of Baseball Operations Chris Antonetti, who may look to trade starting pitcher Trevor Bauer and closing pitcher Brad Hand at the trade deadline. With Jose Ramirez continuing his struggles from the end of last season, Corey Kluber and Mike Clevinger hurt, and Carlos Carrasco declining, to go along with the league’s worst outfield, the team’s current outlook doesn’t look too promising. With superstar shortstop Francisco Lindor a free agent after the 2021 season, and a good but not great farm system, it could be a tough road ahead for the Indians, though they could avoid a massive downturn by acquiring young talent by trading Bauer, Hand, and even Lindor.

Overall Direction Review: Could Turn Into An Absolute Disaster, But That Can Be Avoided With Critical Decisions

Colorado Rockies

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Jeff Bridich- Photo Cred: Denver Post

Lead Decision Maker: GM Jeff Bridich

MLB Team: 33-29, +12 Run Differential

Farm System (According to Fangraphs): 24th

MVP Sports Talk Draft Grade: B+

Last year was a special season for the Rockies, who made the playoffs for the first time since 2009, not including when they made the wildcard game in 2017. Still, regression was expected from their 92 win season; they had the worst run differential by far among playoff teams. They’ve been playing better as of late – they’ve eight of their last ten games – and remain just a game out of the wild card, but this still feels like a team that is a step behind the other NL contenders. Kyle Freeland (6.37 FIP), Jon Gray (4.29 FIP), and Antonio Senzatela (5.56 FIP) have proven to not be key pieces of this team’s future, while outfielder David Dahl (130 wrc+) is bound to regress from his .448 BABIP. Still, general manager Jeff Bridich was able to extend third baseman Nolan Arenado on an eight-year deal, shortstop Trevor Story (124 wrc+) is having another nice season, while German Marquez (3.40 FIP) and the recently called up Peter Lambert are cornerstones in the rotation. The farm system is in a peculiar state, since they are loaded with corner infield prospects yet have Arenado at third base and recent first-round pick Mike Toglia as their franchise first baseman. Still, that means they’ll have plenty of trade chips, and middle infielder Brendan Rodgers still headlines a fine young group of players. You wish the farm system was bit stronger, and the same can be said with their major league team, though this team is an alright state.

Overall Direction Review: Mostly Fine, Though Could Be Much Better

Detroit Tigers

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Al Avila- Photo Cred: wkyz.com

Lead Decision Maker: GM Al Avila

MLB Team: 24-37, -102 Run Differential

Farm System (According to Fangraphs): 19th

MVP Sports Talk Draft Grade: B

If any team is going to give the Orioles a run for the title as the worst team in baseball, it’s the Tigers, who aren’t in last place in their division yet have the league’s second-worst run differential. Matthew Boyd (2.91 FIP) and Spencer Turnbull (3.80 FIP) both could be pieces to build around, though Boyd would serve better as a trade chip given the appeal he’ll have to contenders. That would benefit a farm system that is loaded with pitching prospects, including 2018 first overall pick Casey Mize, but have little in the way of position player talents. Their first-round pick from this year, high school outfielder Riley Greene, will help, but his upside is limited due to a lack of a proper athletic profile and defensive profile that will make him a left field only type, potentially. It’s unfortunate that the team hasn’t yet found more in the way of young position players to complement Mize and their pitching prospects, who are all almost ready to contribute at the major league level. Still, with a top-five pick next year and a massive trade chip in Boyd, they can accomplish that quest in a hurry. Te rebuild is moving slower than expected, however.

Overall Direction Review: Promising, But More Action Needs To Be Taken

Houston Astros

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Jeff Luhnow- Photo Cred: ESPN

