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Hot stove stock watch for all 30 teams — Who has actually done something this winter?

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The hot stove appears to be on the fritz this winter, serving up only a few lukewarm morsels to whet our withering appetites. At least it gives us plenty of time for concocting lame metaphors. The offseason’s rumors-to-news ratio has been wildly skewed toward the former. Surely, that will change soon, if only because there are dozens of useful veterans still lingering on the open market and there are more than a handful of playoff hopefuls with roster holes still to be plugged. It has to change soon, right?

Spring training is only six weeks away — though, given the frigid temperatures across most of the country, it seems like more than that. Still, teams will be mostly finishing off their winter work this month, which should make for the rare offseason in which January holds as much intrigue as December. This isn’t to say that nothing has changed since we established our pre-hot stove baselines. It’s just that things haven’t changed as much as they might have, given a normal rate of hot stove activity.

Today’s check-in orders the teams by how much their forecast — based on simulations of the upcoming season — has changed since our last installment, making it a nifty summary of how this winter has ever-so-slowly progressed.

The aggressors

Philadelphia Phillies

New Year’s win projection: 77.3

Change in win projection from pre-hot stove forecast: 5.9 (Rank: 1)

Playoff probability: 14 percent | Championship probability: 0.2 percent

The Phillies are the most improved team of the winter because they represent a combination of unusual (for this winter) aggressiveness and the lack of high-stakes activity elsewhere across baseball. They’ve been proactive (signing Carlos Santana, Tommy Hunter and Pat Neshek), and they have a number of young players on the ascension. That doesn’t make the Phillies much of a playoff contender just yet, but one more move to stabilize the top of the starting rotation would make Philadelphia a popular sleeper pick for a wild-card push next season. Even if that ahead-of-schedule run doesn’t happen, brighter days are just around the corner for the Phillies.

Los Angeles Angels

New Year’s win projection: 88.7

Change in win projection from pre-hot stove forecast: 4.9 (Rank: 2)

Playoff probability: 58 percent | Championship probability: 3.5 percent

As long as the Angels are throwing money around, why not jump into the Yu Darvish sweepstakes? As of now, the Angels look like a slight favorite over the Twins for the AL’s second wild-card spot. That status would be weakened if Minnesota signs Darvish, as has been a rumored desire for the Twins all winter. But if the Angels landed him, Darvish would push the on-paper Angels near Boston for the top wild-card spot and put L.A. in position to take advantage of an unexpected collapse from the Astros. It’s only money, right?

San Diego Padres

New Year’s win projection: 71.6

Change in win projection from pre-hot stove forecast: 4.8 (Rank: 3)

Playoff probability: 4 percent | Championship probability: zero percent

The Padres have been the poor man’s Phillies this winter, adding Freddy Galvis and Chase Headley to stabilize the infield. At the same time, San Diego can hope to get further improvement from the likes of Manuel Margot, Hunter Renfroe, Austin Hedges and even Wil Myers. That said, San Diego is nowhere near short-term playoff contention. A successful pursuit of Eric Hosmer wouldn’t change that outlook by much, as the only thing that might would be an early influx of impact talent from the Padres’ deep, but raw, minor league system. Not just yet.

San Francisco Giants

New Year’s win projection: 80.5

Change in win projection from pre-hot stove forecast: 4.0 (Rank: 4)

Playoff probability: 23 percent | Championship probability: 0.4 percent

The Giants have an estimated $593 million committed to nine players currently on the roster. All of them except one (Madison Bumgarner) will be in their age-30 season or older in 2018. Apparently, this is the new price tag for mediocrity. But, hey, at least the Giants look better than they did six weeks ago.

Small steps

Texas Rangers

New Year’s win projection: 76.2

Change in win projection from pre-hot stove forecast: 2.9 (Rank: 5)

Playoff probability: 8 percent | Championship probability: 0.1 percent

The Rangers have a lot of maneuvering left to do until spring training arrives, especially since the current projected rotation includes two guys (Mike Minor and Matt Bush) who will be transitioning from bullpen roles. Texas seems as logical a choice as anybody to sign one of the big-ticket free-agent pitchers (Jake Arrieta, Darvish) but apparently isn’t too keen to make the splash, which is understandable. Still, you’d like to see whether the Rangers could turn Jurickson Profar into some kind of rotation or bullpen solution.

