The Going For It rankings: Which MLB teams want to win most in 2022?
These are not your normal power rankings. Having a good baseball team is one thing. What might be more distinctive in MLB in 2022 is having a franchise geared toward maximizing the present season. It’s the mindset that took the Braves out of an injury-instigated malaise and made them champions last year.
Spending more doesn’t always mean winning more, as the numbers show. And making exciting moves doesn’t guarantee exciting results. Still, the proclivity to improve the team — subjective as it may be — sets the tone for the summer ahead.
So this is a ranking of the 30 teams by demonstrated want-to, by how much they are Going For It.
It’s World Series time
The Dodgers will win the World Series if …
That was the prompt for manager Dave Roberts on a radio show last month. And his initial response was gloriously light on conditions. “We play a full season and there is a postseason.”
The rest of this ranking doesn’t reflect how good teams should be, but merely their level of demonstrated will to win this year. The No. 1 slot reflects, well, both. If you don’t think the Dodgers are the World Series favorites, you’re lying to yourself. And they’ll probably prove it again at the trade deadline.
They lost a Cy Young winner and an MVP candidate and got better. Adding Matt Chapman took their infield to a new level, and Kevin Gausman is perhaps a steadier hand than Robbie Ray would have been if he had returned. Of all the AL East teams, they have their eyes most clearly on the prize.
4. Atlanta Braves
The Mets are doing every talk radio caller’s most basic description of trying — SIGN MAX SCHERZER — and it might work! Spending money is the fastest way to get players who are definitely good, and Steve Cohen is doing that. It might still go wrong, because shoulders that throw 101 mph are under a lot of strain, but the effort is there.
Meanwhile, in Atlanta, the defending champs surprised just about everyone by snagging Matt Olson instead of re-signing Freddie Freeman. The end result is a team with a new face and the same goal.
The White Sox need health more than anything else, but the cupboard is full, expensive and ready to win. The most glaring hole in their lineup was patched when they traded Craig Kimbrel to the Dodgers for A.J. Pollock.
How do you drive this bandwagon?
Licking wounds from a 2021 season that was supposed to be Their Time, the Padres may belong in the top category, but it’s a little hard to tell. They chose to add backup for the roster that faltered in the second half last year — trading for Sean Manaea and Luke Voit. That may well be enough to get them back to playoff prominence, but it doesn’t compare to their previous flexing.
Building a bandwagon
I don’t think anyone is confusing Robbie Ray with Max Scherzer despite the shiny new Cy Young, but Seattle still signed the Cy Young winner! The Mariners also dealt for two legitimate power threats in Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suarez and will start top prospect Julio Rodriguez in center field on opening day. Breaking the longest postseason drought in American professional sports is the motivating goal.
Will the Twins be better than the New York Yankees? No, almost certainly not. But they took a miserable 2021 and quickly flipped it into excitement with a flurry of moves that allowed them to secure Carlos Correa and morph into wild-card contenders. That’s what trying looks like.
Great expectations …
9. New York Yankees
They’re still likely to win 90 games and make the playoffs. But for an organization that so consistently professes disappointment over any season that doesn’t end in a World Series, the front office seems far more interested in litigating past failures than ensuring 2022 doesn’t turn out the same. The Carlos Correa contract was tailored to suit their needs — it's just that they didn't devise it.
10. Philadelphia Phillies
11. Los Angeles Angels
Trying very hard in very weird ways. The Phillies and Angels have some of the sport’s most recognizable stars … and also the most questionable defense and pitching, respectively, of any supposed contenders.
12. Boston Red Sox
Armed with the glow of recent success and a daunting division, Red Sox executive Chaim Bloom seems to be emulating his former employer, the Rays, in making sure fans wouldn’t be too surprised if the team missed the playoffs.
13. Houston Astros
14. Milwaukee Brewers
Two sides of the same coin, the Astros rested on the laurels of their behemoth lineup and the Brewers did the same on the strength of their starting rotation. Both should hold their divisions at arm’s length, but they would rank higher here if they had made a point of turning question marks into exclamation points. That meant shortstop for the Astros, where Carlos Correa dangled all winter. And for the Brewers, it meant adding more than aging Andrew McCutchen to a weak offense.
