Bryce Harper Installed As Early Favorite To Win Home Run Derby

The Boston Red Sox are 2018 World Series champions. But are they even the early favorite to be the best team in their own league? And where do the Los Angeles Dodgers rank after coming up short again in their title chase? Could big offseason moves shoot a team like the New York Yankees to the top of MLB?

With plenty of big names on the market, there figures to be a lot of movement between now and the next rankings before the season starts on March 28.

For now, this is how things shape up as we enter the offseason.

Editor's note: The rankings are determined by ESPN senior writer Dave Schoenfield. The comments are provided by Schoenfield and ESPN.com editors Christina Kahrl and Dan Mullen.

Final regular-season rankings

1. Houston Astros

2018 record: 103-59

2019 World Series odds: 6-1 (SuperBook at Westgate Las Vegas)

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The Astros won 103 games, and you can make the argument that nobody had a career season -- although Alex Bregman and Gerrit Cole might be hard-pressed to match their 2018 numbers. The depth across the roster is incredible, and you can expect Carlos Correa to bounce back from a lost second half.

The Astros have three significant free agents in Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton and utilityman extraordinaire Marwin Gonzalez, but they also have replacements ready. Forrest Whitley is the top pitching prospect in the minors; Josh James, who was on the postseason roster after a dominant season at Triple-A, throws in the upper 90s as a starter; outfielder Kyle Tucker, another top-10 overall prospect, struggled in his brief big league call-up but slugged .590 at Triple-A at age 21.

Oh, and don't be surprised if the Astros look to make a deal for another big bat: How about trading for Paul Goldschmidt, who is in the final year of his contract and might be available? -- Schoenfield


2. New York Yankees

2018 record: 100-62

2019 World Series odds: 7-1

What, you think the Yankees will sit quietly after losing to the Red Sox in the playoffs and seeing their archrivals win the World Series? Sure, starting pitching depth is the likely priority (Patrick Corbin is an obvious option), but we know the big names in free agency are the two young hitters: Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. With Didi Gregorius undergoing Tommy John surgery, the Yankees suddenly have an opening at shortstop (although they could easily move Gleyber Torres there). And don't ignore the idea of signing Harper, even after last winter's trade for Giancarlo Stanton. The Yankees could forgo a $12.5 million club option on Brett Gardner and sign Harper to play left field. Get working on those home run calls, John Sterling. -- Schoenfield


3. Los Angeles Dodgers

2018 record: 91-71

2019 World Series odds: 7-1

Like the Yankees, the Dodgers snuck under the luxury tax in 2018, giving them more flexibility to go back over it in 2019 without severe penalties. The No. 1 priority: re-signing in-house legend Clayton Kershaw, who is likely to opt out of his contract. Even a diminished Kershaw remained one of the game's top starters in 2018. Can you imagine him in pinstripes? Please, baseball gods, send him back to L.A. The Dodgers have passed on the big free agents in recent seasons, but if they ever go that route, it would be to sign a young position player. No room for Harper, you say? He could play left field, giving L.A. this lineup:

1B Max Muncy

3B Justin Turner

SS Corey Seager

LF Bryce Harper

CF Cody Bellinger

2B Chris Taylor

RF Yasiel Puig

C Austin Barnes

How's that for intriguing? -- Schoenfield


4. Boston Red Sox

2018 record: 108-54

2019 World Series odds: 6-1

In the divisional era since 1969, 13 teams have won at least 104 games (including the 1995 Indians, who won a prorated 112 games). The following season, those 13 teams declined from an average of 107.8 wins to 97.5. All won at least 92 games except the 1984 Tigers, who fell from 104 to 84. So the Red Sox probably will be very good -- just don't expect them to win 108 games. All the key parts are back except closer Craig Kimbrel, if they don't re-sign him as a free agent (David Price can opt out but is unlikely to do so). You have to be worried about Chris Sale's shoulder, but the in-their-prime core of Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts and Andrew Benintendi should ensure more exciting seasons in Beantown. -- Schoenfield


5. Atlanta Braves

2018 record: 90-72

2019 World Series odds: 12-1

The Braves arrived maybe a season early, but there was nothing fluky about the NL East title: They outscored their opponents by 102 runs, they were consistent throughout the season and they were 22 games over .500 within their division. Ronald Acuna Jr. was so good in the second half -- .322/.403/.625 -- that he might already be the best player in the National League. They just need to consolidate some of the young pitching talent they have at the major league level and minor league level, maybe packaging some of that for a top-of-the-rotation starter or big hitter in right field to replace free agent Nick Markakis (if they don't bring him back). -- Schoenfield


6. Cleveland Indians

2018 record: 91-71

2019 World Series odds: 10-1

Having come up short again in the postseason, the Indians still should have a grace period of a year or two as the class of baseball's weakest division, thanks to their still dominant rotation and the infield duo of Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez. But Lindor is Indians property for only three more seasons, so the clock is ticking -- which might encourage them to continue to be aggressive on the market while he keeps their window of contention open.

