A high-octane offense doesn’t guarantee overall success, but it certainly helps. In 2014, the Angels (98 wins, 773 runs), Tigers (90 wins, 757 runs), and A’s (88 wins, 729 runs) all reached the postseason thanks in part to their top five offenses. The bottom five teams, meanwhile, all missed the playoffs.
Let’s take a look at those bottom five teams and see what they’ve done to improve their offensive production so far this offseason. Team name links go to a summary of the teams’ moves on MLBTR’s Transaction Tracker and 2014 run totals are in parentheses. For reference, the average MLB team scored 659 runs last year.
- Padres (535) – Nobody has been more aggressive this offseason than the Padres, who finished dead last in runs scored in 2014. The Padres have placed no better than 24th in runs scored since 2011 and you have to go back all the way to 2007 to find a season in which they didn’t place in the bottom third of the league. That’s likely to change now, however, thanks to A.J. Preller’s complete overhaul of the outfield. Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, and Wil Myers all come to San Diego with a history of producing at the plate and they have every intention of beating the odds at the pitcher-friendly Petco Park. And, despite his recent struggles, the Padres are hoping that they can get third baseman Will Middlebrooks to perform closer to his 2012 effort.
- Braves (573) – The Braves surprised many when they shipped right fielder Jason Heyward to the Cardinals for right-hander Shelby Miller. Then, the Braves replaced the defensive-minded Heyward with another defense-first outfielder in Nick Markakis. In recent seasons, Markakis has profiled as a high-OBP, low-power bat and odds are that he probably won’t magically rediscover his pop from years ago. Soon after, the Justin Upton trade took away a bat that produced a .270/.342/.491 slash line with 29 homers in 2014. Atlanta made it clear this offseason that they’ll bank on improvement from within to fix their offensive woes, though it remains to be seen if that will be a sound strategy. A 180° from B.J. Upton would certainly help the cause, but Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that he’ll be on a short leash. Atlanta, he says, will consider moving to a platoon of Zoilo Almonte and Todd Cunningham if Upton continues to flounder.
- Reds (595) – The Reds didn’t do much to bolster their offense until a New Year’s Eve deal with the Phillies brought in Marlon Byrd. The 37-year-old has refused to let Father Time slow him down. After surprising everyone in 2013 with a 291/.336/.511 slash line between the Mets and Pirates in 2013, Byrd turned in a solid .264/.312/.445 with 25 homers for Philadelphia in 2014. Byrd satisfied their need for an outfielder to go alongside Jay Bruce and Billy Hamilton and he won’t break the bank thanks to the $4MM that the Phillies sent over in the deal.
- Rays (612) – Parting with a young, power-hitting right fielder (Myers) may seem an odd way to bolster a lineup, but Tampa is obviously high on the player it acquired to replace him. It remains to be seen whether Steven Souza can translate his tools to the MLB game, but his eye-opening .350/.432/.590 output at Triple-A last year provides evidence in the affirmative. The club also added a bat-first middle infielder in Asdrubal Cabrera, although it remains to be seen whether his signing constitutes a prelude to a trade involving the even more productive Ben Zobrist.
- Cubs (614) – Chicago’s big signing, Jon Lester, was designed to keep opposition runs off the board. The same could be said, to an extent, about the team’s addition of backstops Miguel Montero and David Ross. But each member of that new catching pairing has put up big offensive numbers in the not-so-distant past. Beyond that, the organization will hope for continued progress from its young, high-upside core of position players while excitement builds over the expected mid-season deployment of power-hitting third base prospect Kris Bryant, who will finish his seasoning at Triple-A to start the year.