Lead Decision Maker: Pres. of Baseball Ops Jeff Luhnow

MLB Team: 44-22, +95 Run Differential

Farm System (According to Fangraphs): 5th

MVP Sports Talk Draft Grade: D+

When you’re rebuild is featured in a book (see: Astroball), you know you’ve done a good job. Not only was Jeff Luhnow able to take one of the laughing stocks in baseball and turn them into a World Series champion, but the moves he has made following the championship are also just as impressive. Obviously, the trade for Justin Verlander was tremendous, as was the trade for starting pitcher Gerrit Cole. Meanwhile, the signing of outfielder Michael Brantley (144 wrc+) has paid off tremendously, and the same can be said about the low-key signing of catcher Robinson Chirinos (145 wrc+). Plus, Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman both recently signed extensions, while outfielder George Springer and shortstop Carlos Correa still have multiple years left of team control. At some point, the team will have to decide who to pay out of Springer, Cole, and Correa, but with a stacked farm system headlined by pitcher Forrest Whitley and outfield prospects Jordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker, they’re set up to replace whoever they have to move on from. This is the best team in the American League right now, and they should continue to be for a very long time, thanks to Luhnow’s brilliance.

Overall Direction Review: Practically Flawless

Kansas City Royals

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Dayton Moore- Photo Cred: Royals Review

Lead Decision Maker: GM Dayton Moore

MLB Team: 20-44, -69 Run Differential

Farm System (According to Fangraphs): 29th

MVP Sports Talk Draft Grade: B+

The Royals went to the World Series in 2014 and 2015, and was able to win it all in the latter year. However, in order to win that championship, general manager Dayton Moore did have to sacrifice some of the future by trading prospects for key players, including starting pitcher Johnny Cueto and utility player Ben Zobrist. Moore also failed to recognize the closing of the team’s window of contention, holding on to outfielder Lorenzo Cain and first baseman Eric Hosmer and receiving nothing from their departures outside of a compensatory pick. Moore has had a clear reluctance to undergo a full-on rebuild; he’s held onto second baseman Whit Merrifield, presumably to maintain fan interest. However, this is a team with little talent, and a trade of Merrifield needs to happen. Luckily for Moore, Merrifield’s multiple years of team control should allow them to acquire at least one to two impact prospects in return, which should help a farm system that is very thin outside of pitcher Brady Singer and 2019 second overall pick Bobby Witt Jr. Third baseman Hunter Dozier and shortstop Adalberto Mondesi may be players they can build around, but that’s about it at the major league level, and with little progress happening in the rebuild, I’m not sure Moore is the right man to handle it. Unlike the Orioles and other clear rebuilding teams, it’s unclear what the vision or if the realization of how to properly rebuild an organization is in place.

Overall Direction Review: Good in Theory, Yet Not Being Executed Properly At All

Los Angeles Angels

 

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Billy Eppler- Photo Cred: yardbarker.com

Lead Decision Maker: GM Billy Eppler

MLB Team: 30-34, -4 Run Differential

Farm System (According to Fangraphs): 11th

MVP Sports Talk Draft Grade: C

In what looks to be another lost season for Angels, Mike Trout will still have not won a single playoff game, despite being on pace to be arguably the greatest player ever. No matter who is in charge, the Angels have not been able to give Trout a proper supporting cast, particularly with the pitching staff. No starting pitcher on the team currently has a FIP below 4.00, as Eppler’s three key additions this offseason have all faltered; Matt Harvey, Trevor Cahill, and Cody Allen are making a combined $29 million on one-year deals, yet all have been practically unusable. It’s not all bad though; David Fletcher (118 wrc+) is currently walking more than he’s striking out, offseason addition Tommy LaStella (145 wrc+, 2.1 WAR) has been amazing, and Trout (182 wrc+) has been amazing as he’s cut his strikeout rate to 16.4%. Eppler has also rebuilt a farm system that previously been decimated by the previous regime, headlined by top ten prospect Jo Adell, an outfielder with incredible five-tool potential, though he needs to improve his walk and strikeout rates. The Angels are clearly hindered by first baseman Albert Pujols’ contract, which runs through the 2021 season. They need to find better value on free agents and look for cost-controlled talent, which is why not drafting a college pitcher hurts their outlook. Even if they can’t, with Adell in the for and Pujols’ contract off the books in 2021, that seems like the time when they’ll be set up to contend, assuming Trout continues to play at such a high level.

