Grading Every MLB Team’s Offseason So Far
Grading All 30 MLB Teams' Offseasons
The 2014 MLB season is nearing its start; we are already in mid-January and pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in less than 30 days. It seems weird to think about baseball when just one week ago there were record-low temperatures all across the country, but it's true; spring is right around the corner.
Most offseasons are nearly complete by the time the middle of January rolls around, but this offseason is different. At the moment, there are still several key free agents left unsigned. Among the best free agent pitchers remaining are Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana and of course, Masahiro Tanaka. Nelson Cruz, Kendrys Morales and Stephen Drew make up the best remaining position players. For most of these players, being tied to draft pick compensation is really hurting their market. They will probably have to wait until late February -- or in some cases maybe even Spring Training -- to sign with a new team.
Due to the large amount of free agents left on the market, any offseason grades can be greatly influenced between now and the start of the regular season. It seems to me that to this point there are a lot of teams that have had average offseasons. Not a lot of teams got substantially better. These grades are going to be based on what the teams did in relation to what strategy they should have taken heading into the offseason. For example, the Philadelphia Phillies should have gotten younger. They actually got older, and they will have a poor grade because of that.
The Atlanta Braves' offseason has been more about who they lost rather than who they acquired so far. The subtractions greatly outweigh the additions. Luckily for the Braves, they won't be affected too much by losing Tim Hudson, Brian McCann and Scott Downs because they have added Gavin Floyd and Ryan Doumit. They also have a farm system that is going to be able to add talent to the MLB team whenever it is needed.
Braves' offseason grade: C-
The Arizona Diamondbacks are in contention for the title of worst offseason. General manager Kevin Towers was apparently desperate to add a power-hitting corner outfielder, trading Adam Eaton and Tyler Skaggs in the Mark Trumbo deal. The Diamondbacks made another trade with the Chicago White Sox, trading third baseman Matt Davidson to the White Sox for closer Addison Reed. The Diamondbacks also re-signed Eric Chavez and traded away Heath Bell.
Diamondbacks' offseason grade: D+
The Baltimore Orioles have had one of the more quiet offseasons. They have added Ryan Webb, Delmon Young and Jemile Weeks while losing Scott Feldman, Jim Johnson, Nate McLouth and Michael Morse. The moves the Orioles made just scream "average", thus resulting in an average grade.
Orioles' offseason grade: C
Boston Red Sox
The Boston Red Sox seem to have lost more than the gained so far this offseason. Along with re-signing Mike Napoli, the Sox signed Edward Mujica and A.J. Pierzynski. They lost Jacoby Ellsbury, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Franklin Morales, among others. The Red Sox will still be a good team in 2014, but losing Saltalamacchia may have more of an impact than some think.
Red Sox' offseason grade: C
The Chicago Cubs are a team that is still a few years away from being competitive, and their front office clearly realizes this based on their lack of spending this offseason. Other than George Kottaras, Justin Ruggiano and Jose Veras, the Cubs only added a few minor league depth options and some relievers. The Cubs only lost catcher Dioner Navarro to free agency while trading away Brian Bogusevic.
Cubs' offseason grade: C+
Chicago White Sox
While having one of the more underrated offseasons, the Chicago White Sox may have also had the best overall offseason. The White Sox are clearly nowhere near competing, so they were smart to trade away Hector Santiago and Addison Reed to get younger. They also allowed Gavin Floyd to leave via free agency. The White Sox received former Arizona Diamondbacks prospects Matt Davidson and Adam Eaton in two separate trades. Along with the two talented players they acquired from the Diamondbacks, they also signed the top international position player available, first baseman/designated hitter Jose Abreu. Re-signing Paul Konerko isn't really a huge deal due to his age and poor performance last season, but it certainly is a move that fans of the White Sox should be happy with.
White Sox' offseason grade: A
The Cincinnati Reds on Opening Day 2014 will be significantly worse than they were in 2013. To make up for losing Shin-Soo Choo and Ryan Hanigan, the Reds signed Jeff Francis, Brayan Pena and Skip Schumaker while moving speedster Billy Hamilton to center field to replace Choo. Choo was an on-base machine in 2013; losing him will have a terrible effect on the Reds' offense.
Reds' offseason grade: D
A surprise postseason team in 2013, the Cleveland Indians certainly didn't do anything over the offseason to ensure a return trip to the playoffs in 2014. After losing Scott Kazmir, Chris Perez, Joe Smith and Drew Stubbs, the Indians only added David Murphy, Shaun Marcum and Jeff Francoeur. The Indians aren't that much worse than they were last year, but they certainly aren't better.
