Winners And Losers Of The 2013 MLB Off-Season

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Winners And Losers Of The 2013 MLB Off-Season

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The date for pitchers and catchers reporting to MLB Spring Training camps is on the horizon. Soon, the rosters for the World Baseball Classic will be finalized and players from all over the world will be playing for their countries. But before all of this can happen, the free agency period needs to come to an end.

Free agency began the first day after the World Series ended and as a result, many players have switched uniforms and are looking to fresh starts with their new ball clubs. General managers are still trying to make their teams competitive and agents are trying to milk every last dollar out of their clients possible suitors.

There are players who have broke the bank and received deals that many around the league did not envision them receiving. As a result, there are still quality major league capable players who have no signed deals. There are many losers and winners in the off-season that can influence the rest of the league.

What determines if you are capable of being a loser or a winner?

A winner is a team that has spent very smartly or made a huge transaction to attract some attention to their ball club. Players can also be considered winners if they receive contracts despite having down seasons or even leaving a city via trade.

A loser is a team that is usually predicted to make a big splash in the off-season but never seizing the opportunity or even spending money on the wrong guy. If a player is considered on the loser's list, then their team has made it hard for them to get playing time or the player has also found himself in legal trouble.

The losers and winners of each off-season always have a huge impact on predictions, pre-season rankings, and even the expectations for every major league club.

With free agency almost over, beautiful Spring Training on the horizon, and the anticipation of the 2013 season rising, it is the right time to be handing out awards for the twenty biggest winners and losers across the MLB this off-season.

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Loser - Michael Morse

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A powerhouse thump in the middle of the Washington Nationals lineup could be on another major league roster in 2013? Michael Morse is a 30-year old who has spent time in both the American League and the National League. 'The Beast', as he as known as in Washington, recently found out along with all of the MLB that the Nationals and GM Mike Rizzo had reached an agreement to re-sign first baseman Adam LaRoche.

Upset at the news of the recent transaction, Morse took to Twitter to express his feelings about the situation.

The 6-foot, 5-inch run producer has thrived in his four seasons with Washington. In a span of 378 games over four seasons, Morse recorded a .294 batting average with 67 home runs and driving in 208 runs while having an OPS of .857.

If Morse cannot find his way into an everyday major league lineup this season, then he would be higher on the list. But given the fact that he can hit around .300, knock in 80-plus runs, and hit around 20-25 home runs, Morse is a very attractive player for the rest of the league.

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Winner - Shane Victorino

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A three-time Gold Glove Award winner, a two-time time National League All-Star, and a former rule-5 draft pick walk into a bar in the middle of Boston. What do you get? You get Shane Victorino.

"The Flyin' Hawaiian" has spent time with three major league ball clubs throughout his career but made a name for himself with one specifically. The speedy Victorino was a key part of the 2008 World Series champion Philadelphia Phillies roster. This consistent, everyday outfielder has been an average player throughout his nine-year career. In those seasons, Victorino has hit for a .275 average with 90 home runs, driving in 409 runners, stealing 201 bases while getting thrown out 43 times, and constantly played great defense in centerfield.

Despite a down year in 2012, Victorino received a three-year, $39 million offer from the Boston Red Sox. He will likely play right field for Boston.

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Loser - Pittsburgh Pirates

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If any team is looking to a fresh start to the upcoming season, it is the Pittsburgh Pirates. For the second year in a row, Pittsburgh has fought with their division rivals throughout the entire season only to fall short of their goal with two months left in the season. The Pirates have not had a winning season since 1992. This 20-plus year drought was thought to be coming to an end when the Pirates made deals to acquire A.J. Burnett and others last season.

This year, despite already having a competitive roster, the Pirates went south. The team has already out bid the New York Yankees for catcher Russell Martin and are currently failing to sign pitcher Francisco Liriano to a deal due to a lingering injury.

If the Liriano deal does fall through, the Pirates will be back to step one, especially because they need talent with the recent trade of closer Joel Hanrahan to the Red Sox. The young nucleus that the Pirates have assembled will be the key for the teams future. Starling Marte and Andrew McCutchen will need to anchor the outfield and the infield will need to find its form at the plate. But until this happens, the Pirates are still considered losers this year.

