MLB Free Agency: Grading Every MLB Team's Lineup Changes
This past MLB offseason, like any other, has seen a great amount of change come to the lineups of every team out there. There's not a team out there that's going into 2012 with the exact same lineup, and if there were any I'd be rather worried about that team.
Change is inevitable, but there's a way to make it worthwhile in free agency. Whether it's catching a good bargain or signing a marquee guy, some teams made great changes to their lineup this past offseason.
Here are the grades for every MLB team and the changes they made to their lineup. Only hitting changes will be seen since this is a lineup list, so the Angels do not get bonus points for the C.J. Wilson signing here.
The Baltimore Orioles weren't too bad of a hitting team last year, and they didn't need to change too much. The only departure ended up being Vladimir Guerrero, and most of their changes were in the rotation.
Guerrero's replacement was Wilson Betemit. Bringing in a guy who's never really had a full season to just swing the bat on one team seems like a bad move. It could pan out, but there's nothing I'm seeing that tells me Betemit was the missing link at all.
Boston Red Sox
Most of the lineup modifications the Red Sox made were minor after making their big moves last year. They brought in Kelly Shoppach for catching depth, and I like the signing of Cody Ross for outfield depth.
They added Ryan Sweeney after trading away Josh Reddick, which was a step back, and I'm not sure that Nick Punto can replace Marco Scutaro. The lineup's best bet to improve in 2012 comes from a Carl Crawford resurgence rather than any of these moves.
New York Yankees
The Yankees' lineup remains largely the same. The only thing they had to handle in the offseason was the hole at DH due to the retirement of Jorge Posada, but luckily they had Jesus Montero to fill that, right?
That ended up not being the case after he was traded to the Mariners, and as a result the signing of Raul Ibanez means that he's probably most likely to see DH time, since he can still hit but his fielding fell off long ago, and he's probably a slight improvement over Posada.
Tampa Bay Rays
The Tampa Bay Rays may have had the most active lineup changes in the AL East. The main one was replacing Casey Kotchman with Carlos Pena, who is a big improvement even when Kotchman is at his best.
The other moves made are cause for shrugging. Jose Molina is a decent enough backup catcher, and it's too early to tell whether Luke Scott will rebound from a bad 2011 and make this move like a good one. Jeff Keppinger provides nice infield depth as well.
Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays made quite a few moves this offseason, but most of them were on the pitching end, acquiring Sergio Santos, among others. They didn't do anything to improve their lineup, despite having a couple holes there.
Ben Francisco has been an underachiever in recent years, and I refuse to call Jeff Mathis a major league-quality player, so J.P. Arencibia won't be getting any catching help. I like what they did on the pitching end, but they messed up on the lineup side.
Chicago White Sox
On the surface, it doesn't appear that the Chicago White Sox did much to the lineup. They traded away Carlos Quentin and let Juan Pierre go, leaving their outfield up in the air.
Kosuke Fukudome is a downgrade to either, though it does allow Dayan Viciedo to play every day. It ended up being one weaker side and one stronger side of the outfield when all was said and done.
After letting Grady Sizemore go in free agency, the Indians picked him back up, missing an opportunity to build their lineup. The only real change they made was signing Casey Kotchman, which isn't really an improvement at third base.
They signed a bunch of lower-end players for depth, but it definitely felt like they missed an opportunity to bolster their lineup in a weak division.
While I'm not sold on Miguel Cabrera at third base quite yet, at least he has played third base before and shouldn't have any trouble. Besides, the Tigers did pick up Prince Fielder, giving them a monster lineup.
Losing Carlos Guillen and Magglio Ordonez isn't going to affect them at all, and they were deep enough where Fielder was the only major move they needed to make.
Kansas City Royals
The Kansas City Royals have a lot of great hitting prospects, so the moves they made there were naturally few. I've never been a fan of Yuniesky Betancourt so I can't trust that move fully, but he at least provides decent depth.
Trading Melky Cabrera for pitching was a great move, but Mitch Maier or anyone else in center field is a downgrade. They have a fairly good hitting team, so I can look the other way at the lack of moves, since they fixed the issues that mattered.
