Major League Baseball’s arduous 2021-22 offseason featured a 99-day lockout that ultimately resulted in an abbreviated spring training and a delayed Opening Day.
Things have frantically fallen into place since the new labor deal came together on March 10, with every team trying to jam most of its winter moves into just a few weeks.
Paired with the expanded 12-team playoff field and the opportunities afforded by the universal designated hitter, more clubs were active in March than expected, setting up some interesting postseason races for the new season.
Having also crammed these past few weeks, USA TODAY Sports presents its 2022 record predictions, an annual exercise in prognostication attempting to make sense of what went down this offseason and how it fits into team trajectory.
Here’s how our panel sees the season playing out:
Four of these teams won 90+ games in 2021 but the Blue Jays were the most active in the offseason, acquiring third baseman Matt Chapman and starter Kevin Gausman – albeit to replace Marcus Semien and Robbie Ray… The Rays have won the division two years in a row but didn’t do much to upgrade, and have a lot riding on Wander Franco (and his new 11-year, $182 million contract) taking a significant step forward … Yankees fans may have hated the offseason, but the team didn’t get significantly worse over the winter. The pitching questions persist but they could get a jolt from new infielders Josh Donaldson and Isiah Kiner-Falefa… Trevor Story will move to second base for the Red Soxwho swooped in to sign the two-time All-Star and boasted one of the best lineups in baseball … The Orioles hope to see top prospect Adley Rutschman soon (but not too soon) and are going to lose 100 games again but have players worth watching in Cedric Mullins and Ryan Mountcastle.
There wasn’t much turnover for the White Sox, who enter 2022 as the favorites again with big things expected from Luis Robert and Eloy Jimenez; both were limited to less than 70 games last year… Twins decided to go for it and shocked baseball by signing Carlos Correa, perhaps posing some real questions for Chicago’s title defense … They may be a year away, but the Tigers added some big pieces (Javy Baez, Eduardo Rodriguez) and are loaded with young talent, making them a trendy pick to make the playoffs ahead of schedule … Baseball’s top prospect Bobby Witt Jr. is expected to break camp with the Royalswho brought back 38-year-old Zack Greinke to the organization that drafted him… The Guardians did virtually nothing this winter, yet it wouldn’t be shocking to see them finish second or third.
Justin Verlander’s return is huge for the Astros, coming off their third World Series appearance in five years. Carlos Correa is gone but Dusty Baker’s team is expected to win the division again … The Mariners may have something to say about that, though, making some big moves in hopes of ending baseball’s longest postseason drought – dating back to 2001. They added Cy Young winner Robbie Ray and 2021 All-Stars in Adam Frazier and Jesse Winker … Nobody really knows what to make of the Angels. Their hopes of competing hinge on the health of Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon … Dropping $500 million on a new middle infield (Corey Seager and Marcus Semien) got plenty of attention for the Rangers … An ongoing clearance sale has the Athletics expected to finish last, but Sean Manaea and Frankie Montas give Oakland a little bit of upward mobility if they don’t get shipped off, too.
Indeed, the competition will be fiercer – but the brave should finish atop the division for a fifth consecutive season, having made baseball’s best bullpen even deeper … Signing Max Scherzer was the put first big free agent splash of the Steve Cohen era and the universal designated hitter stretches out a lineup that added some new bats after underachieving in 2021 … It’s been more than a decade since the Phillies made the playoffs but Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber on board, this may be the best all-around team they’ve put together in recent years … Credit to the Marlins for spending some money on Avisail Garcia ($53 million) and Jorge Soler ($36 million). They’ve got a good young rotation led by Sandy Alcantara and are going to cause headaches for the division’s presumed contenders … Juan Soto Extension Watch is going to be 2022’s dominant storyline for the Nationalswho did sign 41-year-old DH Nelson Cruz.
Tea Brewers How? Milwaukee has made the playoffs four years in a row, a streak that should continue as the Cardinals didn’t do much to close the gap. Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff are the main attractions, but the Brewers’ rotation strength lies in the depth with Freddy Peralta, Adrian Houser and Eric Lauer … It was a surprise to see the cubs spend semi-big on Seiya Suzuki and Marcus Stroman and Chicago enters the new season with most of the roster turned over … Cincinnati stayed in the hunt into September last season, but now they’ve traded Sonny Gray, Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suarez. They’ve still got Luis Castillo and Tyler Mahle for now … It should be a fourth consecutive last-place season for the Pirateswho hope Ke’Bryan Hayes bounces back and prospect Oneil Cruz brings some excitement.
After finishing in second place with 106 wins, the Dodgers signed Freddie Freeman, the third recent MVP in a lineup that – don’t forget – includes shortstop Trea Turner, acquired last summer … The Giants seemingly have to prove themselves all over again and should push for a wild-card spot, but it’s hard to imagine them hanging with their rivals if the win totals get into the 100s again… Last year’s slow collapse wasn’t a great look for the padres and Fernando Tatis Jr. is already injured, but they get starter Mike Clevinger back after missing all of 2021 … The rocks were surprisingly the top suitor for Kris Bryant, signing him to a seven-year, $182 million contract… Has a team ever lost 110 games as quietly as the Diamondbacks last year? They could match that in 2022.