MLB Free Agency: Winners and Losers of the 2012 Offseason
January is coming to a close, and free agency is wrapping up.
Players like Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, CJ Wilson, Jonathan Papelbon, Gio Gonzalez and Jose Reyes have new homes, while some players like Matt Kemp and CC Sabathia decided to stay at home.
Every team and player wants to come out of the offseason better than when they went in, but not everybody can. There are always winners and losers, but who were those teams this offseason?
Let's find out.
Winner: Jonathan Papelbon
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Jonathan Papelbon signed the largest contract ever by a reliever by signing a four-year, $50 million deal, with a vesting option for a fifth year, with the Philadelphia Phillies.
Is he worth that much? No reliever is worth that much money, but Papelbon is among the best closers in the majors.
He is already 31 years old but he does have a career 2.33 ERA and 89-percent save rate.
For a team looking to win now, Papelbon is a perfect fit, because when it gets to the ninth inning and he jogs out to the mound, you have a very good chance of leaving the game an inning later with a win.
Loser: Ryan Madson
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We can only speculate, because Scott Boras and Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. seem to have different stories on what happened.
My guess is that they had the aforementioned four-year, $44 million deal on the table before Scott Boras tried to work his magic and get another team to bump up the price.
The rest is history, Papelbon is now in Philadelphia and Ryan Madson signed a one-year, $8.5 million, with an $11 million mutual option for 2013, contract with the Cincinnati Reds.
That is quite a bit less than we thought Madson was going to get.
Winners: Los Angeles Dodgers
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Did the Los Angeles Dodgers go out and sign a big-name free agent? No. Did they trade a bunch of prospects for a superstar? No. Did Frank McCourt sell the Dodgers? Not yet.
Then why are they winners?
Matt Kemp. The Dodgers did what they had to do and signed Kemp to a huge eight-year, $160 million extension before he hit the open market next offseason.
It was not cheap, it was tied with Manny Ramirez for the largest contract ever given to an outfielder, but it was well worth it.
Kemp was one home run away from a 40-40 season, led the NL in home runs (39), led the majors in RBI (126), was third in the NL in batting average (.324) and won a Gold Glove in center field.
Players like that, who are also only 27 years old, are at a premium and the Dodgers had to ink him to a huge deal rather than risk losing him in free agency.
Losers: Oakland A's
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Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill and Andrew Bailey are all 27 years old or younger and are all under team control for three years or more. Why did the Oakland A's trade them?
These trades would be understandable if they were all entering the final year of arbitration or their deals but none of them will be free agents before December 2014.
Billy Beane and the Oakland A's did not get enough in these three trades.
For Gonzalez, Cahill, Bailey and Ryan Sweeney, who was sent to the Boston Red Sox, they got back Brad Peacock, AJ Cole, Derrick Norris, Tommy Milone, Jarrod Parker, Collin Cowgill, Ryan Cook, Josh Reddick, Miles Head and Raul Alcantra.
Those are quite a lot of prospects and there are some nice names in there, including Peacock, Reddick and Parker, but the A's traded away three All-Star pitchers for a bunch of prospects, none of whom are top-tier prospects.
Billy Beane is known for being a very smart GM, but I think he has gotten a little too enamored by prospects and dealt away his three best pitchers without getting fair market value for them.
Winners: New York Yankees
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The New York Yankees started the offseason by inking CC Sabathia to brand new five-year $122 million contract before he could exercise the opt-out clause in his contract. That deal basically added on one year and $30 million onto the back of his existing contract.
They also signed Freddy Garcia to a one-year, $4 million contract.
After that, Brian Cashman and the Yankees looked as if they were done and content to enter the 2012 season with their current roster.
Then January, Friday the 13th came along. Within a span of 30 minutes Brian Cashman sent Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi to Seattle for Michael Pineda and Jose Campos and he signed Hiroki Kuroda to a one-year, $10 million contract.
