MLB Trades/Free Agency: 50 Biggest Offseason Moves Thus Far

Dan TylickiAnalyst IJanuary 23, 2012

MLB Trades/Free Agency: 50 Biggest Offseason Moves Thus Far

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    The MLB offseason is beginning to come to a close. Yes, there are several free agents remaining that are big names, namely Prince Fielder, but at this point, teams are beginning to wrap up and make any final moves for their rosters.

    The offseason has certainly been one of surprises. The marquee free agent went somewhere that no one saw coming, the AL West and NL East got that much stronger and teams abandoned all their farm talent in hopes of being able to win now.

    Here are the top 50 moves in the MLB offseason.

50. Manny Ramirez Unretires

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    When we last left off on the Manny Ramirez story, we saw a guy who played a handful of games for the Rays, and poorly at that. He then got suspended 50 games for PED use and subsequently retired.

    He is now coming out of retirement, meaning that any team that signs him will not only have to hope he's healthy, but won't be able to use him a third of the season. The fact that it's gotten people talking, if nothing else then to ask why, is what slips this on the list.

49. Colorado Rockies Sign Jamie Moyer

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    When a team signs a player to a minor-league deal, it's generally of next to no significance. They might make the opening day roster, but generally, it's just the team giving a player another shot.

    In this case, though, there's enough here to warrant a mention. Jamie Moyer is 49 and missed the 2011 season recovering from Tommy John surgery. The fact that he could actually make an MLB roster at his age will be great to watch, even if it is a long shot.

48. Kansas City Royals Sign Jonathan Broxton

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    The Kansas City Royals moved rather quickly in free agency this year, adding some bullpen help with a low-risk, high-reward signing.

    The Royals signed Jonathan Broxton to a one-year deal, and if he can return to his 2009 form, it'll be a great deal. Even if he doesn't, he should be able to help the Royals out.

47. Colorado Rockies Trade Seth Smith

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    With the addition of Michael Cuddyer, the Rockies had a surplus of outfielders, making Seth Smith expendable. The Oakland A's needed an outfielder, so a trade was made just a few days ago.

    The Rockies sent over Seth Smith, and the A's for Guillermo Moscoso and Josh Outman, who will provide more pitching depth to a team that already has a surplus of that after the Ubaldo Jimenez trade.

46. Pittsburgh Pirates Sign Clint Barmes

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    Clint Barmes has established himself as one of the better defensive infielders in the game. Surprisingly, his signing generated almost no buzz, yet it was a good one.

    The Pittsburgh Pirates signed Barmes to a two-year deal, and they were able to make their infield stronger as a result.

45. Seattle Mariners Sign Hisashi Iwakuma

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    It's perhaps a bit surprising that this signing has not received much buzz, but at the time, the Mariners did not need pitching, and Iwakuma was more regarded when he went through the posting system last year.

    Iwakuma signed with the Mariners for one year with an incentive-laden deal. He's used to putting up nice numbers, yet only ended up with a .500 record, so he'll likely fit right in with the Mariners.

44. Milwaukee Brewers Sign Norichika Aoki

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    With all the buzz that Yu Darvish got after he entered the posting system, Norichika Aoki was almost an afterthought. Nonetheless, the Milwaukee Brewers won the right to sign him with a rather modest bid.

    The Brewers signed Aoki to a two-year deal, and he'll provide outfield depth to a team that may suddenly need it if Ryan Braun ends up missing 50 games.

43. Los Angeles Dodgers Sign Aaron Harang

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    Aaron Harang had somewhat of a revival in 2011 thanks to pitching for the San Diego Padres. Pitching in PetCo Park led to 14 wins, as well as a contract.

    The Dodgers signed him in the offseason to a two-year deal with an option for 2014, and he should have little trouble being the fourth or fifth pitcher, as long as he doesn't regress to his 2010 form.

42. Chicago Cubs Sign Paul Maholm

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    With the departure of Carlos Zambrano, the Chicago Cubs had an opening in their rotation for a low-risk guy that they could acquire for a bargain, and that's what they did with Pirates pitcher Paul Maholm.

    The Cubs signed Maholm to a one-year deal with an option for 2013, and we will see if his modest numbers were due to him pitching in Pittsburgh or him being a mediocre pitcher.