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Winner: Cleveland Indians

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2012 was nothing short of disappointing for the Cleveland Indians. With the recent struggle for a franchise that had a bright future only a season, the Indians decided that they needed a facelift.

This off-season has been a win for a team looking for change. First, they hire a manager in Terry Francona who has had success in his coaching career. Then, they trade away a player like Shin-Soo Choo who was unlikely to re-sign and in return receive a young, everyday center fielder, a future pitcher for their rotation, and two bullpen arms who could add to the already strong "Bullpen Mafia." Finally, they go out and get their lineup some pop.

The signings of Mark Reynolds and Nick Swisher could help a lineup that is looking to produce more runs. With players such as Carlos Santana, Asdrubel Cabrera, and Jason Kipnis already in the lineup, the Indians added two more bats that could really help their team out in 2013.

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Loser - Kansas City Royals

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When a team from your division goes to the World Series, has two of the best power-bats in the entire game, has Justin Verlander in the rotation, and is receiving Victor Martinez back from injury, you make a move. But when that move is acquiring starting pitchers that could struggle mightily without run support, then you have a problem.

The Kansas City Royals believe that 2013 is finally the year that they return to old form and make it back to the post season. With the recent acquisition of James Shields and Wade Davis from the Tampa Bay Rays and the re-signing of Jeremy Guthrie, the Royals believe that their roster can compete this season. But with the aforementioned team like the Detroit Tigers in the same division and the continuing development of teams throughout the American League, the Royals may be buyers at the wrong time.

As a result of being buyers, they traded away one of their top prospects Wil Myers to the Rays for a veteran pitcher. If Myers becomes what he is expected to, then the Royals have lost a huge bat for the middle of their lineup. Being that it is the off-season, losing a player with so much upside makes a team eligible for the loser's list.

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Winner - Philadelphia Phillies Bullpen

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If there was a team that desperately needed a mulligan for 2012, it was definitely the Philadelphia Phillies. For a team that had extreme high hopes for the acquisition of Jonathan Papelbon and the possible development of a young bullpen, the Phillies struggled mightily and it was mainly because of their inconsistent bullpen.

Despite Papelbon's numbers in 2012, the Phillies bullpen ranked toward the bottom of the league in many of the statistical categories for a bullpen.

This season has brought hope for Phillies fans all over the world. The acquisition of free agent Mike Adams, who has been dominant in the past, gives the Phillies bullpen a major upgrade that could indeed help the other players in it. Players such as Antonio Bastardo, Michael Stutes, and Phillippe Aumont could really benefit from having Adams anchoring the 8th inning. The acquisition of Adams indeed makes the Phillies bullpen a winner this off-season.

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Loser - New York Yankees

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The thought of the New York Yankees being conservative in the 2013 off-season was an absolute surprise to teams around the league. GM Brian Cashman has lived up to his word that he does not want to go over the luxury tax threshold, which will make the 2013 Yankees look similar to last year's team.

When a team loses a switch-hitting outfielder with some power in Nick Swisher and gets outbid for Russell Martin by the Pittsburgh Pirates, then that team is already considered a loser. But when that teams adds news about injuries to one of its highest paid players, then the off-season is lost.

Though the Yankees did make some moves to get veteran help such as Kevin Youkilis and Matt Diaz, they did let players such as Martin, Swisher, and Raul Ibanez walk for free agency. This is why the Yankees have been at a loss this off-season.

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Winner - Boston Red Sox

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When the New York Yankees are considered losers in an off-season, it is always a win for the Boston Red Sox. But when the Red Sox make moves to put themselves back in the mix for the AL East, then they are certainly considered winners.

Last season, the Red Sox were a disappointment and at times a laughing stock to some major league ball clubs. This resulted in the firing of manager Bobby Valentine and the trading away of players with huge money amounts left on their contracts.

The Red Sox were able to bring in players such as Stephen Drew, Shane Victorino, Johnny Gomes, Koji Uehara, and Ryan Dempster via free agency and were able to acquire Joel Hanrahan via trade this off-season. For a team that let go of huge contracts in 2012, it looks like they will be competing once again in 2013. With the health question of the pitching staff still to be answered, the Red Sox will try to rejuvenate their rotation with the return of John Farrell, the team's former pitching coach, as their new manager.

