Though the playing season is where general managers of baseball teams earn their keep, the offseason is where the long hours of player evaluation and acquisition take place. The time between the end of the World Series and the beginning of spring training is when the wheels turn and the baseball world turns into one giant stock market.
Today I will take a look at what each team has done so far this offseason and rank each GM accordingly. Please bear in mind that this is not a power ranking of their overall talent or career success. As such, you will see names like Andrew Friedman and Jon Daniels in places you wouldn't expect.
The offseason is a crucial time for teams, and it is up to the GM to pull the trigger on moves that will shape the coming season and, in many cases, the future of the franchise.
Here are my rankings of all 30 GMs based on this offseason.
Maybe it was the fact that a movie was made about him, or maybe it's just a crappy situation. Either way, the Athletics are an absolute mess right now in all aspects.
Billy Beane isn't all to blame (I'm looking at you, Lew Wolff), but this offseason's fire sale not only wrecked his team's chance of competing in 2012, but it didn't do a whole lot to build for the future considering who they had to give up.
You can't really blame Jeff Luhnow, either, but the man entered probably the worst situation in baseball. Nothing he could have done this offseason could have made the Astros contenders.
I do like acquiring Jed Lowrie from the Red Sox, but I would have liked to see the 'Stros deal one of their trade chips. I fully expect Wandy Rodriguez and/or Carlos Lee to be gone by the trade deadline, but it would be nice to see them gone before the season.
When you trade away Carlos Quentin and Sergio Santos and lose Mark Buehrle in one offseason, you're probably not going to get a whole lot of praise.
The White Sox have quite obviously switched into rebuilding mode (minus the extension of John Danks), but Williams made extra sure that fans knew the Palehose would not be competing any time soon. So sit back, relax and enjoy Dayan Viciedo in 2012.
Overall, I really love Walt Jocketty. He has done a fantastic job bringing the Reds back into relevance. However, I think he really missed the mark this offseason with the Mat Latos trade.
Everyone knew the Reds were in the market for a top-of-the-rotation starter, and everyone knew they would part with some big prospects to get him. However, not only do I think Latos isn't as good as advertised, but the price the Reds paid for him was absolutely ridiculous. They lost Yasmani Grandal and Yonder Alonso, along with starter Edinson Volquez. If Latos doesn't pitch like a true ace, Jocketty could be haunted by that move for years.
Baltimore has had a pretty quiet offseason, but I don't hate the moves they have made. Bringing in Endy Chavez and Taylor Teagarden will provide marginal offensive improvements at best, and we really don't know how Wei-Yin Chen will pan out.
Either way, it definitely wasn't a banner offseason for the O's, and I can't see how the team is planning to climb out of the AL East cellar any time soon.
Given the Dodgers' ownership situation, I think it's a miracle that the team can even think about signing players this offseason.
I'm not crazy about what Ned Colletti has done this winter, namely bringing in two marginal pitchers in Aaron Harang and Chris Capuano. Those guys could potentially surprise, and the NL West will treat them well, but I can't see them making any sort of huge impact.
The move I did like, however, was signing Mark Ellis. He's a great guy to have, and he'll give lots of good at-bats and innings in the field to the Dodgers.
I was expecting big things out of Jack Z this winter. Actually, I was expecting literally big things, as in Prince Fielder.
Obviously, this could still happen. If it does, Seattle's GM rank will probably be cut in half. I do like the signing of George Sherrill, which was really the only notable offseason move so far for the Mariners. As of now, I don't see the team standing a chance in the AL West, but if they pull off a bid for Fielder, we might see a little sweat form in Texas and Los Angeles.
I think the jury will be out on the Giants' offseason for quite a while. The moves they made could really go in two completely different directions. Obviously, they have somewhat of a starting pitching surplus, so it won't hurt them too much to trade Jonathan Sanchez. But couldn't they have done better than Melky Cabrera?
Aside from that, the acquisition of Angel Pagan from the Mets was decent, although losing Ramon Ramirez was a bit of a disappointment. It'll be interesting to see if those outfielders produce this year.
It's hard to overlook the losses of both Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer, but the Twins probably realized that their organizational depth in the outfield was good enough to let both of those guys depart.
The addition of Josh Willingham was decent, and Ryan Doumit was also a nice pick-up. I hate that they brought back Matt Capps, who really can't make a case to be a major-league closer. The offseason tilts slightly toward positive, but we really won't know how good it was until the season begins.
