The Secrets to Rebuilding a Sports Team Successfully

A pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles exiting the game and The Los Angeles Angels logo.
A pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles exiting the game and The Los Angeles Angels logo.
Sophia Walker

This year, the Orioles won 101 games, and had the best record in the American League. With a plethora of young stars, they did their rebuild right.The Baltimore Orioles went 47-115 in 2018, with seemingly no hope for the future. They had low fan attendance, they traded big name stars of their franchise, which would eventually lead the owners to start rebuilding the team.

The Orioles have a talented young core, and will be able to compete at a championship-caliber level for at least the next five or six years. So why doesn’t every struggling team do this immediately and make themselves competitors?

The answer: it doesn’t always work.

The Los Angeles Rams logo and The Los Angeles Dodgers celebrating a road win (Sophia Walker)

The Los Angeles Angels tried and failed at this multiple times. In 2014, they were swept out of the playoffs by the eventual American League champion Kansas City Royals. Since then, while having the best player in baseball, Mike Trout, they have had one winning season, missed the playoffs every year, signed one of the most talented athletes in the world, Shohei Ohtani, still struggled, and have been a dumpster fire of an organization.

The secret to the Orioles successful rebuild has been their good coaching staff, the smart picks that they make during the draft, and the development of their young talent.

Other rebuilds have worked in other sports too. The Denver Nuggets had consistent losing seasons from 2014-2017.Then they drafted well, selecting Nikola Jokic and Michael Porter Jr., made a coaching change, began to win games, worked on chemistry, and took their time to establish themselves as a perennial contender, It led to Nikola Jokic winning the MVP and led to the Nuggets winning the NBA championship for the 2022/23 season, with Nikola Jokic named the MVP for the Nuggets.

Another team with a great rebuild was the Los Angeles Rams. When they first moved to LA in 2016, they went 4-12 and fired their head coach Jeff Fisher. They struggled while in St. Louis, and hadn’t had a winning record since 2003. They traded up for the first overall pick prior to the 2016 season and selected Jared Goff to be their new quarterback. After firing Coach Fisher that year, they hired Sean McVay as their new head coach for the 2017 season.

The Los Angeles Rams made the playoffs for the first time since 2004 and continued to make the playoffs. The team drafted well and traded their other picks for superstars such as defensive back Jalen Ramsey. They were just one big piece away from winning it all multiple times. Enter veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford. He was a bright spot on a Detroit Lions team that had struggled for a long time. The Rams traded Goff and others in a package for him in 2021 and won big in the following season.

So, what makes a rebuild work?

1) Blow it up, but do it the right way: If a franchise needs to rebuild, they have problems. Start it by trading away elite, developing talent that isn’t locked up to acquire draft picks or young talent. The Orioles traded Manny Machado to the Los Angeles Dodgers for 5 prospects, including their new ace, Dean Kremer.

Team ownership must also look to management if there are underlying concerns in the front office or coaching realm. The franchise should also look to part ways with large contracts that will not make themselves useful pieces with the new core being built. Accept that the team is going to be awful and at the bottom of the league for a few years at the least. This is how you get high draft picks and a better selection of players.

The Dever Nuggets logo and The Detroit Lions’ defense celebrating a turnover (Sophia Walker)

2) Drafting successfully. Every team that had a successful rebuild acquired useful talent through the draft. The Orioles got infielder Gunnar Henderson and catcher Adley Rutschman. The Nuggets got Nikola Jokic. The Rams got Jared Goff, who they were able to trade for Stafford. Teams like the Angels have failed miserably in the draft, not gaining much talent from homegrown players. This takes the scouting department into play and seeing what talent is truly the best and the talent that has flaws. Some early draft picks, such as the first overall pick of the 2012 draft, Nail Yakupov, or former Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel, have been complete busts and haven’t been the pieces of the new core that the team thought they were going to be. Teams have to make the most of their picks in the draft, and not select future busts who don’t perform.