As is, the Indians now have a stack of free agents to sort through, starting with late-game relief tandem Cody Allen and Andrew Miller, outfielders Michael Brantley and Lonnie Chisenhall (and Melky Cabrera and Rajai Davis), the rented Josh Donaldson, and veteran pitchers Josh Tomlin and Oliver Perez. From all of that group, finding replacements in the bullpen and the outfield corners are the biggest needs. Getting Brad Hand last summer already helped with the first, but moving Jason Kipnis to the outfield for keeps helps only if his bat comes back. -- Kahrl


7. Milwaukee Brewers

2018 record: 95-67

2019 World Series odds: 12-1

The Brewers fell one win short of reaching the World Series, but they have the depth and talent to go further in 2019. All the key players will be back, led by likely NL MVP Christian Yelich -- now playing on one of the most team-friendly contracts in the game as he'll make just $9.75 million next season. The postseason also showed that Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes could be valuable members of the rotation next year, and the Brewers are hoping for a healthy Jimmy Nelson after he missed all of 2018. There's room in the budget to make some sort of free-agent splash -- certainly a starting pitcher is an option if they want to keep Burnes in a bullpen role alongside Josh Hader & Co. -- Schoenfield


8. Chicago Cubs

2018 record: 95-67

2019 World Series odds: 10-1

The talent difference between the Brewers and Cubs is minimal, although you can argue the Cubs are still better -- they had a slightly better run differential, and they had more things go "wrong" in 2018, with significant injuries to Yu Darvish and Kris Bryant. Certainly, a healthy and more productive season from Bryant will help rejuvenate an offense that struggled down the stretch. They'll have to make a decision on Addison Russell: Do they try to trade him after his suspension for domestic assault and make Javier Baez the regular shortstop, or give Russell one more chance?

The biggest concerns, however, rest in the rotation. Darvish made only eight starts, and Tyler Chatwood had a 5.30 ERA. Jon Lester won 18 games and had a 3.32 ERA, but that ballooned to 4.50 in the second half. They'll also have to make a decision on Cole Hamels, who has a $20 million club option. There's 100-win potential here if everything goes right. -- Schoenfield


9. Tampa Bay Rays

2018 record: 90-72

2019 World Series odds: 40-1

It was a remarkable season for the Rays, and not just because they introduced the "opener" strategy to the game. Despite an injury-riddled rotation, they won 90 games, including a 36-19 mark the final two months. They were even a respectable 17-21 against the Red Sox and Yankees. Somehow, they gave up the second fewest runs in the league (Blake Snell's 1.89 ERA had a lot to do with that). They could be really interesting if Tommy Pham produces over a full season and Willy Adames continues to mature into a star. The Rays also have only one player owed guaranteed money for 2019 -- Kevin Kiermaier -- so they could conceivably add a minor free agent or two. -- Schoenfield


10. St. Louis Cardinals

2018 record: 88-74

2019 World Series odds: 16-1

The Cardinals have missed the playoffs three seasons in a row -- unthinkable for one of the game's foundation franchises, considering they missed the postseason only four times in the 16 seasons before this drought. They're going to have to figure out the bullpen and decide whether Carlos Martinez is still a very good starter or their new closer. Marcell Ozuna is a good bet for a better season, and Harrison Bader emerged as a defensive wizard and energetic presence in the lineup. My guy to watch: Jack Flaherty, who had an under-the-radar rookie campaign with 182 K's in 151 innings and only 108 hits allowed. He could be the Cardinals' answer to Walker Buehler as one of the next great pitching stars. -- Schoenfield


