Winners and Losers of the 2013 MLB Offseason so Far

Rick Weiner@RickWeinerNYFeatured ColumnistDecember 29, 2012

Winners and Losers of the 2013 MLB Offseason so Far

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    When you get past all of the hyperbole, all of the advanced metrics and creative ways of saying the same thing, baseball is a game where everyone involved is ultimately judged by the same, basic principles.

    Wins and losses.

    That's it.

    Too many losses cost people jobs, from the players to the coaching staff to the front office.

    Too many wins, well, there's no such thing.

    While we think of wins and losses as only having to do with the action that unfolds on the diamond, that's only part of the equation.

    The basic premise of winning and losing is applicable to literally every facet of baseball, and how a team fares in the offseason is no different.

    With that in mind, who are the big winners and losers thus far in the 2012-13 Hot Stove League?

    Let's take a look.

Winner: Washington Nationals

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    Notable Additions: CF Denard Span, RHP Dan Haren

    Notable Subtractions: LHP Sean Burnett, RHP Edwin Jackson

    Coming off of the most successful season in franchise history, one that saw the Nationals win their first division title and advance to the playoffs, Washington entered the offseason with one major hole to fill: an everyday center fielder.

    In Denard Span, the Nationals got a keeper.

    Span, 28, is one of the more underrated outfielders—and leadoff hitters—in the game.

    Capable of hitting .300 and an on-base machine, as evidenced by his .357 career on-base percentage, Span is a virtual lock to score 100 runs sitting atop the Nationals' potent lineup in 2013, thanks to his combination of base-running smarts and excellent speed.

    Defensively, Span is a stud, even by advanced metrics. Via FanGraphs, Span posted a 9.6 UZR/150 and 20 DRS—numbers that are second only to free agent Michael Bourn, and Span costs a fraction of what Bourn will eventually sign for.

    Meanwhile, Dan Haren, 32, had a very un-Haren-like season for the Angels in 2012, going 12-13 with a 4.33 ERA and 1.29 WHIP. But those numbers aren't nearly as bad as some would lead you to believe. It was only two years ago that he was receiving votes in the American League Cy Young Award race.

    Asked to be the fourth starter in an absolutely stacked Nationals rotation, even posting numbers similar to what he put forth in 2012 would adequately replace Edwin Jackson's production.

    Losing Sean Burnett might sting a bit, as the 30-year-old left-hander was excellent out of Washington's bullpen in 2012, pitching to a 2.38 ERA and 1.24 WHIP in 70 appearances. All things considered, though, GM Mike Rizzo has improved his team heading into 2013—and that's bad news for the rest of the National League.

Loser: New York Yankees

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    Notable Additions: 3B Kevin Youkilis

    Notable Subtractions: C Russell Martin, RF Nick Swisher, 3B Eric Chavez, DH/OF Raul Ibanez

    The Yankees were able to retain many of the key pieces from the 2012 squad, specifically RHP Hiroki Kuroda, LHP Andy Pettitte, OF Ichiro Suzuki and the greatest relief pitcher of all time, Mariano Rivera.

    But as the Yankees try to abide by owner Hal Steinbrenner's edict that the team be under the $189 million luxury-tax threshold in 2014, the Bronx Bombers are heading into 2013 with more questions than answers.

    First and foremost on the list, who exactly is the everyday catcher?

    Russell Martin, who had been a rock behind the plate for the past two seasons, left town for a reasonable two-year, $17 million deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates (h/t New York Daily News).

    That leaves New York to choose from journeyman Chris Stewart, career backup Francisco Cervelli and unproven prospect Austin Romine, who is coming off of a season in which he missed months due to a bad back.

    While I applaud the signing of Kevin Youkilis, can he adequately replace the expected production from Alex Rodriguez at third base?

    Aside from Derek Jeter and Ichiro, Raul Ibanez was the only player on the Yankees who hit in the playoffs last season. Ibanez is gone, leaving another gaping hole—who fills his spot?

    This isn't a young team by any stretch of the imagination, and, for all intents and purposes, the roster isn't as impressive—and it's another year older—as it was in 2012. And that didn't end well for the Yankees, who were thoroughly dominated by the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS.

    GM Brian Cashman has plenty of work to do between now and Opening Day if the Yankees plan to contend for the American League pennant in 2013.

Winner: Toronto Blue Jays

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    Notable Additions: RHP R.A. Dickey, RHP Mark Buehrle, LHP Josh Johnson, SS Jose Reyes, OF/IF Emilio Bonifacio, OF Melky Cabrera, IF Maicer Izturis, MGR John Gibbons

    Notable Subtractions: C Travis d'Arnaud, C John Buck, SS Yunel Escobar, 2B Adeiny Hechavarria, MGR John Farrell

    The NL East has been very, very good to the Toronto Blue Jays.

    From the blockbuster deal with the Miami Marlins to the smaller but equally important trade with the New York Mets, Toronto has reshaped its entire roster thanks to the pair of NL East clubs.

    To be sure, Toronto gave up quality prospects in both trades, but you have to give value to get value, and the Blue Jays got some great value in these two moves.

    A starting rotation that had been decimated by injuries in 2012 and posted a 52-69 record to go along with a 4.82 ERA has been blown up and rebuilt around three quality veteran arms: Mark Buehrle, R.A. Dickey and Josh Johnson.