Indians' offseason grade: C-
The Colorado Rockies are a team that is very much on the fence between contender and pretender. They were one of the most active teams this offseason, adding eight impact players to their roster while losing just two. The most notable additions were Brett Anderson, Justin Morneau, Boone Logan, Drew Stubbs, Franklin Morales and LaTroy Hawkins.
The Rockies traded away Drew Pomeranz and Dexter Fowler while seeing legendary Rockies first baseman Todd Helton retire. Despite the retirement of Helton and the loss of Fowler, the Rockies are considerably better on paper heading into 2014.
Rockies' offseason grade: B+
The Detroit Tigers were involved in the biggest blockbuster trade of the offseason so far that sent Prince Fielder to the Texas Rangers in exchange for Ian Kinsler. It was a smart decision, freeing up a lot of salary while allowing the Tigers to move Miguel Cabrera back to first base. Along with Fielder, the Tigers also lost Doug Fister, Omar Infante, Jhonny Peralta, Joaquin Benoit and Jose Veras. The Tigers' most notable additions were two relievers, Joba Chamberlain and Joe Nathan along with speedy outfielder Rajai Davis.
Tigers' offseason grade: C
The Houston Astros are definitely not close to competing, but they had a very good offseason. The Astros were able to add talent to their MLB roster without giving up any significant young talent in the process and without committing much money. They traded Jordan Lyles and Brandon Barnes to the Colorado Rockies for center fielder Dexter Fowler while also adding Jesse Crain, Matt Albers, Chad Qualls and Scott Feldman. Their bullpen, which was their biggest problem in 2013, is much improved heading into 2014.
Astros' offseason grade: B
Kansas City Royals
Working very early in the offseason, the Kansas City Royals were able to fill their needs fairly quickly. They were able to fill a gaping hole at second base, acquire a back-end of the rotation starter and an everyday right fielder. Adding Omar Infante to play every day at second base gives them a steady top of the lineup hitter with above average defense. Jason Vargas is probably a bit overpaid, making $8 million per year for the next four years, but he is definitely a nice pitcher to have filling out the back of the Royals' rotation. Norichika Aoki is going to be a great leadoff hitter for the Royals, providing above average defense and good speed with very few strikeouts.
Royals' offseason grade: B+
Los Angeles Angels
Unlike last offseason, the Los Angeles Angels were able to upgrade their roster without spending much money. They traded overrated slugger Mark Trumbo and landed two left-handed pitchers in return. Hector Santiago is going to be a steady presence at the back end of their rotation, and Tyler Skaggs is a young pitcher with the potential to eventually be a No. 2 or 3 starter. They traded defensive center fielder Peter Bourjos to the St. Louis Cardinals for third baseman David Freese and signed two under-the-radar free agents, Raul Ibanez and reliever Joe Smith. The only player they lost to free agency was lefty starter Jason Vargas.
Angels' offseason grade: B-
Los Angeles Dodgers
Let's be honest -- the Los Angeles Dodgers didn't have a lot of needs entering the offseason. Their roster is loaded with expensive, talented players. The Dodgers' biggest splash move was signing Dan Haren to a one-year deal, but they also retained relievers J.P. Howell, Brian Wilson and third baseman Juan Uribe while also adding former Cleveland Indians closer Chris Perez. The only significant contributors the Dodgers lost were starting pitcher Ricky Nolasco and second baseman Mark Ellis. If the Dodgers are able to trade Andre Ethier, their offseason grade could be raised a bit.
Dodgers' offseason grade: B
Despite being perceived as one of the most poorly run MLB franchises -- and rightly so -- the Miami Marlins are actually closer to being a good team than most people think. They have a very good young nucleus headlined by starting pitcher Jose Fernandez and outfielder Christian Yelich. They decided to dip their toe into the free agent water this offseason, adding catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and first baseman Garrett Jones. It may be a bit early for them to start spending on free agents, but at least it gives their fans some hope. As for the players the Marlins lost, the names aren't all that impressive. In a move that seemed to have been brewing for years, the Marlins finally traded Logan Morrison, receiving a reliever, Carter Capps, in return. The other players the Marlins lost are Chad Qualls, Ryan Webb and Justin Ruggiano.
