Every April, the 30 teams that make up Major League Baseball begin a new season full of hope and dreams of a World Series championship. For some clubs, those dreams could very easily become reality — for others, well, a title a bit further out of reach. But one of the best parts of every baseball season is seeing which teams made the right offseason moves to improve their rosters and get them closer to a ring.
So to usher in the 2016 season, we’re taking a look at the five big league squads that bolstered their lineups enough to make some serious noise this summer. How much will they improve? Only time will tell. But these are the teams to watch this year.
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Chicago Cubs: 2015 Record 97-65, Lost 4-0 To Mets in NLCS
The Cubs (2015 Record 97-65, Lost 4-0 to Mets in NLCS) almost made it to the World Series last season, but fell short. They signed two players — Jason Heyward and John Lackey — from their archrivals the St. Louis Cardinals. Heyward hit a solid .293 last season, and John Lackey has developed good clubhouse leadership after winning the World Series in 2002 and 2013 with Anaheim and Boston. They also signed utility infielder Ben Zobrist and retained Dexter Fowler. Fowler hit 17 home runs and had an on base percentage of .346 last season with Chicago. Looks like the Cubs have all the right pieces to go all the way this year.
Photo: Rob Tringali/Getty Images
Boston Red Sox: 2015 Record: 78-84, Missed Playoffs
Boston (2015 Record: 78-84, missed playoffs) went from winning the World Series in 2013 to finishing in last place in 2014 and 2015. Now, the Red Sox finally look ready to return to the top. They acquired Craig Kimbrel from the San Diego Padres, a top-notch closer. He recorded 225 saves during his six-year career. The Red Sox also signed Toronto Blue Jays ace David Price, who posted an 18-5 record and a 2.45 ERA last season. With designated hitter David Ortiz entering the final year of his career, the Red Sox are hoping to make this season more memorable than last.
Photo: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images
Arizona Diamondbacks: 2015 Record 79-83, Missed Playoffs
The Diamondbacks’ production lifted them to a second-place finish in runs scored (720) last season (2015 Record 79-83, missed playoffs), but they had an average team ERA above four. Yikes! To improve pitching, Arizona made two big moves. The first was a trade with the Atlanta Braves to bring 2015 All-Star Shelby Miller, who had a 3.02 ERA last season, aboard. They also signed Zack Greinke. The former Los Angeles Dodger is a direct pick-up from a division rival. Greinke had a historic 2015 with a record of 19-3 and a 1.66 ERA, tops in the majors. If the Diamondbacks repeat their offensive output and find a pitching rhythm, fans at Chase Field could see an electrifying 2016.
Photo: Norm Hall/Getty Images
Detroit Tigers: 2015 Record: 74-87, Missed Playoffs
Detroit (2015 Record: 74-87, missed playoffs) did not play a full 162 games last season due to a rainout that was not made up. But they will hope to play 162 plus some playoff games this year. The Tigers ranked 28th in the MLB in team ERA last season (4.64). The pitching woes, however, should resolved with the signing of former Washington Nationals starter Jordan Zimmerman. The dominant flamethrower had 164 strikeouts to just 39 walks last season. To boost its offense, Detroit signed outfielder Justin Upton. He hit at least 25 home runs in each of his last three seasons with Atlanta and San Diego. With these additions, Detroit is poised to bounce back from a sub .500 year.
Photo: Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images
Atlanta Braves: 2015 Record: 67-95, Missed Playoffs
While we may not see the Braves (2015 Record: 67-95, missed playoffs) improve by much this year, their offseason moves will be huge for the future. On the other side of the Shelby Miller trade, the Braves picked up outfielder Ender Inciarte and #1 overall 2015 draft pick Dansby Swanson. Although he will start 2016 in the minor leagues, Swanson is hyped as a generational talent. So there is a possibility he could be called up to the majors before the end of this season. The Braves also picked up the top prospect in the Anaheim farm system, Sean Newcomb, through the Andrelton Simmons trade. Many rate Atlanta’s farm system as the #1 in the MLB. The Braves have the potential to prove that, and use it to contend in the coming seasons.
Photo: Tony Firriolo/MLB Photos via Getty Images
Most Improved MLB Teams in 2016