The Phillies would like to interest you and your team in a slightly used Ryan Howard. He's ... powerful. And famous, making international headlines just recently! He comes at the low, low, price of here just have him because the Phillies know they aren't going to be good next year, so they'll trade anybody and everybody. They're near the bottom of the roller coaster, patiently listening for the tickticktick that gets them back to the top.
The Braves, Reds and Brewers are in the same spot. The Rockies haven't done much this offseason, so they might consider themselves to be in something of a rebuilding or transition season, too. That's five teams out of the 15 in the National League, which makes for a mighty lopsided league, but not unusually so. This is how baseball is, usually. Some teams are up, some teams are down.
In the American League, every single team thinks they have a chance.
Oh, maybe they're not all super-confident teams, but there isn't a rebuilder among them. There isn't an AL team willing to deal veterans for prospects right now, and most of them are more likely to sign Chris Davis than they are to trade away their closer. Here are all 15 teams, in alphabetical order:
The Angels had to settle for a Daniel Nava/Craig Gentry platoon instead of Justin Upton or Yoenis Cespedes because they're still paying Josh Hamilton, but they're clearly going for it. The Andrelton Simmons deal suggests they're looking for a sustainable approach to roster construction after their previous missteps in free agency.
The A's are the trickiest ones to peg, always and forever, but Josh Reddick is their canary in the coal mine. Why don't they just deal Reddick for the bounty of prospects he would command, even in an outfield-saturated market? Because they're not giving up on 2016. Their high-risk, high-reward, low-money signings of Rich Hill and Henderson Alvarez are perfect for a team that thinks they might have a shot, just like the trades for Jed Lowrie and Yonder Alonso. I'm not sure what to make of big money for Ryan Madson, but if the A's aren't all-in, they're at least very curious about this roster.
The Astros will contend for the foreseeable future. The Blue Jays will need to get mighty creative to say the same, considering that two important pieces of their absurd lineup will be free agents.
The Indians have the kind of pitching staff that can paper over a lot of lineup holes, so even though it's unfortunate they can't use money to get the lineup help they need, they're a solid bet to be the Mets of 2016, right down to the deadline acquisition.
The Mariners are weird, and this will be true for the next decade or three, but you can tell they're going for it because new general manager Jerry Dipoto has made 483,383 different transactions since the World Series ended. They shouldn't be the favorites, but they're not exactly dark horses by this point.
The Orioles opened their transaction safe and found nothing but an IOU from Dipoto, who stole their transactions. That's fine, and they still have options in free agency. If they can't re-sign Chris Davis, they can move on to Upton or Cespedes. Both the lineup and rotation are just a little better than you think, even without Davis or Wei-Yin Chen.
The Rangers surprised everyone by contending ahead of schedule last year, and they picked up a Cole Hamels along the way.
The Rays seem like a team that could screw up this parity, but even if they trade one or two of their Jakes, they would do it because they have the depth to make a sell-high trade, not because they're giving up. They still might be the best team in baseball that won't get a division-winning preseason prediction.
The Red Sox just spent a ludicrous amount of money on the pitcher they knew they needed. The Royals just won the World Series, which is a string of words that still doesn't flow off the ol' fingertips. The Tigers will always be contending or at least pretending to while Mike Ilitch is still in charge, and the Twins are hoping their pitchers can do just enough to help their young position players contend.
The White Sox have been busy and creative, and they're probably better than they were on paper last year at this time, just getting a lot less attention for it. The Yankees have regrets about some of their contracts, and they have a lineup with just two players younger than 31, but they're expecting to contend.
That's 15 teams, all of whom are looking at 2016 with at least some measure of optimism. The A's might be the biggest stretch, but they're at least willing to see where the first two months of the season takes them. Their modest, reasonable offseason is kind of refreshing, really.
Now, you know at least five or six of these teams are going to fail spectacularly. At least a couple will lose 90 games or more. Maybe a couple of them won't surprise you, but some of the surefire contenders will stumble, too. Happens every year. There won't be 15 different 81-81 teams.
I don't remember a situation like this, though, where every single team in the league is at least cautiously optimistic. What's more, there isn't a clear bully in the bunch. Maybe the Blue Jays with that lineup, or the Royals, considering they'll have everything they did last year, save for Alex Gordon and Johnny Cueto. It's hard to find a glaring weakness on the Astros, and the Red Sox are in-theory imposing for the second straight winter. But there isn't an obviously dominant team in the AL, just like there isn't a clear doormat.
While there might not be 15 different .500 teams, here's a realistic scenario: July 31 could roll around with 15 different teams that haven't given up dreams of at least the second Wild Card. Even if that doesn't happen, we can appreciate the oddity of the 2015-16 offseason, where every single AL team thinks they have a chance.
Welcome to the offseason of AL parity. We'll see what April, May and June have to say about these winter dreams, but going over every roster, I can't say there's a delusional team in the bunch. Appreciate it now, because we might not see something like this for the next couple decades.
* * *
Reviewing 2015: It was just a great f**king year in sports
For more Nuff Said, check out SB Nation's Nuff Said playlist on YouTube, which includes Matt Ufford's takes on the Sportsman of the Year and the NFL's terrible catch rules. While you're there, be sure to subscribe to SB Nation's YouTube channel and look around our archives to watch Matt's Westminster Dog Show petting challenge.