Kansas City Royals

New Year’s win projection: 67.3

Change in win projection from pre-hot stove forecast: 2.2 (Rank: 6)

Playoff probability: 1 percent | Championship probability: zero percent

The Royals’ uptick in win forecast to a still-terrible 67.3 isn’t a product of their incomplete offseason work but rather is because of outside forces that improved their success in the simulations. The latest rumors that have Kansas City making a huge offer to Hosmer aren’t that surprising, unless you thought Dayton Moore’s statements about wanting to keep Hosmer were just lip service for the fans all along. But even if the Royals end up keeping Hosmer, that’s not going to move K.C.’s 2018 outlook anywhere near contention, especially once you consider that the signing likely would have to be accompanied by payroll slashes elsewhere.

Chicago White Sox

New Year’s win projection: 60.8

Change in win projection from pre-hot stove forecast: 1.9 (Rank: 7)

Playoff probability: zero percent | Championship probability: zero percent

That the White Sox slot right behind the Royals in this grouping should stand out for this reason: The Royals’ current forecast of 67.3 wins ranks 29th in the majors, yet it is 6.5 wins better than Chicago’s 2018 baseline. Yet we know that none of that has any particular relevance to a Chicago rebuilding plan that is coming along quite nicely, thank you very much.

Milwaukee Brewers

New Year’s win projection: 70.6

Change in win projection from pre-hot stove forecast: 1.8 (Rank: 8)

Playoff probability: 3 percent | Championship probability: zero percent

The Brewers continue to pop up in the rumor mill as possibilities for the likes of Arrieta, Darvish and Alex Cobb. On paper, this doesn’t make much sense. The projection systems see a lot of regression on the Milwaukee roster, as you’d expect from a team that improved by 13 games last season. Then you have the uncertainty over rehabbing starter Jimmy Nelson and the loss of key setup man Anthony Swarzak. There just isn’t a lot of analytical heft in Milwaukee’s outlook. Nevertheless, given the success that GM David Stearns has had in finding value in overlooked places, if he feels the Brewers are in position to make a next-step acquisition, who are we to question him?

St. Louis Cardinals

New Year’s win projection: 90.2

Change in win projection from pre-hot stove forecast: 1.4 (Rank: 9)

Playoff probability: 73 percent | Championship probability: 5.3 percent

As much as it looks as if the Cardinals are one more splashy acquisition from leaping into the elite, there isn’t a great deal of urgency for St. Louis to make that kind of move. The Cardinals clearly are a solid playoff contender as constructed. Given a farm system with a lot of attractive pieces, the Redbirds might be best-served to get into the 2018 season and then see how things stand in June or July. The bullpen doesn’t look airtight at the moment, but there also doesn’t seem to be anyone left on the free-agent market who is really going to change that assessment, unless the price tags for Greg Holland or Addison Reed come down.

New York Mets

New Year’s win projection: 83.2

Change in win projection from pre-hot stove forecast: 1.3 (Rank: 10)

Playoff probability: 38 percent | Championship probability: 1.3 percent

This isn’t a bad outlook for the Mets. It puts them on the periphery of the NL wild-card chase, which is headed up by the Cardinals. New York looks to be the best of the next tier of middling teams, a group that includes the Diamondbacks, Rockies, Giants, Pirates and Phillies. In the Mets’ case, they can wait out the winter knowing that, as usual, rotation health is the key to everything. Meanwhile, they can see whether the position-player group accelerates its collective development, which could happen with any or all of Dominic Smith, Amed Rosario and Brandon Nimmo. They also have to get Michael Conforto back on the field. If enough of these things progress in a positive direction, the Mets could be positioned to make an impact move during the season.

