After an eventful MLB offseason, some teams have high hopes for 2021, while others are taking a long-term view. Entering the season, these are the top storylines for all 30 teams.

 

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Arizona Diamondbacks: Starting rotation issues

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The Diamondbacks felt comfortable with their starting rotation heading into 2020 after signing Madison Bumgarner to a five-year deal, but the first season of that deal was nothing short of a disaster. Young right-hander Luke Weaver also struggled last year, and Merrill Kelly had major surgery. The team desperately needs the rotation to improve in order to compete in the tough NL West, but Zac Gallen looks like the only sure thing going into the season.

 

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Atlanta Braves: Holding off NL East foes

Atlanta Braves: Holding off NL East foes

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Atlanta had another successful offseason, re-signing Marcell Ozuna and adding Charlie Morton to their strong, young starting rotation. The team’s elite talent remains, led by reigning NL MVP Freddie Freeman and young Ronald Acuna Jr., but winning a fourth consecutive NL East title won’t be easy with the Mets and Phillies making offseason improvements.

 

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Baltimore Orioles: Rebuild progress

Baltimore Orioles: Rebuild progress

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GM Mike Elias has continued to practice patience after his initial teardown, and the young players finally started to arrive last year. The Orioles liked what they saw in 2020 from Ryan Mountcastle, Dean Kremer, and Keegan Akin, and there is much more help on the way. Baltimore isn’t close to competing yet, but they do have some young, exciting players.

 

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Boston Red Sox: Can incremental improvements work?

Boston Red Sox: Can incremental improvements work?

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Red Sox fans are used to the team making a splash in free agency and trades, but Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom is taking another approach that he mastered while with the Rays. Boston completed smaller moves in the offseason like the additions of Kiké Hernandez and Garrett Richards. Few prognosticators are giving the Red Sox a shot to overcome the Yankees in the NL East, but the roster has its fair share of talent.

 

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Chicago Cubs: Enough pitching?

Chicago Cubs: Enough pitching?

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Chicago underwent an odd cost-cutting endeavor early in the offseason, moving on from Yu Darvish and Jon Lester, among others. The Cubs did bring back Jake Arrieta, while also acquiring Zach Davies and Trevor Williams. However, none of those moves should instill confidence in a starting rotation that has big issues, on paper.

 

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Chicago White Sox: AL contenders?

Chicago White Sox: AL contenders?

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The White Sox rebuild has gone according to plan, with the team earning a Wild Card spot last year. Ownership sped up the timetable this offseason by adding Lance Lynn and Liam Hendriks, along with the surprising addition of the 76-year-old manager Tony La Russa. With Cleveland’s regression in the division, anything short of an AL Central title will be a disappointment.

 

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Cincinnati Reds: Can they overcome an offseason of losses?

Cincinnati Reds: Can they overcome an offseason of losses?

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The Reds had high hopes for 2020 that didn’t exactly come to fruition, and they lost Trevor Bauer and Raisel Iglesias in the offseason. Despite those losses, Cincinnati has the talent to remain in the thick of the NL Central race if the bullpen can hold down games for a talented starting rotation led by Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray.

 

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Cleveland Indians: Has their window closed?

Cleveland Indians: Has their window closed?

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Cleveland had a great run with four playoff berths in five years, including advancement to the World Series in 2016, but their budgetary constraints have taken their toll. The team has lost Mike Clevinger, Francisco Lindor, Carlos Carrasco, and Carlos Santana over the last year, and the AL Central is only getting tougher. The team still has a shot to remain competitive, with ace Shane Bieber leading the way, but it won’t be easy.

 

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Colorado Rockies: Time for a firesale?

Colorado Rockies: Time for a firesale?

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Colorado made the playoffs as a wild card in 2017 and 2018, but the organization has been in a freefall over the last two years. After trading disgruntled franchise player Nolan Arenado in the offseason, the expectations are low for 2021, and the team might be best served with a full rebuild soon. If the Rockies do go in that direction, players like Trevor Story, Charlie Blackmon, and German Marquez could fetch nice returns.

 

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Detroit Tigers: Youth movement

Detroit Tigers: Youth movement

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There hasn’t been much for Tigers fans to cheer for over the last four years, but the patience is finally about to pay off. Top pitching prospects Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal arrived last year, and Detroit has much more exciting talent coming. New manager A.J. Hinch helped orchestrate a championship rebuild in Houston and should be the right man to guide the Tigers over the next few years.

 

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Houston Astros: Still AL West favorites?

Houston Astros: Still AL West favorites?

