The 2012 MLB season is now down to its final month, and as some teams scramble to set themselves up for postseason play, others are playing out the string and looking toward the future.
Many of the offseason moves made by teams had a direct effect on their standing thus far, either in a positive or negative fashion.
Bleacher Report will take a look at the biggest offseason signings and trades and grade their performances accordingly.
Note: All statistics are for games played through Aug. 31.
When it was announced on Dec. 8, 2011 that Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno had agreed to sign free agent first baseman Albert Pujols to a 10-year, $240 million contract, a collective gasp could be heard throughout the baseball world.
While Alex Rodriguez still laid claim to the largest free agent contract in MLB history, Pujols’ signing was still looked upon as epic in nature, especially considering he would be paid $114 million in total in the final four years when Pujols reaches the age of 41.
For the first six weeks of the season, fans and experts alike railed against the signing as Pujols struggled out of the gate, held without a home run until May 6.
However, since that time Pujols has regained the stroke that defined the first 11 years of his career, now with a .289 batting average along with 29 HR and 91 RBI entering weekend play.
Pujols will finish with more than 30 HR and 100 RBI for the 11th time in 12 seasons, putting him in very elite company in the annals of baseball history.
Grade: B+. Pujols has given the Angels exactly what was expected, the first six weeks of the season aside.
When Detroit Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez went down with a season-ending knee injury during offseason workouts, the Tigers made a bold move.
They signed free agent first baseman Prince Fielder to a nine-year, $214 million contract, moving Miguel Cabrera back to his original position at third base.
It’s hard to argue the results thus far. Fielder is hitting .314 with 23 HR and 93 RBI entering play this weekend, with an AL-leading .410 OBP to boot.
In addition, the change of positions hasn’t affected the bat of Cabrera much either. Cabrera has made a case for AL MVP considering, hitting .329 with 33 HR and 109 RBI, and has committed only 12 errors in 123 games at third as well.
Grade: A-. Fielder has adapted well to his new home in Motown, and along with Cabrera gives the Tigers one of the most formidable 3-4 hitting combos in MLB.
The signing of Japanese star pitcher Yu Darvish was the most expensive transaction ever for a Japanese player, costing GM Jon Daniels and the Texas Rangers a combined $111.7 million in salary and posting fees.
Darvish started the season strong, posting a 10-5 record, a 3.59 ERA and 117 strikeouts in 102.2 innings, earning an All-Star selection in the process.
After the All-Star break, however, Darvish cooled considerably, posting a 3-4 record and 5.71 ERA entering play this weekend. His last outing was encouraging, as Darvish rebounded to throw seven scoreless innings against the Tampa Bay Rays last Tuesday, striking out 10. His performance gave Darvish his eighth outing of the year with at least 10 strikeouts, tops in the American League.
Grade: B-. Considering Darvish consistently posted sub 2.00 ERAs during his career in Japan, his current 4.31 ERA shows he’s still adjusting to life in MLB. Still, a chance to collect 15 wins in his first MLB season is a plus.
When the Miami Marlins signed free agent shortstop Jose Reyes to a six-year, $106 million contract, it was thought that with incumbent shortstop Hanley Ramirez’s move to third base, the Marlins would have an elite and productive left side of the infield.
It didn’t quite turn out that way.
Reyes, who led the NL in batting with a .337 average in 2011, didn’t provide the spark at the top of the order that had been hoped for.
Reyes’ current .281 average is a full 56 points lower than last year, and the expected offensive production from the left side of the infield just never came to fruition, with the Marlins sending Ramirez to the Los Angeles Dodgers in late July.
Clearly one of the elite pitchers in last winter’s free agent market, Wilson was plucked by Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno on the same day he signed Albert Pujols.
Wilson’s five-year, $75 million contract meant that Moreno had spent $315 million in one day, more than some MLB teams have spent in free agency in 10 years combined.
Wilson started out strong, jumping out to a 9-4 start with a 2.36 ERA through June 26.
However, it then took another two-plus months for Wilson to win his next game, finally breaking through against the Boston Red Sox last Wednesday.
While Wilson at times didn’t receive run support, his control oftentimes was the culprit, with 74 walks in 170 innings entering play this weekend.
Grade: C. A 10-9 record and 3.86 ERA isn’t terrible, but his two-month spurt without a win didn’t help.
