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  • We offered every MLB team a small blueprint to follow as the calendar turns to 2019.
By SI.com Staff
December 31, 2018

The year is new, which means every team—even the Orioles—can have a little bit of hope entering this season. The SI.com MLB staff got its collective heads together and made resolutions for every team. Happy New Year!

AL East

Boston Red Sox: Don’t let the hangover get you down

It’s not as if the Sox can do better in 2019 than they did in ’18. How are you supposed to top 108 wins, a division title, knocking your hated rival out of the playoffs, a pennant won against the defending champion, and a World Series? You don’t, and that’s the key to Boston’s new year. Accept the regression, and the path to back-to-back championships should be that much easier. – Jon Tayler

New York Yankees: Flex those financial muscles

For years, baseball fans have been conditioned to believe that, at the end of the day in free agency, the Yankees would be the last team standing holding out a blank check. This 2003 Onion story about New York buying literally every player in baseball didn’t come out of nowhere. (Fun fact: Two of the players in the dummied up photo in the article actually did join the Yankees.) And yet here we are, hurtling into 2019, and the Yankees have practically glued their pocketbooks closed. What’s the point of being the richest team in the game if you won’t spend? New York can’t waste its advantage yet again. – JT

Tampa Bay Rays: Embrace the weird

Like it or not, the Rays’ opener strategy was a bonafide success for the small market team that could. So why not see what other mad scientist ideas could match its impact? Tampa should go hog wild in 2019: six-man infields, outfielders switching on every batter, a pitcher every inning, a 10-player bench. It might make for some ugly baseball, but if you’re the Rays, what do you have to lose? – JT

MCCANN: Breaking Down the Complications of MLB's Deal With the Cuban Baseball Federation

Toronto Blue Jays: Give the kids a chance

2018 in Toronto should’ve been the first chapter of the legend that will be Vladimir Guerrero Jr., but instead, the Jays gave us the run-around, insisting that the 19-year-old wunderkind wasn’t ready for the majors despite the fact that he was nuking the minors from orbit. “He needs to work on his defense at third base,” Toronto’s front office said while giving innings at the position to veteran catcher Russell Martin. That silliness stops in 2019: Vlad Jr. spends the season mashing in MLB, or we riot. (And for that matter, find time for all the rest of the Blue Jays’ good farm system, too.) – JT

Baltimore Orioles: Embrace the suck

There’s no hope for the Orioles in 2019, and probably not in 2020, and maybe not 2021 either. This team is awful—direct-to-DVD awful. There’s no reason to hope for anything other than 100-plus losses and a whole lot of innings and at-bats given to anonymous dreck. So don’t fret when it’s mid-August and you have fewer wins than Aaron Judge has home runs. There’s a certain freedom to knowing that you’re going to be bad, and Baltimore needs to own up to it. This year will be all about the future, and maybe 2019 will unearth some gems. Besides, it’s not like the O’s can be any worse than they were in 2018 … right? – JT

NL East

Atlanta Braves: Take the next step

Atlanta’s 2018 success was as fun as it was unexpected. Good young players coming together to swipe a division title is always exciting. Now the Braves need to keep it going and build off that surprise year. Adding Josh Donaldson was a good start, but a team with a new stadium that it basically didn’t pay for and a lot of players still making pennies should be in on stars like Manny Machado and Bryce Harper—or at least ready to make big moves at the trade deadline. The window may just be opening, but Atlanta’s front office can’t just stand there and enjoy the breeze. – JT

Philadelphia Phillies: Find some stability

Last year’s Phillies had a lot of moving parts but not a lot of success, as manager Gabe Kapler couldn’t find reliable answers in the bullpen, outfield or infield. Some of those pieces have fallen into more secure place this offseason: Rhys Hoskins is back where he belongs at first base; All-Star Jean Segura is the new shortstop; and former MVP Andrew McCutchen now owns one of the corner outfield spots. There’s a lot to be said for stability, and more of it in 2019 should go a long way toward the Phillies reaching their potential. – JT

Washington Nationals: Figure out Life After Bryce

It seems pretty clear that the Nationals and Bryce Harper are done. He rejected a reported $300 million contract from Washington in November, and the team has spent the months since more or less implying that no new offer would be forthcoming. Debate the wisdom of the Nats turning their backs on their one-time franchise icon all you want, but now they have to figure out what the team looks like sans Bryce. That identity seems for now to be pitching-oriented, if adding Patrick Corbin to a rotation with Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg indicates anything. But if it’s that or if it’s building around Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto, a new direction—or at least face—is needed. – JT

