Wednesday, Mar 29, 2023 8:45 am ET - The Score
On the eve of Opening Day, we take a look at the six teams facing the most pressure to deliver a World Series championship this season.San Diego Padres Matt Thomas/San Diego Padres / Getty Images Sport / GettyThe Padres continued an incredible few years of financial commitments with one of the biggest offseason spending sprees in recent memory. Team owner Peter Seidler opened his wallet to land shortstop Xander Bogaerts and also re-signed All-Star third baseman Manny Machado and right-hander Yu Darvish to lucrative, long-term contract extensions.With Fernando Tatis Jr. set to return from injury and suspension, the Padres boast arguably the most impressive collection of talent in the game. Opposing pitchers will have to combat some combination of Bogaerts, Machado, Juan Soto, and Tatis atop manager Bob Melvin's lineup in 2023.The Padres tasted some October success last season after vanquishing the rival Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS. San Diego ultimately fell to the National League champion Philadelphia Phillies in six games in the league championship series.Soto is under club control until the conclusion of the 2024 campaign, and you have to wonder if Seidler will reach a limit on how many massive extensions he can carry on the payroll.With the Dodgers tightening the purse strings to an extent this offseason, the Padres enter the season as the favorites to win the division for the first time in quite a while. There will be stiff competition in the National League this year, but San Diego looks poised to reach the World Series for the first time since 1998.New York Yankees New York Yankees / Getty Images Sport / GettyFor most teams, going without a World Series banner since 2009 would be more than acceptable. The Yankees aren't most teams. After a remarkable run in the late 1990s and early 2000s, New York has failed to reach the Fall Classic since winning its last championship.If the Yankees are to put an end to the dry spell, they likely must find a way to vanquish the Houston Astros. New York has seen its season come to an end at the hands of the Astros four times since 2015. The latest defeat was an embarrassing four-game sweep in last year's ALCS.With reigning American League MVP Aaron Judge back in the fold and a deep roster on both sides of the ball, the Yankees enter the season as favorites in the AL East and arguably the second-best team in the Junior Circuit behind the Astros.Manager Aaron Boone has led the club to the postseason in each of his five seasons at the helm but has posted a 14-17 record in the playoffs. Fans are growing impatient at the lack of success in the most important moments of the season.New York Mets Jasen Vinlove/Miami Marlins / Getty Images Sport / GettyWhen Steve Cohen became Mets owner in 2020, he said the club's goal was to win a World Series in three-to-five years. Cohen is entering his third season in control and has taken steps to put together a roster capable of fulfilling his mission statement.The Mets made the ultimate win-now move by signing reigning AL Cy Young winner and World Series champion Justin Verlander to replace Jacob deGrom in the rotation. The club is hoping Verlander and Max Scherzer can continue their respective dominance in the twilight of their careers.The injury to star closer Edwin Diaz illustrates how precious each year is for a team in win-now mode. The Mets must find a way to soften the blow and try to avoid any significant slip in on-field performance.New York will face some stiff competition within its own division in 2023. The Atlanta Braves and Phillies are loaded with talent, and the NL East could easily have three of the five or six best teams in the entire league this season.As long as Cohen is in charge and willing to shell out incredible sums of money, the Mets should be able to remain contenders. However, this iteration might not have that many more kicks at the can. Verlander is 40, Scherzer will be 39 later this year, and the Mets have a number of other players on the wrong side of 30. This season represents a golden opportunity for the Mets to gun for a first championship since their memorable run in 1986.Philadelphia Phillies Mitchell Leff / Getty Images Sport / GettyThe Phillies came within two wins of winning it all last season. Philadelphia isn't resting on its laurels after 2022's surprising October run, as the club ponied up to land a game-breaking talent in All-Star shortstop Trea Turner.Turner's skill set is a perfect fit for the Phillies and will help them weather the absence of Bryce Harper until the All-Star break. With some uncertainty around the futures of right-hander Aaron Nola and first baseman Rhys Hoskins beyond 2023, this season could be the last run before this roster undergoes some changes.Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski is known to be aggressive when he feels his club is within striking distance of contention. The moves this offseason show that Dombrowski is confident in his team's ability to back up last year's success and make another run in October.Owner John Middleton said in the offseason that he was more focused on establishing a "legacy" than making a profit. The roster is set up for success in 2023. The Phillies are entering the season with arguably their highest expectations since the days of Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and Jimmy Rollins.Los Angeles Angels Michael Owens / Getty Images Sport / GettyIt might seem strange to include a team that hasn't made the postseason since 2014. However, with arguably two of this generation's biggest stars on the roster, it's past time for the Angels to start delivering.Two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani is expected to become perhaps the biggest free agent in the sport's history at the conclusion of the season. Winning a World Series might be the only way to keep Ohtani in the fold beyond 2023. All-Star teammate Mike Trout knows the pressure around the team will be high this season with the uncertainty surrounding Ohtani's future and said he will do whatever it takes to keep his co-star at his side.Angels general manager Perry Minasian approached the offseason with a sense of urgency, adding a slew of veterans to provide Ohtani and Trout with a more capable supporting cast than they've been accustomed to.The Angels are probably a long shot to win their first World Series since 2002. However, they operated like a franchise that knows how important 2023 is. That's something to be admired.Los Angeles Dodgers Harry How / Getty Images Sport / GettyThere's always pressure on the Dodgers to win the World Series. Despite losing some star power this offseason, fans will still expect Los Angeles to remain in contention this season. The Padres might be the team to beat in the NL West in 2023, but it's hard to count out a team built around Freddie Freeman and Mookie Betts.The Dodgers slashed payroll this offseason, opting to take fliers on veterans hoping to bounce back like J.D. Martinez and Noah Syndergaard. It's possible those moves pan out, but it was still surprising to see president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman not spend lavishly after several years of doing the opposite.The expectation around the game is that the Dodgers were more conservative this winter as they look to gear up for a run at Ohtani next year. With Betts and Freeman still very much in their primes, L.A. needs to do whatever it can to maximize its opportunities to contend every year.Copyright © 2023 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.