With 2011 now upon us, "the 2011 season" is no longer next year. Duh. I hate writing introductions.
More importantly, with the exception of a few players, most free agents are off the board, the biggest trade targets have switched homes (for now), and for the most part, teams will be the same in a few months. Since I managed to take forever evaluating teams in my head to prove to Roger why he's so unbelievably dumb, I figured I'd get a little more mileage out of those thoughts (gotta squeeze every drop) with a Power Rankings post, and inadvertently agree with him.
1. Red Sox - Additions of Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford give them one of the best offensive and defensive teams, probably the best at least offensively. Their starting pitching wasn't great in 2010, but they have five good starters in Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz, John Lackey, and Daisuke Matsuzaka, each with upside. The addition of Bobby Jenks puts three closers (Bard, Papelbon, Jenks) in a good bullpen. All-around excellent squad, probably one of the best in years.
2. Phillies - If they weren't going to get #1, they have to be #2. Offense is aging (just like the rest of the team) and has a bad injury history, but they won't need to live up to their history with that starting staff. If they do, they'll be fighting the Sox for the top spot. Bullpen is a little shaky, with Madson they only really solid option, but if Lidge is good that'll be enough.
3. Giants - WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS BABY! Actually, this was a tough call. A little bit of homerism gets the Giants up here, but the fact that they had the second-best pitching staff and ninth-best offense+defense in baseball by fWAR last year makes them one of the best all-around teams. Jonathan Sanchez, Aubrey Huff, Pat Burrell, and Andres Torres probably won't be as good next year, and Juan Uribe has been exchanged for Miguel Tejada, but better seasons from Tim Lincecum and Pablo Sandoval and full seasons of Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, Cody Ross, Burrell, and Torres plus a deeper bench with Aaron Rowand and Mark DeRosa should at least equalize that. With a little luck, they could be a 95-win team.
4. Rays - This is probably high for most people, but I think the Rays are going to be just as good next year. They lost Crawford and Pena, and now have to compete with the powerhouse Red Sox, who are not only better but will probably not suffer as many injuries. But Desmond Jennings and Dan Johnson are capable, if not equal, replacements. A full season of John Jaso behind the plate will help, and Andrew Friedman has already acquired some nice bullpen pieces in Cesar Ramos, Adam Russell, and Joel Peralta. And with that rotation's true talent level far above last year's performance, plus the addition of Hellickson, their pitching should be better overall, likely balancing out the offensive loss. If they manage to trade a starter for a bat, all the better. Still, it's not as though the Rays are the fourth-best team in baseball so much as the no other team is.
5. Braves - A young team on the rise yet again. Will these bastards ever stop? Have some goddamned sustained failure, you pricks, and stop it with the endless supply of talented young players. Hanson in 2009, Heyward last year, a fresh new bullpen corps for 2011 and probably Julio Teheran in 2012. The Braves have good-to-great starting pitching, an excellent bullpen, and at least a capable offense. And now they have Dan Uggla. And Heyward could get better. Goddammit.
6. Rangers - The defending AL champs are sixth, and that's probably pretty high. The loss of Cliff Lee really stings, and Vladimir Guerrero's departure hurts almost as badly. Without Lee, there is no ace, and Colby Lewis isn't exactly a rock-solid No. 3, much less a No. 2. Still, their offense is powerful, and Derek Holland is a solid fifth starter if Neftali Feliz isn't converted from the bullpen. Another team with few holes, and acting like they're going to fill a nonexistent one by adding Adrian Beltre.
7. Twins - I seriously don't get why the Twins are good. None of their pitchers are really anything special (except Francisco Liriano, who's rather unpredictable), except some bullpen guys who all left. They managed to win 94 games last year without Joe Nathan or Justin Morneau, though, so there's gotta be something there. Jim Thome was surprisingly helpful. Like the Rays, they have to rebuild their bullpen, but Nathan helps with that. The Twins are a very good all-around team with a few superstars, and I can't wrap my head around the fact that Delmon Young was a two-win player last year.
8. Brewers - The Brewers a top 10 team? Wow. But that's what happens when you add Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum to Yovani Gallardo on one of the best offensive teams in the majors. Of course, Rickie Weeks and Corey Hart probably aren't worth 10 wins by themselves, but the Brewers could win 90 or so games and take the NL Central. If they could get some decent relief pitching they'd probably be in the top five.
9. Reds - They lost Aaron Harang, who was sadly one of their better pitchers last year, and Arthur Rhodes, who was their best bullpen piece. They've still got one of the best young offenses in the game, and Edinson Volquez and Johnny Cueto have serious upside, plus Bronson Arroyo isn't half bad, and if Aroldis Chapman is with the team, he and Francisco Cordero form a solid back end of the bullpen. If Chapman is starting, the Reds move ahead of the Brewers.
10. Yankees - Ouch. $200 million gets you the last spot in the top 10? The Yankees were the best offensive team in the majors last year, but when that offense is as old as it is and it's supplemented by exactly two reliably good pitchers in CC Sabathia and Mariano Rivera, you just can't count on them. If Andy Pettitte comes back, Phil Hughes manages to stay effective for a season, Joba Chamberlain shows some of that hype, A-Rod, Jeter, and Teixeira return to form somewhat and stay healthy, Cano continues hitting, and their bullpen manages to not blow it, they'll prove serious competition for the Rays. Otherwise, they'll hit a lot, but it won't matter, since they'll end up in third place anyway.
So ends the top 10. Your top ten teams, if you please.