Overall Direction Preview: Some Hope For The Future, But It Could Be Too Late

Los Angeles Dodgers

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Andrew Friedman- Photo Cred: thinkbluepc.com

Lead Decision Maker: Pres. of Baseball Ops. Andrew Friedman

MLB Team: 44-21, +104 Run Differential

Farm System (According to Fangraphs): 9th

MVP Sports Talk Draft Grade: A

What do the Dodgers not have working in their favor? They’ve won the National League pennant in consecutive seasons, have the best record in the National League by six games, have a top ten farm system, and an incredible young core. Cody Bellinger (199 wrc+, 4.6 WAR) has established himself as one of the game’s premier stars, Max Muncy (132 wrc+) and Joc Pederson (157 wrc+) have become key pieces, and the same goes with Alex Verdugo (119 wrc+) and Corey Seager (112 wrc+). Meanwhile, Walker Buehler (3.22 FIP) looks like the team’s future ace, while the decision to give Hyun-Jin Ryu (2.53 FIP) the qualifying offer looks like a stroke of genius by President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman. That top ten farm system has one of the game’s top catching prospects in Keibert Ruiz, several impact pitching prospects, and plenty of depth. They also are coming off a draft in which they drafted two polished college hitters in third baseman Kody Hoese and first baseman Michael Busch, who could also become key pieces of the team’s future. It’s safe to say that the outlook of the Dodgers is as strong as any other organization.

Overall Direction Review: Absolutely Tremendous, Even Better Than The Astros

Miami Marlins

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Michael Hill- Photo Cred: Fish Stripes

Lead Decision Maker: Pres. of Baseball Ops. Michael Hill

MLB Team: 23-39, -57 Run Differential

Farm System (According to Fangraphs): 14th

MVP Sports Talk Draft Grade: A

To be fair, it’s unclear how has the final say on decisions made within the Marlins organization. Michael Hill would seem to be the lead decision maker based on his standing as President of Baseball Operations, but Derek Jeter is heavily involved, amongst others. There are rumors Hill could be fired by the end of the season, but either way, the vision should remain the same; this is a team in a clear rebuild.  There is very little talent on the major league team after the team’s teardown, yet the farm system has completely been rebuilt from trades as expected. Lewis Brinson, the main piece in the Christian Yelich trade, hasn’t been able to stay in the majors as a result of an abysmal performance; that trade could go down as one of the worst in history for them. Furthermore, Jorge Guzman, part of the Giancarlo Stanton trade, has just a 4.18 FIP in Double-A, while the return for Marcell Ozuna has also been underwhelming. They seem to have done better in their return for JT Realmuto by acquiring premier pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez (3.03 FIP Double-A), but catcher Jorge Alfaro still has struggled with his plate discipline. Also, Victor Victor Mesa, the team’s major international signing, has just a 55 wrc+ in Single-A, despite already being 22-years-old. They did a great job in this draft, landing three premier prospects in outfielders JJ Bleday and Kameron Misner, as well as infielder Nasim Nunez, yet there is still an incredible amount of work to be done for this rebuild to show signs of improvement.

Overall Direction Review: Good Intentions, Yet Still Stuck in Stage One

Milwaukee Brewers

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David Stearns- Photo Cred:mlb.com

Lead Decision Maker: Pres. of Baseball Ops. David Stearns

MLB Team: 37-28, +1 Run Differential

Farm System (According to Fangraphs): 17th

MVP Sports Talk Draft Grade: D+

No matter how his tenure crafting the Brewers eventually turns out, David Stearns will always have one accomplishment that no one can take away from him; he orchestrated arguably the greatest trade of all time when he acquired outfielder Christian Yelich from the Marlins. Since joining the Brewers, Yelich has won an NL MVP and is a front runner to do so again this year, with a 192 wrc+ and a 4.0 WAR. Stearns has also received proper returns for his one-year investments in catcher Yasmani Grandal (135 wrc+) and infielder Mike Moustakas (137 wrc+). There are some questions regarding Milwaukee’s pitching staff and lackluster run differential, but this is a team that should be in contention throughout the season. There’s plenty of young talent present in this organization as well, with infielder Keston Hiura (170 wrc+ Triple-A) a stand out prospect while Brandon Woodruff (3.09 FIP), Josh Hader (2.48 FIP), and even Corbin Burners (3.75 FIP as a reliever) are other players Milwaukee can build around. The farm system is mediocre, but it’s filled with high-upside talents, though a lackluster draft didn’t help add to it. Still, with Yelich in his prime and a very smart executive in place as the lead decision maker, Brewers fans should be optimistic about the outlook of their team.

