With pitchers and catchers reporting soon, one of the more bizarre baseball offseasons is nearing its conclusion. Sure, the Yankees were the proverbial elephant trampling through the baseball jungle, spending somewhere in the realm of half a billion dollars on free agents.
But it isn’t always the giant elephant that can get one’s attention. In the end, it’s the little mouse that quietly goes about its business, but could easily scare the elephant—to death.
With that being said, there are three teams that come to mind which had quiet, yet effective offseasons:
Boston Red Sox
It’s hard to imagine one of baseball’s juggernauts to have a quiet offseason, but in a sense, that’s basically how it went for the Red Sox.
Sure, Boston struck out in their attempt to land free-agent slugger Mark Teixeira, but there were still a variety of interesting moves along the way.
John Smoltz – He’s about as close as he can get from walking into the sunset, and over the years, he’s become injury-riddled.
But this future Hall of Famer could be another weapon on an already potent Red Sox pitching staff.
Brad Penny – See John Smoltz, with exception to the Hall of Fame, walking into the sunset part. If Penny can get healthy, watch out for him, as he was downright nasty for the Dodgers a few seasons ago.
Brad Wilkerson – If he makes the team, Wilkerson could add some solid left-handed power off the bench.
Randor Bierd – A solid relief arm acquired from Baltimore, Bierd struggled after a late-season injury. But in the early going, the 24-year old hurled a dozen-plus shutout innings to start the season.
Rocco Baldelli – A local product from Rhode Island, it’s likely a dream for Rocco to be in Boston. He was a great story last year getting back in the field, and it would be an even greater story if he could have an impact in Boston for 2009.
Once known for its rock-solid pitching trio of Glavine, Smoltz, and Maddux, the Braves have since needed to retool in order to compete in the NL East. And retool they did.
Derek Lowe – One of the more sought after starters in the market, the sinkerballer Lowe chose Atlanta, and with two others adding to the rotation, the Braves should have more staying power in 2009.
Javier Vazquez – A workhorse on the mound, Vazquez was added to the rotation via a trade with the Chicago White Sox.
Kenshin Kawakami – Atlanta nabbed one of two Japanese starters on the market. Like his counterpart Uehara, Kawakami has pinpoint control and should fare well in the National League.
Boone Logan – The Braves needed to add a lefty to the bullpen, and the 24-year old Logan could easily find some success in the National League.
The O’s likely won’t contend in 2009, but Andy MacPhail has this team on the right track. The farm system is now stacked, with a bevy of arms coming closer to being ready to rejuvenate “The Oriole Way.”
And in recent months, Baltimore has made a number of interesting moves and filled a number of holes—all players that will help Baltimore give their young guns more time to gel.
Rich Hill – Only costing a PTBNL, this move is a no-brainer for the O’s, low risk, high reward—especially considering that Hill once was coached by Rick Kranitz and Alan Dunn, who are now on the Orioles' coaching staff.
Cesar Izturis – Shortstop was a revolving door for the O’s in ’08, and while Izturis may not be a sexy sign, he does provide stability, a steady glove, and a great attitude.
Felix Pie – A five-tool player who had no chance to play on the Cubs' roster.
As a result, the O’s inherit a kid who will get a shot to become the star everyone expected him to be. If he pans out, Baltimore could have the best defensive outfield in the majors for years to come.
Koji Uehara – He may not be the big time star like Dice-K is in Boston, but Uehara does two things for Baltimore: he adds an arm that can throw strikes, and he provides Baltimore with some headway and exposure into the Asian baseball market.
Ty Wigginton – One word—versatility. Wigginton can play first, second, third, and outfield. Coming at a reasonable $3 million per year, he not only respects the game, but plays it quite well.
Ryan Freel – More versatility. He’s lightning in a bottle and plain and simple, he plays hard every minute of every day.
Gregg Zaun – Comes on board after the departure of Ramon Hernandez, and is the guy who will help ease hyped-up talent Matt Wieters into the Major Leagues.
Nick Markakis – Signing Markakis to a six-year extension shows the rest of the players that this franchise really does want to win—and perhaps Brian Roberts will see this deal and follow suit.
The Braves, Red Sox, and Orioles—the mice of this year’s baseball offseason—just don’t call them three blind mice.