These five clubs head into the 2020 MLB season in worse shape than they were at the end of last year.
World Series titles aren’t won during the winter, but what happens in these pivotal months of the MLB calendar can go a long way toward determining who’s lifting the trophy in October.
A key free agent signing can help a club make the leap from also-ran to contender, and there were plenty of those this offseason: the Yankees signing Gerrit Cole, the Twins adding Josh Donaldson, and Anthony Rendon teaming up with Mike Trout on the Los Angeles Angels.
Or a club can sign one of their own players to a new contract that keeps their roster intact moving forward, such as the defending champion Washington Nationals agreeing to a deal with Stephen Strasburg.
But not every club can have a successful offseason. For every MLB team looking forward to a fresh start in 2020, there is one heading into the season facing questions about the direction they’re heading in and lamenting the players they missed out on in the offseason.
Here are the five MLB clubs who had the worst offseasons heading into 2020.
Losing starting pitcher Gerrit Cole to the New York Yankees would be enough to land the Houston Astros on this list. The entire organization, though, likely wishes that was the worst thing to happen to them this offseason.
In November, The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported that the Astros employed an intricate system to steal opposing teams’ signs during their World Series run in 2017. Using a camera mounted in center field, the information would be relayed to a video monitor near the dugout and to the batter at the plate by banging on a trash can.
Following an extensive investigation by the league office, commissioner Rob Manfred suspended manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow for the entire season; both were fired by owner Jim Crane. But no players were disciplined and the 2017 world championship banner still hangs in Minute Maid Park.
That’s not sitting well with players around the league. Mike Trout, usually a quiet superstar who doesn’t give his opinion about anything, broke his silence to say the Astros players should be punished. Braves outfielder Nick Markakis said some of the Astros players deserve a “beating.” And Cody Bellinger of the Dodgers, who lost to the Astros in the World Series that season, believes his team was cheated out of a title.
The sign-stealing scandal left a scar on the sport to rival anything from the Steroid Era and the Black Sox. It’s one that won’t heal anytime soon as the Astros will be villains in every ballpark they visit in 2020. An MLB season is usually every team for itself in pursuit of a championship; if this offseason is any indication, 2020 will feel like it’s 29 vs. 1.