11. Minnesota Twins

2018 record: 78-84

2019 World Series odds: 60-1

The biggest question in Minnesota is whether new manager Rocco Baldelli can unleash the talent of some of the Twins' much-touted former top prospects. Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton are the obvious problem players, but you might as well add Max Kepler to that list after his disappointing .727 OPS. On the financial side of the ledger, the Twins traded away their main free agents-to-be, leaving just Joe Mauer, who might retire. Buying out Ervin Santana's option for 2019 for $1 million after he missed most of 2018 seems straightforward. With a payroll that might be in the $70 million-$80 million range, the Twins can afford to shop, especially given the state of three-fifths of their rivals in the AL Central, but they need to be convinced that some of their purported blue-chippers will play to that level to make any investments worthwhile. -- Kahrl


12. Colorado Rockies

2018 record: 91-71

2019 World Series odds: 30-1

The Rockies have made back-to-back playoff appearances for the first time in franchise history, but getting to three in 2019 will be difficult. Colorado has two tough free-agent decisions to make as DJ LeMahieu and Adam Ottavino hit the market (letting Carlos Gonzalez walk is easier), but there's a good chance neither will be back next year, and the lineup is in need of some serious upgrades, starting with a power-hitting right-handed outfield bat. There is upside if the starting pitching continues to be as good as the Kyle Freeland and German Marquez-led group was throughout 2018, and if youngsters such as Ryan McMahon, Raimel Tapia and top prospect Brendan Rodgers can take some of the load off of Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story and Charlie Blackmon. The great unknown: Would they consider trading Arenado, a free agent after 2019, if they can't sign him to an extension? -- Mullen


13. Los Angeles Angels

2018 record: 80-82

2019 World Series odds: 40-1

As always, their floor is high because of Mike Trout, but the Angels seem perpetually stuck in the middle and it's hard to figure out a path out of that .500 mud. Mike Scioscia is out after 19 seasons and Brad Ausmus is in, so it's probably fair to say the Angels needed some new life there, not that Scioscia was the biggest problem. They'll need bounce-back seasons from Kole Calhoun and Zack Cozart, but the rotation will be minus Shohei Ohtani, who will be limited to DH duties, and Garrett Richards (free agent plus Tommy John surgery). Then there's Albert Pujols, a drain on the budget with little value at the plate (0.5 WAR). -- Schoenfield


14. Washington Nationals

2018 record: 82-80

2019 World Series odds: 16-1

They don't have to sign Bryce Harper when an outfield of Juan Soto, Victor Robles and Adam Eaton, with Michael Taylor off the bench, would still project as one of the best in the game. It's pretty easy to argue that the Nationals would be better off not re-signing the inconsistent Harper after a .249/.393/.496 season (and minus-26 defensive runs saved that included time in center field) and using their resources elsewhere. I don't know, I might recommend the bullpen.

The tricky thing there: As we've seen with other teams, paying money for free-agent relievers is often throwing money into a dumpster fire. Whatever they do, this is clear: You'd better go all-in while you still have this window when Max Scherzer is one of the best pitchers in the game. -- Schoenfield


15. Oakland Athletics

2018 record: 97-65

2019 World Series odds: 30-1

It was a miracle season of sorts, but the A's will be hard-pressed to repeat for a couple of reasons. The bullpen probably will regress some (Blake Treinen probably won't have a 0.78 ERA again) and the rotation could collapse after ranking sixth in the AL in ERA. Sean Manaea is out for the season after shoulder surgery, and they're unlikely to receive some of the surprising work again that they did from the likes of Edwin Jackson and others. But the A's have a big star in Matt Chapman and are good at things that win in modern baseball: They hit home runs, and they have a deep bullpen. -- Schoenfield


16. New York Mets

2018 record: 77-85

2019 World Series odds: 30-1

The Mets are high on that list of most unpredictable teams -- and that's before the reported hiring of agent Brodie Van Wagenen as the new general manager. They could go in any direction, but the biggest imperative is getting 60-something starts from Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard and more than 38 games from Yoenis Cespedes. Fixing the bullpen (next-to-last in NL in ERA) is another key. The offense could be a surprise, especially if it doesn't count on Jay Bruce and Todd Frazier to find their youth. Brandon Nimmo and Jeff McNeil emerged as high OBP guys at the top of the lineup, and Amed Rosario flashed some improvement. What they really need is another lineup anchor: Something tells me the Wilpons won't spend the money to bring in Machado or Harper, however. -- Schoenfield