The Minnesota Twins lost Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel to free agency, and as a result they needed to make a big-time move to address the sudden power gap. Unlike the pitching moves, which I found very questionable, I liked their hitting fixes.
Josh Willingham should provide great offense even if his strikeout numbers stay high, while Jamey Carroll provides some much-needed infield depth. I don't see them near the bottom in every hitting category this year.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
The only question that needs to be asked about the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim is whether they have too much talent in their lineup. The amazing signing of Albert Pujols gives them a clear leader in the lineup.
However, fitting Mark Trumbo, Bobby Abreu, Torii Hunter and everyone else in will be easier said than done. In any case, they've made it so that with the exception of perhaps catcher, they have no weaknesses in that lineup.
Having all three of your outfielders enter free agency is a major problem, especially when that's not the area where you meant to do a fire sale. Nonetheless, this caused the A's to be rather active in replenishing the lineup.
After re-signing Coco Crisp, they picked up Josh Reddick from the Red Sox, which I found to be a great move; he's likely a star on the rise. The jury's still out on Yoenis Cespedes, while Seth Smith should be decent enough.
Why they signed Manny Ramirez though, I don't know. Still, as much as I hated what they did to the rotation, they at least tried to replenish their lineup.
For a team that had a terrible lineup last year, I was disappointed with their lack of movement on that front, as a lot of spots could be improved.
The big move was bringing in Jesus Montero from the New York Yankees, which is an excellent move. He's young, has power and can combine with Dustin Ackley to finally get things going in Seattle.
The Texas Rangers only had two questionable pieces in their lineup last year in Mitch Moreland and David Murphy, who might look worse defensively with the departure of Endy Chavez.
Perhaps figuring that they had a dominant lineup already, the Rangers didn't make any changes to the main nine, and any changes made were on the rotation side, which should have happened anyway.
Grade: N/A, but make it an A if you count the lack of movement as worthy of being graded.
On the surface, it doesn't feel like the Braves made any lineup changes. In fact, they spent a lot of the offseason trying to ship off Martin Prado to help make some room.
The only major change is the addition of Tyler Pastornicky as the new rookie shortstop, since Alex Gonzalez became a free agent. On the one hand, Gonzalez is an underrated shortstop, but we've seen how well Atlanta's rookies have been doing, so I'm tempted to call this a good move.
The Miami Marlins made one simple, huge move in free agency for their starting lineup, and it was all they needed to do. They were one of the first to make a splash, by signing Jose Reyes.
Yes, they overpaid for Reyes, but talent-wise is a Reyes/Hanley Ramirez combo better than Ramirez and Greg Dobbs? I absolutely think so, even if it does take adjusting for Ramirez to figure out third base.
New York Mets
There is good news and bad news for Mets fans. The good news is that they vastly improved their bullpen this offseason and will be getting Johan Santana in the rotation as well. The bad news is that this was at the expense of the lineup.
Angel Pagan is now gone, and I don't consider Andres Torres an improvement there. That being said, Ronny Cedeno was a decent signing, and allowing young guys like Ruben Tejada more playing time is exactly what they need to do.
As great as the Philadelphia Phillies were last year, they did need to make a couple smart lineup moves in the offseason to hold off the Atlanta Braves, and I'm not sure they did that.
Raul Ibanez was replaced with Laynce Nix, who is certainly a downgrade on the offensive side. While Jim Thome does bring some power into the lineup, the Phillies have nowhere to put him since he can't do much besides DH. I definitely question the moves made here, as they're a worse team hitting-wise now.
For the most part, the Washington Nationals didn't really make any lineup changes,as they were primarily focused on pitching. Bringing in Gio Gonzalez and Edwin Jackson certainly helped there.
It seems like Bryce Harper could actually make his debut in the outfield, which is a bit weak now, and if that's the case then it makes the team that much better. If they hold off on him, then the Nationals didn't do enough for me to give a real grade.
The Cubs lost a couple nice power hitters in Carlos Pena and Aramis Ramirez, which helped them get some salary room. However, they made a couple nice moves.