Overall Direction Review: Mostly Positive

Minnesota Twins

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Derek Falvey and GM Thad Levine

Lead Decision Maker: Pres. of Baseball Ops. Derek Falvey

MLB Team: 42-21, +105 Run Differential

Farm System (According to Fangraphs): 7th

MVP Sports Talk Draft Grade: C+

Twins fans have to be ecstatic with how their team is playing right now. They’re 9.5 games up in the division, currently have the league’s best run differential, and have ten key position players with a wrc+ of at least 102. The one-year investments in designated hitter Nelson Cruz (134 wrc+), second baseman Jonathan Schoop (102 wrc+), and starting pitcher Martin Perez (3.76 FIP) are paying off, which is a key part of their success. An even larger component of their success, however, has been the improvement of the young talent that was at the center of their previous rebuild. Center fielder Byron Buxton (117 wrc+, 2 WAR) is finally reaching his star potential, third baseman Miguel Sano (133 wrc+) has fared well in limited action, and the extensions given to shortstop Jorge Polanco (156 wrc+, 2.7 WAR) and right fielder Max Kepler (128 wrc+, 2.1 WAR) look like strokes of genius. The farm system, headlined by two top ten prospects in former #1 overall pick Royce Lewis and outfielder Alex Kirilloff, is also very strong, giving this team an even brighter future. This is a rising organization that should be a force to be reckoned with for years to come, especially given their relatively open future budget.

Overall Direction Review: Vigorously Amazing

New York Mets

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Brodie Van Wagenen- Photo Cred: si.com

Lead Decision Maker: GM Brodie Van Wagenen

MLB Team: 31-33, -16 Run Differential

Farm System (According to Fangraphs): 23rd

MVP Sports Talk Draft Grade: A

When general manager Brodie Van Wagenen took over as the Mets’ general manager, he made a declaration that the team would win now and in the future. Well, after a disastrous offseason, it doesn’t look like New York will be doing either. None of Van Wagenen’s offseason additions have panned out; second baseman Robinson Cano has a wrc+ of 77 and a -0.2 WAR, relievers Jeurys Familia and Justin Wilson have a FIP over 5.00, closer Edwin Diaz hasn’t been as dominant as advertised with a 3.26 FIP, and catcher Wilson Ramos started out slow and hasn’t even been able to establish a relationship with ace Jacob deGrom, who has regressed to a 3.12 FIP after the team made the silly decision to extend him despite him having two seasons left of club control. Furthermore, Van Wagenen traded away his top prospect in outfielder Jared Kelenic in the trade for Cano and Diaz, and Kelenic now has a 193 wrc+ between Low-A and High-A.    Though they had a terrific draft, the Mets still have a decimated farm system lacking prospects ready to contribute soon, and with one of the league’s oldest teams in place, this looks like a recipe for disaster. The hiring of Van Wagenen was always bound to backfire, though it’s happening a lot quicker than even I, one of the major critics of the hire, could have expected.

Overall Direction Review: Trending Towards Dumpster Fire Level Bad

New York Yankees

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Brian Cashman- Photo Cred: empirewritesback.com

Lead Decision Maker: GM Brian Cashman

MLB Team: 39-24, +75 Run Differential

Farm System (According to Fangraphs): 25th

MVP Sports Talk Draft Grade: C+

If you would have said before the season that the Yankees would be one of the game’s top teams in terms of record and run differential, no one would have batted an eye. However, if you would have mentioned that they would be doing this without outfielders Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, ace Luis Severino, and set up man Dellin Betances, while other key players have been injured as well, the narrative definitely would have shifted. Thanks to general manager Brian Cashman’s intelligent acquisitions of infielder DJ LeMahieu (123 wrc+, 1.9 WAR), first baseman Luke Voit (135 wrc+), third baseman Gio Urshela (117 wrc+), and starting pitcher James Paxton (2.78 FIP), this team is deep enough to overcome any sort of adversity the injury bug throws their way. The farm system isn’t as strong as it once was, but it still contains plenty of high-ceiling pitchers, while their main young core (Judge, Gleyber Torres, Severino, Gary Sanchez) is already in the majors. Plus, this is the Yankees, who despite their recent disciplined approach, still have the luxury of having an extremely high budget that very few teams can compete with; they’ll continue to win for many years to come.