The St. Louis Cardinals were clearly looking to replace the offense left behind by the departure of Albert Pujols when they signed right fielder Carlos Beltran to a two-year, $23 million contract.
Overall, Beltran has done an admirable job in doing just that.
Entering play this weekend, Beltran was hitting .267 with 28 HR and 85 RBI. Beltran has cooled considerably in the second half, however, hitting just .218 with eight homers and 20 RBI since the All-Star break.
Grade: B. Despite a slowdown in the second half, Beltran has remained healthy and provides the Cards with a more-than-reliable offensive weapon.
Just before Christmas last year, the Washington Nationals received a nice little present.
They acquired starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez and minor leaguer Robert Gilliam from the Oakland Athletics for A.J. Cole, Tommy Milone, Derek Norris and Brad Peacock. The Nats then promptly signed Gonzalez to a five-year, $42 million contract with vesting options for 2017 and 2018.
Gonzalez has been terrific for the Nats, posting a 16-7 record and 3.28 ERA entering play this weekend. With Stephen Strasburg facing an imposed shutdown sometime next month, Gonzalez will be counted on to continue leading the Nats as they approach postseason play for the first time since moving to D.C.
It’s hard to argue that the A’s didn’t make out on their end of the deal, either. Milone has been solid in the rotation with an 11-9 record and 3.73 ERA. Norris figures to be the everyday catching solution for the A’s, while Cole has struggled since his promotion to Advanced Single-A Stockton, posting an 0-7 record and 7.82 ERA in eight starts.
Nationals Grade: A-
Athletics Grade: B
As soon as it became clear that other teams didn’t value him as highly as he thought, Jimmy Rollins returned to the Philadelphia Phillies, signing a three-year, $33 million deal.
Rollins has played in all but three games for the Phillies this year entering play this weekend, in stark contrast to a host of other regulars who have missed significant time. However, Rollins’ average has dropped considerably, hitting just .242 with 15 HR and 51 RBI, a far cry from his heyday in the mid-to-late 2000s.
However, Rollins' .714 OPS ranks him ninth among shortstops, and he is still one of the best defenders at the position.
Grade: C+. The Phillies simply didn’t have better options than Rollins at the time, instead bringing him back on a bloated three-year deal. I thought he was overpaid at the time of the signing, and I still believe so now.
His recent lack of hustle on separate occasions hasn't helped either.
After winning the NL Central Division title in 2010, the Cincinnati Reds slumped to a 79-83 record and third-place finish in 2011.
Recognizing that starting pitching was part of the problem (4.47 ERA, 13th in NL), the Reds acquired starting pitcher Mat Latos from the San Diego Padres for catcher Yasmani Grandal, first baseman Yonder Alonso and pitchers Edinson Volquez and Brad Boxberger.
While the cost was high for the Reds, it’s hard to argue that it wasn’t worth it. After getting off to a slow start, Latos has been terrific in the second half, now owning an 11-4 record and 3.79 ERA entering play this weekend.
Together with Johnny Cueto, the Reds now have a formidable 1-2 punch at the top of their rotation heading into the postseason.
The Padres have received solid contributions from both Alonso and Volquez. Alonso has hit .274 with seven HR and 47 RBI, while Volquez has posted a 9-9 record and 4.10 ERA in 27 starts.
Grandal appears to have taken a stranglehold on the everyday catching duties, hitting .275 with six homers and 22 RBI in 34 games.
Reds Grade: B+
Padres Grade: B+
This trade has been beneficial for both teams. Latos could be a fixture at the top of the Reds’ rotation for years, while Alonso and Grandal figure to be players upon which the Padres can build for their future as well.
As part of the free spending for the Miami Marlins this past offseason, they signed free agent pitcher Mark Buehrle to a four-year, $58 million contract, reuniting him with former manager Ozzie Guillen.
By and large, Buehrle has not been a part of the problem in Miami. Thus far in 26 starts entering play this weekend, Buehrle is 12-11 with a 3.62 ERA. Buehrle is on track to pitch more than 200 innings for the 12th consecutive season.
Grade: B. Buehrle has largely produced numbers similar to his career stats, and oftentimes was victimized by poor run support.
On the other hand, another offseason signing by the Miami Marlins didn’t pan out quite so swimmingly.