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Some of the buzz surrounding Houston’s sign-stealing scandal was offset by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the team finished below .500 last year with multiple major injuries. The Astros had a mostly quiet offseason and were already dealt a big blow early in spring training with a finger injury to Framber Valdez. The team also lost George Springer in free agency, but plenty of talent remains with Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve, Michael Brantley, and Kyle Tucker. This isn’t the complete team of a few years ago, but the Astros could still be a force in the AL West.

 

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Kansas City Royals: Big spenders

Kansas City Royals: Big spenders

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John Sherman purchased the Royals last year and hasn’t wasted much time making his mark. After four consecutive losing seasons, KC made an effort to improve the roster during the offseason with the additions of Mike Minor, Carlos Santana, and Andrew Benintendi. They still might have a tough time competing with the Twins and White Sox in the AL Central, but the Royals have given fans reason to be excited.

 

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Los Angeles Angels: Shohei Ohtani’s two-way attempt

Los Angeles Angels: Shohei Ohtani's two-way attempt

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Ohtani won AL Rookie of the Year in 2018 after coming over from Japan as a two-way player, but his pitching has been sidetracked due to injuries over the last two years. The Angels are hopeful Ohtani can get back on track this year, and the early spring performance has been promising. The Angels could win a wide-open AL West if he’s successful.

 

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Los Angeles Dodgers: Can they repeat?

Los Angeles Dodgers: Can they repeat?

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The Dodgers finally claimed a championship last year in their eighth consecutive year as NL West leaders. San Diego’s offseason improvements stand as a huge threat to LA’s ninth straight division title, but the Dodgers also didn’t stand pat in the offseason, signing 2020 NL Cy Young winner Trevor Bauer. Los Angeles remains the team to beat in the league, with loads of elite talent and equally impressive depth.

 

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Miami Marlins: Kim Ng’s team

Miami Marlins: Kim Ng's team

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New GM Kim Ng made history as the first female MLB GM, finally getting rewarded for a long and successful career in MLB front offices. She inherits a roster with significant young talent, but it’s still a team that will need more help to compete. It will be fascinating to see what Ng can do with her long-awaited opportunity.

 

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Milwaukee Brewers: Can Christian Yelich rebound?

Milwaukee Brewers: Can Christian Yelich rebound?

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The Brewers have the potential to compete in the NL Central again after a fourth-place finish last year, but they need Yelich to return to his old self. The former MVP was in a massive slump in 2020, hitting only .205. While manager Craig Counsell has expressed confidence in Yelich’s rebound, it’s no sure thing.

 

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Minnesota Twins: Pitching and defense

Minnesota Twins: Pitching and defense

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The expectations continue to rise for the Twins after winning their second consecutive AL Central title last season. They didn’t make any big splashes during the offseason, but their moves certainly leaned toward run prevention. The team moved on from Eddie Rosario and added defensive whiz Andrelton Simmons at shortstop. The pitching staff has some new flavor with the additions of J.A. Happ, Matt Shoemaker, and Alex Colome.

 

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New York Mets: Enough to win?

New York Mets: Enough to win?

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New owner Steve Cohen opened his wallet immediately after acquiring the team, as the Mets brought back president Sandy Alderson, acquired Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco from Cleveland, and signed Trevor May, James McCann, and Taijuan Walker. Missing out on Trevor Bauer was a disappointment, but the new pieces could put New York back in the NL East race.

 

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New York Yankees: High expectations again

New York Yankees: High expectations again

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While the Yankees have made the playoffs in four consecutive years and won at least 100 games twice over that time, they have yet to challenge for a World Series title. The expectations remain as high as ever despite a relatively quiet offseason, with new faces in the starting rotation in Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon, and lots of depth. Yankees faithful have their fingers crossed for better health from Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge.

 

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Oakland Athletics: Managing their losses

Oakland Athletics: Managing their losses

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Oakland seemingly has the same story every offseason, moving on from high-priced players and finding undervalued assets to fill in. The A’s were unable to afford free agents Liam Hendriks and Marcus Semien but found cheaper replacements with Trevor Rosenthal and Elvis Andrus. The team’s talented young core remains, and Oakland could make another run if the starting rotation, led by Frankie Montas and Jesus Luzardo, reaches their ceilings.

 

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Philadelphia Phillies: Is the bullpen fixed?

Philadelphia Phillies: Is the bullpen fixed?

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Philly’s first year under manager Joe Girardi was a disappointment, sporting a flawed roster that its elite players couldn’t cover-up. The bullpen was one of many issues. The organization hired acclaimed front office chief Dave Dombrowski and spent big money to retain J.T. Realmuto, but the bullpen additions, led by Archie Bradley, could have the biggest impact on whether Philadelphia can return to contention.