Overall Direction Review: Very Positive, As It Almost Always Is For Them

Oakland A’s

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Billy Beane- Photo Cred: Rant Sports

Lead Decision Maker: Executive VP of Baseball Ops. Billy Beane

MLB Team: 32-32, +26 Run Differential

Farm System (According to Fangraphs): 16th

MVP Sports Talk Draft Grade: B

Billy Beane has accomplished many feats constructing the Oakland Athletics roster, but last year’s success had to be near the top; despite having the construct a rotation full of starting pitchers who had been let go from other teams to winning 97 games. The team has yet to find that success this season, but with that run differential, they’re still a team to watch out for in the AL wildcard race. The roster is headlined by a very exciting young player in Matt Chapman, who has combined his historic defense with a 130 wrc+. Meanwhile, first baseman Matt Olson (118 wrc+) and shortstop Marcus Semien (2.7 WAR) both are also key pieces, while starting pitcher Frankie Montas (3.04 FIP) is emerging as the ace of the pitching staff. The farm system is relatively mediocre, but pitching prospect Jesus Luzardo and catcher Sean Murphy both are amongst the best prospects at their positions. Oakland’s very tight budget will always compromise their future; it’s likely Chapman, Olson, and other important players will eventually be playing elsewhere. Still, Beane has proved to be able to handle roster turnover, and the roster at its current state is still solid.

Overall Direction Review: Somewhat Positive, Yet Uncertainty Still Present

Philadelphia Phillies

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Matt Klentack- Photo Cred: thegoodphight.com

Lead Decision Maker: Phillies GM Matt Klentack

MLB Team: 37-27, +20 Run Differential

Farm System (According to Fangraphs): 20th

MVP Sports Talk Draft Grade: B

The Phillies were the most active team in this offseason; general manager Matt Klentack made three key additions in outfielder Andrew McCutchen, catcher JT Realmuto, and reliever David Robertson. However, the main signing he made, and the one that his tenure with Philadelphia will rely on, was the 13-year contract he gave to outfielder Bryce Harper. The 26-year-old outfielder has been fine (115 wrc+, 1.8 WAR), but eventually he’ll need to improve to prove to be capable of leading this team into a playoff run. Though Robertson struggled before getting injured, McCutchen (125 wrc+) has a force at the top of the lineup before getting injured, while Realmuto (2.6 WAR) has been as good as advertised. Philadelphia’s current roster has been hampered by the injuries of McCutchen and Robertson; they’ll likely need to add another outfielder, starting pitcher, and reliever. Still, they have to be considered the favorite, or at least a co-favorite with the Braves, to win the NL East. The farm system is notably weaker after trading away top pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez in the Realmuto trade, but pitcher Adonis Medina and third baseman Alec Bohm are still building blocks, while there is plenty of young, talented players currently on the major league roster. Klentack did a great job last offseason, and the Phillies could be set up well to keep up with the Braves and their elite young core in the division.