I wonder how many more times the Blue Jays will have to finish fourth in the AL East before Alex Anthopoulos realizes that he needs to make a bigger splash than acquiring Sergio Santos.
AA did well to upgrade the team's bullpen, but this was supposed to be the winter when the Jays picked up Prince Fielder or Yu Darvish. They got neither, and that likely means that Toronto will yet again be on the outside looking in when the playoff race heats up.
Overall he's probably the best general manager in baseball, no questions asked. To be able to do what the Rays do with such a limited budget is nothing short of remarkable.
However, this offseason has been quite underwhelming for the Rays. The recent signing of Luke Scott could turn out to be excellent, but the Rays also picked up two major question marks for the bullpen. Fernando Rodney and Josh Lueke aren't names that instill confidence in a bullpen, but Friedman has a knack for turning lost causes into winners.
Between the ownership mess and the departure of Jose Reyes, Sandy Alderson is in a tough spot as the GM of the Mets. This winter, he coped fairly well with his star shortstop's departure.
Acquiring Andres Torres could be excellent if he returns to his 2010 production, but the better move was adding three solid relievers in Jon Rauch, Frank Francisco, and Ramon Ramirez. It's very unlikely the Mets will be competitive this year, but this offseason has ensured that the team will certainly not be a laughingstock.
Part of this ranking is speculative, as I believe the Indians will sign either Casey Kotchman or Carlos Peña to play first base.
Even without that move, though, the Indians have had a nice offseason that has included trading for Derek Lowe and bringing back Grady Sizemore. If they can lock up one of those two first basemen, it'll be a successful offseason. However, Antonetti still has to prove his worth after the very questionable Ubaldo Jimenez trade.
Many people have knocked Rizzo and the Nationals for giving up too much in return for Gio Gonzalez. I don't see that. I think that was a terrific acquisition for Washington, as he and Stephen Strasburg could be at the front of that rotation for many years.
What I don't like, however, is the lack of offensive upgrades. Mark DeRosa was a decent signing, but beyond that, the Nats haven't landed any impact bats. Plus, a recent report says that the Nationals will not land Prince Fielder, as previously thought.
I believe this is the highest ranking on this list for a team that did next-to-nothing. I like that they traded Derek Lowe, as that will open another spot in the rotation for one of Atlanta's blue-chip pitching prospects. I'm really looking forward to watching the Braves this year, especially if Jason Heyward can blossom into the player many expect him to be.
The Phillies should not just expect to win this division by any means—the Braves certainly have the potential.
In the business of baseball, tough decisions must be made. For John Mozeliak, letting Albert Pujols sign with the Los Angeles Angels might have been one of the toughest decisions of his career. His team got worse because of it. But you move on, and Mozeliak made a series of decent moves to bounce back.
Getting Carlos Beltran for the outfield was a very nice move, and J.C. Romero should be a good lefty out of the bullpen for the defending champs. In general, Mo did a decent job trying to patch up the hole that Pujols left.
When putting together these rankings, I had to factor in what teams had to work with prior to making moves. For Pittsburgh, the resources were scarce in every sense. This is a team that has a fairly rich farm system, but not a lot of attractive trade chips on the major league level.
Neal Huntington made some good signings, though, to help the team get better at a realistic pace. Obviously, Clint Barmes, Casey McGehee, Rod Barajas and Nate McLouth aren't names that you associate with playoff teams, but they are veteran players that will make Pittsburgh better.
The brain trust of Hoyer (GM) and Epstein (president of baseball operations) is one of baseball's best front-office duos. They entered a tough situation on the North Side, and they've done a great job of beginning the process of bringing the Cubs back to respectability.
The first steps were unloading Carlos Zambrano and Aramis Ramirez. The acquisition of Ian Stewart and David DeJesus should help in the short run, but the real victory of the offseason was the acquisition of Anthony Rizzo from the Padres. Hoyer was high on him with the Padres, and he will get to watch Rizzo blossom at Wrigley Field.
Cashman and the Yankees have not done a lot this winter, but I fully expect them to sign either Hiroki Kuroda or Edwin Jackson, if not another starter.
Normally, I wouldn't put Cashman this high based on pure speculation, but his history suggests that he makes moves to win. The fans, media and ownership in New York demand signs of improvement, so I think it's fair to say the Yankees will sign another good starting pitcher, which would amount to a pretty good offseason for them.
Maybe I'm not the first person to notice this, but doesn't Dombrowski look like a grown-up version of Jon Heder (the guy from Napoleon Dynamite)?