Closer Heath Bell, signed to a three-year, $27 million contract, has been anything but automatic. In 59 appearances, Bell has posted a 5.92 ERA, 19 saves, six blown saves and countless appearances that just positively stank.
Bell is currently serving as a seventh-to-eighth inning reliever, and I can’t imagine the Marlins figured to be paying $9 million annually for Bell to either set up or mop up.
In early December, the Arizona Diamondbacks wanted to capitalize on their success in 2011, acquiring starting pitcher Trevor Cahill and reliever Craig Breslow from the Oakland A’s for young pitching prospect Jarrod Parker, reliever Ryan Cook and outfielder Collin Cowgill.
Cahill has shown that the cavernous proportions of Oakland’s O.co Coliseum was more to his liking. At home in Chase Field this year, Cahill is 4-7 with a 5.33 ERA, a full 2.5 runs higher than his 2.79 ERA on the road.
Breslow was dealt to the Red Sox at the trade deadline for reliever Matt Albers and outfielder Scott Podsednik.
Meanwhile, Parker has been solid for the A’s in his first full season, posting a 9-7 record and 3.72 ERA. Cook has emerged as a more-than-capable reliever on the back end, posting a 2.40 ERA with 13 saves in 55 appearances.
Diamondbacks Grade: C-. Cahill’s home numbers are a huge disappointment thus far, and Breslow was expendable as a trade deadline option.
A’s Grade: A-. It’s hard to argue against the impact that Parker and Cook have had on the A’s as they position themselves for postseason play.
Signed to a three-year, $36 million contract by the Milwaukee Brewers, third baseman Aramis Ramirez will end up with numbers similar to or better than last year's final season with the Chicago Cubs.
As of Friday night, Ramirez was hitting .295 with 21 HR, 86 RBI, an .890 OPS and National League-leading 43 doubles.
The Brewers have had devastating injuries that dearly cost them this season, but Ramirez has been a steady fixture in the everyday lineup and shows no signs of slowing down at the age of 34.
On Jan. 23, the New York Yankees and Seattle Mariners traded blue-chip prospects for each other, a rarity in Major League Baseball.
The Yankees sent top prospect Jesus Montero along with pitcher Hector Noesi to the Mariners for starting pitcher Michael Pineda and minor-league pitcher Jose Campos.
Montero has gone through some growing pains in his first full major league season, hitting .256 with 14 HR and 52 RBI, splitting time between DH and catcher.
Noesi struggled mightily as a starter, posting a 2-11 record and 5.77 ERA in 17 starts before being sent down to Triple-A Tacoma. He continues to struggle there as well, posting a 1-6 record and 6.12 ERA in 10 starts.
Meanwhile, the Yankees are looking like the losers in this deal. Pineda showed up at training camp out of shape, struggled with his fastball and was eventually shut down with shoulder pain.
Pineda finally underwent season-ending surgery to repair his shoulder issues, and was recently slapped with a DUI arrest in Tampa while rehabbing.
Mariners Grade: B-
Yankees Grade: F
One of the more marquee pitching names of the offseason free agent market waited until May 29 to finally sign a contract. His current team may be wishing they didn't sign him at all.
Roy Oswalt got no offers that floated his boat during the winter, eventually deciding to wait out the first few months of the season and sign with a contending team who needed a quality starter.
Sure enough, the Texas Rangers came calling and inked Oswalt to a one-year, $4 million deal. After preparing in the minors, Oswalt made his season debut on June 22 against the Colorado Rockies, picking up the victory with 6.2 innings of one-run ball.
However, the rest of the season has been another story entirely. While Oswalt posted another quality start on July 17, the rest of his outings have been largely inconsistent, leading the Rangers to move him to the bullpen and place him on waivers in the month of August.
Grade: D. Oswalt hasn't been able to keep himself in a starting rotation reeling with injuries to Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz. The addition of Ryan Dempster was a clear message that the Rangers made the wrong move in signing Oswalt in the first place.
The Philadelphia Phillies took care of their need for a closer quickly in the offseason, signing Jonathan Papelbon to a four-year, $50 million contract on Nov. 14. The contract was the largest ever award to a closer in MLB history.
Thus far, Papelbon has largely done his job, posting 31 saves with a 2.56 ERA, striking out 69 batters in 56.1 innings. Unfortunately for Papelbon, that save number could be higher if the Phillies hadn't completely tanked this year.