Overall Direction Review: Trending Upwards Quickly

Pittsburgh Pirates

hunington
Photo Cred: rumbunter.com

Lead Decision Maker: GM Neil Huntington

MLB Team: 30-33, -67 Run Differential

Farm System (According to Fangraphs): 10th

MVP Sports Talk Draft Grade: C-

The Pirates under general manager Neil Huntington have always been a difficult team to peg. Huntington traded franchise icon Andrew McCutchen and ace Gerrit Cole in a mini-offseason teardown following the 2017 season, but at the trade deadline of last season, went all-in and traded for reliever Keone Kela and starting pitcher Chris Archer. Kela has a 5.63 FIP this season and is currently injured, while Archer has a 5.46 FIP, which certainly isn’t ideal. Making matters worse, the package Huntington sent to Tampa Bay for Archer consisted of Austin Meadows, who has an OPS over 1.000 and is an MVP candidate this season, and Tyler Glasnow, who had a 2.23 FIP in 8 starts before suffering a forearm injury. Furthermore, the return he received for Cole, who has been stellar for the Astros, had been slightly underwhelming; third baseman Colin Moran hasn’t become the everyday player he was expected to become, while starting pitcher Joe Musgrove (3.82 FIP) is more of a #3 or #4 starter than a front-line starter. It isn’t a gloomy though; the package he received for McCutchen has paid off tremendous; Kyle Crick has been an integral part of their bullpen, while outfielder Bryan Reynolds had been terrific this season with a 155 wrc+. First baseman Josh Bell (170 wrc+) looks like a franchise cornerstone, while starting pitchers Jameson Taillon (currently injured), Trevor Williams (3.33 FIP), and Musgrove fill out a solid core of young pitching talent. Still, this is a team with one of the worst run differentials in the league, so the emphasis has to be on the future. A top ten farm system headlined by pitcher Mitch Keller and third base prospect Ke’Bryan Hayes helps in that regard, but a lackluster draft and a very tight budget demonstrate that the future isn’t as bright as it perhaps should be for Pittsburgh.

Overall Direction Review: Pessimism Required, Though There Is Definitely Hope

San Diego Padres

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AJ Preller- Photo Cred: gaslampball.com

Lead Decision Maker: GM AJ Preller

MLB Team: 33-31, -26 Run Differential

Farm System (According to Fangraphs): 1st

MVP Sports Talk Draft Grade: C+

With a negative run differential, it’s likely that the overachieving Padres will likely end up falling out of the NL wildcard race at some point. That’s fine though; though general manager AJ Preller would likely prefer to get immediate rewards for his investments in first baseman Eric Hosmer and third baseman Manny Machado from the past two offseasons, the emphasis has always been on the future. The amount of young talent in their organization, including shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. (152 wrc+) and ace Chris Paddack (3.69 FIP), is extraordinary, especially when considering the amount of young and exciting pitching prospects they have. At some point, Machado (96 wrc+), Hosmer (0.2 WAR), and outfielder Wil Myers (99 wrc+) need to start performing to the level that their contracts would indicate, which at least Machado should do eventually. Preller doesn’t have the greatest track record, evidenced by the returns of his major signings and the disaster that was the 2014 offseason, but it would be difficult for any executive to dismantle what looks to be a lethal future contender.

Overall Direction Review: Rightfully Extremely Optimistic, Though Red Flags Exist

San Francisco Giants

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Farhan Zaidi- Photo Cred: SF Examiner

Lead Decision Maker: Pres. of Baseball Ops. Farhan Zaidi

MLB Team: 26-37, -81 Run Differential

Farm System (According to Fangraphs): 27th

MVP Sports Talk Draft Grade: B+

When he took over as President of Baseball Operations of the San Francisco Giants, Farhan Zaidi had to have known he had a difficult task ahead. This is a team filled with old talents and albatross contracts, as well as a bottom five farm system. Zaidi did make a massive push to sign Bryce Harper, but based on his relatively quiet first offseason, it’s clear that this is a team heading towards a massive rebuild, which is for the best. Despite the past regimes best efforts to continue to win their aging core, they rank near the bottom in most offensive categories and starting pitcher ERA. This whole season has seemed to be based off its trade chips, which include 2014 World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner (3.88 FIP), closer Will Smith (1.97 FIP), and relievers Sam Dyson (2.68 FIP) and Tony Watson (3.51 FIP). San Francisco’s farm system is improved after the recent selections of outfielder Heliot Ramos, catcher Joey Bart, and outfielder Hunter Bishop in the last three drafts, as well as the international signing of Marco Luciano. Still, the progress of the rebuild will heavily depend on the returns Zaidi can get for his trade chips. Should he fail to get proper returns or not trade them at all, the future of the organization could be extremely hindered. If he finds young assets for those trade-chips, however, he’ll be closer to turning around this team, which should be shortly after 2021- the year most of their bad contracts expire.