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Loser - New York Mets

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The New York Mets want to be contenders in 2013 but with teams like the Philadelphia Phillies, Atlanta Braves, and the Washington Nationals in their division, another fourth place finish seems likely.

The Mets headed into the off-season with two big question marks: R.A. Dickey and David Wright. What were they going to do with them? What direction was the team headed in? Well, the Mets decided that Wright was their man and decided to ship Dickey to the Toronto Blue Jays for a couple of future prospects who are projected to be very productive ball players.

Despite making minor moves in the off-season and enhancing the team's future, the Mets are considered losers because they shipped away a player that they had control of contractually and because of the division that they compete in.

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Winner - R.A. Dickey

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The 18th pick of the 1996 amateur draft is considered a winner this off-season. R.A. Dickey has faced so much adversity throughout his entire life and has finally made it to the top of the world. Dickey is coming off of a season which was just magical for him. He recorded a 20-6 record in 33 game started (career high), with a 2.73 ERA and 230 strikeouts (career high) in 233.2 innings (career high) pitched while working his way to becoming the Cy Young Award winner in the National League.

Dickey was looking for a new long-term contract but when the New York Mets were unlikely to complete a deal, they made a deal of their own sending Dickey to the Toronto Blue Jays, where he signed a new two-year extension worth $25 million. This off-season has sure been a win for a guy that without a doubt deserves one.

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Loser - Kyle Lohse

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A 34-year old pitcher coming off of a season, where he led the league in winning percentage while sporting a 16-3 record, is a rare commodity in free agency. When this pitcher has an ERA under three and recorded a career high in games started, his value should continue to rise. But this is not the case for free agent Kyle Lohse. The right-hander out of Hamilton City, California is arguably is coming off of the best season of his career. But he has yet to sign a contract with a team. Usually Scott Boras' clients wait out the market in order to get a great deal. But with the market dwindling right in front of him, Lohse may not be able to find himself on a competitive team playing with a contract that he deserves. This is why Lohse is a loser thus far in the off-season. He has been consistent over the past two seasons and could become an under-the-radar signing by whatever team lands him.

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Winner - Los Angeles Dodgers

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The Los Angeles Dodgers received new ownership last season and it was the goal of Earvin "Magic" Johnson to make his team relevant again in the face on the MLB. During the season, he acquired players such as Hanley Ramirez, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, and Josh Beckett via trade. Along with current stars Clayton Kershaw and Matt Kemp, the Dodgers are looking to return to the post season in 2013.

This off-season was far above mediocre from a talent standpoint in regards to the team's signings. The Dodgers were able to bring in players like J.P. Howell, Zack Greinke, and Ryu Hyun-Jin to bolster a rotation and a bullpen that is going to be very strong in 2013. Along with keeping the speedy Dee Gordon on the roster as well as adding in youth throughout the roster, the Dodgers are arguable favorites to capture the NL West crown this season.

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Loser - Michael Bourn

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How can a man who was voted the best defensive player in the National League still be on the free agent market? Michael Bourn left the Atlanta Braves via free agency after having an average year with them. Bourn is looking for a big time deal but his agent Scott Boras has not been able to get him the deal that he wants. The small factor that stunts Bourn's game is the fact that he does not hit the long ball that well. Despite hitting a career high nine home runs and knocking in 57 runs last season, Bourn has gone from being one of the most coveted outfielders on the market to a player that is just looking to break the bank. Other signings such as B.J. Upton and Shane Victorino have increased Bourn's value which was likely why his chances of signing first were hurt.

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Winner - Toronto Blue Jays

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Oh Canada!

The Toronto Blue Jays are finally making the right moves at the perfect time. The Blue Jays have been waiting in the weeds of the AL East for the past couple of seasons with a young roster. With the talent level of the entire AL East teams shrinking, the Blue Jays have positioned themselves to become a playoff team this coming season.

The acquisition of the core Miami Marlins roster, which are Jose Reyes, John Johnson, Mark Buerhle, Emilio Bonifacio, and John Buck, the signing of PED-connected player Melky Carbrera, and the recent trade for R.A. Dickey have put the Blue Jays back on the map in the MLB. Look out for this team to get back to a competitive level and not only be winners on this list, but also in the AL East.

