On January 2 of last year, MLBTR’s Zach Links looked at the lowest-scoring offenses in the 2014 season and what they had done that winter to improve. In 2015, the five lowest-scoring teams in baseball were the Braves (573 runs), Marlins (613), White Sox (622), Phillies (626) and Reds (640). What’s perhaps most striking about that list in comparison to the five teams Zach profiled (the Padres, Braves, Reds, Rays and Cubs) is that there are more teams than usual simply not acting like improving for the upcoming season is a top priority. The Braves and Phillies headed into the 2015-16 offseason already in the midst of obvious rebuilds; the Reds, having traded Todd Frazier and Aroldis Chapman this winter, now appear to be close to that status. Meanwhile, the Marlins continue to exist in a state of flux. Only the White Sox have made decisive moves to improve their run-scoring.
It should, perhaps, be noted that many of the top hitters in this winter’s free agent class remain on the market, with Justin Upton, Yoenis Cespedes, Chris Davis and Alex Gordon yet to find new teams. A team looking to upgrade its offense will have more opportunities to do so this month. But with a few exceptions (like the Cardinals, who actually finished 24th in the Majors and 11th in the NL in runs scored with 647 despite winning more regular-season games than any other team), it looks like many of the teams most likely to sign one of those players are teams whose offenses were already good.
With that in mind, though, there are plenty of interesting things even rebuilding teams can do with their offenses, including acquiring prospects and clearing space for young players. So let’s look in on what 2015’s lowest-scoring teams have done this offseason.
- Braves – Atlanta re-signed A.J. Pierzynski and signed Tyler Flowers, giving them a pair of veteran backstops to compensate for the departure of former top prospect Christian Bethancourt, who they shipped to San Diego. They also made a couple small signings of veterans Gordon Beckham and Emilio Bonifacio to shore up a shaky infield and bench, and they added a couple hitters via minor league free agency, Nate Freiman and Ryan Lavarnway (actually a re-signing), who could provide a bit of upside. Replacing Andrelton Simmons with Erick Aybar obviously will hurt defensively, but might not make much difference on offense. The Braves’ key move to help their hitting, though, was their trade of Shelby Miller to Arizona for a package that included Ender Inciarte (an already-good outfielder who will likely replace the departed Cameron Maybin if he doesn’t head elsewhere in another trade) and 2015 No. 1 pick Dansby Swanson. If Swanson develops, he could have a profound effect on the Braves’ future offensively.
- Marlins – Miami re-signed Ichiro Suzuki and Jeff Mathis, and has otherwise had a quiet offseason in which it will return many of the hitters it featured last year. That might not be all bad, of course — Giancarlo Stanton only played in 74 games in 2015, and a full season from him would be a huge help. The Marlins’ other two young outfielders, Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna, were much better in the second half of 2015 in the first, and they (along with Stanton and Dee Gordon) could help anchor a Marlins offense that looks likely to score more runs than it did last year.
- White Sox – The White Sox are, in some ways, this offseason’s equivalent of the 2014-15 Padres — the team taking the most urgent action to address an offense that struggled the previous season. Unlike the Padres, whose series of trades for a bunch of square pegs last winter had a deleterious effect on the franchise, the White Sox’ moves seem to have been well chosen. Chicago’s performances at both second base and third base were among the worst in baseball in 2015, and their deals for Brett Lawrie and especially Frazier were decisive moves to strengthen both positions. The additions of Alex Avila and Dioner Navarro perhaps weren’t as dramatic or as likely to be effective, but those players will provide help at another position at which the White Sox struggled. The team has shown at least some interest in many of the top free agent bats available this offseason, and it could also still potentially use a shortstop.
- Phillies – Philadelphia’s main moves this offseason (such as their trade of Ken Giles for a package that included Vincent Velasquez and Mark Appel, and their deals for rotation-filling pitchers Charlie Morton and Jeremy Hellickson) have mostly been oriented around pitching, but they’ve made a few small moves that could help their offense as well. Outfielder Tyler Goeddel, selected from the Rays with the first pick in the Rule 5 Draft, could potentially provide a bit of help. Waiver claim Peter Bourjos should figure in their outfield plans as well, although he’s not likely to hit much.
- Reds – Cincinnati hasn’t made any big-league signings this offseason, and the defining moves of their winter have been their trades of Frazier and Chapman, which have returned two grab bags of young players. Jose Peraza, the key to the Frazier deal, could collect plenty of at-bats for the Reds in 2016, particularly if the team is ever able to deal Brandon Phillips, but Peraza is a light hitter who figures to make most of his offensive impact with his speed. Scott Schebler, a lefty-hitting outfielder acquired in that same deal, could help somewhat, although his upside appears to be limited. The prospect from the Chapman trade most likely to help the Reds’ offense in 2016 is third baseman Eric Jagielo, although he hasn’t yet played at the Triple-A level and might not reach Cincinnati until late in the season. In the Rule 5 Draft, the Reds grabbed Jake Cave, another lefty-hitting outfielder; he did not hit well at Double-A last year and doesn’t seem like a great bet to add much offense, at least not right away. The Reds don’t look to have improved their offense enough to compensate for Frazier’s departure. They are, however, in an earlier stage of rebuilding or re-tooling than the Braves or Phillies are (or perhaps they’ve just approached it somewhat less aggressively). They should also benefit next season from better health — having Devin Mesoraco behind the dish could make a big difference.