The Yankees rotation was a big question mark in 2011 but in 2012 it will be much improved with CC Sabathia at the top, then Ivan Nova, Michael Pineda, and Kuroda in the No. 2 through No. 4 spots and AJ Burnett, Freddy Garcia and Phil Hughes set to compete for the fifth and final spot in the rotation.
Losers: Milwaukee Brewers
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Could this offseason have been any worse for the Milwaukee Brewers? Not only did Prince Fielder leave for Detroit, but Ryan Braun will likely be suspended 50-games for allegedly taking PEDs, pending an appeal.
Their rotation is untouched, as Zack Greinke, Yovani Gallardo and Shaun Marcum still head their strong rotation, but the Brewer offense will be a shell of its former self in 2012.
Prince Fielder has averaged 40 home runs and 113 RBI over the last five seasons while Ryan Braun is coming off a 2011 season where he won the NL MVP Award after hitting .332 with 33 home runs and 11 RBI.
They will both be missed in 2012, even though Braun will be gone for less than a third of the season.
Winners: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
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The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim came out of the Winter Meetings in Dallas with both Albert Pujols and CJ Wilson.
They paid a big price, $331.5 million, but they will be a much better team in 2012 than 2011.
If that was not enough, they will be getting Kendrys Morales back, who has not played since May 2010 when he broke his ankle while celebrating a walk-off home run.
If Morales can replicate his .306, 34 home runs, 108 RBI season from 2009 and Albert Pujols can be Albert Pujols, the Angels' offense will be among the best in 2012, especially if super-prospect Mike Trout can make an impact on the major league level.
CJ Wilson heads back home to Southern California to join Jered Weaver, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana in the Angels' rotation.
If there was one winner this offseason, it was the Angels.
Losers: St. Louis Cardinals
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Wait, what? Didn't the St Louis Cardinals just win the World Series? How are they losers?
Yes, Adam Wainwright will be back for 2012 and the Cardinals did sign Carlos Beltran, but you cannot replace Albert Pujols and Tony La Russa.
Pujols and La Russa were the best at what they do, slugging and managing the game. Nobody did it better than those two.
The Cardinals are still a good team, but I highly doubt they will be able to compete for a World Series in 2012.
Winners: Miami Marlins
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Jeffrey Loria built a new ballpark and said he would open up his checkbook in order to fill the new stadium. Not many people believed he would as many big splashes as he did.
The first thing he did was bring in Ozzie Guillen to be their new manager.
Loria then grabbed Heath Bell and signed him to a three-year, $27 million deal, which is an absolute steal compared to Papelbon's deal.
The next thing they did was sign Jose Reyes to a six-year, $106 million contract. This created rumors about possibly trading Hanley Ramirez, but the Marlins will not do that. Ramirez will play third base in 2012.
Loria then turned his attention to the rotation. The Marlins already have an ace in Josh Johnson, but he missed most of 2011 due to injury. They also have Anibal Sanchez, but they needed a veteran, so Mark Buehrle was quickly signed to a four-year, $58 million contract.
If that was not enough, the Marlins then traded Chris Volstad for Carlos Zambrano. Zambrano has a huge $18 million salary for 2012, but the Marlins only have to pay $2.5 million of that. The Cubs will pick up the rest of his salary.
A young offensive core of Jose Reyes, Hanley Ramirez, Logan Morrison, Mike Stanton and Gaby Sanchez to go along with a pitching staff featuring Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Anibal Sanchez, Juan Carlos Oviedo and Heath Bell will give the Miami Marlins a shot at the postseason in 2012.
Losers: New York Mets
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Well, at least one of those fans got what he wished for.
Jose Reyes won the NL batting title with a .338 batting average and immediately left and signed a six-year, $106 million contract with the Miami Marlins.
Not only did they lose Reyes, but the Mets still have ongoing ownership problems and they failed to save money by trading their high-priced stars. David Wright, Johan Santana and Jason Bay are all still in New York.
