1.) San Diego Padres
The Padres have by far been the most aggressive team this offseason. A team that already started to turn heads last season because of their bats, is now raising eyebrows because of their pitching. Chris Paddock was the Padres’ opening day starter for the 2020 season following a strong rookie campaign in 2019, and although Paddock’s numbers weren’t as impressive as his rookie year, it seems Paddock could be moving towards the back of the rotation, and not necessarily for punishment.
The Padres landed two stud pitchers this offseason in Blake Snell and Yu Darvish to compliment their already loaded offense. Snell, the 2018 American League Cy Young Award winner, was 4-2 in 2020 posting 63 strikeouts and an ERA of 3.24. Most fans probably remember 6 of the 2020 World Series when Rays’ manager Kevin Cash made the controversial decision to pull Snell in the midst of a 2 hit, 9 strikeout game through just 73 pitches, in a game the Rays led 1-0. The 6’4″ lefty has a career ERA of 3.24 along with 648 strikeouts in 108 games started.
Yu Darvish has an impressive resume of his own, as he finished second in the 2020 National League Cy Young race posting an ERA of 2.01 and leading the NL in wins with 8. Darvish has been to 4 All-Star games in his 8-year career and was selected 1st team all MLB Team last season.
The Padres also added some more power to an already loaded offense with the signing of Ha-Seong Kim from the KBO. Kim plays shortstop and third base and is coming off a 30 home run season, batting .306 for the Kiwoom Heroes in 2020.
The Padres add Snell and Darvish to a rotation already consisting of Dinelson Lamet, Chris Paddock, Zach Davies, along with even more power to their bats with Kim. The Padres are certainly going to be a team watch in 2021, just one year removed from the NLDS.
2.) New York Yankees
The Yankees are always a team to watch in the offseason as they seemingly always land a big-name free agent, and this year to no surprise, wasn’t any different as they added 2 time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber.
The Yankees signed Kluber to a one year, $11 million deal on January 15th. Kluber, who turns 35 in April has not been able to be on the field much in the past two seasons because of injury. In 2019 Kluber suffered an oblique injury and a broken arm limiting him to just 7 games with the Indians, and in 2020 he suffered a shoulder tear limiting him to just one inning of action. But prior to his string of injuries, Kluber won the Cy Young Award twice (2014 and 2017), was selected to 3 All-Star teams, and was among the AL’s best pitchers. In his last healthy season in 2018, Kluber led the league in innings pitched and posted an ERA of 2.89. Sure, there certainly is some injury risk with Kluber but the Yankees can use his help in their rotation.
The Yankees were also able to re-sign DJ LeMahieu to a 6 year $90 million deal. LeMahieu’s impact on the Yankees since arriving in 2019 has been monumental. In 2019 LeMahieu batted .327 with 26 home runs and 102 RBIs, finishing 4th in AL MVP voting. In 2020, LeMahieu batted .364 with 10 home runs and finished 3rd in AL MVP voting. LeMahieu’s resume with the Yankees speaks for itself, as he has been a top 5 MVP finalist in 2 consecutive seasons, and has been one of the league’s premiere hitters.
3.) Chicago White Sox
The Chicago White Sox were another team that impressed in the 2020 season, finishing 35-25 second in the AL Central, just one game behind the Twins. The White Sox went on to clinch a spot in the AL playoffs but fell 2-1 in their game series with the Oakland Athletics. The White Sox received strong pitching efforts from Dallas Keuchel and Lucas Giolito, but outside of them two, not great.
Chicago went out and traded for another strong arm in their rotation when they traded Dane Dunning and minor leaguer Avery Weems for Lance Lynn. In the past 2 seasons with the Rangers, Lynn has led the MLB in innings pitched and has arguably been one of the better starters in baseball. Lynn finished the 2020 season 6th in AL Cy Young voting and posted a 6-3 record, with a 3.32 ERA, and 89 strikeouts. The addition of Lynn should help the White Sox as they add another talented arm to go along with Keuchel and Giolito.
The White Sox also brought back a familiar face in Adam Eaton. Eaton spent 3 seasons with the White Sox before heading to Washington, for the past 4 seasons. You had to assume Chicago would be moving on from Nomar Mazara after he was a serious letdown in 2020 finishing with just 1 home run and batting .228. Eaton is not the biggest signing and isn’t expected to be a make or break for the White Sox, but they will gain more consistent play from Eaton.
Lance Lynn wasn’t the only arm Chicago added, as they also signed Liam Hendriks to a 3 year $54 million deal. Hendriks has been one of the, if not the best relief pitchers in the MLB over the last couple of years. Hendriks was selected to the All-Star game in 2019 and was first-team All MLB in 2020. In 2019 Hendriks struck out 124 and only allowed 21 walks. The White Sox now have 3 great starting pitchers and one of the best relief pitchers in baseball behind them. Oh, and did I mention they also have the reigning AL MVP Jose Abreu? Chicago could be a team to watch this season.