After losing Jonathan Papelbon in free agency, the Boston Red Sox went about the business of finding a closer. They found one in Andrew Bailey.
They only had to wait four months for his Red Sox debut.
The Red Sox acquired Bailey from the Oakland A's along with outfielder Ryan Sweeney, giving up young right fielder Josh Reddick, minor league pitcher Raul Alcantara and minor-league infielder Miles Head in the process.
Bailey, however, underwent thumb surgery to repair his ulnar collateral ligament and didn't make his debut in a Red Sox uniform until Aug. 14.
Sweeney started out on fire for the Sox, hitting .373 in the month of April. However, Sweeney hasn't done much of anything since, hitting .260 for the season with no homers and 16 RBI, currently on the disabled list after breaking his finger punching a door with his throwing hand.
Meanwhile, Reddick has been a power source for the A's, hitting .262 with 28 HR and 73 RBI.
Red Sox Grade: D+. Bailey's thumb injury put the Red Sox in a hole in their bullpen, and Sweeney has largely been a complete bust since his hot start. His inability to control his temper also forced manager Bobby Valentine to use even more players in his outfield.
A's Grade: A-. This was an outstanding trade for Oakland. Reddick has been a key contributor for a team that could be playoff-bound.
The Cleveland Indians had a decision on their hands at the end of last season with long-time center fielder Grady Sizemore.
Sizemore had a $9 million option for the 2012 season with the Indians, an option that was declined by GM Chris Antonetti. However, Antonetti did bring Sizemore back, working out a one-year, $5 million deal with another $4 million in incentives based on plate appearances.
At least Antonetti saved $4 million.
Sizemore has yet to make an appearance for the Tribe after undergoing a sixth surgery in less than three years, this time on his back rather than his balky knees. Now, Sizemore is done for the season after experiencing additional pain in his right knee once again.
Grade: F. This deal was doomed right from the start. While I understand the Indians' attempt at loyalty for Sizemore, it was simply a bad business decision.
Japanese import Hiroki had enjoyed a solid four seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers, posting a solid 3.37 ERA during that time. He's been even better in the Bronx.
Kuroda, who signed a one-year, $10 million contract with the Yankees in late January, has posted a 12-10 record and 3.04 ERA in 27 starts. With injuries to Ivan Nova and Andy Pettitte, Kuroda will play a pivotal role for the Yankees in the final few weeks of the regular season.
Grade: B+. Hard to argue against the results, Kuroda has excelled under the bright lights and the big city and could earn another nice payday for next season and beyond.
Up until Aug. 14, the grade for the San Francisco Giants and Melky Cabrera would clearly have been an A+. The events of Aug. 15 changed all that.
Cabrera was strongly considered to be a candidate for the NL MVP Award based on his play through the first four and a half months of the season. The All-Star MVP was second in the NL in batting with a .346 average and an NL-leading 159 hits at the time.
His positive test for testosterone shows that Cabrera was cheating. And the Giants got cheated in the process.
The trade that sent Cabrera to the Giants from the Kansas City Royals for pitcher Jonathan Sanchez certainly looked like a completely one-sided deal. Sanchez bombed in KC, posting a 1-6 record and 7.76 ERA in 12 starts before being dealt to the Colorado Rockies for Jeremy Guthrie.
Sanchez is now on the disabled list with biceps tendinitis.
Giants Grade: C-. What the Giants got from Cabrera, PED-fueled or not, lifted them to the top of the NL West standings and gave a huge lift to a previously struggling offense. His massive act of stupidity and selfishness now hamper them immensely. It's a sure thing Cabrera will never be seen in San Francisco again.
Royals Grade: D. Sanchez was a complete bust in Kansas City. I would have given the Royals an F here, but at least they had the foresight, known or not, to unload the testosterone-fueled Cabrera.
Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz was set to free agency after last season, one year after the Red Sox picked up the option on his 2011 contract for $12.5 million.
Ortiz decided in the end to accept arbitration with the Sox, eventually signing a one-year, $14.58 million deal.
For the first three and a half months of the season, Ortiz helped carry the Red Sox, hitting .318 with 23 HR and 60 RBI before an Achilles heel flare-up landed him on the disabled list for more than a month.
Ortiz briefly returned, going 2-for-4 with a double and two RBI on Aug. 24. However, he re-aggravated the injury and is hoping for a return later in September.