Cincinnati Reds

New Year’s win projection: 71.8

Change in win projection from pre-hot stove forecast: 1.2 (Rank: 11)

Playoff probability: 4 percent | Championship probability: zero percent

The Reds’ signing of veteran reliever Jared Hughes didn’t exactly mark Cincinnati as a World Series favorite. Hughes is a competent reliever and a terrific clubhouse presence for a Reds staff that will be very young for the next couple of years. That the Hughes acquisition is pretty much the sum of Dick Williams’ work this winter means only one thing: All hope for a Reds revival is tied to the development of their young pitchers. You can make a case that Williams should sell on Billy Hamilton, but, in lieu of another defensive solution for center field, such a move wouldn’t really make things any easier for those young hurlers.

New York Yankees

New Year’s win projection: 94.2

Change in win projection from pre-hot stove forecast: 0.7 (Rank: 12)

Playoff probability: 82 percent | Championship probability: 10.0 percent

This modestly improved forecast for the Bombers is bit of a surprise. In trading for Giancarlo Stanton and re-signing CC Sabathia, the Yankees are the one elite team to make an impact transaction this winter. Yet because of New York’s desire to stay under the tax threshold, the effect is fairly marginal. Starlin Castro and Headley, both sent away to free up payroll, had positive value. More importantly, New York looks as if it needs two starting-caliber additions to the infield. One of those spots might be filled by super prospect Gleyber Torres, but Brian Cashman might have to get creative to fill the other spot. Of course, this is all relative. The Yankees look strong enough that Cashman can afford to wait until the season to make more improvements unless a bargain falls into his lap between now and spring training.

Atlanta Braves

New Year’s win projection: 71.6

Change in win projection from pre-hot stove forecast: 0.6 (Rank: 13)

Playoff probability: 4 percent | Championship probability: zero percent

The Braves are a sleeper for wild-card contention next season. For one thing, the race for the NL’s second wild-card slot looks tepid at the moment. For another, the Braves have rock-solid foundational talents in their primes: Freddie Freeman, Ender Inciarte and Julio Teheran. Finally, there is a ton of upside in the Atlanta organization, some of which might start to manifest in 2018. Dansby Swanson, Ozzie Albies, Sean Newcomb, Ronald Acuna and Max Fried, Luiz Gohara and Lucas Sims could all help Atlanta fly past whatever number its preseason forecast lands on. Much depends on the early-season performance by the pitching staff.

Oakland Athletics

New Year’s win projection: 73.2

Change in win projection from pre-hot stove forecast: 0.6 (Rank: 14)

Playoff probability: 4 percent | Championship probability: zero percent

The A’s might be rebuilding, but they’ve still added three players this winter who should help the big league roster in 2018: Stephen Piscotty, Yusmeiro Petit and Emilio Pagan. If the latter pair can help the bullpen support all of the young rotation pieces, Oakland can be competitive next season and enter next winter looking to move up the ladder.

Colorado Rockies

New Year’s win projection: 78.3

Change in win projection from pre-hot stove forecast: 0.4 (Rank: 15)

Playoff probability: 15 percent | Championship probability: 0.2 percent

This is not the outlook you want to see for a team that will be paying the back end of its bullpen $37.5 million this season.

Toronto Blue Jays

New Year’s win projection: 81.4

Change in win projection from pre-hot stove forecast: 0.4 (Rank: 16)

Playoff probability: 22 percent | Championship probability: 0.8 percent

OK. So you didn’t want to tear down. Fine. And you didn’t want to overpay early in the offseason. Understandable. But now that the free-agent market has developed so slowly, aren’t we at the point where the Blue Jays need to add? Very much so. Grade: Incomplete.

Baltimore Orioles

New Year’s win projection: 74.1

Change in win projection from pre-hot stove forecast: 0.2 (Rank: 17)

Playoff probability: 5 percent | Championship probability: zero percent

If you don’t trade Manny Machado, then you’re going for it in 2018. But you’re not doing that with a rotation of Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman, Wade Miley and a slew of replacement-level guys. But to land pitchers who are really going to make a difference, you’ve got to dole out contracts that extend well past next season, after which Machado seems sure to be gone. The solution? It will be very interesting to see how Dan Duquette addresses this dilemma over the next few weeks.