Marlins' offseason grade: B-
The least active team this offseason would probably be the Milwaukee Brewers so far. To this point, the only significant move they made was trading Norichika Aoki to the Kansas City Royals for pitcher Will Smith. Along with Aoki, first baseman Corey Hart will also not be a part of the Brewers in 2014 after signing elsewhere in free agency. The Brewers are a rebuilding team, so adding expensive contracts and impact MLB talent wouldn't have made a lot of sense. However, there are players on their roster that could have been traded for prospects, most notably Yovani Gallardo. There inactivity is puzzling, but there is still time for them to make some type of move before the season begins.
Brewers' offseason grade: D+ so far, but in reality, incomplete.
Starting pitching, starting pitching and starting pitching. Something the Minnesota Twins probably don't think they can get enough of at this point is starting pitching. After a few seasons of horrendous pitching, the Twins have done their best to make sure they get a bit better in 2014, adding Phil Hughes, Ricky Nolasco and re-signing Mike Pelfrey. They also added a catcher, Kurt Suzuki to add depth to the position now that long-time catcher Joe Mauer is being moved to first base.
Twins' offseason grade: B
New York Mets
The New York Mets told their fans that they would spend some money at some point, and apparently this offseason was the appropriate time to add some talent around David Wright and Matt Harvey. Unfortunately for the Mets, Harvey will miss the entire 2014 season after having Tommy John Surgery, so this season probably won't amount to much. In their spending frenzy, the Mets added veteran pitcher Bartolo Colon and two outfielders, Curtis Granderson and Chris Young. Colon brings a control-pitcher to the front of the Mets' rotation, and Granderson adds huge power to their lineup. Young will add some good defense to the Mets' outfield that should be very athletic in 2014 with Granderson, Young and Juan Lagares. If the Mets are able to add a shortstop prior to the regular season, their offseason grade will bump up significantly. I'm looking at you, Stephen Drew.
Mets' offseason grade: B-
New York Yankees
After a few offseasons that were very un-Yankee like, the New York Yankees are back to their free-spending ways, and I love it. I'm not a fan of the Yankees, but to me baseball is more fun when the Yankees are good and fun to hate. They certainly didn't disappoint so far this offseason, adding Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury, Kelly Johnson, Brian McCann, Matt Thornton and Hiroki Kuroda while losing Robinson Cano, Joba Chamberlain, Curtis Granderson, Phil Hughes, Boone Logan and Chris Stewart. Clearly the Yankees have had the most active offseason so far, and they may not be done. The Bronx Bomers are also in the mix for Japanese sensation Masahiro Tanaka, the prized pitcher of this free agent class. Losing Cano was certainly a massive hit to their lineup, but adding the large collection of talented hitters should more than make up for Cano's production.
Yankees' offseason grade: B+
Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane was on top of his game this winter, acquiring a bunch of spare parts to make a solid team out of them. While he did have to trade Brett Anderson and let Bartolo Colon leave in free agency, he was able to add Scott Kazmir and Drew Pomeranz to the rotation mix while also adding relievers Luke Gregerson and Jim Johnson. He also added some outfield help with Craig Gentry and infield depth with Nick Punto.
Athletics' offseason grade: B+
The Philadelphia Phillies aren't a very well-run organization. General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. isn't the sharpest crayon in the box. The Phillies clearly are not talented enough to win the National League East division anymore; their window of contention has passed. Yet Amaro keeps delaying the inevitable -- a complete rebuild -- by adding more and more age to his already aging roster. The Phillies aren't even a veteran team anymore; they are just old. Instead of doing the smart thing and trading Chase Utley, Jonathan Papelbon, Cole Hamels, Carlos Ruiz and Cliff Lee, Amaro decided to add Marlon Byrd, re-sign Ruiz and add an average starting pitcher, Roberto Hernandez. The moves the Phillies made are nowhere near enough to get them back into contention. If the Phillies aren't contending by the time the trade deadline arrives, Amaro better decide to trade away some of his old players for prospects, because the Phillies are falling and they are falling fast.
Phillies' offseason grade: F
In what was one of the most disappointing offseasons so far, the Pittsburgh Pirates have failed to fill the holes that were so obvious entering the winter. The Pirates needed two things -- pitching depth and a first baseman. To this point, the Pirates have lived up to their reputation of being extremely cheap. After promising the fanbase that they would spend money once the team was competitive, the front office appears to have lied. So far the Pirates have added a backup catcher, Chris Stewart, a pitcher that can't throw strikes, Edinson Volquez, and a collection of minor league corner infielders. It's not like the Pirates didn't suffer any losses this offseason; they lost Marlon Byrd, Justin Morneau, Garrett Jones and potentially A.J. Burnett. There is still time to make a few moves, but so far the Pirates' offseason has been one of the worst in all of baseball and that's a shame.