Grade: B+. Despite the injury, Ortiz produced big-time in the middle of the Sox order despite not having a set lineup around him.
When the Colorado Rockies signed free agent Michael Cuddyer to a three-year, $31.5 million contract, they were getting a man with great flexibility and a solid bat.
Right now, however, Cuddyer isn't flexible at all.
Cuddyer was hitting .260 with 15 HR and 56 RBI before landing on the disabled list in early August with a strained right oblique. Cuddyer worked his way back to the lineup on Aug. 16, bashing a two-run homer in a 5-3 win over the Miami Marlins.
Just three days later, Cuddyer was back on the DL after re-aggravating the oblique, putting the rest of his season in jeopardy.
Grade: B-. Cuddyer was on his way to surpassing last year's production before the injury, and there's no reason to think he can't come back strong again next year. Cuddyer has never been one prone to injury throughout his career.
Signed to a two-year, $16 million contract with an option for the 2014 season by the Arizona Diamondbacks, it's hard to look at the season for Jason Kubel and not call the signing a success.
Kubel has been the most consistent offensive presence in the D-Backs lineup all year, hitting .264 with 27 HR and 84 RBI.
I'll take that kind of production for $8 million a year any day of the week.
On Dec. 7, 2011, the Colorado Rockies traded closer Huston Street to the San Diego Padres, choosing to go with Rafael Betancourt as their closer for the 2012 season.
In return, the Padres shipped off minor league pitching prospect Nick Schmidt.
Street has been simply outstanding in San Diego, posting 21 saves and a 0.75 ERA. He hasn't pitched since Aug. 10, however, as he suffered a strained right calf. The Padres thought enough of Street's performance earlier this season by awarding him with a two-year, $14 million contract extension.
Grade: B. I would have considered a higher grade if not for two stints on the DL.
It seemed like a lot of teams were scared off by Edwin Jackson this past offseason. Jackson was reportedly looking for a five-year, $60 million contract, and he remained unsigned as teams were clearly not prepared to make Jackson that kind of an offer.
He eventually settled for a one-year, $11 million deal with the Washington Nationals in early February, his seventh team in 10 big-league seasons.
Jackson's victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday night improved his record to 8-9, but with a solid 3.53 ERA. Jackson has been the innings-eater and fireballer that the Nats had hoped for, with 158 innings in 25 starts along with 139 strikeouts.
Grade: B. Jackson's record is more a reflection of poor run support at times. He has been solid as the No. 4 man in the Nats' rotation.
This past offseason, the Tampa Bay Rays elected to pass on re-signing Casey Kotchman, who hit .306 with 10 HR and 48 RBI in 146 games in 2011. In signing Carlos Peña to a one-year, $7.25 million contract, the Rays thought they were bringing in better offensive production.
They guessed wrong.
While Kotchman hasn't exactly been stellar for the Cleveland Indians (.235, 12 HR, 47 RBI), Peña has been simply abysmal for the Rays, hitting .190 with 16 HR and 50 RBI.
Hard to imagine he'll be back next season.
In signing a three-year, $21 million contract with the Minnesota Twins, it was thought that outfielder Josh Willingham was going from a park where good fly balls go to die (O.co Coliseum) to another less-than-friendly park for hitters (Target Field).
Judging from his numbers thus far, it's safe to say that Willingham made a wise decision.
Through Aug. 31, Willingham was hitting .262 with 33 HR and 96 RBI, easily on track to surpass his career highs in both power categories.
Willingham has a legitimate shot at this point to hit 40 HR with 110-120 RBI with a solid September, making his contract easily one of great value.
After posting a miserable 6-14 record and ending his season prematurely with a shoulder strain, southpaw Paul Maholm was a bit of a risk when signed to a one-year, $4.75 million contract by the Chicago Cubs.
Maholm has posted an 11-9 record and 3.44 ERA thus far in 25 starts, including a 2-3 record and 2.45 ERA in five starts since joining the Atlanta Braves in late July.
The Cubs got rehabbing minor league prospect Arodys Vizcaino in the deal, at one time the top pitching prospect in the Braves' organization, who many believe could still be the real deal even after recovery from Tommy John surgery.
Meanwhile, the Braves get a reliable veteran whom they can count on down the stretch as they attempt to avoid the fate that befell them last season.
