Baseball's postseason does not pause to acknowledge those slain by its ways and whims, but that doesn't mean we can't.

In the midst of the Championship Series round, here's a quick look at the outlook for six clubs who made it into -- but not through -- October and what it will take to get back.


What went wrong: Jake Arrieta, and the geography that landed them in the NL Central.

What lies ahead: It was unfair to see another terrific Pirates season go to waste in the one-and-done Wild Card round, and it's always fair to wonder how long a small-market club can sustain a run of success the likes of which the Buccos, who have baseball's second-best record over the last three seasons, have enjoyed.

A cavalcade of contractual questions are on the horizon for Neal Huntington and Co., with a key rotation member (A.J. Burnett) retiring (along with in-season acquisition Aramis Ramirez and possibly Joe Blanton), five other players venturing into free agency (J.A. Happ, Corey Hart, Joakim Soria, Antonio Bastardo and cooler killer Sean Rodriguez) and 12 guys arbitration-eligible.

Huntington has acknowledged the Pirates may need to part ways with Pittsburgh native Neil Walker at second base because of his arbitration worth, and that might be part of an entire remake of the right-hand side of the infield if the Buccos believe Josh Bell is ready to supplant Pedro Alvarez at first base. With Jung Ho Kang's status uncertain for the start of Spring Training after that season-ending knee injury in September, much of the infield picture is up in the air here, and same goes for the rotation beyond Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano.

It's hard to build a winner on a budget and even harder to sustain one. Huntington showed tremendous ability to adapt last winter with the addition of Francisco Cervelli to replace Russell Martin and with the wily international investment in Kang. He's going to have to work his magic again here.


What went wrong: On the heels of a September well-hit percentage that was their lowest of any month of the season and some general late-season struggles against lefties, the bats were silent against Dallas Keuchel in the Wild Card Game.

What lies ahead: One more year of the Carlos Beltran and Mark Teixeira contracts. Two more years of the Brett Gardner, CC Sabathia and Alex Rodriguez contracts.

Because of those punitive (and not so puny) contractual concerns, the Yankees will probably have another winter of (relative) austerity. Between locked-in commitments and arbitration estimates for seven players, they already have a 2016 payroll north of $200 million without doing a darn thing.

First and foremost, the Yankees need versatility. They need somebody who can help them against lefties and at multiple positions (Ben Zobrist is a perfect fit at second base for this very reason). Probably multiple somebodies, because age and/or injury concerns abound for Chase Headley, Jacoby Ellsbury, Beltran, A-Rod and Tex. There's also a need for more certainty in the rotation, though the Yanks can take Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, Luis Severino, Sabathia, Nate Eovaldi, Ivan Nova and Adam Warren to camp and feel they have enough bodies, at the very least.

Bottom line is that Brian Cashman is going to have to be creative, because, much like the way they approached this year's in-season trade market, the Yanks aren't expected to go after any of the open market's big fish.


What went wrong: A 100-win team very much reliant on dominant pitching did not get dominant pitching against the Cubs.

What lies ahead: The three-time defending NL Central champs will be in good position to continue their run, despite the ongoing rise of the Cubs and the persistence of the Pirates.

But there are clear challenges here, beginning with Jason Heyward's pending free agency. He'll arguably be the top position player on the open market largely as a function of his age (26) and the increased appreciation for what he does defensively. John Lackey, who was instrumental in the rotation's continued excellence without Adam Wainwright this season, will also be a free agent, as will relievers Matt Belisle, Randy Choate and Carlos Villanueva and first baseman Mark Reynolds. The Cards must also decide whether to exercise their $11.5 million option on the oft-injured but effective Jaime Garcia, who had a big bounceback year.

With a healthy Waino and the continued growth of their young players (Randal Grichuk, Stephen Piscotty and Kolten Wong), the Cardinals have a strong backbone. But they also have age concerns with Matt Holliday, Yadi Molina and Jhonny Peralta in an offense that averaged just south of four runs per game in '15.

The Cards will prioritize the bench and bullpen this winter, and they'll make every attempt to retain Heyward, who was, in the words of general manager John Mozeliak, "a tremendous fit." But even if they can swing a deal for Heyward, they'll still need improvement from within on the offensive end.


