The Most and Least Improved Teams of the 2013 MLB Offseason

Ron Juckett@ronjuckettContributor IIIDecember 30, 2012

The Most and Least Improved Teams of the 2013 MLB Offseason

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    With just six weeks to go before pitchers and catchers report for spring training, we have a good idea of which teams are better and those that took a step back.

    Most of the big-name free agents—save Kyle Lohse and Michael Bourn—have been signed.

    After a number of huge offseason trades, teams will be content now to see what talent they have going into camp. The hot stove has been turned down.

    Now it’s time for fans to hope or fret over 2013. To help decide whether you should be happy or worried, here are the five most and least improved Major League Baseball teams this offseason.

Fifth-Most Improved: Cincinnati Reds

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    The Cincinnati Reds quietly became a scarier team this offseason.

    Being able to keep Jonathan Broxton on board to close allows Aroldis Chapman to move to the starting rotation. If Chapman’s ERA doubles as a starter, it would still be barely over three, at 3.02.

    More importantly, they will swap the strikeout-laden Drew Stubbs for Shin-Soo Choo in the lineup.

    Already a dangerous team in the mix for the National League flag, they have added two pieces to a puzzle that was already complete without having to give away anything big.

Fifth-Least Improved: Tampa Bay Rays

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    Tampa seems to have hurt itself in the short term by trading James Shields and Wade Davis to the Kansas City Royals for a heavy prospect load, led by hard-slugging right fielder Wil Myers.

    In an offseason that saw the Toronto Blue Jays land reigning NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey from the New York Mets, among others, Tampa trading away pitchers does not seem like a good idea for competing in 2013.

    Myers may actually play in Tampa this year. Myers may even produce the power and hitting ability that he has shown his entire minor league career in the Royals' system. Myers could also never pan out.

    That is the risk when trading for prospects. Even with Myers' potential, you just never know if it translates on a big league level.

    Tampa has made some good moves for its long-term future, but the Rays may have cost themselves a playoff spot in 2013 to do so. 

Fourth-Most Improved: Los Angeles Dodgers

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    The Los Angeles Dodgers added two great arms this offseason in their effort to become the California version of the New York Yankees.

    Make no mistake, in scoring Zack Greinke and Ryu Hyun-jin via free agency to go along with the rest of the Dodgers starters, they will be a major force to reckon with in the NL West.

    Dodger Stadium has always been one of the most pitching-friendly parks in baseball history.

    They have shown the world that money is no object and will spend what is required to get the job done.

    If they can tie up Clayton Kershaw up long term, then they have a chance to have a historic rotation for the next few years.

Fourth-Least Improved: Chicago White Sox

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    It is not that the Chicago White Sox have really lost anybody; it is that in an offseason that has seen pretty much the entire AL Central make moves to get better, they have stood still.

    A surprise contender in 2012 for the division crown, Chicago watched Detroit nab Torii Hunter, Kansas City trade for a starting rotation and Cleveland put the blocks in place to rebuild their foundation.

    Even the Minnesota Twins grabbed pitching prospects for the future in trades.

    The White Sox will not have the same ability to surprise teams like they did in 2012. It seems—at least on paper—they have been passed by the Royals in the pecking order.

Third-Most Improved: Kansas City Royals

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    The Kansas City Royals appear to be the big winner in the Extreme Makeover: Starting Pitching edition.

    In scoring James Shields and Wade Davis in their big trade with Tampa, along with grabbing Ervin Santana from the Los Angeles Angels and keeping Jeremy Guthrie, the Royals' front four starters will be completely different than the ones they came north with in 2012.

    A strong argument can be made that they gave up too big of a piece by trading Wil Myers to get Davis and Shields, but this was all about taking the shot right now.

    They actually have a chance, provided the Detroit Tigers stumble through the 2013 season like they did through 2012.

    No question, the Royals are better team right now than they were in September. The question is: What do they do to stay better in the future?

Third-Least Improved: Texas Rangers

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    First, they failed to lure Zack Greinke out of Southern California.

    Second, they traded highly paid third baseman Michael Young to Philadelphia.

    Third, not only did they fail to re-sign Josh Hamilton; they lost him to the Angels.


    With Oakland not making any moves and the Angels taking the big cog in the Rangers' offensive machine, this has turned into an offseason they would love to forget in Arlington.

Second-Most Improved: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

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    Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno responded to the Dodgers grabbing all the headlines by inking the biggest prize in free agency himself, Josh Hamilton.

    With a lineup that now features Hamilton, Rookie of the Year Mike Trout and—oh yeah—Albert Pujols, the Angels will be scoring runs in bunches.

    They added Tommy Hanson to the starting rotation from Atlanta to go with Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson, and Angels management expects that to be enough to leapfrog over the Rangers and A's to win the AL West.

    The Angels get another big advantage in 2013 that they did not have last year with the Houston Astros now in the division.

Second-Least Improved: New York Mets

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    It may not seem fair to the New York Mets to say that they have the second-least improved team this offseason, considering the quality of prospects they got in trading R.A. Dickey to the Toronto Blue Jays, but they simply are not going to replace the guy who won 20 games on a 74-win team.

    Make no mistake, that trade and keeping David Wright in Queens for the long haul were absolutely great moves for 2014 and beyond.

    The 2013 version of the Mets are another story.

    They did what they felt they had to do for the future. Even after a good start to 2012, the Mets realized that they were going nowhere in one of the toughest divisions in baseball and are building for the future.

    The Washington Nationals say thank you. 

Most Improved: Toronto Blue Jays

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    From signing Melky Cabrera to trading for R.A. Dickey, the Toronto Blue Jays have turned from an also-ran into a World Series contender overnight.

    The cornerstone, of course, was their huge trade with the Miami Marlins that saw the Jays grab Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, Emilio Bonifacio and John Buck. Buck was spun off to the Mets in the Dickey trade.

    Have they gutted the farm system? Sure.

    Can they win it all right now? Oh yeah, and that is why they took the gamble here and rolled the dice.

    They have paid a high price in prospects for these hauls, but that is why you draft all those players. Either build with them or cash them in to win.

    The Blue Jays saw an opening in the division with the Yankees getting older and the Boston Red Sox spinning sideways and went for it.

Least Improved: Miami Marlins

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    On paper, the Miami Marlins were better than the team that eked out an embarrassing 69 wins in 2012.

    The core of that team is now in Toronto with the two other big names—Ricky Nolasco and Giancarlo Stanton—not even guaranteed to be on the roster when the new season rolls around.

    OK, so Ozzie Guillen was not a good choice to manage, and Hanley Ramirez wanted no part of playing third base. Boom, they both are gone.

    Trading those key five players away for prospects, on the other hand, just tells us that they quit on 2013 before they could steam the champagne out of the visitor’s clubhouse in Detroit.

    Did they do all right prospect wise? Probably.

    Instead, they chose to put money over the team. A season removed from building a new stadium, that was the wrong move.