When the San Diego Padres dealt for hometown outfielder Carlos Quentin, it originally didn't start well, as Quentin underwent arthroscopic knee surgery in mid-March, putting him on the shelf for the first two months of the season.
Quentin returned on May 28, and less than two months later was awarded with a three-year, $27 million contract extension with an additional option for the 2016 season.
Quentin has hit 15 HR with 43 RBI and an .894 OPS since his return.
In early December, reliever Francisco Rodriguez accepted the offer of arbitration from the Milwaukee Brewers, a move that came as somewhat of a surprise.
The Brewers had hoped that K-Rod would turn down the offer and sign somewhere else, meaning they would get compensation draft picks in return. That didn't happen, and the two sides avoided arbitration when Rodriguez signed for $8 million.
Still, an expensive price tag for a setup man.
Rodriguez has been anything but productive, posting a 5.21 ERA in 63 appearances. He briefly took over the closer's role from the struggling John Axford, but that proved to be disastrous as well.
Grade: F. This was a failed plan by the Brewers. I understand the logic in offering arbitration and trying to get back draft picks, but they underestimated the tough free agent market for relievers in the process, and they got stuck with an $8 million mistake.
When the New York Yankees went out and acquired Michael Pineda from the Seattle Mariners and signed free agent Hiroki Kuroda within days of each other in late January, it sealed the fate of A.J. Burnett.
Sure enough, on Feb. 19 the Yankees shipped Burnett along with a major percentage of his remaining salary to the Pittsburgh Pirates for minor-league pitchers Exicardo Cayones and Diego Moreno.
Burnett had been a bust during his time in the Bronx, posting a 34-35 record and 4.79 ERA. Fans literally cheered his departure, deeming his five-year, $82.5 million signing to be a complete disaster.
However, in Pittsburgh, they're singing a different tune.
Burnett has been outstanding, posting a 15-5 ERA and 3.67 ERA in 25 starts. His 1.255 WHIP is a far cry from the average 1.447 he posted in New York, and Burnett will try to lead the Pirates to their first posteason berth in 20 seasons as the season winds to a close.
Pirates Grade: A-.
Yankees Grade: D. It has to suck for GM Brian Cashman to watch Burnett excelling in Pittsburgh, especially considering he's paying for 60 percent of Burnett's salary.
Outfielder David DeJesus signed a two-year, $10 million contract with the Chicago Cubs, the first signing under the new regime of Theo Epstein.
DeJesus suffered through misery in his one season in Oakland, posting a .240 batting average with 10 HR and 46 RBI.
DeJesus hasn't been necessarily helped with his move to more hitter-friendly Wrigley Field, either, hitting .268 with just six homers and 41 RBI.
Grade: C. The Cubs had to be expecting more than six homers, however the .358 OBP is a plus.
Cuban sensation Yoenis Cespedes was the talk of the early winter after he was granted free agent status by MLB.
Considered a five-tool prospect, Cespedes was wooed by several teams as he worked out in the Dominican Republic. The Oakland Athletics swooped in and offered Cespedes a four-year, $36 million contract, signing him on Feb. 12.
Cespedes has largely delivered in his first year, hitting .302 with 16 HR and 63 RBI. Ever since manager Bob Melvin flip-flopped Coco Crisp and Cespedes in the outfield, the team has been on fire, with Oakland currently holding down the top spot in the race for the Wild Card and just 3.5 games behind the Texas Rangers in the AL West.
Grade: A-. Considering this is Cespedes' first year in any kind of American professional baseball, the results more than speak for themselves.
After Coco Crisp re-signed with the Oakland A's with a two-year, $14 million contract, it seemed like the A's may have made a mistake.
Crisp stumbled out of the gates early on, hitting just .178 through the first two months of the season.
However, Crisp has been on fire since, raising his average to .255 with nine HR, 38 RBI and 29 stolen bases. Manager Bob Melvin's decision to move Crisp back to center field clearly helped.
Grade: B. Crisp has bounced back nicely from a slow start and gives the A's a solid option at the top of the lineup once again.
After missing the entire 2010 season, southpaw pitcher Erik Bedard needed to show that he was up for the rigors of a full season after years of shoulder woes.
Bedard posted 24 starts in 2011 with the Seattle Mariners and Boston Red Sox, and the Pittsburgh Pirates were impressed enough by his performance to offer him a one-year, $4.5 million contract this past offseason.
