There were plenty of movers and shakers in the MLB offseason this winter, but a few teams may rue the fact that they were unable to strengthen their squads over the past few months. 

Ex-commissioner Bud Selig worked hard during his tenure to instill parity in the league, and his grand vision has never been more evident than with today’s current crop of teams. Fifteen to 20 MLB teams have realistic postseason aspirations for the season ahead as we close in on spring training. 

But with the constantly changing landscape of baseball today, playoff windows can slam shut in the blink of an eye. For the Milwaukee Brewers, Oakland A’s and Kansas City Royals, the 2015 season could make for a much tougher year with improving squads in each league ready to compete for postseason glory.

Let’s dig in to why those aforementioned teams have been passed over by the competition this offseason.


Milwaukee Brewers

The Brewers had the look of a legitimate playoff contender in the early days of the 2014 season, but the club failed to carry its fast start into October. Milwaukee finished the season 82-80, eight games behind the first-place St. Louis Cardinals. 

Milwaukee was rather pedestrian at the plate and on the mound in 2014. The Brewers offense finished 15th in runs, 17th in average, 19th in OBP, 11th in homers and 13th in WAR. Meanwhile on the bump, Brewers hurlers ranked 17th in ERA, 21st in FIP and 25th in WAR

Offensively, the Brew Crew touts a handful of impact players capable of pushing the club into the top 10 in most offensive categories.

Carlos Gomez built off his breakout 2013 with another stellar campaign last season. The outfielder hit .284 with 23 homers and 34 steals, flashing his rare combination of speed and power. Gomez finished with a 5.9 WAR and 132 wRC+. The 29-year-old is a special talent that will need to replicate his form from last year again in 2015 for the Brewers to compete. 

Behind the dish, Jonathan Lucroy continued to develop into one of the best pitch-stoppers in baseball last year. Lucroy led all major league catchers in WAR while finishing the year in the top three in average, OBP, slugging percentage and wRC+. 

The Brewers will welcome back both Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez to the middle of the lineup, but both players will need to bounce back from subpar seasons in 2014.

Braun was one of the most dynamic offensive forces in the game before his performance-enhancing drug scandal, but the outfielder finished the 2014 season with the worst numbers of his career. Ramirez keeps on chugging along in an accomplished career, but the 36-year-old’s power continued to diminish last season. 

On the mound, the Brewers will be relying on young Jimmy Nelson to make up for the loss of Yovani Gallardo. Nelson was a second-round selection in the 2010 draft, rising through the developmental ranks with impressive strikeout totals. Both Kyle Lohse and Matt Garza will also return to the top of the Milwaukee rotation in 2015.

The Brewers will compete once again this season, but the club failed to add to a solid base of players. Aside from trading for Adam Lind, Milwaukee was relatively quiet this winter. The club was also mentioned in the same sentence with James Shields this offseason, but the Brewers will enter the season with a weaker rotation than it trotted out a year ago.

You could make a case that the Brewers will be the fourth-best team in the NL Central next season, with the St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs all boasting talented rosters. The Cincinnati Reds figure to return to the postseason conversation as well with a healthy Joey Votto

Milwaukee was decent a year ago, and it will be decent in the season ahead. But a playoff berth for the Brewers seems unlikely due to a relatively inactive offseason and a crowded NL Central. 


Oakland A’s

Unlike the Brewers, Billy Beane and the A’s were very active this offseason. As a result, Oakland’s roster will look markedly different in 2015. 

Beane completed eight trades over the winter, bringing in 13 different players to a club that made the AL Wild Card Game last season. Gone are Jon Lester, Jeff Samardzija, Josh Donaldson, Derek Norris and Brandon Moss, key components to the Athletics’ recent success. 

Oakland did manage to replace some of those players with productive pieces on the offensive end, as the A’s will enter the season with new faces like Ben Zobrist, Billy Butler, Brett Lawrie and Ike Davis in the fold.

Zobrist provides the A’s with unmatched versatility and competent production. This may shock you, but since 2009, only Miguel Cabrera has recorded a higher WAR than Zobrist. WAR has its pros and cons, but that stat proves that the 33-year-old Zobrist will be a valuable asset for Oakland this year. 