 

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Pittsburgh Pirates: Historically bad?

Pittsburgh Pirates: Historically bad?

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Pittsburgh had a league-high 41 losses last year, and was in clear sell mode during the offseason, moving Josh Bell, Joe Musgrove, and Jameson Taillon. The Pirates do have some exciting young talent, led by third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes, but the overall talent doesn’t have many advantages over a good Triple-A ballclub. It’s likely to be a very long year in Pittsburgh, and 100 losses could be just the floor.

 

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San Diego Padres: Can they beat the Dodgers?

San Diego Padres: Can they beat the Dodgers?

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Few teams made more offseason headlines than the Padres. After going 37-23 last season and making their first playoff appearance since 2006, San Diego acquired Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, and Joe Musgrove in the offseason to make one of the elite starting rotations in MLB. The lineup already had star power, led by Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado, and the talent could give the Dodgers a run for their money in the NL West.

 

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San Francisco Giants: Under-the-radar additions

San Francisco Giants: Under-the-radar additions

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The Giants have done well to find low-priced breakout players since Farhan Zaidi was hired to run the team in 2018, and they had no absence of intriguing additions this offseason. Starting pitchers Anthony DeSclafani, Alex Wood, and Aaron Sanchez have each shown flashes of dominance in the past, while Tommy La Stella is a late bloomer who could add much-needed punch to the lineup. It could be difficult for the Giants to compete in the NL West with the Dodgers and Padres, but they keep be sleepers for a Wild Card spot if the additions work out.

 

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Seattle Mariners: Continued development

Seattle Mariners: Continued development

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After a firesale going into the 2019 season, the Mariners showed slight improvement last year at 27-33. They could continue on their upward trajectory with the return of Mitch Haniger, along with the pitching additions of James Paxton, Chris Flexen, and Rafael Montero. Fans are most excited about the pending arrival of outfield prospect Jarred Kelenic, which could come by late April. 

 

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St. Louis Cardinals: Nolan Arenado’s arrival

St. Louis Cardinals: Nolan Arenado's arrival

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The Cardinals had an extremely quiet offseason until pulling off a blockbuster trade for Arenado in early February. The move gave the team a headlining addition for a lineup that has been anemic at times over the last two years. Despite finishing only two games above .500 last year, the Cardinals seem optimistic about their pitching staff, led by Jack Flaherty, and they’ll certainly enjoy the benefits of Arenado’s elite defensive at third base.

 

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Tampa Bay Rays: Outside the box run prevention

Tampa Bay Rays: Outside the box run prevention

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The Rays continue to compete despite a low budget, and like Oakland, that often means huge offseason changes. Withstanding the changes of this past offseason could be their biggest challenge in years after losing Blake Snell and Charlie Morton. Rather than find direct replacements, the Rays attempted to replace them with a bevy of options, including Chris Archer, Rich Hill, Michael Wacha, and Luis Patino. That group has big shoes to fill, but the front office might have revolutionized the game once again if it all works out.

 

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Texas Rangers: Rebuilding

Texas Rangers: Rebuilding

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The Rangers tried to make a run in 2020 by acquiring Corey Kluber, Kyle Gibson, and Jordan Lyles, but things didn’t work as planned. Set to lose Kluber and Mike Minor in free agency, Texas opted to blow up the roster and also ship out Lance Lynn and Elvis Andrus. This year’s roster has far more youth with additions like David Dahl, Nate Lowe, and Dane Dunning as the team takes a step back to recharge.

 

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Toronto Blue Jays: NL East contenders?

Toronto Blue Jays: NL East contenders?

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If San Diego won the offseason in the NL, Toronto was the big AL winner. They didn’t hold back in their spending, adding George Springer, Marcus Semien, Kirby Yates, and Steven Matz. it remains to be seen if that will be enough to compete in the tough AL East, but Toronto does have great talent with the new additions joining the young core led by Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and Cavan Biggio.

 

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Washington Nationals: Hope of a rebound

Washington Nationals: Hope of a rebound

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After winning the World Series in 2019, Washington experienced major regression last season with a 26-34 record and failure to make the playoffs despite an expanded field. Injuries were one of the biggest culprits, with Stephen Strasburg missing most of the year, but there was also reason for concern over Patrick Corbin’s ineffectiveness. The Nats need that pair to return to form, along with another great year from Max Scherzer. The good news for the offense is that the team found help for elite players Juan Soto and Trea Turner, with the additions of power hitters Josh Bell and Kyle Schwarber.