17. Pittsburgh Pirates

2018 record: 82-79

2019 World Series odds: 50-1

If you're looking for a surprise breakout team, maybe it's the Pirates -- although they might be in the wrong division for that to happen. They have a nice foundation of solid, young veterans, plus some interesting rising youngsters such as ground ball king Trevor Williams (1.38 ERA in the second half). Chris Archer and Joe Musgrove add rotation depth along with Jameson Taillon. The Pirates are solid across the board -- they just lack that superstar to help them to the next level. -- Schoenfield


18. Philadelphia Phillies

2018 record: 80-82

2019 World Series odds: 18-1

The September collapse exposed some flaws in what had been a surprise season: The defense was the worst in the majors (and historically awful); the bullpen had some holes; and the back of the rotation was more "meh" than playoff-caliber. Really, without Aaron Nola, the Phillies were just another bad NL East team. They're going to have to rearrange the deck chairs somehow. Rhys Hoskins should move to first base, but he's blocked by Carlos Santana. A healthy J.P. Crawford should improve the infield defense. Of course, a big bat would help. I hear one or two more might be available in free agency. -- Schoenfield


19. Arizona Diamondbacks

2018 record: 82-80

2019 World Series odds: 60-1

Is there a tougher team in baseball to evaluate going into 2019? The Diamondbacks played like a 90-plus-win team for most of 2018, then collapsed in September with an 8-19 record and finished only two games over .500. And that's not even the hard part. Patrick Corbin pitched like an ace and A.J. Pollock is one of the top center fielders in baseball when he's healthy, so there will be plenty of interest in both free agents this winter. There's also a real possibility that Paul Goldschmidt, Zack Greinke or both will be dealt before Opening Day. If the D-backs hold on to Goldschmidt and Greinke, there's enough here to compete with the Rockies for second in the NL West, but there's also a distinct possibility that 2019 will be the start of a rebuild in the desert. -- Mullen


20. Toronto Blue Jays

2018 record: 73-89

2019 World Series odds: 60-1

What do the Blue Jays do this offseason? I have no idea. They're paying Russell Martin and Troy Tulowitzki $40 million in 2019. Josh Donaldson has been traded and hits free agency. The rotation was supposed to be the strength of the team but finished 13th in the AL with a 5.14 ERA as no starter qualified for the ERA title. Sure, there is some bounce-back potential with Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman and maybe Vladimir Guerrero Jr. will come up and destroy baseball right from the get-go. Otherwise: good luck trying to beat out the Red Sox and Yankees. -- Schoenfield


21. Cincinnati Reds

2018 record: 67-95

2019 World Series odds: 100-1

The Reds gave up the most runs in the NL and were just middle of the pack in runs scored -- in other words, there are issues across the board here. The pitching has been the perpetual problem since their run of three playoff appearances from 2010 to 2013, and there have been four straight 90-loss seasons. The bandbox park doesn't help in that matter as they've served up the most home runs in the NL the past three seasons. Did I mention they're still paying Homer Bailey $23 million in 2019? -- Schoenfield


22. Seattle Mariners

2018 record: 89-73

2019 World Series odds: 50-1

Of the teams that finished above .500, no team is more ripe for a fall than the Mariners. Despite the 89 wins, they were outscored by 34 runs; a 36-21 record in one-run games saved their season. The lineup was the oldest in the AL. The rotation wasn't great, but at least it was healthy -- five starters made at least 27 starts. But it's going to be difficult to improve around the fringes with the worst farm system in MLB and not much wiggle room in the payroll (Felix Hernandez will make $27 million in his final season). -- Schoenfield


23. Chicago White Sox

2018 record: 62-100

2019 World Series odds: 60-1

It was a truly ugly season for a Sox team that had already cashed in almost all of its veteran assets for prospects. The major question this winter is where the Sox think they are in their rebuild. Even with Eloy Jimenez on the way up, this might not be their last 100-loss season. The young middle infield combo of Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson, and their young pitching, didn't show all that much progress. Going to arbitration with first baseman Jose Abreu makes sense in his last year before free agency, but after his streaky 2018 season, does he deserve a contract extension? Avisail Garcia's 2018 was a struggle; could it trigger a decision to non-tender him before his last year of club control? -- Kahrl


24. Texas Rangers

2018 record: 67-95

2019 World Series odds: 100-1

What happened to the Rangers? After back-to-back playoff trips in 2015 and 2016, they've gone from 95 wins to 78 wins to 67. Worse, they weren't even that interesting, unless you like Joey Gallo's prodigious combination of home runs and strikeouts. Rougned Odor and Nomar Mazara might yet turn into foundational fixtures, but they produced below-average OPS figures (Odor was much better in the second half). Adrian Beltre is a free agent and might retire. The pitching staff? Well, 45-year-old Bartolo Colon was second on the team in innings pitched, which isn't a good sign for 2019. -- Schoenfield