41. Los Angeles Dodgers Sign Chris Capuano

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    The Los Angeles Dodgers made a bunch of small moves this offseason, though this will be the second of two I note. Chris Capuano's 2011 season was decent, given how far he's had to battle back, and his strikeout numbers are certainly good.

    As a result, the Dodgers signed him to a two-year deal with a third-year option. If he can keep his strikeout totals up, then he's a good pitcher for the middle of the rotation.

40. Atlanta Braves Trade Derek Lowe

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    This trade got a fairly good amount of buzz, though that was mainly due to the fact that it was one of the first offseason moves to occur. The Atlanta Braves had no use for Derek Lowe, and the Cleveland Indians needed an innings eater.

    As a result, the Braves sent Lowe over for a prospect, opening up a spot for the Braves' many elite pitching prospects that are waiting to get a taste of the majors.

39. Arizona Diamondbacks Sign Jason Kubel

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    Despite only playing in 99 games in 2011, Jason Kubel had a decent amount of buzz heading into free agency thanks to solid power numbers.

    The Arizona Diamondbacks signed Kubel to a two-year deal worth $15 million. The move gives the Diamondbacks a nice outfield, with Chris Young and Justin Upton at the other positions.

38. Pittsburgh Pirates Sign Erik Bedard

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    The Pittsburgh Pirates haven't had a starting rotation that been worth calling anything besides bad in a while, and the departure of Paul Maholm does not help that.

    The Pirates did take a step in the right direction this offseason by acquiring Erik Bedard, signing him to a one-year deal. The strikeout machine seemed to pitch just fine in 2011, so he could be a player to watch next year.

37. Tampa Bay Rays Sign Carlos Pena

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    It was only a season ago that Carlos Pena couldn't even hit .200 with the Tampa Bay Rays, and as a result, he signed with the Chicago Cubs. After a Pena-esque season, he joined the Rays again.

    The Rays signed Pena to a one-year deal worth $7.5 million. His average may be low, but given his consistency, he is likely an improvement over Casey Kotchman, and might pressure a certain other first baseman into signing soon.

36. Prince Fielder Remains Unsigned

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    I was considering leaving this one off entirely, since it's not exactly a move, but rather a lack of one. Having said that, Prince Fielder remains a free agent as we move to the end of January, with no sign date in sight.

    It's not unheard of for players to sign late, but it's quite rare, especially for a player of Fielder's age and caliber, to still be a free agent at this stage of the game; usually, the ones remaining at this point are either over 35 or have other baggage teams have to deal with.

35. New York Mets Sign Frank Francisco and Jon Rauch

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    The Toronto Blue Jays had two decent closers, but they were looking for someone with more elite talent, meaning that Frank Francisco and Jon Rauch could test the free agent market.

    The New York Mets, needing bullpen help, decided to pick up both. Francisco has been consistently decent, while Rauch has had his ups and downs, so it's tough to say who would end up closing for the Mets, even though it is an improvement for their bullpen.

34. Boston Red Sox Trade Marco Scutaro

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    Perhaps the most recent move on this list, this is one I'm still trying to wrap my head around, since it feels like it came out of nowhere. There were hints that the Colorado Rockies wanted him, but they were only that.

    Nonetheless, the Red Sox traded Scutaro to the Rockies for Clayton Mortensen. The move beefs up their pitching depth, but also leaves us asking who will play shortstop for the Red Sox in 2012.

33. Chicago Cubs Sign David DeJesus

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    After being a consistently good player for many years with the Royals, David DeJesus struggled in 2011 with the Oakland A's, and as a result, could be acquired for a bargain.

    The Chicago Cubs did just that, signing him to a two-year deal with a 2014 option. He will be a solid starter for the Cubs while they rebuild, even though he will likely be elsewhere once they start making a run.

32. San Diego Padres Trade Anthony Rizzo

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    When the San Diego Padres traded Adrian Gonzalez, they had the next one ready in Anthony Rizzo, who tore up the minor leagues last year. This past offseason, however, they traded him to the Chicago Cubs.

    The Cubs have a first baseman that they can build around as they look to improve in the coming years, while the Padres further developed their farm system.

31. Texas Rangers Sign Joe Nathan

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    The Texas Rangers, after losing C.J. Wilson to free agency, were planning to move Neftali Feliz into the starting rotation. As a result, they now needed a closer.

    They ended up taking a risk and signing Joe Nathan to a two-year deal. At his best, he is an elite closer, but it remains to be seen if he can recapture that, since he struggled in his first year back from Tommy John surgery.