Bedard started out well, posting a 3-5 record and 3.12 ERA in the first two months of the season. However, it went downhill fast.
After getting roughed up by the Milwaukee Brewers on Aug. 26, Bedard was given his unconditional release by the Pirates, finishing with a 7-14 record and 5.01 ERA.
When Jonathan Broxton accepted a one-year, $4 million contract to play the setup man for Joakim Soria and the Kansas City Royals, he was looking to rebuild a career that had been stalled by injuries and poor performance for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
When Soria went down with season-ending Tommy John surgery, Broxton stepped back into the role very familiar to him. Broxton shined, posting 23 saves with a 2.27 ERA.
Broxton was dealt to the Cincinnati Reds in late July, giving the Reds a formidable bullpen with Broxton, Sean Marshall and Cuban Missile Aroldis Chapman.
Taiwanese-born pitcher Wei-Yin Chen has certainly found life in America to his liking.
After spending four seasons with the Chunichi Dragons of Japan's Central League, Chen signed a three-year contract for $11.09 million with the Baltimore Orioles on Jan. 10.
Chen has posted a 12-7 record and 3.78 ERA thus far in 26 starts, helping to lead the Orioles to a possible postseason berth, something not seen in Baltimore since 1997.
Second baseman Aaron Hill got new life when he was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks last season in a swap of second-baggers with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Still, Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers declined Hill's $8 million option for the 2012 season, making him a free agent on Oct. 31.
Towers and Hill then got together on a new two-year deal worth $11 million, and it's hard to say that Hill hasn't responded in kind.
Thus far in 2012, Hill is hitting .297 with 20 HR and 62 RBI, his best season overall since his breakout year of 2009 (.286, 36 HR, 109 RBI).
Francisco Cordero took a 63 percent pay cut in joining the Toronto Blue Jays for the 2012 season.
Some would say even that wasn't enough.
Cordero, who made $12.125 million in the final year of his deal with the Cincinnati Reds, signed with the Jays for one year and $4.5 million.
In 41 appearances, Cordero posted a 5.77 ERA and 1.806 WHIP, prompting his trade from the Jays to the Houston Astros as part of a nine-player trade on July 20.
Cordero has been on the disabled list since Aug. 3 with a sprained ligament in his right toe after six appearances and a 19.80 ERA with the Astros.
In early January, weeks after taking the general manager's job with the Chicago Cubs after holding the same position with the San Diego Padres, Jed Hoyer convinced president of baseball operations Theo Epstein that first baseman Anthony Rizzo was the real deal.
Rizzo had bombed in his debut for the Padres, hitting just .141 with one homer in 49 games in 2011. But Hoyer was convinced that Rizzo was still a blue-chip first base prospect.
The Cubs traded for Rizzo and minor leaguer Zach Cates, giving up pitcher Andrew Cashner and minor-league outfielder Kyung-Min Na in return.
Rizzo bashed at Triple-A, hitting .342 with 23 HR and 62 RBI before his callup on June 26. Rizzo has proven Hoyer right thus far, hitting .287 with 10 HR and 31 RBI.
Cashner posted a 3.44 ERA in 30 appearances and had just transitioned to the starting rotation when he was pulled from a start on July 3 after suffering a strained right latissimus dorsi muscle. Cashner returned from the disabled list on Sunday and will resume his role in the rotation.
Cubs Grade: B+. Rizzo certainly does appear to be the real deal, and his power swing will no longer be affected by the spacious confines of Petco Park.
Padres Grade: C+. Negative points for letting Rizzo go, but Cashner could be a very useful starter in the Padres' rotation.
Outfielder Ryan Ludwick had gone through three years of regression after a breakout year in 2008 with the St. Louis Cardinals, hitting .299 with 37 HR and 113 RBI.
The Cincinnati Reds became Ludwick's sixth team in 10 seasons, signing a one-year, $2.5 million contract with an option for the 2013 season.
Considering how Ludwick's produced thus far, it's safe to say the Reds will exercise that option.
After a so-so first half, Ludwick has been lights out since the All-Star break, hitting .325 with 13 HR and 37 RBI. Ludwick has produced more in 44 games in the second than in the 62 games before the Midsummer Classic (.237, 12 HR, 34 RBI).
Apparently, injecting stem cells isn't all it's cracked up to be.