David DeJesus was a nice signing, as he's a bit underrated due to struggling with Oakland this past season. Acquiring Anthony Rizzo is a move I like, since he has the feel of a big-time first baseman in the future and can get playing time immediately.
The Reds mortgaged the future to win now, but luckily for them, Yonder Alonso and Yasmani Grandal do not contribute much to this list. Instead, the main moves to look at are Ryan Ludwick and Wilson Valdez.
Both players provide depth but don't seem consistent enough where they'll be good for a long stretch. Given the struggles a few players had in the starting lineup, they needed to add someone who could jump in and start, which they did not do.
The Astros had a rather disappointing offseason to say the least, as they really did not do much to improve themselves. They signed Jack Cust, who should be limited to DH duty in the AL, and Chris Snyder, who could help out Humberto Quintero.
However, they have a bunch of holes in the lineup from losing Clint Barmes and others, which don't look like they'll be filled well. Jed Lowrie could be good, and the Hunter Pence/Michael Bourn prospects could be as well, but at least for now the lineup is a mess outside of Carlos Lee.
Grade: F, though a bit of this is due to how well the rest of the NL Central did here
The Brewers did not make all that many changes to their lineup despite the departure of Prince Fielder, but what they did do I love.
They replaced Casey McGehee with Aramis Ramirez, who should produce very well, and to replace Yuniesky Betancourt they made a huge improvement by signing the underrated Alex Gonzalez. I'm even alright with Mat Gamel replacing Prince.
The Pittsburgh Pirates went out of their way to make sure they are a much better team next year, and it shows with Andrew McCutchen's big extension.
Besides that, I love the Clint Barmes signing, as he's an underrated infielder. Rod Barajas provides some good offensive production at catcher and helps Ryan Doumit's departure not really hurt. Even the Nate McLouth signing I at least get, since he played far better in Pittsburgh.
If Casey McGehee can rebound from a subpar 2011, then the Pirates have a far superior team from what they've had for a long time.
St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals lost not only their best player, but the face of the franchise in Albert Pujols. How do you replace someone like that? For most teams it would be impossible, but the Cardinals made it work.
They signed Carlos Beltran, who should be great as long as he's healthy, and Lance Berkman can simply shift over to first base. Sure, Beltran isn't quite Pujols, but no one in the league is, and I think this is one of the best moves of the offseason.
The Arizona Diamondbacks didn't really need to make many moves after winning the NL West last year, but adding a nice bat would have given them an extra dimension.
They seemed to concentrate on pitching by acquiring Trevor Cahill. They brought in Lyle Overbay as a backup first baseman, but he doesn't do much. As for the power bat, they found it with Jason Kubel, even if he's not much of a defensive outfielder.
The Colorado Rockies are one of the last teams that need to worry about hitting, since they are in the top five in most hitting stats every year. However, they did make a lot of moves this offseason.
The big signing was Michael Cuddyer, who can replace Seth Smith and be a big improvement in the outfield. Ramon Hernandez is a great offensive catcher as well, and Casey Blake should be able to have one more decent season in Colorado.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Los Angeles Dodgers made a bunch of little moves, but admittedly I'm not really sure what they're doing with them, since they almost feel like moves just to make moves.
Adam Kennedy, Mark Ellis, and Jerry Hairston are all serviceable infielders, but I don't know if any of the three are an improvement over Jamey Carroll even if they do provide some depth. They certainly filled any holes, but the quality of the fill isn't that great.
San Diego Padres
To say the Padres' lineup needs help is an understatement. It needed a dose of power big time, especially after they traded away Anthony Rizzo.
Yonder Alonso should jump right in and perform decently, but the big piece was Carlos Quentin from the Chicago White Sox. If he can put up the numbers he did there, this is a huge pickup for San Diego and makes them that much tougher.
San Francisco Giants
The San Francisco Giants went into the offseason with one goal: improving the outfield big time. That's precisely what they ended up doing.
They picked up Angel Pagan from the Mets and Melky Cabrera from the Royals. While I think Cabrera will fall back to earth next year, they are still an improvement over what they had. Adding in Ryan Theriot for infield depth was a nice move as well. Nothing major, but nice moves that should keep the Giants progressing.