30. Minnesota Twins Sign Josh Willingham

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    Josh Willingham quietly put up some nice power numbers for the Oakland Athletics in 2011, and when he became a free agent, there was a nice market for him.

    In the end, the Twins needed to replace Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel, so they signed Willingham to a three-year, $21 million deal. If he can reverse his strikeout totals and keep his power numbers up, then it should work out.

29. New York Mets Trade Angel Pagan

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    The New York Mets did a lot of work to rebuild their bullpen this past offseason, as we have already seen. To further improve their roster, they had to give something up, and that's what they did with Angel Pagan.

    The Mets traded Pagan to the San Francisco Giants for Ramon Ramirez and Andres Torres. If Torres can bounce back, then he can fit right in where Pagan left off, and Ramirez provides much-needed bullpen depth.

28. Cleveland Indians Re-Sign Grady Sizemore

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    This offseason, Grady Sizemore was the quintessential risk-reward option. If he can stay healthy, he could be great, but it's a big if. As a result, there was a lot of speculation as to where he would end up.

    Instead of us writers having that storyline heading into 2012, Sizemore re-signed with the Indians for a year, with the contract being incentive-laden. It's a simple story of a once-good player getting one more chance this upcoming season.

27. Philadelphia Phillies Re-Sign Jimmy Rollins

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    Jimmy Rollins was a fairly big name on the free agent market this past offseason. However, the reason that he's not ranked higher is not only because he re-signed with the Phillies, but because it never really felt like he was going to leave.

26. Kansas City Royals Trade Melky Cabrera for Jonathan Sanchez

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    Melky Cabrera spent the start of his career being the weak link in the Yankees lineup, then moved to being not much help with the Braves. In 2011, he came out of nowhere to have a great season for the Royals, and as a result, he was traded.

    The Royals sent Cabrera to the Giants for Jonathan Sanchez, whose career went the opposite way; he had been a consistently good pitcher, but struggled in 2011. It gave the Royals pitching depth and the Giants outfield depth, so it should ideally work out for both teams.

25. Hanley Ramirez Moves to Third Base

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    Generally, a position change merits very little attention. Sure, the Derek Jeter position change rumors generated a bit of steam last year, but we knew it wasn't going to happen. Hanley Ramirez, however, either had to move or he was going to be traded.

    In the end, after trade rumors popped up left and right, he agreed to play third base in 2012. It remains to be seen how well he'll do at third, but because of the trade ramifications, this became a far larger story than anyone expected.

24. Chicago White Sox Trade Carlos Quentin

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    With the departure of not only Adrian Gonzalez in 2010, but Anthony Rizzo this offseason, the San Diego Padres have had a gaping void in their lineup, with absolutely no power in it.

    They somewhat rectified that finally by trading two prospects to the White Sox for Carlos Quentin. Quentin can provide 20 home runs without much issue, and the White Sox were able to add to their farm system.

23. Chicago White Sox Extend John Danks' Contract

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    With the Chicago White Sox losing Mark Buehrle, it was time to see if they would either rebuild and start trading prospects or finding someone to replace him.

    The White Sox went with a third option, giving Danks a contract extension through 2016, and for big money at that, even though he struggled a bit in 2011. The strangeness of the move given everything else going on in Chicago caused this to have some buzz.

22. Oakland Athletics Trade Andrew Bailey

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    The Oakland Athletics spent the 2011 offseason trading away their best players for prospects, apparently unable to compete with Los Angeles or Texas. Among those traded was their closer, Andrew Bailey.

    The A's traded Bailey to the Boston Red Sox, along with Ryan Sweeney, for three prospects. The Red Sox, as a result, were able to replace Jonathan Papelbon with little difficulty.

21. Colorado Rockies Sign Michael Cuddyer

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    Michael Cuddyer was the leader of the Twins in 2011 due to the injury bug tackling pretty much everyone else on the team. As a result, he was in line for a nice contract in the offseason.

    The Colorado Rockies gave him just that, as he signed a three-year deal. Playing in Coors Field should also amplify his already nice offensive numbers, and his intangibles will certainly help the Rockies.

20. Chicago Cubs Trade Carlos Zambrano

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    Had it not been for his meltdown this past season, Carlos Zambrano would have been regarded as one of the better pitchers in the class of 2013. Instead, he became someone that Cubs management had to get rid of, which they did this offseason.