APSTEIN: Harper or  Machado? Anonymous Executives Pick Which Superstar They'd Rather Have

New York Mets: Be the big-market team you’re supposed to be

This has been a surprisingly competent offseason for the Mets, if only because they’re actually doing things like “signing good free agents” and “trying to make their roster better” instead of the usual sad choices like “re-signing Jay Bruce.” But even amid adding Robinson Cano and Jeurys Familia and Wilson Ramos, there’s still a feeling of a front office holding back. Shouldn’t a New York team be all in on Harper and Machado, or at least splashing around in the expensive end of the pool? The Mets will never transcend their screw-up reputation unless they start acting like a real big-market franchise, and that means less creative player accounting and more spending. – JT

Miami Marlins: Be at least moderately entertaining

The Derek Jeter Marlins are MLB’s equivalent of 1950s British austerity, trying to make do with ersatz outfielders and a scrapheap pitching staff. But just because the product on the field is a cheap imitation of a good roster doesn’t mean the aura around it has to be so bland, too. Getting rid of the Dinger Machine was such an unnecessary move, broadcasting far and wide that the Jeter regime stands for utilitarian baseball and bland seriousness. And while the redesigned uniforms are actually pretty snazzy, this team lacks charisma and fun. If you’re going to be bad, you might as well be entertainingly bad. Miami needs to do that in 2019. – JT

AL Central

Cleveland Indians: Lean on your stars

In 2018, Cleveland’s brilliant infield duo of Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez each put up 7.9 WAR, according to Baseball-Reference—making the team one of just three dozen in history to have two different players in the same season put up more than 7.5 WAR. How can Cleveland top that in 2019? If Lindor and Ramirez do it again, they’ll be the first pair of teammates to repeat since Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in 1931-32. – Emma Baccellieri

Kansas City Royals: Get a move on it 

It’s been more than a decade since a team stole 200 bases or more. (2007 New York Mets, led by Jose Reyes and David Wright.) The 2019 Royals might be able to challenge that with Terrance Gore, Billy Hamilton and Whit Merrifield. Well—if they can figure out a way for Gore and Hamilton to get on base. – EB

BAUMGAERTNER: Five Trends That Will Define Baseball in 2019 

Minnesota Twins: Believe in 'El Tortuga'

Willians Astudillo, beloved rookie utilityman, showed off his signature approach at the plate in 2018: two walks, three strikeouts, 97 PAs. If you could combine those numbers with his statistics from the rest of the year in Triple-A, he’d have been the first player ever to post a walk rate and strikeout rate lower than 5%. In his first full season in the major leagues in 2019, maybe he can be. – EB

Chicago White Sox: Get Giolito right

For Lucas Giolito, erstwhile top prospect, to rebound from last year’s stint as the worst starter in baseball. His 6.13 ERA was the highest posted by a qualifying starting pitcher in a decade, so… anything better than that count as valid progress. – EB

Detroit Tigers: Reclaim some stability

Pitchers Tyson Ross and Matt Moore, brought aboard this winter on one-year deals, represent two fairly risky reclamation projects for a rotation that could use some help. If each can put up 100 IP of sub-5.00 ERA ball, Detroit will have won this pair of bets. – EB

NL Central

St. Louis Cardinals: Maintain relevancy in a tough division

Most of the focus here will be on the performance of names like Paul Goldschmidt (acquired via trade earlier this winter, with one year remaining on his contract), Andrew Miller (just signed for two years, off of a down year) and Matt Carpenter (coming off a wild breakout second half). Each of those will have to break St. Louis’ way in order for the team to stay competitive in a tough division. But here’s another one to watch: Harrison Bader. The centerfielder didn’t get much buzz for Rookie of the Year, but in a season without Juan Soto and Ronald Acuna, Jr., that might have looked a little different, with sharp defense and a .756 OPS. Can he keep that going in 2019? If Bader can mimic that performance in his sophomore season, he might be one of the roster’s biggest x-factors. – EB

Chicago Cubs: Javy for MVP?