Butler will come over from the Kansas City Royals to do one thing: hit.

The slugger was a mainstay in the KC lineup for many years, but the 28-year-old has seen declining numbers over the past few seasons. But his career 117 wRC+ should be enough to help ease some of the dent left behind by the departures of Moss and Donaldson. Lawrie may not be able to fully replace Donaldson, but the 25-year-old gives Oakland tremendous upside and potential. 

By pairing the previously mentioned hitters with lineup stalwarts Coco Crisp and Josh Reddick, Oakland’s offense should be able to score enough runs to remain in the playoff hunt. But with the losses of Lester and Samardzija, the A’s rotation remains a huge question mark entering the season.

The top of that rotation is bolstered by Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir, two hurlers coming off great 2014 seasons. Gray logged a 3.08 ERA in over 200 innings, while Kazmir completed the year with 15 wins and a 3.55 ERA. 

But after those two, Oakland will likely trot out the unconvincing trio of Jesse Chavez, Drew Pomeranz and Jesse Hahn.

Chavez posted a 3.45 ERA in 21 starts last season, but the right-hander has never been a full-time starter in the big leagues. Pomeranz‘s 2.35 ERA with Oakland looks fantastic, but the southpaw’s 4.24 career ERA remains a black eye on the lefty’s resume. Hahn is the most intriguing of the three. In 12 starts for the San Diego Padres last season, Hahn posted a 3.07 ERA with over eight Ks per nine innings.

Beane does have a history of putting together cheap but productive rotations. It’s just difficult to imagine the A’s bettering their third-best league ERA from last season in 2015. 

Oakland will also play in a more competitive division this season. The Los Angeles Angels are still there, while the Seattle Mariners have positioned themselves as true contenders in the AL West. Meanwhile, the Texas Rangers and Houston Astros figure to contend in some capacity in the year ahead. 

The A’s have the look of a team that has been passed by, but not without trying. Beane has done his best job to reshuffle the deck after seemingly going all in last season. There are just too many other good teams in the AL for Oakland to return to the postseason. 


Kansas City Royals

The Royals came within one game of winning the 2014 World Series, but was Kansas City’s title window slammed shut by an incredible performance from Madison Bumgarner?

It’s hard to sit here and say the defending American League champions won’t be factors in 2015, but the club will likely find it much more difficult to return to the World Series this season. 

Keep in mind, the Royals needed a miraculous comeback in the AL Wild Card Game just to get to the ALDS. Of course KC deserves all the credit for sweeping both the ALDS and ALCS, but it’s worth mentioning that the Royals nearly never made it to that point. 

As for 2015, the Royals should still be players in the AL. But with the AL Central becoming more and more crowded with legitimate contenders, they may not have improved enough in the offseason to keep up with the changing times in the division. 

The Royals weren’t in the business of giving James Shields his desired contract, but that doesn’t mean Kansas City won’t miss his production. Shields, if nothing else, is as dependable a starter as we have in baseball. He’s thrown over 200 innings in every season since 2007, topping every pitcher in innings pitched since that time. Shields went 27-17 with a 3.18 ERA while with the Royals. 

Kansas City will look to replace Shields with Edinson Volquez, who signed a two-year, $20 million contract this offseason. Volquez posted a 3.04 ERA with the Pirates in 2014, but his 4.15 FIP indicates he overachieved last season. Moving to a more hitter-friendly league won’t help Volquez‘s production either. 

The Royals will replace Billy Butler and Nori Aoki with Kendrys Morales and Alex Rios, but both of Kansas City’s new additions are coming off subpar seasons. Kansas City gave Morales $17 million on the heels of a season where he hit .218 while posting a 72 wRC+ and a negative WAR. Rios’ 2014 wasn’t as horrid as that, but the outfielder only managed four homers and a .311 OBP.

Both the lineup and rotations will be weaker in 2015 than they were last year, but that’s not to blame the Royals. Despite a fantastic run last season, the club remains a small-market team with limited funds.

But with the Tigers atop the division and the Chicago White Sox and Cleveland Indians in hot pursuit, the Royals could miss the playoffs entirely after coming within a game of a World Series title last season. 


Advanced stats courtesy of FanGraphs.

Read more MLB news on