    The Cubs traded Zambrano to the Miami Marlins for Chris Volstad. Volstad isn't much, but he can at least compete for a spot in the rotation, and it allows the Cubs to start rebuilding.

19. Miami Marlins Sign Heath Bell

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    The first of the big three Marlins' free-agent signings. It was expected that Heath Bell would be leaving San Diego, and despite a healthy closer free-agent market, he was a big name and was certain to get a nice deal.

    The Marlins picked him up for three years, with a $9 million option for 2015. As long as his great numbers weren't a product of pitching in PetCo Park, it should work out.

18. Oakland Athletics Trade Trevor Cahill

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    The second of three parts in the Oakland Athletics fire sale, Trevor Cahill was a pitcher who they had under contract for a good number of years yet. Nonetheless, the A's cut ties with him and traded him to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

    The D'Backs got Cahill and reliever Craig Breslow, while the A's got pitching prospect Jarrod Parker and a couple others. Cahill fits in as a third starter for the Diamondbacks well, and they could end up staying at the top of their division.

17. Cincinnati Reds Trade for Mat Latos

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    The Cincinnati Reds felt like they had to win now, and as a result, they traded away their entire farm system over the offseason. As a result, the trade with the San Diego Padres for Mat Latos was less about Latos and more about the prospects.

    The Padres got Yonder Alonso, Yasmani Grandal and others. Latos is a great young pitcher, but it remains to be seen how he'll pitch in a different ballpark, and it was a high-risk move by the Reds.

16. Ozzie Guillen Leave Chicago White Sox, Joins Miami Marlins

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    The Miami Marlins made a lot of moves, but one that generated a lot of buzz for more reasons than one was bringing in Ozzie Guillen to be the team's manager.

    Guillen led the White Sox to a World Series title in 2005, and his outspoken nature will certainly make him a talking point in Miami.

15. Chicago Cubs Hire Theo Epstein

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    The Chicago Cubs went into full rebuilding mode this offseason, starting with the firing of Mike Quade and the hiring of Dale Sveum as their new manager. While Sveum may not have much name recognition, the Cubs' new President of Baseball Operations certainly does.

    The Cubs hired Theo Epstein to fill that position in October, and if he can do for the Cubs what he did for the Red Sox, he'll certainly be a historic figure in baseball.

14. New York Yankees Trade Jesus Montero for Michael Pineda

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    When the New York Yankees signed Hiroki Kuroda, it was a good move and generated a bit of buzz. Right after that, they may a far bigger move in a trade with the Seattle Mariners.

    The Yankees traded top prospect Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi to the Mariners for Michael Pineda and another prospect. While the Yankees lost a potential DH for 2012, they gained a pitcher and suddenly had a surplus of talent, making them a team to be feared.

13. Philadelphia Phillies Sign Jonathan Papelbon

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    The Philadelphia Phillies got their marquee signing out of the way early, letting Ryan Madson leave in free agency and signing Jonathan Papelbon to a four-year deal with a 2016 option.

    As a result, the Phillies get a closer who can be elite, and they should be able to improve on what was already a good 2011 season, even if it did not meet expectations.

12. Oakland Athletics Trade Gio Gonzalez

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    The Oakland Athletics spent the 2011 season in fire sale mode, sending out their best players for prospects. The best piece was Gio Gonzalez, who they traded to the Washington Nationals.

    The Nationals got a pitcher who can work behind Stephen Strasburg, and the A's got top pitching prospect A.J. Cole as well as several others.

11. Miami Marlins Sign Mark Buehrle

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    There was not necessarily a clear top pitcher on the free agent market. If a team's looking for the best right now, it would be C.J. Wilson. If they were looking for long-term consistency, that would be Mark Buehrle.

    The Miami Marlins went with the latter option, signing him to a four-year deal. It didn't get quite the buzz that the Reyes signing did, but it does make their pitching staff that much stronger.

10. New York Yankees Extend CC Sabathia's Contract

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    While the position player free agent market was great this offseason, the pitching one was not quite as good. It almost had a marquee free agent in CC Sabathia, who could have opted out of his contract and commanded a huge amount of money on the free agent market.

    In the end, he did not exercise the clause and is now under contract through 2016 with an option for 2017. Few people actually thought he would opt out, but the fact that he could have would have greatly shook up the free agent market.