Who wants to see a magic trick?
15. San Francisco Giants
16. Tampa Bay Rays
The most significant addition to the Giants tasked with following up a 107-win masterpiece of shock and awe is Carlos Rodon. He could be great if he can stay healthy, but that won’t fully lift the on-paper expectations of this group to Dodgers level. It’s possible L.A. lieutenant turned Bay Area commander Farhan Zaidi just has this figured out and the Giants are sustainably awesome now. We’ll need more proof before buying it, though.
Meanwhile, we sort of have to buy the Rays model. They trade guys you think are good for a cornucopia of guys you may or may not have heard of, then the new guys become better than the original guy. They did some of that, and signed a big extension for all-world youngster Wander Franco. They build a baseball team as if they are practicing judo.
17. St. Louis Cardinals
The best pitcher on their opening day roster will be a 40-year-old who pitched a lot of meaningful innings in 2006. He’s 5 years older than their new manager, who replaced Mike Shildt for … reasons. Albert Pujols is here again. There will be curtain calls. History says that will somehow add up to a playoff spot.
Designing a bandwagon
18. Texas Rangers
Remember when the lowly pre-Bryce Harper Nationals signed Jayson Werth to indicate they were serious about getting good soon? The Rangers have taken that tactic and turned it Texas-sized. They now have Corey Seager and Marcus Semien in the middle infield for a cool $500 million. Does it make this team a contender? Absolutely not. But the future ambition is obvious.
19. Detroit Tigers
20. Kansas City Royals
The AL Central’s rebuilding duo are both on the upswing now. And both have extremely exciting top prospects on the opening day roster — Bobby Witt Jr. for Kansas City, Spencer Torkelson for Detroit. The Tigers even added Javier Baez and Eduardo Rodriguez over the winter as the idea of winning comes into focus.
21. Miami Marlins
Pitching? Check! Hitting? Check back later.
On a cheap but effective treadmill
22. Cleveland Guardians
It is feasible that this team could make the playoffs despite a sub-$50 million payroll and an outfield full of dudes you’ve never heard of. They would have been even lower on this list had they not finally ponied up to keep Jose Ramirez.
On an expensive but infuriating treadmill
23. Colorado Rockies
The franchise that keeps driving away stars via pure frustration did go out and sign a new one to accentuate a team going absolutely nowhere. Still, we must acknowledge that they think they are trying, even if no one on the outside can decipher how it’s supposed to work.
Back to the drawing board
24. Washington Nationals
25. Chicago Cubs
These two teams began rebuilds at the trade deadline and are working to make the down periods go quickly. Each made reasonable moves designed to hurry along the process — with the Nationals bringing in trade bait in Nelson Cruz and the Cubs adding intriguing slugger Seiya Suzuki.
26. Arizona Diamondbacks
After a horrendous 2021, expect Arizona to be better purely on the merits of better luck. They are not tanking, and indeed signed star Ketel Marte to an extension to prove as much.
27. Cincinnati Reds
A few years of bigger-than-usual budgets didn’t go as planned, so the Reds are rapidly spinning off parts. There’s still enough here to envision a valiant spoiler or .500ish team. For now.
Arson vis-a-vis insurance fraud
28. Pittsburgh Pirates
29. Baltimore Orioles
Amid a wave of top prospects making opening day rosters, the Pirates promptly sent their jaw-dropping talent — the 6-foot-7 shortstop Oneil Cruz — to Triple-A. What’s worse? He already played in the majors and more than held his own at the end of 2021. The Orioles escaped scrutiny because their top talent, catcher Adley Rutschman, was injured in spring.
If you combined these two teams’ projected 2022 payrolls into one, it would still rank in the league’s bottom five.
30. Oakland A’s
Then there’s Oakland. This franchise, fresh off a run of contention, decided to campaign for a new stadium by trading away everything that wasn’t tied down. That included Matt Chapman and Matt Olson — two cornerstone corner infielders who were projected to make a grand total of $21.5 million this season before they were jettisoned. That was apparently too much.