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Loser - Seattle Mariners

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Despite being linked to players such as Josh Hamilton, Justin Upton, Giancarlo Stanton, and Michael Bourn throughout the off-season, the Seattle Mariners have yet to upgrade their mediocre lineup from a year ago. Signing players such as Jason Bay and Raul Ibanez and trading for a switch hitting Kendrys Morales do upgrade some positions in the lineup, but without a big presence and face of the franchise on their roster, the Mariners will continue to struggle in the AL West.

The major reason that they find themselves on this list is due to the inability to land a big-name free agent. Ever since Ichiro Suzuki left via trade last season, the Mariners have been searching for some sort of offense to support a pitching staff anchored by ace Felix Hernandez. Until the Mariners drastically upgrade their lineup via trade or free agency, they will continue to find themselves as losers this off-season.

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Winner - Zack Greinke

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Money, money, money. That is the song that has been playing in Zack Greinke's head ever since he signed the lucrative six-year, $159 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers last month. Greinke is coming off of a season where he split time in both the AL and the NL. With his return to the NL, Greinke will serve as the co-ace to Clayton Kershaw in a ballpark that is certainly pitcher-friendly. Look for Greinke to be very good in 2013. If his lineup produces like they are projected to produce, then Greinke could win 20-plus games for the first time in his nine-year career.

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Loser - Miami Marlins Fans

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They say that history repeats itself. Well for Miami Marlins fans, this saying could not be any more perfect. Last season, the Marlins were the talk of the MLB with their fresh new look in their state of the art ballpark. But this team was the prime example of how money does not win a team championships or even division crowns for that matter. The Marlins ended up firing skipper Ozzie Guillen and trading stars like Jose Reyes, Mark Buerhle, Josh Johnson, and Hanley Ramirez. These moves set the Marlins back and have without a doubt hurt the fan base of the Marlins, which had been struggling to begin with in the past couple of seasons.

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Winner - Josh Hamilton

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The winner of the 2013 MLB off-season from a player standpoint is outfielder Josh Hamilton. The 31-year old outfielder has gone through a lot throughout his entire career. He was finally rewarded with a five-year, $133 million contract from his old division foe Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The Angels are continuing to bolster their lineup, but the player that will benefit from Hamilton's signing the most is Hamilton himself. Being able to hit being or in front of Albert Pujols and Mark Trumbo could result in monstrous numbers from the six-year professional who hit a career high 43 home runs and knocked in 128 runs a season ago.

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Loser - Texas Rangers

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As a result of the Josh Hamilton signing, the Texas Rangers have found themselves in a bit of a predicament. Not only did they lose Hamilton, but they also lost out on other players such as Mike Napoli, Mike Adams, Ryan Dempster, and Michael Young. They have, however, signed a left-handed power hitting catcher in A.J. Pierzynski and signed a reliever who has been dominant in the past in Joakim Soria.

But the reason the Rangers find themselves as the biggest loser of the 2013 MLB off-season is the fact that they were not able to land Zack Greinke, a player who they highly valued, as well as losing a good amount of pieces from their roster. Texas has been linked to players such as Giancarlo Stanton and Justin Upton, but the failure to make a move for either one of them have also added to the disappointment this off-season for the Rangers.

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Winner - Washington Nationals

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The Washington Nationals are coming off of their best season in franchise history. Washington's season began with a lot of hope and ended with a controversial decision regarding star pitcher Stephen Strasburg, a division title, and a playoff appearance. The only major need that the team was looking for was a center fielder who could also bat leadoff. Instead of signing a big name free agent to a huge contract, GM Mike Rizzo made a great move to acquire Denard Span from the Minnesota Twins.

Span is capable of hitting .300 and stealing a lot of bases as well as scoring over 100 runs, especially with the lineup that he will be hitting in. But Span was not the only move that the Nationals made. The signing of 32-year old Dan Haren could easily give Washington one of, if not, the best rotations in baseball. One through four in their rotation is capable of going deep into games and winning a bunch of them as well. Look out for the Nationals in 2013. This year's biggest winners of the MLB off-season could find themselves back in the playoffs and competing for a World Series trophy in October.

David A. Cattai is a featured journalist with Rant Sports & Buzz On Broad.

Follow me on Twitter (@DCattaiSports), Facebook, and Google+ for sports updates.

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