Grading Every MLB Team’s Offseason
Grading Every MLB Team’s Offseason
What is the most exciting part of the year for a Major League Baseball team? Some would say Opening Day and others would say the postseason; should their team make it. Some fans love the excitement of Spring Training when the prospects get a chance to hit live big league heaters before the MLB starters begin getting serious. Others still might think the most exciting part of each year for a baseball team is not part of the baseball season at all. Perhaps the MLB offseason is the best part of all?
To be honest, some teams probably don’t like the offseason all that well while others really put on a show. There are some consistent offseason sluggers among team owners and general managers and others that usually do absolutely nothing at all but wait for the season to start. All of those in-between fluctuate from offseason to offseason. What if we put it on a grading scale? What would the offseason grade be for each MLB team’s 2014 offseason?
Using a standard school grading scale where A is the best and F is the lowest, we are going to take a glance at each team’s progress during the 2014 offseason or lack thereof. Some teams will warrant an additional plus or minus sign to go along with the grade and A+ would then be the best and F- would be the worst.
We’ll go through the teams by league and division with the American League East first and the National League West last. Other than that the order of the teams is basically random. Do you have a favorite team that you would like to grade for offseason work? The comments section below can be used to do just that very thing. Especially if you disagree or even agree with one of the grades you see, put it down there.
Boston Red Sox: C
The Boston Red Sox haven’t done much this offseason but they have probably done enough. They get an average grade because they have only signed two players, Mike Napoli and A.J. Pierzynski. They lost Jacoby Ellsbury and Jarrod Saltalamacchia to free agency and that seems like a worst thing than it is.
While they could have hoped for more probably, they didn’t keep Ellsbury probably because Jackie Bradley, Jr. is expected to hit the field running in center this next season. Pierzynski is getting older for sure but he along with David Ross will do just fine to form a gritty combination behind the plate. Re-signing Mike Napoli was what made the grade a passing one for the Sox. He could be one of the key players to getting them back to the World Series.
Tampa Bay Rays: B-
The Tampa Bay Rays are one of those teams that seem to always find a way to compete. They are probably not going to re-sign Fernando Rodney but they have already added others in the bullpen including Heath Bell who has closed games before. They brought in Ryan Hanigan to catch for them, possibly full-time if he bounces back from a bad offensive season.
Defensively he is good enough to start regardless of offense though. The key that pushed the grade upwards was re-signing James Loney. That is a big deal for the offense going into next season. The down side for the Rays is the still undecided drama surrounding a possible trade of David Price and the fact that they didn’t go get a top-tier closer. I didn’t really expect them to and they will probably be fine as they are, but it does keep them from an A.
New York Yankees: A
No one has done more to improve the core of their team than the New York Yankees this offseason. The best move they made all offseason was the non-move of letting Robinson Cano go elsewhere. Cano is a quality player, possibly the best pound for pound second baseman in the game.
What he is not however is equal to the combined additions of Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran. They were able to sign Kelly Johnson, Brian Roberts and Brendan Ryan to guarantee infield options and don’t forget the returning Derek Jeter was also signed to a one year deal. They have already addressed the pitching staff and have plenty of financial flexibility to complete working on it before the season starts. If the other moves had already been made instead of being just expected, this would be an A+. Great offseason by the Yankees.
Baltimore Orioles: D
Unfortunately the Baltimore Orioles find themselves in a failing situation this offseason. They probably overachieved last season with the monster season by Chris Davis a fine example of that. They could overachieve again this year but they have not addressed their pitching staff in a positive and sure way at all.
The only thing they have really done regarding pitching involves minor moves, trading their 50-save-per-season closer Jim Johnson and getting then releasing Grant Balfour. Now they might look like geniuses in the unfortunate event that Balfour ends up with arm troubles but they still are down a world-class closer for the offseason. Add the looming issue of re-signing some of their young sluggers and you get a mess of an offseason.
Toronto Blue Jays: C+
Most of the work done to build the Toronto Blue Jays was done before this offseason. The only reason they didn’t win last season was that they got bad years from a lot of big name guys. Still they have needs that have gone unaddressed to this point in the offseason including back-end starting pitching and a second baseman. They have waited to where their only options will be more unproven guys in both spots in all likelihood.