Overall Direction Review: Heavily Reliant on Zaidi, Who Is The Main Source of Optimism At a Time Of Extreme Negativity

Seattle Mariners

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Jerry Dipoto- Photo Cred: seattletimes.com

Lead Decision Maker: GM Jerry Dipoto

MLB Team: 27-40, -67 Run Differential

Farm System (According to Fangraphs): 15th

MVP Sports Talk Draft Grade: B+

Despite having an 89-73 record last season, the Mariners were not a good baseball team; they had a negative run differential. That led general manager Jerry Dipoto to make the wise decision to “reimagine” the roster. He made arguably the best trade of the offseason when he traded high-priced, aging second baseman Robinson Cano and closing pitcher Edwin Diaz for reliever Anthony Swarzack and outfielder Jay Bruce, both of whom have been traded, as well as superstar prospect Jared Kelenic and pitching prospect Justin Dunn. To receive two prospects and clear most of Cano’s salary is a tremendous boost to Seattle’s mini-rebuild. Currently, the team’s offense is fine; Edwin Encarnacion (139 wrc+) looks like a nice asset to trade at the deadline, Daniel Vogelbach (150 wrc+) looks like a piece to build around, while Mitch Haniger (110 wrc+, 1.2 WAR) likely will remain with the team, though he’s best served as a trade chip. As a result of Dipoto’s series of offseason trades, what used to be the league’s worst farm system has been rebuilt, with six top 100 prospects, according to MLB.Com. Ideally, the team’s commitment to Yusei Kikuchi (5.26 FIP) would be going better, but besides that, this is a promising start to a new era of Mariners baseball, though Dipoto’s previous history as general manager isn’t exactly encouraging.

Overall Direction Review: Significantly More Positive Than In Year’s Past

St.Louis Cardinals

mozeliak
John Mozeliak- Photo Cred: 101 ESPN

Lead Decision Maker: Pres. of Baseball Ops. John Mozeliak

MLB Team: 31-31, +18 Run Differential

Farm System (According to Fangraphs): 26th

MVP Sports Talk Draft Grade: A-

The Cardinals have been the standard of consistent winning in baseball, but as they look to be heading towards missing the playoffs for a fourth straight season, that no longer looks to be the case. In fact, St.Louis seems to be stuck in limbo; they are trying so hard to go back to the “glory days” that they’re stuck in mediocrity. They’re exactly a .500 baseball team, while their run differential remains in the middle of the pack. Paul DeJong (2.6 WAR) has become a star, but offseason acquisitions Paul Goldschmidt (115 wrc+) and Andrew Miller (5.34) have backfired, and the same can be said about the decisions to extend Goldschmidt, Mike Mikolas (4.74 FIP), and Matt Carpenter (95 wrc+). The starting rotation (4.81 FIP) has been a mess as youngsters Dakota Hudson (4.99 FIP) and Jack Flaherty (4.39 FIP) have struggled to take the next step forward in their progression. Furthermore, outside of third baseman Nolan Gorman, the farm system is starting to thin significantly, as pitcher Alex Reyes and outfielder Tyler O’Neil currently have looked more like “4-A” players than cornerstones. While the Cubs and Brewers are making extensive playoff pushes, and the Pirates and Reds possess top ten farm systems, St.Louis actually seems to be in the worst situation in the division.

Overall Direction Review: Certainly On The Decline

Tampa Bay Rays

silverman
Matthew Silverman- Photo Cred: FOX Sports

Lead Decision Maker: Pres. of Baseball Ops. Matthew Silverman

MLB Team: 39-24, +84 Run Differential

Farm System (According to Fangraphs): 2nd

MVP Sports Talk Draft Grade: B+

Despite having the lowest payroll by far this season at around $62 million, the Rays look to be easily a top five team in all of baseball. As a result of having the league’s best ERA, they’re a legitimate challenger to the Yankees for the AL East, and already have a playoff spot practically secured. Blake Snell (2.92 FIP) has actually improved from his Cy Young season, while offseason acquisition Charlie Morton (2.66 FIP) has been one of the best free agent signings. The team’s ability to develop pitching to fit in their quirky pitcher usage is also eye-popping, as evidenced by the success of their main opener Ryne Stanek (2.60), and the pitchers that generally follow him: Jalen Beeks (2.80 FIP), Ryan Yarbrough (3.73 FIP), and Yonny Chirinos (94 FIP-). They’ve also built this team through trades: Starting pitcher Tyler Glasnow (2.23 FIP) and outfielder Austin Meadows (175 wrc+, 2.4 WAR) were received in return for Chris Archer, Beeks was acquired for Nathan Eovaldi, while outfielder Tommy Pham (134 wrc+) and infielder Yandy Diaz (125 wrc+) were also acquired via trades. Additionally, second baseman Brandon Lowe (138 wrc+) and relievers Diego Castillo (10.31 K/9) and Jose Alvarado (12.34 K/9, 3.01 FIP) look like pieces to build around for the future. Even more incredible, their farm system is absolutely loaded with high-impact talent, including shortstop prospect Wander Franco, who is arguably the game’s top prospect and could be in the majors before he turns 20, as well as several exciting pitching prospects. This is a team that is winning now and should only be even more dominant in the future, despite their low budget.