Oakland A's pitcher Bartolo Colon decided to supplement his controversial surgery with a bit of testosterone as well.
That's what got Colon a 50-game ban by MLB after posting a 10-9 record and 3.43 ERA in 24 starts, including an impressive run of four starts in August with a 3-1 record and 1.88 ERA.
Grade: D-. Sorry, but cheaters can't be rewarded with a good grade.
After undergoing two Tommy John surgeries in his career, Chris Capuano finally put together a full season in 2011, posting an 11-12 record and 4.55 ERA in 31 starts for the New York Mets in 2011.
The Los Angeles Dodgers were bargain shopping last year, courtesy of Frank McCourt's complete ineptitude, and signed Capuano to a two-year, $10 million contract.
Capuano has faltered somewhat after posting a terrific first half with a 9-4 record and 2.91 ERA. Capuano is now 2-6 with a 4.87 since the All-Star break.
Grade: C. The workload appears to be getting to Capuano as the season drags on.
Another pitcher returning from Tommy John surgery, closer Joe Nathan signed a two-year, $14.5 million contract with the Texas Rangers.
Nathan struggled through the 2011 season but showed enough promise toward the end of the campaign to give the Rangers hope that he could return to form.
Nathan has not let them down, recording his 28th save on Friday night to go along with a nifty 2.45 ERA.
The New York Yankees re-signed pitcher Freddy Garcia to a one-year, $4 million contract on Dec. 9. I doubt at that time they thought Garcia would be a key to the Yankees' AL East title hopes just nine months later.
With a depleted starting rotation missing both Ivan Nova and Andy Pettitte, that's the exact position the Yankees are in with just a month remaining in the regular season.
Garcia was demoted from the rotation in late April only to return in July. Garcia is currently 7-5 with a 4.90 ERA, and with Nova and Pettitte's status uncertain, will be counted on to keep the Yankees from losing their shaky grip on the AL East Division lead.
Grade: C. Not great, not bad. Just average.
It's hard to argue against outfielder Cody Ross being worth $3 million to the Boston Red Sox.
Ross' swing was considered perfect for Fenway Park when the Sox signed him to a one-year, $3 million this past offseason, and that theory has been proven correct thus far.
Ross has hit .278 with 19 HR and 67 RBI thus far, and with the injuries to Carl Crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury, Ryan Sweeney and others, Ross has been a consistent and steady offensive presence.
As mentioned earlier, the Toronto Blue Jays and Arizona Diamondbacks switched second basemen toward the end of last season, with the Jays getting Johnson after an abysmal first five months of the season with the D-Backs.
Johnson showed the Jays enough to warrant bringing him back on a one-year, $6.38 million contract.
The problem is, Johnson still can't hit.
After a breakout season with the D-Backs in 2010, Johnson can't seem to find that groove again. Thus far in 2012, Johnson is hitting .227 with 14 HR and 49 RBI.
Johnson will likely be looking for a new team next season.
The Cleveland Indians and Atlanta Braves completed one of the first transactions last offseason, with the Braves shipping starting pitcher Derek Lowe along with two-thirds of his 2012 salary to the Indians for minor league pitcher Chris Jones.
The Indians still ended up paying too much.
Lowe started out strong, posting a 6-1 record and 2.05 ERA as of May 5. By the end of July, however, Lowe was 8-10 with a 5.22 ERA, earning an outright release by the Tribe on Aug. 10.
The Yankees signed Lowe just three days later, where he has posted a 4.82 ERA in seven relief appearances.
Grade: D. Lowe is sinking about as fast as his sinker has stopped sinking.
When Johnny Damon entered free agency, he probably never imagined that his services wouldn't be needed.
By anyone, that is.
As spring training came and went, Damon was still unsigned. Finally, the Cleveland Indians came calling, offering Damon a one-year, $1.25 million deal on April 17.
Damon never quite got untracked, hitting just .222 with four HR and 19 RBI in 64 games before being released on Aug. 9.
Considering the uncertainty of Joe Mauer's health, the Minnesota Twins opted to sign free agent catcher Ryan Doumit to a one-year, $3 million deal this offseason.
They liked him so much, they've already extended him.
Doumit was always known more for his bat than his defensive abilities, and that hasn't much changed. Doumit is hitting .285 with 14 HR and 60 RBI, re-signing for two more years and $7 million in late June.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.