Well everybody, it is almost time. We have crowned a Super Bowl champion, which means that beginning on Monday, America’s pastime returns. Trucks have been packed up with gloves, bats, and balls for all 30 teams and are heading to all different cities in Florida and Arizona for the start of spring training. Everybody’s goal entering this time of year is to come in with a winning attitude and aspirations of a World Championship. Last year, the San Francisco Giants defied all odds and fought their way back to win their second title in three years. Now every team in Major League Baseball will be chasing the World Champs. To win it all, a team must make changes and improve their roster in the offseason, however not everybody that wins the offseason, will win the World Series or even make the playoffs (see 2011 Red Sox and 2012 Angels). Sometimes the big moves fail and the smaller moves mean more. With that being said, over the next two days I will recap and grade every team’s offseason moves. Here’s how my grading system works:
- A team’s grade is based on needs and their financial flexibility, what they needed to do (trades/extensions), and how good of a fit the players are.
- If there is a “P” next to a player’s name, it means they are considered a top 100 prospect in baseball (according to MLB.com)
- Grades reflect what the teams have done to this point; I do mention in some report cards that a team should still look to sign somebody if they have the resources (guys like Michael Bourn, and Kyle Lohse are still on the market)
Arizona Diamondbacks (C-)
Notable Additions: 3B/OF Martin Prado, RHP Brandon McCarthy, OF Cody Ross, SS Didi Gregorius (P), RHP Heath Bell, RHP Randall Delgado
Notable Losses: OF Justin Upton, 3B Chris Johnson, OF Chris Young, RHP Trevor Bauer (P)
Arizona had one of the most active offseason’s of anyone in the NL. A year after winning the NL West, the D-Backs needed a late surge just to finish at the .500 mark this past season. Looking at their finish it was pretty obvious that they needed a more consistent option at short and an affordable, reliable #2 or #3 starter to sure up the rotation. On top of this, they needed to trade an outfielder or even two because of their depth at this position. Unfortunately, they didn’t match these needs with their transactions. I couldn’t believe they gave up on the unorthodox, but highly talented Trevor Bauer so quickly (#3 overall pick in the 2011 draft). They gave him away to the Indians in a three-team deal that landed them Gregorius, a talented, speedy, defensive shortstop who doesn’t have nearly the same ceiling as Bauer (although GM Kevin Towers believes he could be Derek Jeter). Then, they signed Ross to a three-year contract, a real head-scratcher, forcing them to trade Upton or Jason Kubel. They nearly traded Upton to the Mariners for some great young talent, but he nixed the deal because they were on his no-trade list. Out of nowhere they turn around and traded him to Atlanta for what was an average package before they locked up Prado to a four-year deal (making the trade a C over a D for the D-Backs). If I’m reading between the lines of all of these moves, I would say that Towers is bringing in players that manager Kirk Gibson wants. I like Prado and McCarthy, but I think the poor management of Upton and Bauer and the overall returns in their trades was very mediocre.
Atlanta Braves (B+)
Notable Additions: OF Justin Upton, OF BJ Upton, 3B Chris Johnson, RHP Jordan Walden
Notable Losses: 3B/OF Martin Prado, RHP Randall Delgado, 3B Chipper Jones (Retired), RHP Tommy Hanson, RHP Jair Jurrjens
Brotherly Love is coming…to Atlanta. When the offseason started their plan was to shift Prado permanently to third base and fill two outfield spots. They started it off by signing the older Upton, BJ, to a 5 year/$75 million contract. While I think they wanted to keep Michael Bourn to remain as their speedy leadoff hitter, Scott Boras’ initial demands scared them off, so they went with the upside in center. After refusing to give up young SS Andrelton Simmons in any deal for Justin Upton, the Braves decided to jump ship and put the brotherly reunion temporarily on hold. Then, about over a month later, after watching the D-Backs fail to trade Justin to the Mariners, the Braves capitalized on the desperate D-Backs. The result was acquiring Justin in a steal, giving up Prado and a bunch of average prospects for him. Think about this: for the next three years (remaining on Justin’s deal) the Braves outfield consists of the Upton brothers and the next face of the franchise, Jason Heyward. That is a deadly outfield offensively and defensively. With all of that being said here’s why I’m not giving them an A. Chipper and Prado provided a lot of veteran leadership in the clubhouse and that will hurt them this year. And while they have a very strong bullpen, they don’t have anybody in the rotation that is a legitimate ace (someone who can get you 7 innings a start consistently), unless Kris Medlen is going to be that guy. With Jurrjens, Delgado, and Hanson gone, they depleted their supply of starting pitching which I think hurts them a little. Still though they accomplished their goals; now if they can only get fans into the seats during the first 5 months of the season.