Overall Direction Review: So Incredible That We Finally Can’t Overlook The Rays

Texas Rangers

jon daniels
Jon Daniels- Photo Cred: ESPN

Lead Decision Maker: Pres. of Baseball Ops. Jon Daniels

MLB Team: 33-29, +28 Run Differential

Farm System (According to Fangraphs): 18th

MVP Sports Talk Draft Grade: B+

The Rangers have been one of the main surprises this season; they currently are in possession of the 2nd wildcard spot, despite being projected by many to finish last in the division. Outfielder Joey Gallo (170 wrc+, 3.3 WAR) looks like a franchise superstar and is at the center of an offense that ranks as the second best, which is a huge part in their early success. Another critical component part of their success is  the acquisitions that President of Baseball Operations Jon Daniels has made over the past two offseasons: starting pitchers Mike Minor (3.44 FIP) and Lance Lynn (3.17 FIP), outfielder/designated hitter Hunter Pence (128 wrc+), and even infielders Logan Forsythe (114 wrc+) and Danny Santana (113 wrc+) to a lesser degree, though both are likely to regress due to their unsustainable BABIPs. This definitely doesn’t look like a playoff caliber team as currently constructed, but if they add some help in the rotation and bullpen, they could definitely be in this playoff hunt throughout the season. Alternatively, Daniels could also shop these players, especially Minor, to boost a farm system that ranks in the middle of the pack currently. That farm system is filled with high-upside prospects with low floors, so there’s a more than likely chance that Texas will need to add more young players to win in the future, though a successful draft headlined by third baseman Josh Jung is a nice start. On paper, this looks to be a team on the uptick, though Daniels’ decision to buy or sell at the trade deadline, as well as how their “boom or bust” prospects pan out, will alter the team’s future outlook significantly.

Overall Direction Review: Encouraging, Though Reasons To Be Skeptical Exist

Toronto Blue Jays

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Ross Atkins- Photo Cred: Sportsnet

Lead Decision Maker: GM Ross Atkins

MLB Team: 23-41, -64 Run Differential

Farm System (According to Fangraphs): 8th

MVP Sports Talk Draft Grade: A

The Blue Jays came into the season not expecting to contend, though their definitely an exciting team despite being 18 games below .500. The main reason for that is third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who was one of the most hyped prospects of all time before being called up. His 102 wrc+ and 0.1 WAR isn’t exactly eye-popping, but his improvement since being called up has been notable, and his 44% hard contact rate is also encouraging. He’ll develop into a star eventually, and when he does, he should be complemented by shortstop prospect Bo Bichette and pitching prospect Nate Pearson (2.15 FIP Double-A), who headlines a top ten farm system that got even stronger with the superb selection of Alek Manoah, who has front-line starting pitcher potential. Meanwhile, starting pitcher Marcus Stroman (3.74 FIP), closing pitcher Ken Giles (1.14 FIP), and first baseman Justin Smoak (124 wrc+) are nice trade-chips that should improve Toronto’s collection of young talent further, and with a top-five pick likely on the way due to this year’s struggles, they could easily turn into a force in the AL East in the future.

Overall Direction Review: Extremely Positive

Washington Nationals

mike rizzo
Mike Rizzo- Photo Cred: deadspin.com

Lead Decision Maker: GM Mike Rizzo

MLB Team: 28-35, -19 Run Differential

Farm System (According to Fangraphs): 28th

MVP Sports Talk Draft Grade: 28th

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