That should be okay if their current stars show up in 2014 though. The plus is because they have resisted trading key players in their farm system and their closer to this point and because they upgraded overall at catcher with Dioner Navaro. They should hold those guys at least until the trade deadline to see where they are.
Detroit Tigers: B-
Some of what the Detroit Tigers have done seems to fit perfectly with their desire to win a World Series while other things might still have to be proven. They traded away a great starter in Doug Fister for a decent package in return. They still have a great looking rotation but it still seems a lot to lose. That does lend itself to help out where another move helps however; the trade of Price Fielder.
Some of the moves in this offseason will help not only this coming season but future offseasons as well. Fielder being traded and not re-signing some of the big names from a year ago all will help them lock up Max Scherzer and pursue other expensive goals in the future. The best move towards winning a title was signing Joe Nathan to close. He is as close to a sure thing as they are going to get. Whether the speed and average approach will make up for the power lost is the big question that drops the grade.
Cleveland Indians: D
If any team in baseball went farther than they should have in 2013 it was the Cleveland Indians. Without a doubt they overachieved which makes their slow offseason a little skewed. Imagine they were under .500 and only showed windows of a winning team all season and this offseason looks okay as they continue to try and build a winner without a ton of free agents.
As it stands, they will be expecting themselves to get further into the playoffs in 2014 and they haven’t done much to call themselves better. Most of their moves have been minor in nature with the biggest being signing David Murphy for a couple of years. If Murphy was a sure thing for .280 and run production the grade might be higher. As it stands they have more questions now than answers heading towards Spring Training.
Kansas City Royals: B+
Considering what they have to work with the Kansas City Royals have done well this offseason. One of the best moves was to simply pick up the option on James Shields. That isn’t necessarily and easy button for a small-market team to push. They also sure up the starting rotation a bit by signing Jason Vargas who will look to improve over last season’s work. They will lose some in Ervin Santana but they have addressed that problem as best they can.
Also they have went out and signed one of the best second baseman reasonably available in Omar Infante. That is a big move for a team that wins the way the Royals do. It should go a long way towards making them better. Minor moves they have made and top prospects also will look to improve this team over the one from a year ago.
Minnesota Twins: A-
The Minnesota Twins are going a long ways towards changing their standard position in the American League Central with their offseason. They said they were raising the payroll this offseason and wanted to take steps towards winning seasons. Before long their doubters were proven wrong when they signed Ricky Nolasco, Phil Hughes and re-signed Mike Pelfrey. Then they added Jason Kubel and Kurt Suzuki. The best thing is that they probably have more they will do before the offseason is over. They are certainly doing exactly what they said they would and then some.
Chicago White Sox: A
Even though the Chicago White Sox have traded several big name players in the last seven months or so, they have ended up looking like a better and younger team because of it. They have Adam Eaton and Matt Davidson coming in from the Diamondbacks this offseason as well as the signing of Jose Dariel Abreu at first base.
Not only is their offense looking good but they have addressed bullpen concerns and have a good stack of relievers ready to create a solid last few innings for the Sox. Officially deciding who closes might be a bit of a chore but they have a couple of good candidates. The offseason has continued what the Sox started last season in getting better and younger. Chances are they aren’t finished yet.
Oakland Athletics: A+
The Oakland Athletics went into the offseason with several issues on their plate. They have an advantage because they happen to have arguably baseball’s best GM in Billy Beane. Beane has addressed every single concern and had those roles filled well before the MLB Winter Meetings closed up shop.
Starting pitching help is there as is a new closer. You name it, the need is filled and Beane went on to back-fill his farm system and will likely do so until the end of spring training. They will be a force to beat in the AL West once again and the offseason once again is a big reason why.
Texas Rangers: B
One thing keeps the Texas Rangers from having an A+ rating and that is the simple fact that their moves might or might not fill the needs they had well enough to improve the team. They have signed J.P. Arencibia and extended Geovany Soto to fill their catching hole. The big move was the trade that brought in slugging first baseman Prince Fielder and the free agent signing of Shin-Soo Choo.
