Our friends Jay Jaffe and Cliff Corcoran used to do a series called Wait 'Til Next Year at SI.com, in which they would do a dossier on a team the day after it was eliminated from playoff contention (or from the playoffs themselves). Every week until the World Series is over, I'll take up the mantle, examining each eliminated team, how their season went, what they can look forward to next season and what they can be happy about when they think about 2017.
Last week, we looked at five teams that had been eliminated from postseason contention, and the week before, we looked at the first six out of the mix. Seven more squads have gone down. I'll honor them now.
Best player in 2017: Jonathan Schoop (.294/.340/.506, 32 HR, 105 RBI, 4.1 fWAR)
How'd this season go? It started out pretty well and the O's stayed in the American League East mix for a while, but they ultimately couldn't stay afloat. The starting pitching was rough again, and down years from Chris Davis, Mark Trumbo and Manny Machado (despite a late surge) hurt.
What do they have to look forward to? There are some big decisions to be made. Machado's contract runs out after next season, and the farm system has run a bit dry. Should they try to move Manny to stock up on youth? The Orioles have had an outstanding run over the past few years. And Buck Showalter has worked his magic. But it's time to look ahead with clear heads.
What will they remember about 2017? It wasn't the best season for Machado, but his walkoff slam against the Angels on Aug. 18, his third homer of the game when the Orioles were still in the AL Wild Card chase, was an all-timer.
Kansas City Royals
Best player in 2017: Lorenzo Cain (.301/.365/.442, 15 HR, 49 RBI, 26 SB, 4.2 fWAR)
How'd this season go? There was a stretch in August when it looked like the Royals, who decided to hang onto all their veterans at the Trade Deadline, were going to make One Last Ride. But KC ended up 10-18 in August, putting a crimp in those plans. At least the fans at Kauffman Stadium got to say a fond farewell to many players who won them that 2015 World Series title.
What do they have to look forward to? Starting the rebuilding process. Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer and Royals Home Run Champ Mike Moustakas will all be free agents and are likely to sign elsewhere. Maybe hope Jorge Soler gets good again? The top prospects are still a few years away.
What will they remember about 2017? At Fenway Park on July 28, Mike Moustakas hit his 30th homer, Jason Vargas was brilliant and the Royals won their ninth game in a row. They were firmly in the second AL Wild Card spot and chasing down the Yankees for the top one. They were even only two games behind the Indians in the AL Central. It would fall apart quickly after that, but for that night, it looked the Royals weren't going anywhere.
Los Angeles Angels
Best player in 2017: Mike Trout (.305/.442/.630, 33 HR, 72 RBI, 22 SB, 6.5 fWAR)
How'd this season go? Not too bad, all things considered. Certainly a lot better than you might have thought when Trout went down for two months. The Angels got a fantastic season from Andrelton Simmons and even made some big Deadline trades, most notably for Justin Upton. But the Halos went on a losing streak at the worst possible time in September.
What do they have to look forward to? Upton is probably going to opt out of his contract, so … it's going to be Trout, Simmons and everybody else once again. The Angels have three more seasons with Trout under contract. Clock's ticking.
What will they remember about 2017? On his 26th birthday, Trout homered and notched his 1,000th hit. In case you haven't heard, he's amazing.
Best player in 2017: Jimmy Nelson (12-6, 3.49 ERA, 1.249 WHIP, 199 SO, 4.9 fWAR)
How'd this season go? Quite well! The Brewers wanted to take a step forward this year, competing for a National League Wild Card spot on the final weekend of the season could be considered a big leap. Eric Thames owned the first two months, but many other Brewers broke through in the second half, particularly Nelson, who suddenly looks like a staff ace -- unfortunately it looks like he'll miss a portion of the 2018 season after surgery to repair a partially-torn labrum.
What do they have to look forward to? Despite Nelson's injury, the Brew Crew should be even better next year, with all that talent in the Minors starting to mature.