Pirates' offseason grade: D
San Diego Padres
The San Diego Padres' offseason has been decent, but not great. They were able to add the best bounce-back candidate on the pitching market, Josh Johnson, to a relatively cheap deal and sign one of the best relievers as well, Joaquin Benoit. They also traded a reliever, Luke Gregerson, for a corner outfielder, Seth Smith. The Padres didn't really get much better, but they also didn't get worse. They pretty much stayed the same.
Padres' offseason grade: C+
San Francisco Giants
When the San Francisco Giants signed Tim Lincecum to a two-year, $35 million deal very early in the offseason, my initial reaction was that they gave him way too much money. However, with the way the rest of the offseason has gone, it seems like every team is giving every player way too much money. It's tough to judge deals anymore, because everyone is grossly overpaid in this inflated market.
Along with Lincecum, the Giants also signed veteran Tim Hudson, Michael Morse, Ryan Vogelsong and lefty-specialist Javier Lopez. The Giants' offseason has been very average to this point.
Giants' offseason grade: C
After making the biggest splash move of the offseason, signing Robinson Cano to a ten-year, $240 million deal, the Seattle Mariners haven't done a whole lot to add talent around him. They have added Corey Hart, coming off of a missed 2013 season due to injury, and also traded for Logan Morrison. We know one thing for sure: The Mariners like to acquire corner infielders. The Mariners already have a good pitching staff, so adding a few more pieces on offense before the season starts would be huge for this team.
Mariners' offseason grade: C+
St. Louis Cardinals
The St. Louis Cardinals had very few needs heading into the winter, and those needs have been filled very nicely. They needed an upgrade in center field, so they acquired Peter Bourjos. The Cardinals needed a better shortstop, so they signed the best available shortstop, Jhonny Peralta. Then, just for fun, they made their middle infield deeper by signing veteran second baseman Mark Ellis. The Cardinals are one of the most well-run MLB organizations with a very deep farm system and deep pockets as well. The Cardinals' offseason was a home run, and yes, that pun was indeed intended.
Cardinals' offseason grade: B+
Tampa Bay Rays
As usual, the Tampa Bay Rays approached their offseason with no intent to sign a big-name free agent or trade for a star player. They took the same approach as always -- acquire MLB caliber players that the rest of baseball under-appreciates. Heath Bell has developed a bit of a bad reputation in recent seasons, but since the Rays traded for him, he's surely going to be an All-Star closer in 2014. Ryan Hanigan is one of the most under-appreciated catchers in the league, but he gets on base and plays great defense. Of course he found his way onto the Rays' roster. The Rays also re-signed James Loney and David DeJesus to team-friendly deals. The Rays didn't make any splash moves, but since they are the Rays, I'm going to give them a letter-grade higher than I would if it were any other team -- they seem to always do the right thing.
Rays' offseason grade: B
The Texas Rangers signed the best hitter available this winter, Shin-Soo Choo, and traded for a power-hitting first baseman, Prince Fielder. Despite adding all two great players to their lineup, the Rangers didn't earn an "A" from me. The reason? Fielder's contract is a bit too hefty for my liking. The Rangers didn't lose a whole lot, mainly just a closer that got overpaid, Joe Nathan, and an aging catcher, A.J. Pierzynski. The Rangers will contend for the American League West crown in 2014, and I don't see any reason why they can't win it.
Rangers' offseason grade: B+
Toronto Blue Jays
The Toronto Blue Jays have a roster that is loaded with talent, but for some reason they weren't good in 2013. They needed to add a few pitchers this winter, but so far they haven't done so. The pitching market has yet to really develop, but the Blue Jays are rumored to be interested in adding at least one of the top free agent pitchers. Whether or not they add one remains to be seen, but they are interested in Masahiro Tanaka and several others. So far, the only major addition to their roster has been catcher Dioner Navarro, and they have lost Rajai Davis and Josh Johnson. The Blue Jays' offseason success depends on what happens with them and the pitching market.
Blue Jays' offseason grade: C (so far)
The Washington Nationals have one of the most talented, young rosters in baseball, but things didn't work out in 2013. Heading into 2014, the Nationals are more talented than they were last year, so Nats fans should be expecting big things. The Nationals were able to add Doug Fister, Jerry Blevins and Nate McLouth while only losing Steve Lombardozzi and Dan Haren. Replacing Haren with Fister is a clear upgrade, and adding McLouth to the bench is going to make the bench significantly better. The Nationals can be very good in 2014.
Nationals' offseason grade: B+