The offseason is the chance to improve one's team. The teams that finished last in their divisions especially want to be better in the coming season. They sign free agents, make trades, and find ways to get themselves out of the cellar. Six teams finished last in 2013. I am going to decide which team has the best chance to finish first in their division in 2014.
2013 Record: 62-100
The Miami Marlins definitely want to be better in 2014. They added catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, shortstop Rafael Furcal, first baseman Garrett Jones, and third baseman Casey McGehee. They also made a few trades. On the outside, the Marlins look like they will be much improved in 2014, perhaps even reaching the 70 win plateau. But on the inside, these moves are very risky. Saltalamacchia has issues versus right-handed pitchers. Furcal hasn't played in the Major Leagues since 2012. Jones is getting on the older side; perhaps past his prime. And McGehee hasn't posted an OPS+ over 100 since 2010. Although every signing comes with a risk of some sort (there are no "sure things"), the Marlins look like they might not be improved in 2014. And with a very competitive NL East division? This does not seem to be the Marlins' year.
2013 Record: 66-96
The Cubs are just a few years away from winning over this segment. They have arguably the deepest minor league system, with prospects such as Javier Baez, Albert Almora, Jorge Soler, and Kris Bryant. However, those guys probably won't be in the Majors until 2015. The Cubs are still in the running for Masahiro Tanaka, and after a relatively quiet offseason, they could make the biggest splash of any team. The Reds, Cardinals, and Pirates still rule this division. The Cubs are loaded with talent, and will be better in 2014. I cannot see them finishing atop the National League Central. I do think that they pass the Milwaukee Brewers in the division however. Cubs fans, be happy, you are just about ready to take the Major Leagues by storm.
2013 Record: 74-88
Like the Cubs, the Rockies have talent in their minor league affiliates. Nonetheless, they have made more notable moves than Chicago, acquiring some Major League talent. They traded for Brett Anderson, an injury ridden pitcher that has a career 109 ERA+. He is only 25-years-old, and could still be a force in the Rockies rotation. With a career ground ball rate of 54.9%, Anderson may be able to pitch very well even in the hitter-friendly Coors Field. The Rockies also signed Justin Morneau, the former Twins first baseman. Over his career, he has posted a 121 OPS+. In Coors Field, he may be able to put up monster numbers. A good offseason thus far for the Rockies. Could they finish in first? I believe not. They still have to deal with the Dodgers, Giants, and the rapidly improving Diamondbacks in their division.
Toronto Blue Jays
2013 Record: 74-88
The Blue Jays have a very talented roster, much of it from the 2012 trade with the Miami Marlins. They acquired Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle in one trade (they also acquired Josh Johnson, but he is now with the Padres)! They also acquired R.A. Dickey, the 2012 National League Cy Young award winner. Their only notable acquisition this offseason was the signing of Dioner Navarro. This team is still built to win, but it will take some serious luck to knock off the reigning World Series champion Red Sox. I am just not sure that they can take first in the American League East with the Orioles, Rays, and Yankees also involved.
Chicago White Sox
2013 Record: 63-99
The Chicago White Sox re-signed Paul Konerko and acquired third base prospect Matt Davidson from the Arizona Diamondbacks. They also signed left-handed reliever Scott Downs to a contract. Besides that, the White Sox haven't done much this offseason. As pointed out to me (kudos to @onekevinmiller on Twitter), the White Sox have also signed first baseman Jose Abreu and acquired Avisail Garcia from the Tigers. Those moves will help the Sox in the coming years, but I can't see them jolting out of last place in 2014. They are still in the running for Masahiro Tanaka, but it seems like he will head elsewhere. It does not look like happy days will be coming to the south side of Chicago soon, as it seems like they will be in the cellar for yet another year.
2013 Record: 51-111
The Astros did a lot to improve in 2014. They practically stole Dexter Fowler from the Rockies, and they signed Chad Qualls, Scott Feldman, and Jesse Crain to deals. The Astros will be much improved in the 2014 season. With some help from prospects such as Jonathan Singleton and George Springer close to the Major Leagues, the Astros may shoot up the standings in the American League. However, in the West division, it is an uphill battle for the Houston Astros, as they have to overcome the improved Mariners and Angels, and forces such as the Rangers and Athletics. It is shaping up to be another last place finish for the Houston Astros.
My Vote: Blue Jays and Rockies
I believe the Blue Jays and Rockies have the best chance to finish first in their divisions in 2014. The Rockies made some nice moves this offseason, even after finishing with a strong 2013 campaign. With some minor league help, the Rockies could be a surprise team in the National League, and might even make the postseason. In the American League, the Blue Jays could finish first atop the AL East. The Red Sox have lost more pieces than they've gained, and the Orioles, Yankees, and Rays seem very vulnerable. The Blue Jays still have some talent and can play well. Another year under John Gibbons could be very helpful for the team. Although both these teams have the potential to finish first in their divisions, it is hard to expect them to.