25. Detroit Tigers

2018 record: 64-98

2019 World Series odds: 200-1

The Tigers didn't lose 100 games, but they might be in worse shape than the Royals or White Sox because of the lack of high-upside talent anywhere close to contributing. Beyond DH Victor Martinez's retirement, the Tigers will need to find a new shortstop if they don't want to bring back light-hitting Jose Iglesias as a free agent. There's no obvious reason to try to keep veteran lefty Francisco Liriano. Having found a new position for hard-hitting but light fielding Nicholas Castellanos, their biggest decision might be deciding whether to move him from right field to first base or DH -- whichever Miguel Cabrera doesn't want to play with six more years to go on his deal. That's assuming they don't shop Castellanos, but with a year to go before free agency and no position, his market is limited. -- Kahrl


26. San Diego Padres

2018 record: 66-96

2019 World Series odds: 100-1

For everyone waiting for this group of super prospects to take the Padres from the bottom of the standings to the top of the standings, here's some advice: prepare to keep waiting. Though Hunter Renfroe and Franmil Reyes added some thump to the lineup in 2018, plenty of holes remain on a team that posted the worst OBP in the NL. The Eric Hosmer contract remains a head-scratcher after San Diego's $144 million man posted a .253/.322/.398 slash line in his first season of an eight-year deal. Joey Lucchesi and Eric Lauer provide a glimmer of hope in the rotation and strike-throwing machine Chris Paddack could join it at some point in 2019, but the wave of top prospects led by Fernando Tatis Jr. is more likely to make an impact in 2020 and beyond. -- Mullen


27. San Francisco Giants

2018 record: 73-89

2019 World Series odds: 100-1

The Giants doubled down on players in their 30s in 2018, and, while it wasn't a complete disaster -- the team was .500 before collapsing with a 5-21 record in September -- it's difficult to envision a scenario in which the club improves. Johnny Cueto had Tommy John surgery, and Jeff Samardzija didn't pitch in the second half after shoulder issues. The lineup was the oldest in the NL -- and next-to-last in runs scored -- and the farm system doesn't have anybody ready to step in. The payroll was already bloated in 2018, but maybe the Giants can use some of the departing money paid to Hunter Pence and Andrew McCutchen to go after a free-agent outfielder. I'm sure Bryce Harper would loving hitting at AT&T Park. -- Schoenfield


28. Kansas City Royals

2018 record: 58-104

2019 World Series odds: 200-1

The 2015 champs hit bottom but provided a few glimmers of hope. Adalberto Mondesi broke out in the second half, cranking out an .835 OPS while hitting 11 homers in 54 games. Strong post-break performances from Jakob Junis and Brad Keller provide something to build on in the rotation. Financially, the Royals could go shopping if they were so inclined. Almost half of their payroll is tied up in Ian Kennedy and Alex Gordon, neither of whom has trade value. Buying out their option on Jason Hammel for $2 million might be their biggest elective decision.

To trade for younger talent, their best bargaining chip might be Danny Duffy, but he'll be 30 and has yet to turn the corner. There's also second baseman Whit Merrifield, who's positively Zobristian in his flexibility and has four years under club control ahead of him, but at 29 years old, he isn't likely to bring a big-name prospect in return. -- Kahrl


29. Miami MarlinsGiancarlo Stanton) and the player who is going to win it this year (Christian Yelich). The team wasn't even all that young: the Braves and Cubs, among other NL teams, had a younger average age among their position players (weighted for playing time). In other words: They could lose 100 in 2019. -- Schoenfield


30. Baltimore Orioles

2018 record: 47-115

2019 World Series odds: 300-1

There's no other way to put it: The Orioles were an embarrassment in 2018. Some of those late-season lineups wouldn't have won the International League, let alone games in the AL East. It's going to take a complete rebuild from the ground up, and the farm system doesn't have any obvious stars on the horizon. Remember, they lost 115 games with Manny Machado playing 60 percent of the season there. It's scary to think what will happen without him and Adam Jones and Kevin Gausman. -- Schoenfield

Source : http://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/25088592/ranking-mlb-teams-ahead-2019-offseason

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