Chicago Cubs (B+)
Notable Additions: RHP Edwin Jackson, RHP Scott Feldman, RHP Carlos Villanueva, RHP Kyuji Fujikawa, OF Scott Hairston
A couple of weeks ago Cubs’ president Theo Epstein made the statement “It’s postseason or bust every year”. Honestly every team should head into spring training with that attitude (i.e. Orioles and A’s last year). My thought was that the Cubs may tinker with their team and find a way to get more young talent for Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Marmol. Well they definitely tinkered with their team and then some, in my opinion. Fujikawa will more than likely get the initial nod as the closer over Marmol, who was nearly dealt to the Angels for Dan Haren this offseason. Then they took on Feldman, Villanueva, and Scott Baker on low risk, high reward one and two-year deals. They gave Jackson a home (7 teams over 10 years) to be their #3 starter over the next four years. With Garza potentially healthy this year, their rotation is definitely better than last year’s. I would have put this team in the A range had they found a way to move Soriano or Marmol. They need to cut the rope on one of them and it may be Soriano due to the recent signing of Hairston. Still though this team took no significant risks and made no bad trades so this was still an above average offseason for a “rebuilding” team. This was a Cubs team that lost over 100 games for the first time since the 1960s, but based on the youth of this team and the moves that they made there is no reason why this team can’t make a surprise run (yea I said it).
Cincinnati Reds (A-)
Notable Additions: OF Shin-Soo Choo, INF Jack Hannahan, INF Jason Donald
Notable Losses: OF Drew Stubbs, SS Didi Gregorius (P), RHP Ryan Madson
Reds’ GM Walt Jocketty knew he had a World Series product on the field last season. Entering the offseason there was little to be done with this team. Walt’s first moves were to re-sign OF Ryan Ludwick and reliever Jonathan Broxton to multi-year deals. The Broxton re-signing opens the door for the Reds to experiment with starting Aroldis Chapman, but it will really hurt their bullpen. The smartest and boldest move of their offseason was acquiring Choo from the Indians in the three-team deal with Arizona. Choo fills their void at the leadoff position with his tremendous patience and 20 homerun power at the plate. The bold part of this move is that they are going to insert Choo in centerfield, where he has only played in 10 career games, but I commend them for their creativity. If Choo works out in center, fantastic. If not, I could see them moving Choo to left over Ludwick and call up their talented prospect Billy Hamilton if he’s ready (you know the guy who swiped 155 bags in the minors in 2012). They also waved goodbye to the frustrating Stubbs, who may just need a change of scenery to unlock his potential.
Colorado Rockies (F)
Notable Additions: Hired Walt Weiss as manager, RHP Wilton Lopez, RHP Chris Volstad, LHP Jeff Francis (re-signed)
Notable Losses: fired manager Jim Tracy, RHP Alex White, LHP Matt Reynolds
First off, they managed their starting pitchers poorly last year with that dreaded 75-pitch count for their starters. I also understand that it is almost impossible for a starting pitcher to sustain success in the Rocky Mountain air. But let’s face it all of the organization’s potential starters have either reached their ceilings or are not there yet, and so far none of them project to be even a #2. They should have capitalized this offseason by bringing in a high quality pitching talent. They could have done that by trading Carlos Gonzalez (whose career splits are drastically better at Coors Field) or Troy Tulowitzki. Both would have gotten them a king’s ransom. Instead they did nothing to impress me, mostly because they didn’t stock up on pitchers in minor league deals. The one thing they did do was strengthen their bullpen by adding Lopez. Rockies fans are definitely relieved to hear that new manager Walt Weiss has already thrown out that stupid 75-pitch count for his starters, which means that a guy like Drew Pomeranz (their last hope from that Ubaldo Jimenez trade) can finally let it loose. They’ll have pop but their pitching will struggle again.