Choo is a good get and should fulfill the expectations that come with him well enough. Fielder should have a powerful season but there are questions about this deal. They lost Ian Kinsler in the deal and picked up a lot of debt for the next several seasons. If Fielder and Choo both have their best seasons ever, the Rangers still would have the question of how to replace one of the game’s best closers in Joe Nathan. It has been potentially a great offseason but too many questions remain for an A+ grading.
Los Angeles Angels: A-
After loading up their offense last offseason the Los Angeles Angels underwent a harsh lesson as they still flopped through the season. Their biggest needs involved the depth of their starting staff and they also needed some relief help as well. They have brought in Tyler Skaggs and Hector Santiago though it cost them Mark Trumbo. Trumbo is a substantial offensive loss but this batting order should be fine if everyone shows up.
In that same light they signed elder statesman DH/OF Raul Ibanez. Ibanez has proven to be one of the rare ageless wonders in MLB. He is over 40 but still was one of the most productive DH’s in the game last season. He should bring a stability to the order that is badly needed when he is in there. That added to the fact that they have 7 starters at least and over 20 pitchers overall going into the spring and you have a team that filled the needs they had; even grabbing David Freese to fill a third base hole.
Seattle Mariners: B+
You’ve heard of getting an A for effort? The Seattle Mariners get just under an A for their efforts this offseason. They have signed Robinson Cano to a huge deal. He is the game’s best second baseman right now and should provide some pop. Also they brought in Corey Hart and traded for Logan Morrison to fill 1B/OF/DH roles. There are a couple of ways to look at this for the Mariners.
On one hand they should be a better team immediately because of these deals. That’s a good thing. The negative could be that they still have a potential weakness in the starting rotation from the third spot on. Also giving Cano 10 years smells of desperation. He might be one of the best now but we can almost guarantee he will not be 10 years from now.
Houston Astros: C+
Considering the situation the Houston Astros are in, they have done about as well as they can do this year. The idea was to add a few short-term free agents to help bridge the gap until their minor league talent begins to come of age. The pitching staff has been improved with the signing of Scott Feldman who isn’t a normal ace but should do well as the ace of this staff. Jesse Crain probably tops the additions to the bullpen which has a chance to be stronger.
Offensively they didn’t do a ton but they did trade for a good athletic and potentially game-changing center fielder in Dexter Fowler. Fowler has the ability to be one of the top several outfielders in the game. In addition to this they should have a couple of minor leaguers hit the bigs for the first time this year and we will all get to see what they have in store for the majors. It wasn’t a load of roster shifting moves which is why the grade is slightly above average. In a strange way though the C+ offseason is exactly what this team needed this year so they don’t mess up the future seasons.
Washington Nationals: B-
One major trade and one decent free agent signing is about all you see from the Washington Nationals this offseason. While they didn’t do a ton of work, it’s really okay because they didn’t need a ton of work. Doug Fister should be a very good addition to the starting rotation that really is shaping up to be one of the very best in the game.
The only other action we really see is the signing of fourth outfielder Nate McLouth. McLouth is a good addition but he doesn’t give the Nats the offensive push that they need to improve over last season. That is why the grade is lower. They improved what was already very good but didn’t do much for their offensive problem. There is a chance they could get all the offense they need from the guys they already have however.
Atlanta Braves: D-
It is difficult to blame the Atlanta Braves for having done next to nothing this offseason but considering they kind of did it to themselves, it’s a little easier. One move could have made this a very good offseason for the Braves if they could have moved Dan Uggla but it doesn’t appear that anyone is going to want to help them out with that. Now they are left hoping for two things. First, that both Uggla and B.J. Upton can live up to some of their hype from before they were signed and second that if they don’t the Braves can pull of a magical season again.
The free agent signing of Gavin Floyd doesn’t do much for a starting rotation that, while good, has next to zero experience. You never know how things will work out but the Braves have basically chosen to sit and do nothing this offseason. This would be a solid F if it weren’t for the very positive addition of Ryan Doumit who can fill a couple of roles well.
Philadelphia Phillies: C-
Ruben Amaro, Jr. hasn’t made many friends in his time as Philadelphia Phillies GM and this offseason continues a trend that troubles many fans. The good stuff first though. Amaro added a potentially solid outfielder in Marlon Byrd, providing he can duplicate what he did last season. They were going to have a hole at catcher until young guys were ready but they re-signed Carlos Ruiz to a three year deal.