Javier Baez’s strong campaign landed him second in the race for 2018’s Most Valuable Player. For 2019, with a similar performance, maybe he can end up in first. – EB

Milwaukee Brewers: Believe in the bullpen

The Brewers’ bullpen led the National League in strikeout rate in 2018, and just about every one of their crucial contributors looks poised to repeat that performance. Their 2019 goal, then? Leading both leagues in bullpen strikeout rate. – EB

Pittsburgh Pirates: Await Archer's arrival

The Pirates’ first few months of Chris Archer didn’t go quite as well as they’d likely expected, with a middling run by the starter after he was acquired at the deadline. For 2019, then, they can hope that he performs well enough to make it look like they won that trade—or at least like it was a draw. – EB

Cincinnati Reds: Don't finish in last

The Reds have finished in last place for four straight seasons. But with an outfield that now includes Yasiel Puig, a rotation that’s freshly boosted by Alex Wood and Tanner Roark, and an infield that still features Joey Votto, Eugenio Suarez and Jose Peraza… they can maybe finish in fourth? (A good resolution has to be somewhat realistic, after all.) – EB

AL West

Houston Astros: Keep adding

Signing outfielder Michael Brantley was a wise, low-risk signing for the 2017 World Series champions. Now, they’re said to be targeting Mets pitcher Seth Lugo to shore up the back end of its pitching staff. With one of baseball’s deepest farm systems and a championship window wide open, Houston should remain as aggressive as possible. – Gabriel Baumgaertner

Los Angeles Angels: Help Mike Trout

Signing Dallas Keuchel for a long contract instead of Trevor Cahill and Matt Harvey for short ones would have been a more prudent course of action, but the Angels are adding in an attempt to protect their superstar. Other signings include beefy first baseman Justin Bour and catcher Jonathan Lucroy, nothing that seems to elevate the Angels closer to the A’s or Astros, but helpful additions. GM Billy Eppler won’t be in on Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, but he could sign Keuchel so he doesn’t have to trot out Matt Harvey or Andrew Heaney on opening day. – GB

Oakland Athletics: Bolster that starting pitching!

If Opening Day were tomorrow, Mike Fiers would likely be the A’s starting pitcher since ace Sean Manaea will be out until midseason. Perhaps GM Billy Beane will look toward low-cost options like Wade Miley or Gio Gonzalez to help anchor a rotation that will be providing for one of the league’s best offenses. – GB

Seattle Mariners: Stabilize the organization

The Mariners are rebuilding while combating the public relations issues regarding a wrongful termination lawsuit. They committed to not making the playoffs in 2019, so it’s going to be on them to give their fans any reason to watch them next year. How sad it must be to root for this franchise. – GB

TAYLER: These Players Are Set for a 2019 Breakout

Texas Rangers: Learn situational hitting

The Rangers don’t approach hitting as an opportunity to get on base as much as they do to blow the baseball into smithereens. Between Joey Gallo, Nomar Mazara, Rougned Odor (who did become a much smarter hitter in 2018), Texas is one of the heaviest-hitting and most strikeout-prone team in the big leagues. Maybe under a new staff directed by manager Chris Woodward, the Rangers will start to adjust their boom-or-bust approach that left them in last place in 2018. – GB

Arizona Diamondbacks: Find a way to keep fans in seats

What do you even do if you’re a fan of this team? Even when the Diamondbacks are good, Dodgers fans overtake the stadium in big divisional games. Now, they traded the best player in franchise history to the Cardinals in exchange for several decent players who will likely be forgotten the moment they take off the Arizona uniform. I’m out of ideas, but maybe Arizona’s marketing team has some. – GB

Colorado Rockies: Extend Nolan Arenado

The likelihood of one of the game’s elite third baseman signing an extension prior to reaching free agency, but the Rockies ought to give it all their might. With another great season from Trevor Story, the arrival of Daniel Murphy and, if they’re smart, a controllable starting pitcher, the Rockies should be in position to compete for the NL West crown this year. Perhaps they can sell Arenado on their long-term future, which is currently bright. – GB

Los Angeles Dodgers: Sell Out to Finally Win the World Series

The window is closing, so whether their answer is Bryce Harper or something else, the Dodgers should be in full-blown to panic to win it all after missing in back-to-back years. With their payroll cleared up after trading Puig, Kemp and Wood, the Dodgers are in position to add talent and not exceed the luxury tax this season. We’ll see who it is, but it’ll be amusing to see. – GB

San Diego Padres: Believe in the children

Between Fernando Tatis Jr., Francisco Mejia, Franchy Cordero, Franmil Reyes (brought to you by the letter F!) and infielder Luis Urias, San Diego has one of the most exciting young cores in baseball. Let’s watch them play! – GB

San Francisco Giants: Trust the process

This roster needs to be blown up, and there might not be a more adept foreman than team president Farhan Zaidi. Madison Bumgarner will likely start the season on the roster, but almost certainly won’t end it in San Francisco. The pending free agent will command a ransom because of his postseason track record, and Zaidi should use that to rebuild an organization that is all but falling to pieces because of an old roster and a barren farm system. – GB

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