Los Angeles Dodgers (A)
Notable Additions: RHP Zack Greinke, RHP Hyun-Rin Jyu, LHP J.P. Howell, INF Skip Schumaker
Notable Losses: RHP Joe Blanton, LHP Randy Choate
I feel like I have talked about the Dodgers a lot this offseason, but I’ll go through this again. This all started back in May when Magic Johnson and Co. purchased the Dodgers for $2 billion. Then after competing through the All-Star break they acquired such players as Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford in an attempt to make the playoffs. Unfortunately they didn’t have enough time to gel together, and fell a little short. The one thing they lacked down the stretch was reliable starting pitching behind Clayton Kershaw, so they had one player in their sights this offseason and reeled him in: Zack Greinke. Any baseball expert could have predicted this move, and then they went and signed Ryu for $60 million to strengthen their rotation, but truly behind Kershaw and Greinke are a bunch of average veterans. The team then made some improvements to their bullpen by signing lefty specialist Howell and re-signing Brandon League. On paper this team is absolutely loaded across the board and anything short of the NL West division crown is considered a failure and will cost Don Mattingly his job. This team is ready to make a run.
Miami Marlins (F)
Notable Additions: Hired Mike Redmond as manager, 3B Placido Polanco, OF Juan Pierre, INF Andeiny Hechavarria (P), RHP Henderson Alvarez, OF Jake Marisnick (P), Justin Nicolino (P)
Notable Losses: Fired manager Ozzie Guillen, SS Jose Reyes, RHP Josh Johnson, RHP Mark Buehrle, INF/OF Emilio Bonifacio, RHP Heath Bell
I have been saying it for years, the Miami Marlins are the WORST FRANCHISE IN SPORTS! And after this offseason nobody can argue the fact. Even though this team has won two world championships, they don’t even have one great player in their 20 years of existence that identifies as a true Marlin (Miguel Cabrera is more remembered as a Tiger now). Owner Jeff Loria is an absolute crook, and president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest is just a tool. After finding a way to make the city of Miami pay for most of their new ballpark back in 2009, they then agreed with Major League Baseball and the MLBPA to increase payroll each year after the ballpark’s first season in 2012. Then somehow they convinced every single free agent last offseason to not take a no-trade clause and give them “verbal assurances” they would not be traded. After making a huge splash last offseason, they have already thrown in the towel. Last year their payroll was at $111 million; after all the trades between the summer and now, their Opening Day payroll is projected to be at $38 million (under $25 million in guaranteed contracts to veterans). I can’t believe that Loria and Beinfest are still allowed in baseball after robbing a city to build a publicly funded ballpark and rob the fans of any hope of relevance and consistency in the league. The only thing they have now is Giancarlo Stanton, and he is extremely unhappy with how everything went down. As for the moves, anybody who thinks this organization deserves a D due to the haul they got in the megadeal with the Blue Jays, is insane. Maybe one of the young players they acquired turns out to be valuable contributor, but these prospects project to no better than a #3 starter and an everyday centerfielder. The players they gave up, particularly Reyes and Buehrle who have multiple years left on their contracts, are worth at least one or two top level minor league talents (I’m surprised they didn’t demand for the guys traded to the Mets in the Dickey deal). If there is one positive out of anything they have done over the last six months it was firing the outspoken Ozzie Guillen and hiring Mike Redmond as manager (for some reason, these days managers that are former catchers are having huge success; look it up there are now 11 of them). Still this team as a whole is Stanton and his mediocre sidekicks and they won’t compete for at least another 3-4 years. But whatever faith in ownership among whatever remaining Marlins fans are left has pretty much vanished. Don’t be surprised if you see only 500-1,000 people at every home game now.
Milwaukee Brewers (D)
Notable Additions: LHP Tom Gorzelanny, LHP Mike Gonzalez, RHP Burke Badenhop
Notable Losses: Shaun Marcum
The Brewers have made very little noise this offseason, and they were only a few arms away from actually completing their late season run. They have almost accomplished their goal of retooling the bullpen with the aforementioned pitchers above, but I think they should take a flier on a Brian Wilson or Jose Valverde. I like the young arms in their rotation, which is headlined by Yovani Gallardo, Wily Peralta, and Michael Fiers, but outside of Gallardo, nobody else has a lot of experience. So the one move that I thought they should have made, and still can, is signing Kyle Lohse to a multi-year contract (I don’t know why he is still on the market with a week until spring training). The Corey Hart injury will hurt them at the start of the season, but they should stick with internal options at 1B. I’m giving them a D today, but it could change very quickly to a B if they sign Lohse and one more bullpen arm. So really their grade is more incomplete than every other team in the NL because they still have a need and resources to pull off some moves.