He also added a pitcher with a good potential up-side from moving to the National League for the first time in Roberto Hernandez, providing he can keep the ball on the ground instead of behind the outfield wall. Now the bad and disturbing news is nothing all that new. Moves this offseason have continued the trend of the Phillies to bring in older players instead of younger ones. There are exceptions but the majority of the Phillies money and years are tied up with older players who are past their prime. Each move made this offseason has the potential to fit directly in that mold.
New York Mets: B
The New York Mets haven’t done a ton of stuff this offseason but what they have done has been positive. They signed Curtis Granderson from across town and added Chris Young. Both moves together should add a little more pop in the outfield. In addition to that they deepened the starting five with veteran Bartolo Colon who has proven to still have what it takes.
They still have unanswered questions around first base. If they were able to trade Ike Davis for a good return in prospects at least, the grade would go up. All in all it has been a good offseason for the Mets. Considering they are finally out from under a ton of old payroll, some fans expected more from them. It is possible they are saving a chunk of payroll for next offseason and the trade deadline, for adding players they could sign long-term.
Miami Marlins: B+
Though they surely will not be favored at the start of the 2014 season, don’t be surprised if the Miami Marlins begin to make some noise very soon. They did some very positive things this offseason. Signing Rafael Furcal might seem questionable at his age but he still should provide a very positive jump to this young team. Garret Jones is a very good signing at first base and could end up a step up from Logan Morrison if he has a good year.
Behind the plate was where they made the most noise however with the signing of World Series champ Jarrod Saltalamaccia. Salty is a very good catcher and should provide some pop behind the plate as well as add to a very fun atmosphere that is developing around this team and their very good young pitching staff.
St. Louis Cardinals: A
What do you do if you are the St. Louis Cardinals and only one team in the game turned out better than you by one game? You look at your team, find holes and fill them. That is exactly what the Cardinals have done. They added Peter Bourjos in center in a trade that sent David Freese to the Angels. That freed up third for Matt Carpenter which lets Kolten Wong make the MLB leap to play second.
They added Jhonny Peralta for some pop at shortstop and suddenly a great team looks even better than they did last season. The Cardinals are certainly one of the top organizations in baseball for a reason. Year in and year out they do business in the best way they can to fill holes without compromising the future and they have masterfully done so again.
Pittsburgh Pirates: C
The Pittsburgh Pirates find themselves in an odd position. Having finally gotten back to the postseason and put up a very good fight in the NLDS, they have lost a few players that they may or may not have needed that badly. What then do they do for the offseason? They have largely stood pat other than some minor moves and re-signings. They could use an outfielder but they could have Gregory Polanco coming along this season from the minors and you don’t want to block him.
First base remains a potential problem area for them and they could try to find a trade candidate like Ike Davis of the Mets who would be a decent addition without costing them a ton. Basically they haven’t done much but most of their areas of need have minor league top prospect help on the way. It’s a tough spot with a decent grade.
Cincinnati Reds: C
Much like their division rival Pirates the Cincinnati Reds didn’t have much they could do this offseason. They made a good decision not going too hard after Shin-Soo Choo with Billy Hamilton coming along nicely. They likely will lose out on Bronson Arroyo but still have five for the rotation as long as everyone stays healthy.
Basically they could only hope to make a big splash by moving Brandon Phillips. I think their best move there is to give him some incentives or something to give him a little more money and make him feel better. They aren’t going to replace his run production, likely even in a down year so that was a good non-move so far. Hopefully they’ll stick to that. They bring the same basic team back again with a new CF and we’ll see what happens.
Chicago Cubs: B
While the Chicago Cubs haven’t done a lot of stuff this offseason, they have made some good decisions overall. First and foremost is the fact that they have not traded Jeff Samardzija. Holding on to him does two things. It will drive the price up when teams need pitching help at mid-season and it will help the Cubs when more games while he is still there. If he is to be traded because they know they are worlds apart financially, the Cubs are masters at waiting for the right time when they want to be.