What went wrong: In a best-of-five set, they lost two games started by Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke.

What lies ahead: Beyond the obvious that is deciding the fate of Don Mattingly -- a good man who dealt with a dysfunctional roster in years past and a flawed one with this year's injury issues in the rotation -- the Dodgers must also decide whether to go all-in on Greinke and whether to entertain offers for Yasiel Puig.

Yes, the Dodgers carried a payroll calculated north of $300 million, for luxury tax purposes, at year's end. But in owing $14.5 million less to Matt Kemp, getting out from the commitments they carried to Dan Haren ($10 million), Brian Wilson ($9.5 million) and Dee Gordon ($2.5 million) this year and saving at shortstop with Corey Seager replacing Jimmy Rollins next, the Dodgers don't have their hands totally tied for '16.

That's a good thing, because there is tremendous need to retain Greinke given the questions in this rotation with every spot other than the one occupied by Kershaw. Brett Anderson is also a free agent, and he just exceeded his innings output from the previous three seasons combined. Hyun-Jin Ryu is coming off shoulder surgery, Brandon McCarthy is coming off elbow surgery, Alex Wood was inconsistent after his in-season acquisition and Julio Urias is just 19.

As a cost-controlled bat with obvious upside, Puig has trade value that the Dodgers could use to address their rotation. But that value is a shadow of what it once was, and the upside has been outweighed, in some measure, by his injuries and erratic play.

This will be a fascinating winter in L.A., as Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi continue to put their stamp on a club that is annually in "World Series or bust" mode.


What went wrong: A bullpen that was once a team strength ran out of gas, most painfully in Game 4 of the ALDS with the Royals.

What lies ahead: Tomorrow is guaranteed to none of us, much less a baseball team. But the Astros always had the feel of a team ahead of schedule, thereby making anything that transpired in this 2015 postseason gravy.

That said, there are still decisions to be made here. Trade Deadline pickup Scott Kazmir is a free agent, as is late-season hero Colby Rasmus, who no doubt earned himself some serious coin with his early October run-production. Relievers Tony Sipp, Chad Qualls and Joe Thatcher are also eligible.

With a full season of Carlos Correa and their young core on the rise, the Astros are as good a bet as any team listed here to get back to October in 2016. But they'll no doubt need to reinforce the 'pen, and they'll also have to decide whether to retain Kazmir or search for another impact solution in the rotation.

Retaining Rasmus appears problematic, given the organizational outfield depth and his rising price tag. But the big key with the Astros is that their payroll situation is only going to improve after this run. They went from zero dollars in television revenue in 2014 to a more workable arrangement that allowed them to up the ante by some $25 million going into '15. Look for the number to continue to rise moving forward.


What went wrong: One error-prone inning that led to one back-breaking pitch to Jose Bautista.

What lies ahead: After a 21-game jump in win total reignited the Rangers, the outlook for 2016 is obviously strengthened by the pending return of Yu Darvish to a rotation that now features Cole Hamels and could/should feature a healthier (and hopefully more effective) Derek Holland and Martin Perez. But there are obviously some "ifs" in that equation.

As far as free agency is concerned, Yovani Gallardo, Colby Lewis, Mike Napoli, Ross Ohlendorf, Will Venable, Drew Stubbs and Kyle Blanks are all eligible. The Rangers' biggest decision might be deciding what to do with top prospect Joey Gallo, who is still blocked at third base by Adrian Beltre (who will be coming off thumb surgery) and might have to fight for time in left with Josh Hamilton. We also can't rule out Jon Daniels exploring the market for shortstop Elvis Andrus, who is under contract for seven more seasons, in an effort to gain financial flexibility.

But in making the proactive move for Hamels, Daniels not only put the Rangers in position to win an unexpected AL West title but augmented the outlook for 2016 and beyond. And with the emergence of Rougned Odor and Delino DeShields Jr. this season, the Rangers proved they've got the pieces it will take to repeat in '16. So much here will hinge on Darvish having a seamless transition back to action.

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Anthony Castrovince is a Sports on Earth contributor and columnist. Follow him on Twitter @Castrovince.