New York Mets (B)
Notable Additions: RHP Shaun Marcum, C Travis D’Arnaud (P), RHP Noah Snydergaard (P), C John Buck
Notable Losses: RHP R.A. Dickey, C Josh Thole, OF Jason Bay, OF Scott Hairston
I know what some of you are going to say, but how can the Mets possibly receive a good grade this offseason. Well the obvious good move was locking up David Wright to an extension through 2020, so he can be their first potential lifetime player (a la Chipper Jones, Derek Jeter). Adding Marcum was necessary since they will start the year with an uncertain Johan Santana and young pitchers Jon Niese, Matt Harvey, and Zack Wheeler. But the real reason they receive a high grade is by moving Dickey. While Dickey had a Cy Young Award winning-season it is difficult to imagine them giving an extension to a 38-year old knuckleballer, especially since they are a team in transition. Dickey deserved to be on a contender based on his three year run with the Mets and potentially will be after being dealt to the revamped Blue Jays. While I love the deal for the Jays, I think the Mets scored huge on the prospect chart. D’Arnuad is not only the top catching prospect in baseball, but top five overall in some minds, and Synydergaard is considered a future top of the rotation arm (MLB.com has him #29 in its top 100). While the Mets have done well for themselves this offseason, they have no veteran outfielder on their roster and still have a weak bullpen. They are currently looking into some arms right now, so they could fix at least one problem. So options are out there still, but their goal is to continue to develop their young talent, particularly their lethal arms.
Philadelphia Phillies (B-)
Notable Additions: RHP Mike Adams, INF Michael Young, OF Ben Revere, OF Delmon Young, LHP John Lannan
Notable Losses: RHP Vance Worley, RHP Josh Lindblom, RHP Trevor May (non-100 P), OF Juan Pierre, 3B Placido Polanco
Now I get to the team that I know the best. I am a diehard Phillies fan, and one thing we do very well in Philly is that when a move is made we will critique it to the bone. But I don’t have enough time for that so I’ll just get straight to the point. The Phillies had a lot of holes to fill this offseason and due to financial constraints, they didn’t completely fill them. First off, Mike Adams by the end of the year will be one of the top five offseason moves, due to the fact that he will pitch in the 8th inning where the Phillies blew 13 leads last year. This will take a lot of stress off of their young bullpen arms. Getting Michael Young for one year/$6 million for two relievers was also a great low risk, high reward move, but they failed in acquiring a center fielder as they watched my top 3 targets (BJ Upton, Denard Span, Angel Pagan) go to rivals and contenders. They did do a nice job rebounding by acquiring Revere, who should find a spot at the top of the order. Acquiring a young, controllable postion player was worth giving up Vance Worley, but they could have demanded for more since they included Trevor May in the deal. Another thing they failed miserably with this offseason was filling at least one corner outfield spot. Delmon Young is a nice player, but isn’t a great fielder and has to get in shape and heal from his micro-fracture surgery. They now go into the season with five guys competing not only for two starting jobs, but two backup spots on the bench. The moves they made this offseason definitely don’t catch them up to the Braves or the Nationals, but their offseason and upcoming season rides on the health of Utley, Howard, and Halladay.
Pittsburgh Pirates (C+)
Notable Additions: C Russell Martin, RHP Francisco Liriano (maybe), RHP Mark Melancon, RHP Jonathan Sanchez (minor league deal)
Notable Losses: RHP Joel Hanrahan, RHP Kevin Correia
Across the state from the Phillies, there is a team that has not tasted winning baseball now for the last 20 seasons. In fact it is the longest streak of losing seasons in professional sports history. Like the Phillies though, they had an up and down offseason making great moves,but also questionable ones. As I mentioned above, Mike Adams was one of the top five most important signings of the offseason, and the Pirates signing of Russell Martin belongs in the same category. The last two years the Pirates have gotten off to surprising starts and actually been in postseason contention at the all-star break. Alas, their pitching has been a huge problem down the stretch the last two years dropping them below the .500 mark by seasons end. One big way to fix that problem is by acquiring a catcher who is strong on defense and can call a game well. Martin fits all of those qualities even if he lacks big-time offensive skills. Despite the signing of Martin, I don’t think they improved their pitching enough. Signing Liriano to a multi-year contract was a bit confusing, but not a horrible move, just average. However the deal hasn’t been announced yet because of an injury to his forearm, but it’s expected to get done at some point. They should have added one more low cost arm (there are better options than Sanchez) as they continue to try and develop Gerrit Gole and Jameson Taillon. Trading All-Star closer Joel Hanrahan to Boston for quantity also seems like a bad move, but they obviously think they have other guys who can fill his void. All in all, they could use more pitching but Martin may be what they need to finally have a winning season.