Braves look good for the future, might need to trade an arm or two for one big power bat to put behind Freeman by 2018, but they should have enough OBP and speed to last them for years.
Braves and Phillies look to be set up for future. NL East should be a lot of fun from 2017-2020.
Another positive for Atlanta is even though the contracts given were fair and not crippling, in 2 years you get a league minimum Swanson instead of a 10 million Simmons plus a league minimum Newcomb. It’ll free up money if the Braves choose to use it on the market. With guys like McKinney and Almora coming up you expect the Cubs to eventually trade a bat or two to shift 30 year olds Lester and Arrieta away from TOR expectations.
With 2018 in mind then it would depend on the progression of a few positional prospects. Austin Riley has an outside shot of being major league ready by that point. Rio Ruiz made strides towards the end of the season. And Braxton Davidson has the potential to be a significant power threat as well. Then we’ll have to see how much the Braves splurge in this offseason with the international market.
Disagree. I think the Braves look awful, frankly, for being this far into a rebuild. They’ve got a metric ton of B-level pitching prospects and very little on the hitting side. Besides Swanson and Newcomb, their prospects look decent but not great. Yeah, they could hit on a bunch of them and luck out, but I think they could just as easily be struggling mightily even in 2018. And that division will be good in a couple years.
You are mistaken- b level makes me think backend starters. Aces probably not. Frontline starters definitely… Lots of them with a pipeline feeding more and more of them for the next 7-10 years. Bullpen will be lights out by 2018. Offense- inciarte smith albies swanson freeman davidson Olivera Riley Ruiz- we wont be the blue jays . But our line up looks decent with a few all stars. Plus a frontline starter could be traded yearly to supplement out farm and most of our payroll can be spent on offense. Teheran Wisler Manban Folty Newcomb Jenkins Blair Allard Touki Fried Sims Ellis Sanchez Barker Whalen Thurman Janas Gant Winkler Chacin… That is an insane amount of mlb depth.
Outside of Freeman, who do you honestly see from that hypothetical lineup being an all star? Not saying they can’t make be all stars but the second best hitter currently of that group is Inciarte and he isn’t an all star. To say that the lineup will be all stars without most of them having even logged significant time at the major league level is a bold statement.
He is talking about 2018 and not next season. It’s too early to give that prediction to Ruiz or Smith at this point (and Braxton is closer to bust than boom at the moment), but I definitely wouldn’t bet against Albies and Swanson. Especially since they’re likely going to play alongside each other which would boost their visibility.
And we still don’t know how the Braves are going to fare in this upcoming international splurge that they’ve hinted at. It’s not incredibly far fetched to think that they could have 3 all-stars in the lineup by 2018.
Two quick points:
1. Braves have been in rebuild mode for a total of 15 months
2. Braves system is not flashy, but it gets points for having quantity over quality of high end boom or busts prospects (mostly due to tommy John or other injuries.
Jose Peraza, the key to the Frazier deal, could collect plenty of at-bats for the Reds in 2015.
You mean 2016.
Yep, thanks. I’ll fix.
The White Sox should trade for DH Matt Kemp for LaRoach and Garcia both team will benfit and cash wise Sox don’t lose nothing the first year. Adam get to play some 1B again and Garcia ain’t that bad lots of upside.
Why would the White Sox do that?
A) Matt Kemp isn’t very good anymore
B) He makes a ridiculous amount of money for way too long
That would be a horrible, horrible move. As much as I’d like to move on from LaRoche as soon as possible, I’d much rather wait his contract out than trade for someone like Kemp with that contract.
I agree. Even though Kemp is 6 years younger than LaRoche, he’s still 31.. .265 is better than .207 but can you get .265 from kemp consistently:? No.
It’s a good idea but an idea only, something that shouldn’t happen.
That’s why I can’t wait for Tim Anderson. Think about it:
Abreu; Lawrie: Frazier: Anderson and Saladino DH if his hitting comes around, which I do see happening.
Or they could just keep LaRoche and let him have a pretty good year like he usually does. No reason he shouldn’t provide solid value on his contract going forward and no, a down year last year isn’t reason to expect him to be bad again this year.
Did 2015 not happen in your world? LaRoche is a joke and the White Sox can’t give him away.
Seriously that’s the most ignorant logic I’ve ever heard. A down year last year isn’t reason to think he’ll be bad again? What the f are you talking about?
A down year could be a symptom of regression if the player is older. Pretty sure LaRoche falls in that category. Also, 2011 and 2013 certainly demonstrate some signs toward that end as well.