Losing ground

Detroit Tigers

New Year’s win projection: 70.5

Change in win projection from pre-hot stove forecast: minus-0.2 (Rank: 18)

Playoff probability: 2 percent | Championship probability: zero percent

The Tigers have been active in taking fliers on players who might be turned into near-term trade pieces if they turn things around in Detroit. On the major league roster, that includes Leonys Martin, Mike Fiers and, possibly, Derek Norris. Al Avila also has already signed a number of veteran minor leaguers to fill out the organization. Maybe they’ll all turn out to be filler, but this is what rebuilding teams do.

Seattle Mariners

New Year’s win projection: 79.6

Change in win projection from pre-hot stove forecast: minus-0.7 (Rank: 19)

Playoff probability: 16 percent | Championship probability: 0.2 percent

Jerry Dipoto has really turned over the pitching mix around Felix Hernandez, James Paxton and Edwin Diaz since this time last year. The hope is that the Mariners can hit on the right combination to support what looks like a solid position group bolstered by the additions of Ryon Healy and Dee Gordon, a hope that probably hinges on better staff health. Still, it sure looks as if Seattle has lost ground to the division-rival Angels in the AL wild-card mix.

Boston Red Sox

New Year’s win projection: 91.1

Change in win projection from pre-hot stove forecast: minus-0.9 (Rank: 20)

Playoff probability: 71 percent | Championship probability: 5.8 percent

The Red Sox have stood pat this winter, though they’ve been involved in so many of the high-profile rumors that it hardly seems like it. Boston’s need for a middle-of-the-order hitter is exactly as urgent as it was at the end of the 2017 season. That season, as you remember, landed Boston in the postseason. Although the Sox have lost ground to the Yankees this winter, they still are very much the leading wild-card contender in the AL and are close enough to New York that another division crown would be less than shocking. So while the pursuit of J.D. Martinez is worth seeing through, it’s not a season-killer if it falls short. There will be sellers in July.

Chicago Cubs

New Year’s win projection: 96.0

Change in win projection from pre-hot stove forecast: minus-1.1 (Rank: 21)

Playoff probability: 90 percent | Championship probability: 13.4 percent

In signing Tyler Chatwood, Brandon Morrow, Steve Cishek and the injured Drew Smyly, the Cubs have been active. Yet the search for pitching continues, and apparently Chicago isn’t going to dip into its deep pool of position players to make an upgrade to the staff. But while that might worry some, just remember: When you’re beginning with a 96-win baseline, all of your options are good ones.

Pittsburgh Pirates

New Year’s win projection: 80.0

Change in win projection from pre-hot stove forecast: minus-1.6 (Rank: 22)

Playoff probability: 21 percent | Championship probability: 0.3 percent

See the Blue Jays comment.

Minnesota Twins

New Year’s win projection: 84.3

Change in win projection from pre-hot stove forecast: minus-1.9 (Rank: 23)

Playoff probability: 35 percent | Championship probability: 0.9 percent

The Twins are in the same boat as the Brewers in that, after a leap forward in 2017, they’ve been rumored to be in on the high-profile free-agent pitchers, thus far to no avail. But Minnesota is starting from a much stronger baseline than Milwaukee, and the addition of someone like Darvish would in theory mean more to the Twins than to the Brewers. Stay tuned.

Tampa Bay Rays

New Year’s win projection: 76.8

Change in win projection from pre-hot stove forecast: minus-2.1 (Rank: 24)

Playoff probability: 9 percent | Championship probability: 0.1 percent

Are the Rays rebuilding? If so, it’s a pillowy-soft rebuild. Trading franchise icon Evan Longoria is unfortunate for the Rays’ brand, but it might not make much difference on the field. Kevin Cash has a lot of infield options, and if the sell-off doesn’t extend into the starting rotation, Tampa Bay should be strong in that area, as well. Still, there is a nearly 12-win gap between the Rays’ current forecast and that of the second AL wild card (Angels). The bullpen, which is more potential over production at this point, might be the key. Still, hard questions lie ahead on when/if to part with Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi.

