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The 5 Most Improved MLB Teams Heading Into 2024

The 2023-24 MLB offseason has been one of the slower-moving ones in recent memory. Sure, there were some major moves, including the largest contract in professional sports history (more on that later). However, news of major trades and free agent signings came in dribs and drabs. The deluge of breaking news that usually occurs at least once per offseason was nowhere to be found this time. Still, plenty of teams are ending the offseason with stronger rosters than when it began. It remains to be seen whether this translates to a stronger season, but a select few are looking poised to make leaps from last year. Here are MLB’s top 5 most improved teams as the 2024 season approaches.

The Top 5 Most Improved MLB Teams Heading Into 2024

5. New York Mets

It’s more than fair to say that the Mets had a disastrous 2023, at least relative to expectations. They expected Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander to front their rotation, giving them short-term, big-money contracts. Both ended up hurt for long stretches early on, and the Mets struggled early on. By June, they were in a big hole in the NL East behind the Atlanta Braves and basically out of playoff contention.

Verlander and Scherzer were shipped out of town at the trade deadline. While that was a wave of the white flag last year, this year it means all that money is off the books. Plus, they won’t have to rely on two legends at the ends of their careers to bank the most innings on the team. Over the offseason, the Mets added Luis Severino and Sean Manaea to bulk up the rotation. While Severino has struggled with injuries, he provides a lot of upside if he stays healthy. Edwin Diaz is set to return as the closer, shoring up the bullpen. Their biggest offensive addition is Luke Voit, who is a legitimate power threat when healthy. There are still a lot of ifs concerning the Mets, but they’ve moved on from many of last year’s issues and can contend if everything goes right.

4. New York Yankees

The Yankees had their worst season in ages, although their high standards must be taken into account. Finishing 82-80 and well out of postseason contention, GM Brian Cashman was under pressure to make something happen this offseason. He certainly did that, swinging a blockbuster trade for superstar slugger Juan Soto, a deal that also adds Trent Grisham to the mix. In a separate trade, the Yankees acquired Alex Verdugo, adding a steady two-way presence to the outfield. Needing a complement to Cy Young winner Gerrit Cole, they also signed Marcus Stroman in free agency.

A big killer for the 2023 Yankees was injuries. With Carlos Rodón, Anthony Rizzo, Nestor Cortés, and Jose Trevino all back and hopefully at full strength (oh yeah, add Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton to that list too), the Bombers look poised to improve on a rough year. If everyone stays healthy, it’s hard not to see this team in the mix for the AL East and perhaps a deep October run.

3. Los Angeles Dodgers

It’s hard to improve, at least regular season-wise, from what the Dodgers have accomplished the last several seasons. Constantly fielding one of the top rosters in the sport, their stranglehold on the NL West has lasted for a decade (excluding the Giants’ phenomenal 2021 campaign). Still, their postseason fortunes have not been as strong as they hoped. Their only title in that timeframe came in 2020, a year unrivaled in extenuating circumstances. If there was any hope of the Dodgers turning that October luck around, they would have to improve somehow.

As hard as it is to do, they found a way to make a top-tier roster even greater. They added the best player in the sport, Shohei Ohtani, with an unprecedented 10-year, $700 million contract. Ohtani is deferring $680 million of that money until the end of the deal (his own idea), allowing LA to spend even more freely. And spend they have. This offseason, the Dodgers also added perhaps the most highly-touted Japanese pitcher (pre-MLB) in history, Yoshinobu Yamamoto. Not to mention Tyler Glasnow and James Paxton joining the rotation as well. Just think how deadly that group will be when Ohtani is able to pitch again. LA also added Teoscar Hernandez, who should provide tons of pop in an already powerful lineup. All 29 other teams are now on alert. They know loud and clear who is the team to beat.

2. Kansas City Royals

Since the Royals won the 2015 World Series, there has been very little to cheer about in Kansas City, at least on the Kauffman Stadium side of the Truman Sports Complex. The team quickly reverted to its losing ways that were all too familiar to its fans from 1986-2013. However, it looks like the Royals’ long rebuild may finally start to bear fruit.

This offseason, Kansas City locked down their new franchise cornerstone, Bobby Witt Jr., for the long haul. The soon-to-be 24-year-old shortstop inked an 11-year, $288.7 million contract extension, a franchise record. In the pitching department, they added Seth Lugo and Michael Wacha to the rotation, and three-time defending World Series champ Will Smith to the bullpen. Hunter Renfroe provides some firepower to a lineup that desperately needs it.

All these transactions also signal a potential culture shift in KC. The team now appears to be willing to spend to contend, and if they turn things around, perhaps other small-market teams will follow suit. If all goes right, the Royals may find themselves on the verge of playoff contention. A much more likely scenario is a modest improvement record-wise and a bit more patience required. But coming off a 106-loss season and this flurry of offseason moves, there is seemingly nowhere to go but up for the Royals.

1. St. Louis Cardinals

If you want a surefire bet of a bad team from last year becoming postseason contenders in 2024, the Cardinals seem to be the pick. Last year, the Cards finished 71-91, their lowest win total in a full season since 1990. This was largely due to their struggling pitching staff, which pitched to a steep combined ERA of 4.79, 12th in the NL. This included a starters’ ERA of 5.08. In order to get St. Louis back where they seemingly belong, that would have to be addressed.

The rotation is certainly looking stronger now, thanks to the additions of Sonny Gray and Kyle Gibson, along with the return of Lance Lynn after six seasons elsewhere.  A trio of steady veterans leading the staff should put the Cards in a position to win on most nights. Their recent signing of Brandon Crawford adds a championship presence to their infield. If Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado can bounce back from an iffy 2023, the team should be back to their usual position of contention. Their formidable pitching moves, subpar performance last season, and high ceiling if all goes according to plan combine to make the Cardinals MLB’s most improved team heading into 2024. They have the most potential of these five to go from the lowest low to the highest high.


Photo Credit: © Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports


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