3) Doing what is needed to acquire veteran talent or superstars. The Rams traded for Stafford and Ramsey. The O’s signed starting pitcher Kyle Gibson. When coming out of the rebuild and entering their window of contention, management has to acquire fully developed talent and balance their large amounts of young talent with veteran leadership.

4) Lock up young stars: A key to being successful in the future is having young talent that will be there for the team in years to come. Many of the Atlanta Braves’ young stars such as Ozzie Albies, Michael Harris Jr., Ronaldo Acuna Jr., Matt Olsen, and Austin Riley, have been locked into the Braves through team-friendly contract extensions since 2019 and have proven themselves since. The Braves continue to have one of the best lineups in baseball. With this core, the Braves won The World Series title in 2021 and will be perennial contenders for years to come.

5) Go all in: Teams can’t just coast along with developing talent. They have to go after the difference makers at the trade deadline. The Rams acquired Odell Beckham Jr. The Braves, in their 2021 championship year, traded for Joc Pederson. Most teams are on the cusp of being a championship contender, but those who go and get their missing pieces to put them over the top in moves that turn out to be successful will be the ones competing for the big prize as the playoffs narrow down the teams.

Teams that fail in their rebuilds commonly only miss one or two of the things they need. Take the Chicago White Sox as an example. They blew it up, selected well , and developed their young talent, but issues in management and a lack of veteran leadership undercut their talent and doomed them into being sellers in 2023 when their championship window should’ve been wide open.

A rebuild of a sports franchise is a delicate situation and requires a lot of attention to detail. Doing it the right way is a challenge, and few have mastered the ability to do it successfully. Teams like the Atlanta Braves, who have won their division for the last six years, and the Kansas City Chiefs, who have won two Super Bowls already in their window of contention, have been able to turn their rebuilds into continued success and continue to be the best teams in the league year after year.

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About the Contributors
Abel Nieto
Abel Nieto, Staff Writer
My name is Abel Nieto,  I am a senior at Golden Valley High School! I am one of the staff writers on the Sports News Team for the Grizzly Gazette. I am involved in many clubs on campus such as Chess Club, and Mock Trial, and am even involved in volleyball here on campus! I am excited to cover many topics such as sports, campus, and even the community. I really enjoy this, because this means that students on campus can get the most reliable information. I enjoy many outings, video games, classes, and most importantly, my bed!
Brayden Brewer
Brayden Brewer, Staff Writer
Brayden Brewer is a staff writer for the Grizzly Gazette on the Sports News Team and the captain of the baseball team here at Golden Valley. He is a senior who has played baseball all four years of high school and has a deep interest and understanding in the world of sports. Aside from sports, he loves country music and lifting weights. His favorite artist is Zach Bryan.  Brayden wants to go into sports journalism in college and continue with it as a career. He wants to cover all of the sports that he can at Golden Valley, and continues to regularly attend GV sports events. Brayden’s favorite teams are the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Kings, and his favorite baseball  players are Aaron Judge, Gerrit Cole, and Anthony Volpe. His favorite hockey player is Adrian Kempe because he is the best scorer the Kings have had since the greatest hockey player of all time, Wayne Gretzky. He also loves watching Penn State football on Saturdays and is excited for the Drew Allar era.
Sophia Walker
Sophia Walker, Staff Writer
Sophia Walker is a Staff Writer  for the Sports New Team on the Grizzly Gazette and she is in her last year of highschool. She's very passionate about writing about campus activities, student spotlight stories and community issues because she wants to be involved with everything that is happening and to be able to share what needs to be shared which is very important to her. Being a part of the Grizzly Gazette to her is extremely important because there is so much that is going on and all people need to be educated with everything in the world and our community which is very diverse and different. She loves journaling, writing their thoughts and making poems with what happens to make her feel better and researching common things going on to learn more. She also loves helping people and leading them in any way she can, she strives to help and understand anyone. She has had many hobbies including hockey, dance, tennis, volleyball, and acting. Eventually I would love to be a therapist or counselor for families, relationships, and or with any people in need of help or support.