The MLB regular season is about 15 games in. At the top of the league, there are some familiar names like the Detroit Tigers and the Los Angeles Dodgers. There are also some major surprises at the top, like the San Diego Padres and the New York Mets.
So, at this point in the season, what has gotten these teams to this point? What big move has gotten them off to this hot start? How did they get here?
#1. Tigers (11-2) traded for Cespedes
Sure, it's easy to be successful when you have Miguel Cabrera in the lineup, but the Tigers are an unfairly deep team with great pitching and good hitting up and down their lineup. That said, there is a new face on the Tigers in 2015 that gives an even more dynamic depth to the lineup: Yoenis Cespedes.
Cespedes was acquired from the Red Sox during the offseason to add another bat, along with his stellar arm and defense in the outfield. So far, Cespedes is delivering. A .302/.315/.585 line with three home runs and 11 RBIs is exactly what the Tigers were looking for -- and makes them the scariest team in the league.
#2. Royals (10-3) bet on Morales over Butler
After surprising the world during their playoff run in 2014, the Royals were looking to build off of that and have some prolonged success. Early in the offseason, the Royals were tasked with replacing their DH Billy Butler, who hit .295 during his eight seasons with Kansas City but saw his production dip to a .271 average in 2014. The Royals let Butler walk and the Athletics picked him up with a 3-year, $30 million bet the Royals clearly weren't comfortable making.
It didn't take long for them to find their man -- the Royals took a questionable-at-the-time gamble on Kendrys Morales for 2 years and $17 million. Morales is already making an impact with a .358 average and two home runs in his first 53 at-bats for the Royals, and is an understated reason why KC is back at the top.
#3. Mets (10-3) return Matt Harvey to the rotation
It would be easy to put Michael Cuddyer's name in this spot as the big move that has made the Mets better. His bat is a nice punch on top of David Wright and Lucas Duda, giving the Mets another big threat in the lineup. But I'm not going to say that Cuddyer is the big move. For the Mets, the big move is the return of Matt Harvey to the rotation. That's how good Matt Harvey is, and how important he is to that team.
#4. Dodgers (9-3) upgrade 2nd with Kendrick
When you are the Los Angeles Dodgers, there are some many reasons as to why they are successful year-in and year-out. Clayton Kershaw is always a Cy-Young candidate. Adrian Gonzalez is off to a torrid pace. The Dodgers traded Matt Kemp and Dee Gordon away, yet haven't slowed down at all.
One addition, Howie Kendrick, has been a key to their early success. Kendrick was acquired from the Angels on an absolutely insane day of moves during the 2014 Winter Meetings (during which they also acquired Jimmy Rollins and Brandon McCarthy). Kendrick brings an ability to hit for average and power, along with quality defense; something that they lacked with Dee Gordon. So far Kendrick has hit .370 for his new club with two home runs and 10 RBIs.
#5. Padres (9-5) went freaking nuts this offseason (and it's paying off?)
What A.J. Preller did this offseason for the Padres can only be compared to what a 15-year-old would do if he were the general manager of the San Diego Padres in MLB 15: The Show. Matt Kemp, Wil Myers, Justin Upton and James Shields were just some of the names that Preller brought in to help an offense that was dead last with a .226 batting average.
So it's impossible to point one move that has gotten the Padres off to this great start, but we'll say it was the Padres ownership bringing in Preller to try and fix and turn this thing around. Without Preller, it's very unlikely that any of these moves happens and it is Preller that has put the Padres in this spot to be competitive and be a contender.