If you were anything like me, you might have found baseball's offseason to be a bit boring thus far. Sure, there have been a few big trades, but with only two big-name free agents and a market that took awhile to set, there haven't been fireworks like we saw a year ago.
But that doesn't mean that a few teams haven't taken major steps toward being World Series contenders this year.
From teams that made huge splashes in free agency to one team that completely overhauled itself with several fantastic trades, these teams will thank the moves they made this winter when they are battling for a title next fall.
The Offseason Pretenders
But before we praise the teams that dramatically improved, let's lament a few teams that think they've made a push for World Series contention.
The Atlanta Braves signed B.J. Upton to a five-year, $72.25 million deal. Upton hasn't hit over .250 since 2008. He has some power, yes, but that contract for this player?
Yuck. The Braves are good, but Upton won't make them that much better.
The Kansas City Royals were busy accumulating pitchers, trading for James Shields and Wade Davis and signing Jeremy Guthrie. Unfortunately, they are still the Royals.
The Philadelphia Phillies tried to replenish last year's disappointing team, trading for Ben Revere and Michael Young and signing reliever Mike Adams. But this team still lacks another power hitter in the middle of the lineup and is stuck in a tough NL East division.
I like the Cincinnati Reds trading for Shin-Soo Choo, but they were already a contender and Choo's addition doesn't push them that far over the top. Same for Anibal Sanchez to the Detroit Tigers, and my lord was he overpaid.
Okay, now to those teams that really improved.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers made one major move this offseason, signing star pitcher Zack Greinke to a six-year, $147 million contract.
But when you add that move to last season's additions of Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett and the fact this team has two of the best young players in the game in Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw, this signing looks so much better.
Greinke doesn't have to come to LA and be the hero. But he's an excellent No. 2 starter who would be an ace on most staffs and gives the Dodgers a formidable rotation to go with its stellar lineup.
This is the sort of balance most teams lack.
Add in the signing of Brandon League, and you've got a team that will be expected to win the NL West going away this year.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Listen, I get those folks who want to focus on losing pitchers Zack Greinke, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana and replacing them with Tommy Hanson and Joe Blanton. The Angels certainly weakened their pitching.
But they did two things I really liked. They replaced the erratic Jordan Walden with Ryan Madson and, oh yeah, signed that Josh Hamilton guy.
Think about this for a moment: The Angels have Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Hamilton on the same team. You could argue they have three of the top five hitters in baseball. They clearly now have one of the top offenses in the sport.
Pujols and Hamilton hitting back to back is scarier than Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder holding down the middle of the Detroit Tigers lineup. The Angels are to be feared.
Toronto Blue Jays
For a second, just pause and read over the players the Blue Jays have added this offseason: Jose Reyes, R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Melky Cabrera, John Buck and Emilio Bonifacio.
For those of you keeping score at home, yes, that means this team's rotation will now feature Dickey, Johnson, Buehrle, Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow. Scary.
And yes, this team still has Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion mashing in the middle of the lineup. You have to consider Toronto in contention to win the AL East with the New York Yankees, along with legitimate World Series contenders at this point.
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