9. Boston Red Sox Fire Terry Francona, Hire Bobby Valentine

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    After a great middle of the season was marred by a slow start and a historic collapse, the Boston Red Sox fired manager Terry Francona and lost general manager Theo Epstein as well.

    To replace the two, Ben Cherington was named GM, and they brought in Bobby Valentine as their manager. Frequently the subject of discussion as to why no one picked him up, Valentine's charisma made this move big news, especially in Boston.

8. St. Louis Cardinals Sign Carlos Beltran

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    Carlos Beltran's huge contract with the Mets ended up being a mixed bag at best. When he was healthy, he put up good numbers, but that was infrequent. As a result, he was naturally going to have the smallest deal of anyone in the top ten.

    The St. Louis Cardinals signing him, however, was big news. If healthy, he can close the power gap left behind by Albert Pujols, and a two-year deal means that he won't have to worry as much about living up to the contract, though it remains to be seen whether it will help.

7. Milwaukee Brewers Sign Aramis Ramirez

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    Third baseman free agent classes are rarely good or deep, which means that the top player is going to command a nice deal. Last year, that was Adrian Beltre, and this year, it was Aramis Ramirez.

    The Chicago Cub signed a three-year deal with Milwaukee, which worked much like the Beltran one; it plugs up some of the power gap left behind by Prince Fielder, but more importantly, puts some offense in at a position that usually doesn't provide much.

6. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Sign C.J. Wilson

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    The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim saw that the Texas Rangers had won two straight American League pennants. What were they to do as their rivals? How about snag their ace?

    The Angels signed Wilson to a five-year deal, and as a result, have perhaps the deepest rotation in the division, suddenly making them more than competitive against the Texas Rangers' lineup.

5. Miami Marlins Sign Jose Reyes

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    The Miami Marlins had a nice payroll increase this offseason that they could use on marquee free agents, and nowhere was this more true than the signing of Jose Reyes.

    Despite already having a shortstop in Hanley Ramirez, the Marlins signed Reyes to a huge six-year deal worth over $100 million. While the Marlins overpaid for him, if he can play like he did in 2011, the Marlins won't mind spending the money.

4. Florida Marlins Move to Miami

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    When a team moves, it's naturally a big deal. Even in the case of the Florida Marlins, where it was not all that much of a move, it allowed for a relaunch.

    The Florida Marlins are now the Miami Marlins, complete with a new stadium, a new logo, new colors and a slew of free-agent signings you've already seen throughout the list, showing a new attitude to go with everything else.

3. Texas Rangers Sign Yu Darvish

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    When Yu Darvish went through the posting system, the floodgates opened as a large number of teams tried to win the right to sign him. The 25-year old's numbers in Japan were amazing, so it looked like he would even beat Daisuke Matsuzaka's record bid.

    He did exactly that when the Texas Rangers bid $51.7 million for him, then signed him to a six-year, $60 million deal. With the departure of C.J. Wilson, Darvish is going to have to fill the role of ace pitcher immediately.

2. Tony La Russa Retires

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    After managing the St. Louis Cardinals for 16 seasons, as well as the Chicago White Sox and Oakland Athletics, Tony La Russa retired after winning his third World Series championship this past season.

    La Russa will make it in the Hall of Fame; no question about that. The reason that this is as high as it is on this list is not only because of the retirement of a great, but because it set in motion the domino effect, leading to the No. 1 move on this list.

1(B). Detroit Tigers Make Surprising Prince Fielder Strike

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    While most rumors and the loudest chatter were linking slugger Prince Fielder to the Washington Nationals or Texas Rangers during the winter, it was the Detroit Tigers organization that made the move official.

    A massive contract of 9 years/$214 million is a splash most mid-market and small-market teams cannot risk, and the Brewers were no different in this situation.

    Fielder returns to the city that once made his father Cecil a famous and feared hitter, and it will be exciting to see how a 3-4 of Fielder and Miguel Cabrera can terrorize the American League.

1(A). Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Sign Albert Pujols

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    Last year, the Philadelphia Phillies shocked the baseball world by signing Cliff Lee seemingly out of nowhere. This year, the Los Angeles Angels quickly made us forget that by signing Albert Pujols out of nowhere.

    It's rare for a future Hall of Famer still in his prime to pop up on the free-agent market, and pretty much everyone had him either joining the Miami Marlins or re-joining the Cardinals. Instead, the Angels gave him a huge contract, making them one of the favorites in the American League in 2012.