    Reyes is an upgrade over Yunel Escobar at short and gives Toronto a dynamic leadoff hitter, while Bonifacio's ability to play multiple positions gives skipper John Gibbons a versatile weapon that he can move around the field.

    The Blue Jays see a wide-open AL East for the first time in years and have positioned themselves to be the team sitting on top when the regular season ends.

    GM Alex Anthopoulos should be lauded for the job he's done so far this winter—a truly remarkable job.

Loser: Texas Rangers

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    Notable Additions: C A.J. Pierzynski, RHP Joakim Soria

    Notable Subtractions: OF Josh Hamilton, C/1B Mike Napoli, RHP Mike Adams, RHP Ryan Dempster, IF Michael Young

    While the Rangers enter 2013 with a formidable squad, it's not close to the same beast that was one of the elite teams in baseball over the past few years.

    Josh Hamilton's defection to the Los Angeles Angels stings for sure, and it leaves a gaping hole in the middle of the Rangers lineup—a hole that cannot be filled by one player alone.

    Failing to land Zack Greinke to lead the rotation has left the team still looking for a veteran arm to pair with Yu Darvish, and the trade of Michael Young, while necessary (he had nowhere to play), will have an effect on the clubhouse.

    A.J. Pierzynski is an upgrade over Geovany Soto (who was re-signed as well) behind the plate, but he's 36 years old. Sooner rather than later, the rigors of being an everyday major league catcher are going to catch up to him. Whether or not he can repeat his 2012 numbers is a real concern.

    Like the Yankees, Texas has work to do between now and the start of the season.

Winner: Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Notable Additions: RHP Zack Greinke, LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu

    Notable Subtractions: RHP Joe Blanton, LHP Randy Choate, OF Shane Victorino

    The Dodgers wanted another front-of-the-rotation starter to pair with perennial Cy Young Award candidate Clayton Kershaw, and they landed the best pitcher available in former AL Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke.

    Hyun-Jin Ryu, 25, is a left-hander from Korea who doesn't have overpowering stuff (his fastball tops out around 95 mph). His best pitch is a changeup, and while he had great success pitching in Korea, we have seen Asian pitchers have mixed results when making the jump to MLB.

    Whether or not Ryu pans out or not, though, really doesn't matter—this offseason was all about Greinke.

    There are no excuses left for the Dodgers. Between the lineup and rotation, anything less than a deep playoff run will be viewed as a colossal failure.

Loser: Michael Bourn

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    The best leadoff hitter and defensive outfielder on the market entering the offseason, many expected Bourn to be the subject of bidding wars between the handful of teams looking for upgrades in the outfield.

    Instead, the 30-year-old speedster remains on the market, while every other quality free-agent outfielder has signed.

    Most of the teams that Bourn would have fit with have already addressed their needs, whether it be through free agency or via trade, leaving Bourn with few options.

    It's hard to see a team paying Bourn fair market value for his services at this point, which could result in him settling for a one-year deal and doing this all over again after the 2013 season.

Winner: Cleveland Indians

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    Notable Additions: RF Nick Swisher, 1B Mark Reynolds, RHP Trevor Bauer, OF Drew Stubbs

    Notable Subtractions: OF Shin-Soo Choo,  3B Jack Hannahan

    Give Indians GM Chris Antonetti credit—he addressed some glaring issues on the roster with the moves that he's made thus far, effectively changing the culture in the clubhouse and giving the Tribe a chance to compete in 2013.

    More impressively, he convinced owner Larry Dolan to shell out the money to make some of these moves happen.

    The most important move was the hiring of Terry Francona. While things didn't end well for him in Boston, he's a phenomenal manager who knows what it takes to win in the American League.

    In addition, Nick Swisher gives the Indians the quality, slugging corner outfielder they've been searching for. And Trevor Bauer has an incredibly high ceiling and upgrades Cleveland's rotation immediately.

    But the Indians still have work to do before we can call them contenders.

    In 2012, Cleveland’s starting rotation was nearly 30 games below .500, pitching to a 48-76 record, a 5.25 ERA and a 1.51 WHIP. Opposing batters posted a .284/.351/.451 slash line against them.

    Aside from Bauer, Cleveland's 2013 rotation is essentially that same group.

    That being said, Bauer is a major addition, and Cleveland is a better team now than it was at the end of the 2012 season.

Loser: Chicago White Sox

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    Notable Additions: IF Jeff Keppinger

    Notable Subtractions: C A.J. Pierzynski, 3B Kevin Youkilis, RHP Philip Humber

    Signing Jeff Keppinger was a great move despite his offseason injury. But the White Sox essentially return the same roster that choked down the stretch in 2012.

    The major difference between 2012 and 2013 is behind the plate, where Chicago has handed the reins to 26-year-old Tyler Flowers after letting veteran A.J. Pierzynksi leave via free agency.

    Flowers, long thought to be the catcher of the future in Chicago, has yet to prove that he can hit major league pitching.

    With 317 career plate appearances under his belt, Flowers has a career slash line of .205/.307/.388, and he's coming off of a 2012 that saw him hit a career-best .213.

    While there might not be much of a difference between Flowers and Pierzynski defensively, there's a stark drop in production at the plate. And at this point, Flowers is much closer to an automatic out than Pierzynski was in the middle of the White Sox lineup.