San Diego Padres (C+)
Notable Additions: Re-signed RHP Jason Marquis, RHP Freddy Garcia (minor league deal)
Notable Losses: SS Jason Bartlett
This was a team that to primarily stand pat. For one they have one of the deepest farm systems in all of baseball and most of their talent will be ready over the next two seasons. One thing they proved over the last two months of the season was that they have a good core of position players and a strong bullpen. They are taking a risk thinking they can go into the season with so many question marks around the starting rotation (right now Marquis, Edinson Volquez, Clayton Richard, and Cory Luebke are locks). But considering how well they pitched last season in a pitcher friendly park, it may not be that bad, but they still lack a consistent top of the rotation starter. The one thing they failed to do during the offseason was sign Chase Headley to an extension, but they will eventually settle that during the season. I know others would question the high grade, but this team is sticking with its plan and their pitching can survive long enough to remain competitive.
San Francisco Giants (B+)
Notable Additions: Re-signed OF Angel Pagan, INF Marco Scutaro and LHP Jeremy Affeldt
Notable Losses: RHP Brian Wilson, OF Melky Cabrera
When you’re the World Champs, there is little you can do to change your team. The biggest decision the Giants had to make was whether or not they wanted to re-sign their own free agents. Well they proved they could win without their All-Star closer Brian Wilson (out for the year with Tommy John surgery) with multiple relievers closing games, and Melky wasn’t even a factor down the stretch after being suspended 50 games in August for PED usage and was left off the postseason roster, so they cut ties with both. Re-signing Pagan was a necessity and handing him a 4 year/$40 million contract was smart. He is what I call an underrated top 10 centerfielder, and I thought re-signing Scutaro was also a must after his scorching play from the trade deadline to his game winning RBI in the title clincher. However I think they gave him too much. He deserved a 2 year/$12 million contract, not 3 for $20 million which hurt their grade a bit. They should have looked more into signing their NL MVP catcher to an extension, but that is going to get done before next offseason I believe. They only get a B+ because they didn’t do anything flashy, but did what they needed to do.
St. Louis Cardinals (A-)
Notable Additions: LHP Randy Choate
Notable Losses: 1B/OF Lance Berkman, INF Skip Schumaker
This is another team that needed to sit on its hands this offseason, sort of. Adding Choate to be a lefty specialist and adding a couple of bench players (Ty Wigginton and Ronny Cedeno) is all they needed to do. Berkman had no place in the everyday lineup anymore and had to be cut loose. Some may say that they needed to bring Kyle Lohse back, and I agree with age and health concerns in their rotation. While I think he would solve that problem because of his durability, they have plenty of depth after Wainwright (Lance Lynn, Jaime Garcia, Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez). They key is going to be who steps up next to Wainwright now that Carpenter has gone down. The one thing they should have done if anything, was to inquire about the Rockies’ Troy Tulowitzki because they have a need at short and the pitching prospects to acquire him.
Washington Nationals (A)
Notable Additions: OF Denard Span, RHP Dan Haren, RHP Rafael Soriano, re-signed 1B Adam LaRoche, RHP A.J. Cole (P)
Notable Losses: 1B/OF Mike Morse, LHP John Lannan, LHP Sean Burnett, RHP Edwin Jackson, LHP Tom Gorzelanny, RHP Alex Meyer (P)
My fellow baseball writer, Jake Chernok, mentioned last week in his article that the Blue Jays won the offseason. While I think they won the offseason among the AL teams, the Nationals to me are the clear winners of the offseason among every team in baseball (hurts me to say that about a division rival). In terms of needs entering the offseason, the Nationals filled every single one of them for the right deals. There needs entering the offseason: a centerfielder (particularly one who fits at the top of the order), a back-end starter and re-sign LaRoche. They first responded to the Braves BJ Upton signing by trading for Span a day later for a very talented A ball pitcher (Meyer), but they are currently stacked with young controllable starting pitchers anyway. He fills the centerfield need to push Bryce Harper to left field and can hit in the leadoff spot or the two-hole. They then signed a top quality starter in Haren to a one-year contract, where he will be their #4 starter, barring what happens to Gio Gonzalez and his involvement/usuage in the Miami PED ring. Then they waited out LaRoche’s demands for a three-year deal until early January and got him to agree to two years instead. And a week later they solidified their bullpen by signing Rafael Soriano to a similar deal to be their closer. That should eliminate those haunting memories from that painstaking ninth inning in game five of the NLDS. The next day, they traded Mike Morse, who was suddenly out of a starting gig in DC, to Seattle in a three-team deal and got back a pitching prospect who is similar to the one they gave up in the Span deal. So in reality they made the moves they needed to make and then went beyond that to make them not just an NL favorite, but a World Series favorite as well.
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