What will they remember about 2017? It was a tough series against the Cubs in September, but the Brewers' comeback in the 10th inning, with a walkoff homer from Travis Shaw, gave the team a taste of what postseason excitement might look like in the coming years.
St. Louis Cardinals
Best player in 2017: Tommy Pham (.306/.411/.520, 23 HR, 73 RBI, 25 SB, 5.7 fWAR)
How'd this season go? Frustratingly, especially since there seemed to be a window of opportunity with the Cubs taking a step back this season. The Cards got breakthrough seasons from Pham, Paul DeJong and Jose Martinez, and their rotation might have been the best in the division, but the bullpen struggled at inopportune times and the lineup was inconsistent. St. Louis also went 5-14 against the Cubs, which is pretty much the whole season right there.
What do they have to look forward to? Plenty of moves this offseason, in all likelihood. The Cardinals have roster inefficiencies -- too many outfielders, too many corner infielders -- that they'll probably look to package for a big, middle-of-the-order bat this winter.
What will they remember about 2017? The story of the season was Pham, so this walkoff on Players Weekend was as fun as the Cards got this year. To quote Tommy, that was Pham-tastic.
Best player in 2017: James Paxton (12-5, 3.12 ERA, 1.131 WHIP, 147 SO, 4.2 fWAR)
How'd this season go? The Mariners keep loading up for a postseason run -- as general manager Jerry DiPoto made trades seeminly every 20 minutes -- and it still hasn't happened for them. Are they any closer going into 2018?
What do they have to look forward to? The team is getting older, and the farm system isn't ready to start supplying new talent yet. But Paxton looks like he could be a legit ace, Nelson Cruz still seems rock steady (even at age 37) and the M's still have that beautiful ballpark.
What will they remember about 2017? Seattle was still in the playoff chase in August when it came back from a 4-1 ninth-inning deficit to ultimately win in 15 innings.
Tampa Bay Rays
Best player in 2017: Chris Archer (10-12, 4.07 ERA, 1.259 WHIP, 249 SO, 4.4 fWAR)
How'd this season go? There was a stretch in the first half when the offense was rolling in a way it hadn't in years, with Logan Morrison, Corey Dickerson and company knocking the ball around everywhere. In July, they looked like a sure-fire AL Wild Card team. But then the offense went south and the pitching couldn't make up for it.
What do they have to look forward to? This is a smart front office, and there's still a lot of talent here, but the division isn't going to get any easier. The Rays need everything to fall exactly right.
What will they remember about 2017? Tropicana Field hosted the Astros after Hurricane Harvey, and the Rays were such welcome hosts that they even played the Astros' hype video on the Jumbotron.
Toronto Blue Jays
Best player in 2017: Josh Donaldson (.270/.385/.559, 33 HR, 78 RBI, 4.9 fWAR)
How'd this season go? We all knew there would be a transition after last season, and even though Jose Bautista came back (and struggled), it was obvious this wasn't your old Jays. They are a fun team to watch at times, but there were just too many flaws to compete.
What do they have to look forward to? Toronto needs to add multiple starting pitchers, find a new right fielder, bring in some speed and figure out the bullpen. No sweat, right?
What will they remember about 2017? If Bautista is leaving after the season, at least Jays fans got to say goodbye to their franchise icon. There really needs to be a statue of his bat-flip homer.
Best player in 2017: Elvis Andrus (.297/.337/.472, 20 HR, 88 RBI, 25 SB, 4.0 fWAR)
How'd this season go? It just never quite got going for the Rangers this year. They were unable to overcome a dreadful beginning to their season, and eventually they even sent off starter Yu Darvish to get some pieces to build on.
What do they have to look forward to? This is an intelligent front office with all sorts of talent in the Minors. The question is whether they can transfer more of that talent to the big-league level. Guys like Nomar Mazara and Joey Gallo can hopefully make strides in 2018.
What will they remember about 2017? It'll be known as the year the Rangers traded Darvish, but they might prefer to remember one of many Gallo moonshots.
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