The trade to bring in Justin Ruggiano to play center is a very good move. He still has plenty of good years left in him and his offensive production is very likely to make a leap forward playing in Wriggly Field instead of the giant Marlins Park. All in all the Cubs need some help in a few areas but the moves and non-moves they have made, including landing Jose Veras for the bullpen, have made the team better.
Milwaukee Brewers: F
The best thing the Milwaukee Brewers hoped for in this offseason was to be able to re-sign Corey Hart for less and they were unable to do that. Now they have a hole at first base unless their top 1B prospect can leap to the bigs and have basically done nothing else but exercising one option. The “do nothing” approach can work but usually not after a season where you are fighting for a top draft pick the following season.
Los Angeles Dodgers: A+
It is a little too easy to forget just how good the Los Angeles Dodgers were last season because they lost in the NLCS. They weren’t good during the meat of the season, they were great. They should be getting a little better offensively just of maturity in Yasiel Puig and the signing of Cuban second baseman Alexander Guerrero. They re-signed third baseman Juan Uribe in a good move as well.
Those moves might get them second place in a much improved division however and they alone wouldn’t get them an A+ grade. What did that was the signings of Brian Wilson, Jamey Wright, Chris Perez and J.P. Howell to give them the best bullpen in the division for sure. For goodness sake this is a ‘pen with two recent closers who aren’t even closing. They will be very hard to beat.
Arizona Diamondbacks: A+
There is little reason to argue that the Arizona Diamondbacks made the biggest offensive trade addition in the National League by landing Mark Trumbo. Trumbo should fit perfectly with first baseman Paul Goldschmidt and they two could be MVP chasers together for the next few years. They have also a great potential in Chris Owings showing up at shortstop this season.
They get the A+ because they were able to trade for a closer in Addison Reed as well as getting rid of the higher salary of Heath Bell. All of this has freed the money up for Kevin Towers to go after Masahiro Tanaka very hard and he is possibly the front-runner. Regardless of if he wins the Tanaka sweepstakes, Towers and the DBacks get the A+ because they knew their areas of need and are making sure to have them filled by the start of the season.
San Diego Padres: C-
The San Diego Padres have improved their starting pitching and their bullpen with a couple of moves. That is all they have done. Offensively it is possible that they don’t really need someone big, although they could benefit from a Nelson Cruz addition if they decided to free up the money. In all likelihood they will stick with the addition of Josh Johnson in the starting rotation and Joaquin Benoit as the probable set-up man. In a NL West much improved, I don’t know if the Padres did enough unless they get big seasons from their current offensive guys.
San Francisco Giants: B+
Some of what the San Francisco Giants did seems to be questionable as far as how much value they placed on certain players. We can knock the grade down a bit because of that but looking at the team they will bring to the field, it appears they have done a good job of bringing back a team that should be able to overcome the terrible 2013 season. They had three big pitching re-signings with reliever Javier Lopez and starters Ryan Vogelsong and Tim Lincecum.
Signing Mike Morse to bolster the bench should help out a lot as he can be a decent addition as a fourth outfielder and strong pinch-hitter. Hunter Pence gets to try and prove his career month of September can be his normal output and good luck to him on that. Basically, they did a lot of good things, including signing veteran ace Tim Hudson, but none that help guarantee they will be able to hang with the Dodgers and DBacks. They will have to prove that.
Colorado Rockies: A-
Some might say the Colorado Rockies overachieved in 2013 but it could easily be said that because of injuries they underachieved. Having not been willing to accept finishing where they did in 2013 the Rockies went out to make themselves better in key areas and have done so. They traded for starting pitching with good potential, signed LaTroy Hawkins, Matt Belisle and Boone Logan to give the bullpen some stability going forward and took care of Jorge de la Rosa’s option. They also went out for a good and proven first baseman to replace legendary Todd Helton and came away with Justin Morneau.
Considering what was out there this year at first base, they really could have done a lot worse. Morneau is a solid defender and could take advantage of Coors Field to help boost himself into an offensive comeback. They were good last season and have made sure to address their needs this offseason. Some of the moves require a little proving ground which is why the minus is beside the A; they did well in improving though and could be a dark horse for the N.L. West.