Every year there are surprises that shake up the MLB offseason. A couple of years back, the Phillies came out of nowhere and snagged Cliff Lee from the Yankees and Rangers. And just last year, the Yankees traded away top prospect Jesus Montero to the Mariners for Michael Pineda.
This year hasn't been any different. We've already seen a bunch of big deals and surprise signings.
Josh Hamilton Joined the Angels
The Hamilton sweepstakes are finally over, and a surprise team won the spoils.
Last season, the Angels spent $317.5 million on Albert Pujols and CJ Wilson in the offseason. How's an additional $125 million on Hamilton for an encore?
During the winter meetings, Angels General Manager Jerry Dipoto told MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez that he wasn't interested in a position player—so much for that (via Twitter).
For a second straight season, the Rangers lost a prized possession to their divisional foe, and for the second straight year, the Angels landed the top free agent.
The Blue Jays Have Been Very Active
The Jays arguably made the biggest move this offseason in a 12-player blockbuster with the Marlins. The Blue Jays acquired Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, John Buck and Emilio Bonifacio while the Marlins got Yunel Escobar, Henderson Alvarez, Adeiny Hechavarria, Jeff Mathis and three prospects.
This deal comes less than a year after the Marlins signed Reyes, Buehrle and Heath Bell to generate buzz for their brand new stadium.
That isn't the only noise the Jays have made. They signed outfielder Melky Cabrera to a two-year deal worth $16 million. In attempt to be relevant in the loaded AL East, the Jays are going all-in. This is an offense that will have Reyes, Cabrera, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Brett Lawrie and eventually Travis d'Arnaud. That's nasty.
The Phillies Traded for Michael Young
Yes, everybody knew the Phillies needed a third baseman, but trading for the 36-year-old Young wasn't expected. According to ESPN's roster analysis, the Phillies had an average age of 27.8 last season—which ranked third-oldest. Meanwhile, their NL East foes (the Marlins, Braves, Mets and Nationals) were all in the top 10 for youngest.
So, the Phillies traded Lisalverto Bonilla, a 22-year-old pitcher who had a 1.57 ERA and 12.58 K/9 in Double-A last year, to get older.
Young is coming off his worst offensive season in Texas, but that's not going to be the biggest problem. He was able to DH and fill in at various infield positions last year, but he won't have that luxury in Philadelphia. His career UZR/150 of -9.2 at third base will ultimately hurt the Phillies.
The Yankees Failed to Sign Eric Chavez
Chavez filled in beautifully when Alex Rodriguez went down with an injury last year. For the season, the 35-year-old veteran hit .281 with 16 home runs. With A-Rod expected to miss four to six months following his hip surgery, it was a surprise to see the Yankees let Chavez go.
Then they missed out on Jeff Keppinger, and that left former arch-rival Kevin Youkilis as their best available option. I wasn't surprised that the Yankees signed Youkilis because they needed to fill that void. It was just a surprise to see them let go of Chavez, who was very serviceable and much cheaper.
B.J. Upton Signed With the Braves
Like many other analysts and experts, I assumed Bossman Junior was on his way to Philly. So when I received a text message saying that he signed with Atlanta, I was shocked.
Looking at it from Upton's point of view, Philadelphia was a better fit. Citizens' Bank Park is more hitter-friendly, and it just seems more appealing for a free agent who'd want to pad his offensive stats.
Looking at it from the Braves' point of view, this was brilliant. They got a 28-year-old with plenty of speed and pop. The offensive numbers are important, but they needed someone to patrol a spacious center field, and they got a perfect fit.
The Red Sox are Making a Move
It looked as if the Red Sox were in the rebuilding stage when they traded away Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and Josh Beckett to the Dodgers last season. But not so fast.
While the Mike Napoli signing wasn't a huge surprise, they also went out and snagged Shane Victorino, Koji Uehara and Ryan Dempster—strengthening three of their needs.
Perhaps it was a necessity after watching the Blue Jays vastly improve and seeing the Rays pull off a trade for one of baseball's top prospects. Either way, the Sox are not going away quietly. The AL East in 2013 might be one of the best divisions from top to bottom of all time.
The Braves Traded Hanson for Walden
It's not very often you see a team trade an above-average starting pitcher for a non-closing reliever, but that's exactly what the Braves did.
I understand Tommy Hanson has health concerns, and his velocity has plummeted, but I still don't get the deal. It's not like Jordan Walden brings something that the Braves don't have (their bullpen is already loaded with flamethrowers).
It's a pretty risky proposition for the Angels, but they also own the larger reward potential. Hanson was a former top prospect in the Braves organization, and, despite having a poor 2012 campaign, he still has a 3.61 career ERA.
Walden lost his closer job last season, and if anybody has worse mechanics than Hanson, it's Walden with his back-foot jump technique.