Trading Wright, Bay and Santana could net them a few top prospects and they would save quite a bit of money in the process, because those three players still have a total of $121 million left on their contracts.
They did move the outfield walls at Citi Field closer to home plate and lowered them, which should increase the home-run total in the ballpark, but that is all they did this offseason.
Winners: Chicago Cubs
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The Chicago Cubs started the offseason by signing Theo Epstein to be their President of Baseball Operations; they then signed Jed Hoyer to be their new GM and Dale Sveum to be their new manager.
Many people expected Epstein to start his career in Chicago with a huge splash by signing either Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder, but Epstein played it smart and decided against it.
Instead he made a few shrewd moves by trading relief pitcher Andrew Cashner and prospect Kyung-Min Na to the San Diego Padres for first baseman Anthony Rizzo and prospect Zach Kates.
Rizzo started out in Boston with Epstein before being sent to San Diego in a package of prospects for Adrian Gonzalez and then being traded back to Epstein in Chicago.
The Cubs then sent lefty Sean Marshall to Cincinnati for Travis Wood and two minor leaguers.
They then had to get rid of clubhouse cancer Carlos Zambrano. They successfully did that by trading Zambrano to Miami for Chris Volstad. The Cubs will also pay $15.5 million of Zambrano's $18 million salary in 2012.
Losers: Houston Astros
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Let's cut to the chase. The Houston Astros are the worst team in baseball, and they did not improve this offseason.
The best thing the Astros could have done this offseason was cut payroll. They have Carlos Lee, Brett Myers and Wandy Rodriguez, who could have all been traded to the right contender looking for one final piece, but for some reason, they are all still in Houston.
Lee, Myers and Rodriguez have a total of $53 million left on their deals; if that is not incentive enough to trade them, I do not know what is.
As of right now, they are still Astros and until the Astros move them, they cannot start to rebuild.
Winners: San Diego Padres
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Maybe they did not get as much as they could have for Anthony Rizzo, but they absolutely stole from the Chicago White Sox and Cincinnati Reds.
Mat Latos is a very good starting pitcher, but the San Diego Padres got a king's ransom for the 24-year-old righty.
In return for Latos, they got Yonder Alonso, Yasmani Grandal, Edison Volquez and Brad Boxberger.
The Padres already had the No. 1 first base prospect in the majors according to MLB.com in Anthony Rizzo, and now they had the No. 2 first base prospect as well in Yonder Alonso. One of them had to be traded.
It turned out to be Rizzo, I'm guesing because his power swing would not have translated as well to the cavernous Petco Park as Alonso's more line-drive oriented offense.
Rizzo was traded to the Chicago Cubs for reliever Andrew Cashner. I think the Padres could have gotten more for Rizzo than that, but they got such a good deal for Latos they can afford that slip up.
The Padres were not done, as they then traded two prospects, Simon Castros and Pedro Hernandez, to the Chicago White Sox for All-Star outfielder Carlos Quentin.
Neither prospect is spectacular, so the Padres once again got a great deal, lessening the blow from the Rizzo trade.
Loser: Victor Martinez
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Poor Victor Martinez. If tearing his ACL and being forced to miss the 2012 season was not bad enough, the Detroit Tigers went out and signed Prince Fielder to a nine-year $214 million deal.
Miguel Cabrera said he will move to third base to let Fielder play first base but I am not sure how that will work out.
Cabrera is a terrible defender, shown by his career -66.8 UZR. Even if you, like me, do not like UZR, you have to admit this shows how bad his defense is.
If his defense works out as bad as I predict in 2012, Cabrera may be forced back to first base and Fielder to DH, which makes Victor Martinez the odd man out.
He can no longer catch, he will be 34 years old in 2013, and will be coming off major knee surgery. The Tigers will have a logjam at DH and would likely trade Martinez.
Even if everything works out and Cabrera plays decent defense at third base, Martinez will still have a bad offseason due to his torn ACL.