Arizona Diamondbacks

New Year’s win projection: 81.7

Change in win projection from pre-hot stove forecast: minus-2.7 (Rank: 25)

Playoff probability: 28 percent | Championship probability: 0.6 percent

Along with Milwaukee and Colorado, Arizona looks like another Plexiglas candidate. Still, a regression from last season’s 93 wins still leaves the Diamondbacks very much in the wild-card mix. The key consideration is this: Paul Goldschmidt has two more years before he hits free agency. Sure, Arizona is on a budget. But doesn’t it make sense to splurge for the next two years? So why not get aggressive with Martinez, whose market is slow, just like the other remaining free agents’? Martinez seemed happy in Arizona, became fast friends with Goldschmidt and doesn’t want to be confined to DH in the American League. Worth a shot.

Standing pat

Los Angeles Dodgers

New Year’s win projection: 98.7

Change in win projection from pre-hot stove forecast: minus-3.0 (Rank: 26)

Playoff probability: 95 percent | Championship probability: 17.5 percent

The next four teams are all among the elite clubs in baseball. That their forecast has regressed a bit reflects their inactivity and a small methodological tweak that reduced the standard deviation of the forecasts. That’s not to say that the Dodgers and the others in this group can’t still get better. L.A. probably isn’t going to make an impact move. For one thing, the Dodgers don’t need to. As constituted, they look like the National League’s best team. For another, they need to stay under the luxury-tax threshold to put themselves into position for next winter’s free-agent frenzy. But as good as the Dodgers have been at creatively filling out their bullpen and finding useful veterans, you’d still like to see another arm or two for the bullpen.

Washington Nationals

New Year’s win projection: 94.1

Change in win projection from pre-hot stove forecast: minus-3.5 (Rank: 27)

Playoff probability: 88 percent | Championship probability: 9.9 percent

If the Nationals really want to go all-in for Bryce Harper‘s contract year, they should get into the frenzy of picking over what’s left of that Marlins carcass lying on the shores of South Beach. They should do so even if it means dealing star prospect Victor Robles and taking back the contract of Castro. Adding Christian Yelich and J.T. Realmuto might seem like overkill for a team that already has a 94-win baseline, but the Nats are competing with the Cubs and Dodgers, and that’s just in their own league. Rarely has the elite tier been as crowded as it is right now, and Washington needs to give Harper as many reasons to stay as possible. Besides, Yelich and Realmuto can keep the Nats relevant even if Harper leaves.

Houston Astros

New Year’s win projection: 99.2

Change in win projection from pre-hot stove forecast: minus-3.5 (Rank: 28)

Playoff probability: 94 percent | Championship probability: 17.4 percent

Ho hum. The champions have the majors’ best offseason win forecast. Houston is also in position to add some salary for the next year or two while its young stars are winding their way through their arbitration phases. The Astros can make a splash if they see a fit, but they don’t need to do much more than add pitching depth. Pretty good position to be in.

Cleveland Indians

New Year’s win projection: 97.6

Change in win projection from pre-hot stove forecast: minus-3.7 (Rank: 29)

Playoff probability: 94 percent | Championship probability: 12.0 percent

With the departure of Santana, it feels as if the Indians’ window is already starting to shrink. Not drastically so. First off, the rotation should remain intact at least through the 2019 season. That in itself should keep Cleveland in contention. Still, there will be more of a burden on declining Edwin Encarnacion to produce this season. The Indians are unsettled at third base. They are banking on Yonder Alonso retaining most of the gains he made last season. And the game’s best bullpen might be on the wane. Bryan Shaw is in Colorado, which doesn’t help. But more alarming: Andrew Miller and Cody Allen are free agents after the 2018 season. If the Indians get a chance to throw a pillow contract at one of the remaining free-agent outfielders, they probably should do it.

Belly up

Miami Marlins

New Year’s win projection: 69.3

Change in win projection from pre-hot stove forecast: minus-10.2 (Rank: 30)

Playoff probability: 2 percent | Championship probability: zero percent

The Marlins plan to make money this year, which has to be feel-good news for their thrilled fan base. Since the scoreboard doesn’t promise to deliver many good tidings during the season, maybe the Marlins could post their monthly profit and loss statements on the marquee, just to give their ticket holders something to follow.



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