The Tigers are another team that did very well this offseason mainly by staying put. I love their signing of Octavio Dotel, who seems like one of those pitchers who could throw until he's 60. Retaining Jose Valverde was great, as is the case with Ramon Santiago. The Tigers may not be done yet, but if we see no more moves from them, fans should be happy with the offseason.
All of the sudden, Arizona is going about like a team that expects to compete every year. The team has been put in a great position by Towers, and they added a huge arm in Trevor Cahill this offseason.
The price, namely Jarrod Parker, was huge, but Cahill adds yet another great arm to Arizona's rotation. This move, along with the acquisition of Jason Kubel, should guarantee that the D'Backs are again towards the top of the NL West.
As with their divisional rivals in St. Louis, the Brewers had a tough task this offseason after losing Prince Fielder. They have answered the call, however, behind some good thinking by GM Doug Melvin.
The acquisitions of Aramis Ramirez, Alex Gonzalez and Norichika Aoki will help boost the lineup. Depending on how the Brewers fill their hole at first base, the team may just make Doug Melvin look like an absolute genius.
I loved Kansas City's trade for Jonathan Sanchez. As much as the Giants could afford to trade him, the Royals were really lucky to land him for the price of Melky Cabrera. He's going to be a very good pitcher on a team that's going to start scoring some major runs in the near future.
He has championship experience and I can't speak enough about how much I love that trade. Their underrated move, though, was signing Jon Broxton. If he can return to being half the pitcher he once was, the Royals got a steal.
Daniels and his Rangers obviously aren't thrilled with being American League Champions two years in a row. They were able to win negotiating rights with Japanese wünderkind Yu Darvish, but now the question is whether they'll be able to sign him.
My guess is yes, and that would probably make any Texas fan forget C.J. Wilson's name relatively quickly. Beyond that, the signing of Joe Nathan to bolster the bullpen could turn out to be a very underrated move.
And don't count out Prince...
With the acquisitions of Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Heath Bell and Carlos Zambrano, the Marlins were the surprise of the offseason. Going into a major franchise change with a new stadium, logo and attitude, Michael Hill made sure the team would make a splash.
The real question is how Reyes and Hanley Ramirez will play together, and whether Buehrle and Zambrano can really be impact pitchers. Bell will undoubtedly be a character and an impact pitcher out of the bullpen. By my estimation, though, they did a heck of a job bringing in these players.
Much like the Yankees, I fully expect the Red Sox to land another starting pitcher before all is said and done this offseason. Even without, Ben Cherington has done an admirable job in his first year as GM.
Getting both Andrew Bailey and Mark Melancon was a major win for the Red Sox, who probably won't miss Jonathan Papelbon too much now. Parting ways with Jed Lowrie and Josh Reddick might have been tough, but they'll be able to fill those holes. Once they sign another starter, their ranking here will be cemented.
I think in the last six months, Dan O'Dowd has made some really great moves for the Rockies. They definitely got a winning package in return for Ubaldo Jimenez during the 2011 season, and this offseason the Rockies were able to acquire Michael Cuddyer, Ramon Hernandez and Tyler Chatwood—three guys who will be instant contributors.
They did lose some firepower offensively, but when your lineup contains Todd Helton, Troy Tulowitzki, and Carlos Gonzalez, losing a player or two probably isn't a huge deal. I love what O'Dowd has done, and I'd seriously watch out for the Rockies in the next year or two.
Albert Pujols. C.J. Wilson.
For the sake of baseball, I'm really glad the Phillies re-signed Jimmy Rollins. To see him in another uniform would have been absolutely criminal and disheartening. Ruben Amaro did a great service to Rollins, the game and his team, by bringing the shortstop back to the only MLB team he's played for.
Their other moves—acquiring Jonathan Papelbon, Laynce Nix and Ty Wigginton—all will have some big value down the road. I can't wait to see Papelbon close games in Philly. Once again, Amaro has nailed the offseason.
For the first time in a long time, things are really looking up in San Diego for the Padres. Josh Byrnes is a tremendous general manager, and what he's done this offseason should make Padres fans absolutely giddy.
He ripped off the Cincinnati Reds, getting a franchise catcher and first baseman as well as a legitimate middle-of-the-rotation starter in Edinson Volquez in return for Mat Latos.
Then, he ripped off the Chicago White Sox, grabbing Carlos Quentin for peanuts (Simon Castro, Pedro Hernandez).
The Padres aren't in win-now mode by any means, but they're building a heck of a foundation. A few years down the line, if the Padres are contenders, this will be the offseason everyone points to as being the beginning.