By Michael Klopman
We're getting closer and closer to Spring Training, which means that there probably won't be any major offseason splashes in the near future (unless there's another blockbuster trade in the works somewhere).
So let's assess where things stand now when it comes to each division.
Which ones have the most intriguing storylines? Which ones will be the most competitive? We ranked them all.
6. American League Central
Yes, the AL champion Cleveland Indians reside here, but that's basically the best thing anyone can say about this division. The Minnesota Twins showed few signs of improvement in 2016 and in the offseason. The Chicago White Sox pivoted to rebuilding mode by trading Chris Sale and Adam Eaton for an enormous haul of prospects, and they still might not be done wheeling and dealing. The Detroit Tigers seem to be stuck in neutral, but could make one last push. As could the Royals, with their window rapidly closing.
Meanwhile, the Indians signed Edwin Encarnacion, the best hitter in the free agent class. So, unless something goes drastically wrong, the Indians probably have a stronghold on this division, which doesn't seem to have much intrigue entering 2017. That all could change, of course!
5. National League East
This is another top-heavy division, but a couple of teams could surprise. The Philadelphia Phillies are still rebuilding, although they showed enough improvement in the second half of last season to raise hopes. Sadly, it could take some time for the Miami Marlins to recover from the tragic death of ace Jose Fernandez. And while the Braves had a strong second half in 2016 and then made some solid offseason acquisitions, it still might take another season to consider them contenders.
That leaves us with the New York Mets and Washington Nationals, again. The Mets ended up clinching a spot in the NL Wild Card Game, but they never really that came close to challenging the Nationals for the division title last season. That could change in 2017 if the Mets' superstar rotation stays healthy. Even if they do, it'll still probably be a two-team race.
4. NL West
For the most part, this division has been a battle between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants for the past three seasons. Unless the Colorado Rockies take a step forward in 2017, that won't change any time soon.
With that said, the Rockies have shown that they're ready to be competitive again. While the signing of Ian Desmond to play first base confused many, it should still result in an improved offense (which was already potent). Their starting pitching made progress in 2016, and the Rox recently bolstered their bullpen with the acquisition of Greg Holland.
Although absolutely nothing went right for the Diamondbacks last year, they still possess a decent core with Zack Greinke, Paul Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock, and they traded for 24-year-old starting pitcher Taijuan Walker, who still has a ton of upside.
3. AL West
Even if this isn't the best division in baseball, it might be the most interesting. The Texas Rangers have won the AL West in each of the past two seasons, and they're going into 2017 with Cole Hamels and a healthy Yu Darvish, plus potential bounce-back candidate Tyson Ross, whom they acquired in free agency.
But the Rangers will have some better competition this year. The Houston Astros brought in Carlos Beltran, Josh Reddick and Brian McCann to help their young core of Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, George Springer and Alex Bregman. And among their approximately 2,371 trades, the Seattle Mariners replaced starting pitcher Walker with Drew Smyly and shortstop Ketel Marte with Jean Segura (who led the NL in hits last year).
The Oakland A's will likely be cellar-dwellers again, but maybe we shouldn't sleep on the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2017 -- that is, if their rotation can stay healthy and Mike Trout shares his mythical powers with his teammates.
2. NL Central
If it weren't for the state of the Milwaukee Brewers and Cincinnati Reds, this would undoubtedly be the best division in baseball right now.
The Chicago Cubs are the defending champs, and while it was hard for some to imagine them ever winning a World Series before 2016 happened, it's not that hard to imagine them repeating. The St. Louis Cardinals made two significant additions, bringing in outfielder Dexter Fowler and reliever Brett Cecil. The Pittsburgh Pirates haven't made much offseason noise. But hey, they still have Andrew McCutchen! They also kept Ivan Nova (who showed high upside in 2016) and added bullpen health with the signing of Daniel Hudson.
This looks like it could be a similar situation to 2015, when all three of the top teams won at least 97 games.
1. AL East
Last season, the AL East was the only division with four teams that had winning records. Four! Three of them made the playoffs, with the Yankees -- despite their mid-season fire sale -- coming up short with 84 wins. That pattern could look similar in 2017.
The Boston Red Sox celebrated their division title by adding Chris Sale to a rotation that already has two AL Cy Young Award winners (David Price and Rick Porcello). It'll be tough to replace David Ortiz's offensive production, but the Sox still have their Killer Bs -- Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Andrew Benintendi. Maybe even Pablo Sandoval makes a comeback.
The Yanks have plenty of pieces to contend, especially since catcher Gary Sanchez already looks like an All-Star. They brought back closer Aroldis Chapman, making their bullpen arguably the best in the league.
The other 'pen in that argument belongs to Baltimore, where closer Zach Britton is coming off one of the best seasons for a reliever ever. While projection models are never kind to the O's, the O's are also never kind to projection models in return, and they're still going to hit all of the homers.
The Toronto Blue Jays lost Encarnacion, but they kept Jose Bautista and still have a team resembling a contender.
Even the Tampa Bay Rays are projected to finish with a winning record in 2017.
This will be fun. Can't wait for spring.
Michael Klopman is an associate producer for Sports on Earth.