While the Astros and Braves continue to duel in the 2021 World Series, eight other teams got a taste of October baseball and fell short of a chance at a title. Here is what each eliminated team’s biggest need is heading into next season.
St. Louis Cardinals: Sign another starting pitcher
The Cardinals have a diverse hitting core of homegrown young talent and veterans brought in to lead the way. From stars like Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt to budding stars like Tommy Edman, Harrison Bader and Tyler O’Neill, this lineup will be able to slug its way to contention for many years. However, behind a 40-year-old Adam Wainwright and ace Jack Flaherty, the rotation depth is non-existent, and if that does not change, this team will not survive a full-length series.
New York Yankees: Shake up the lineup, big-time
The Yankees entered the Wild Card game with two hitters actually hitting in Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. Hitters like Gleyber Torres, DJ LeMahieu and Gio Urshela all regressed, and Luke Voit, Joey Gallo, Aaron Hicks and especially Gary Sánchez need to get shipped out. The Yankees need more speed and fielding in the lineup and less reliance on home-run hitters who strike out a lot. That transition will require both big spending and making trades, and if they do not shake things up, they will suffer early playoff departures again and again in the future.
Milwaukee Brewers: Fix Christian Yelich, and bring in reinforcements
Milwaukee’s pitching staff is as good as it gets. From their rotation led by Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff to a bullpen that features Josh Hader and Devin Williams, that core is set to lead the way for the near future. However, the Brewers’ two biggest problems roster-wise are Yelich and the weapons surrounding him. The 2018 NL MVP has not been the same since that campaign, and no one other than Willy Adames hit well enough to back him up in 2021. Unless Yelich rights the ship and the Brewers spend to upgrade the lineup, Milwaukee will not be able to surpass the more balanced rosters in the NL.
Tampa Bay Rays: Spend a little bit of money
The Rays are famous for having very little money to spend on free agents or extensions for their players. However, their dependence on homegrown talent and bargain-bin acquisitions came back to bite them in the 2021 postseason. Starting rookies and Michael Wacha in Division Series games is not a recipe for success. Striking out more than any other lineup in the league leads to a very boom-or-bust offensive approach that failed them this postseason. They need to bring in quality free agents as they did with Charlie Morton before 2019 if they want to complete the puzzle and remain at the top of the AL East.
Chicago White Sox: Coach up that talent-filled bullpen
The White Sox lineup is as good as it gets, from veterans like José Abreu and Yasmani Grandal to young stars like Tim Anderson, Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert. Their rotation led by Lance Lynn, Lucas Giolito and Dylan Cease can get the job done any day. The problems come from the bullpen. While talented hurlers like Michael Kopech, Garrett Crochet, Aaron Bummer and Liam Hendriks headline the relievers, each of them collapsed in the second half of the season, which led to the White Sox’s early elimination from the playoffs. Unless that gets fixed — and unless the White Sox figure out how to lock down games late in the season — they have no shot at a title.
San Francisco Giants: Pray for another miracle
That is all that can be said about this team. While Logan Webb looks like a future ace, and Kevin Gausman’s newly discovered success looks like it’s here to stay, the Giants’ entire 2021 season came from veterans overperforming expectations. No one expected the likes of Wilmer Flores, Darin Ruf, Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford and Evan Longoria to play like everyday players for the first time in years. For this reason, there’s no reason to expect this to happen again, and regression from 107 wins is almost inevitable for this team.
Boston Red Sox: Keep the hitting core, add to the pitching
Chaim Bloom built a team with the hopes of reaching .500 that ended up two wins short of going back to the World Series. That success came from great performances by additions like Kiké Hernandez, Hunter Renfroe and Kyle Schwarber, and talents like Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts and more who were already there. However, behind an aging Chris Sale, an inconsistent Tanner Houck and a very shaky bullpen, the Sox need to supplement their pitching just like they did with their lineup to keep up in the AL East in 2022 and beyond.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Maybe change managers?
The Dodgers won 106 games in 2021. They put together a roster with three aces in the rotation, a bullpen with three All-Star closers in it and a lineup with tons of contact-hitters, power-hitters and speedsters. The well-rounded, depth-laced Dodgers once again got held back by the overmanaging of Dave Roberts. His overmanaging of players like Julio Urías and going with multiple bullpen games in October cost his team another title and only further validates that in seasons longer than 60 games, the Dodgers cannot seal the deal. Other than changing managers, this team does not really need to make more changes.