Padres might have to give up some cash in this deal
I think Schebler is going to surprise a lot of people next year.
Me too. I don’t hate the Frazier deal nearly as much as many do.
Why would the Dodgers trade for LaRoche? They’ve got Gonzalez at 1B for the next three years and he’s been pretty durable and fairly consistent in production. They’ve got nowhere to put LaRoche.
Matt Kemp is on the Padres, the discussed deal was with them, not the Dodgers
Lol, is this 2014? Kemp plays for the Padres now
Cardinals didnt have a very good offense themselves
Amazing how steady they are. To score only 647 runs and still win 100 games. Good pitching, defense, and management is just as important which is very evident with the Cards.
True true. However, one cant expect their pitching staff to be as good in 2016. But I do believe theyll find ways to win
When one or two guys fail in a year it is the players. When there is a systematic breakdown of being unable to drive in runs all season it is the manager and coaching staff. The White Sox in particular have inept management (which is back this year) and specifically the inability to teach players how to bunt. If the White Sox knew how to bunt they likely would have won more games than they did. This is also not a new issue, it is a reoccurring one from season to season and I have no doubt the Sox would have been better had Eaton, Sanchez, Saladino, and Ramirez (heck even LaRoche) knew how to bunt consistently.
The White Sox problem over the past few seasons has been their inability to hit the long ball consistently in a park where it is imperative to have success. The White Sox generally have good pitching, especially from their starting rotation. That and big time power are the two biggest keys to their past success.
The White Sox are taking the correct approach right now in addressing this issue. The trade for Todd Frazier and Brett Lawrie will significantly improve their power output at 3B and 2B. Adding another bopper at a corner outfield position, as has been speculated, would be the icing on the cake, along with a short term upgrade at SS and another right-handed starting pitcher.
I don’t dismiss the notion of bunting as not being important, It is, especially with the “grunts” in their lineup. But increased power, along with better OBP numbers from their batting order are more essential. Good pitching and HR’s with men on base will do more to negate other team deficiencies than simply bunting better.
Not being able to drive in runs all season is mainly the product of poor roster construction. You can’t force players to play out of their abilities. If you build a lineup that can’t run, you’ll get an offense that can’t run. The key to driving in runs all season is power and speed. Look at the Astros and Cubs. Most of the time, those two teams would not be where they are. Way too young and inexperienced. But they just happen to have young cores that have a lot of power and speed. Both teams had poor team BA and OBP. But they bypassed it with power and speed. One of the honorable mentions among the lowest scoring offenses in 2015 was the Angels. They had just as much power and similar percentages as the Astros and Cubs. But the big difference was lack of speed. Who woulda thought that? If LAA had the rabbits they had in years past they would’ve scored enough to pass the Astros and perhaps the Rangers. So whether your team hits .270 or .240, if they have power and speed they can get around it. Of course higher percentages are always nice. It comes down to how a GM constructs their roster. And it especially helps if the GM and coaching staff are on the same page with their organizational philosophy.
Yeeeeeeah, absolutely none of that is true. Power and speed are not more important than getting on base. In fact most of the evidence suggests that it’s less important, especially speed.
Agreed, consistency and clutch hitting in key situations (like RISP with 0/1/2 outs) is needed more than anything. Cubs and Houston did a lot of bashing and made it to the playoffs, then got royally exposed to good pitching.
Not to make excuses for them but I think they expected much more from Shark, Laroche, Bonaficio, and Melky. They were lacking some serious punch. Frazier should help and if they can get one of the remaining four big free agents I think they can compete for the division.
I was surprised by the lack of offense from the White Sox. As a baseball fan, not a CWS fan, looking at them from the outside I felt they had some talent on the roster that would lead to more runs. I would expect bounce back from Laroche and Melky then with Abreau plus the new additions of Frazier and Lawrie I expect them to get closer to 700 runs. That coupled with a rotation including Sale, Quintana, and Rodon I expect the 2016 team to be more like what the 2015 team was expected to be.
Not worried about Melky as he was one of the few bright spots in the second half and started to pull his weight, but I have a feeling he will be much suited for DH if they can get another OF or two. Poor fundamentals really killed the Sox in being unable to put bunts down when needed and when they could not even move a runner in or hit sac flies, all of which are fundamental issues and have been around since Robin took over.
Isn’t Theos contract up after this year? You think we can convince jerry to throw a piece of the team at Theo to come run the white sox.
Epstein and Jed are at Wrigley for the foreseeable future.
Theo and Jed haven’t won anything in Chicago yet. Does the future look bright? Of course it does, but nothing is promised to them or that team. Plus, the way how Theo operated with signing all of those young foreign superstar talents is not possible anymore. The rules have changed. They could NOT go to any other team and use the same plan like they did with Boston and early on with the Cubs. Theo’s ability to put together a winning team without that loophole he used in the past is not proven.
How about Avi on the White Sox. Can his hitting come around? Or should he get traded while he’s still relatively valuable. Same question for Saladino.