The 10 Biggest Surprises of the MLB Offseason
The 2012-13 MLB offseason has had its share of surprises.
One of the biggest surprises this offseason was the Los Angeles Angels signing of Josh Hamilton to a five-year, $125 million contract.
Surprising because, it seemed the Angels were relegated to bystander status after spending a combined $317 million on the Albert Pujois and C.J. Wilson contracts during the 2011 offseason.
Surprising because, the Texas Rangers allowed Hamilton to leave the club and join an AL West rival.
That wasn’t the only surprising move this offseason.
Who could have expected that teams such as the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Kansas City Royals would become key players in the postseason transaction market?
What about the New York Yankees? Where have they been this offseason?
Who would you add to or take off this list?
Here are the 10 biggest surprises of the MLB offseason.
Let the debate begin!
10. Russell Martin to the Pirates
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It seemed to be a foregone conclusion that the New York Yankees were going to re-sign starting catcher Russell Martin. However, things didn't turn out that way. The Pirates swooped in and signed the veteran to a two-year, $17 million deal.
The Yankees are now faced with relying on players such as Francisco Cervelli, newly-acquired Bobby Wilson and Chris Stewart—who have been backups for most of their careers.
They could also look towards the minors and give highly-touted prospects Gary Sanchez and Austin Romine a chance to shine in the majors.
Martin batted .211 with 21 home runs and 53 RBI in 2012. The Yankees will have to decide whether or not to stick with their existing talent or go after a player like Kelly Shoppach—who is still available via the free agency market.
9. Atlanta Signs B.J. Upton
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The Braves made a huge free agent splash this offseason by signing B.J. Upton to a five-year, $75.25 million contract. The move was surprising because the Braves, in recent years, have stayed away from signing flashy free-agent talent.
In the 1990s, the Braves signed players such as Greg Maddux, Terry Pendleton, and Fred McGriff. Those players all played key roles in the Braves 14 consecutive postseason appearances from 1991 to 2005.
In more recent times, the Braves have stayed away from the big ticket items on the free agent market and went with players of a lesser marquee value (like Dan Uggla). The move for Upton is a big one for GM Frank Wren, after a some notable free agent flops in recent years (like Derek Lowe).
Upton hit .246 with 28 home runs and 78 RBI in 2012 with the Tampa Bay Rays.
8. Dodgers Sign Zack Greinke
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One of the most surprising moves this offseason was the Dodgers signing former NL Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke to a six-year, $147 million contract.
The move was somewhat of a surprise as the Dodgers were willing to add Greinke, despite having already allocated close to $450 million in new contracts. It was also a surprise to see Greinke, who has battled a well-publicized social anxiety disorder, sign with a large-market club.
The Guggenheim Baseball Management Group has proven that they will go to whatever length to make the Dodgers a viable contender. Greinke will undoubtedly be a big part of those plans.
Greinke has a career 91-78 record with a 3.77 ERA.
7. Ryan Dempster Heads to Boston
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The Boston Red Sox have expressed their intent on staying away from high-priced, aging talent. It seemed like they were going to stick to that philosophy until they signed Ryan Dempster to a two-year, $26.5 million contract in December.
Dempster spent his whole career in the National League until he was traded from the Chicago Cubs to the Texas Rangers midway through the 2012 season. His numbers were not spectacular after the trade—posting a 7-3 record with a bloated 5.09 ERA.
It will be interesting to see how Dempster turns out as he will most likely end up being used toward the back of the Red Sox rotation. Surprising the see the Red Sox spent $13 million a year on a starter who will be 35 years old on Opening Day.
Dempster finished 2012 with a 12-8 record with a 3.38 ERA.
6. Edwin Jackson Joins the Cubs
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The Chicago Cubs philosophy of late has been to go with younger, inexperienced players. So, it was a bit surprising when the Cubs decided to sign the oft-traveled journeyman Edwin Jackson to a gaudy four-year, $52 million contract.
Jackson, 29, has played for seven teams during his 10-year career. He broke into the league with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2003, and was expected to play a major role with the team. He never was able to harness that potential with Los Angeles and subsequent stops. He has a very average 70-71 record with a 4.40 ERA for his career.
The Jackson signing seems to fly against what Theo Epstein and company are trying to accomplish on the North Side.
5. The Angels Sign Josh Hamilton
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There were many teams rumored to be suitors in the Josh Hamilton free agent sweepstakes. Teams such as the Seattle Mariners, Baltimore Orioles and even, yes, the New York Yankees were all rumored to be in the running for the outfielder services.
Ultimately, Hamilton chose to take his services to SoCal and joined the Los Angeles Angels for five years and $125 million.
The move was considered surprising by some because the Angels had spent so much money during the 2011 offseason—$317 million combined on Albert Pujois and C.J. Wilson—and failed to make the playoffs the subsequent season.
Ultimately, a player of Hamilton’s caliber trumped any fiscal concerns and got the deal done. Hamilton won the AL MVP in 2010 and posted a .285 BA with 43 HR and 128 RBI in 2012.
4. The Royals Land a Front Line Starter
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The Kansas City Royals have been dormant in the free agent and trade markets for almost a generation. This stance changed significantly during the 2012 offseason. They surprised the baseball world and traded for James Shields.
The Royals acquired Shields and Wade Davis for a package of four minor leaguers, including highly-touted prospects Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi.
Acquiring Shields gives the Royals a bona fide top-line starter—something they have not had since the mid-90s when David Cone used to pitch for the club. Shields' best season came in 2011 when he posted a 16-12 record with a 2.82 ERA and a league-leading 11 complete games.
The move for Shields, as well as the earlier trade for Ervin Santana, has shown a new ideology in Kansas City. It seems the Royals will no longer be sitting idle and will now be players in the offseason transaction market.
3. R.A. Dickey Heads North of the Border
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The R.A. Dickey ascent from journeyman pitcher to NL Cy Young Award winner in 2012 was nothing short of surprising. What was even more surprising was how fast the New York Mets decided to field trade offers and ship Dickey out of town.
The Mets traded the popular knuckleballer to the Toronto Blue Jays in December for a package of players, which included the highly-touted catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud.
The move was surprising because teams don’t generally ship reigning Cy Young Award winners to other teams.
Dickey was 20-6 with a 2.73 ERA in 2012.
2. The Miami Marlins Firesale
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The Miami Marlins shocked the baseball world this offseason by trading stars Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson to the Toronto Blue Jays for Yunel Escobar, Jeff Mathis and a package of players with little or no major league experience.
The Marlins fire sale, as it has been called, has drawn the ire of journalists and fans for the deliberate shedding of payroll and talent by owner Jeffrey Loria. The move was even more shocking because the team just moved into a new ballpark, Marlins Park, at the start of the 2012 season.
1. The Yankees Sit Out the 2012 Offseason
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It’s hard to imagine the New York Yankees not being a key player in offseason free agent and trade talks. However, this has been the new reality for Yankee fans. They have been all but absent from the 2012 offseason transaction tracker.
Yes, the Yankees re-signed their own players. Andy Pettitte, Hiroki Kuroda, Ichiro Suzuki and Mariano Rivera were brought back for the 2013 season. They even signed former Yankee nemesis Kevin Youkilis.
But besides the Youkilis deal, the Yankees have been strangely quiet.
The Yankees have been an active player in the offseason since the advent of free agency. So, it’s surprising to see them on the sidelines. However, Yankees GM Brian Cashman seems to be set on getting the team under the $184 million luxury tax threshold for the 2014 season.
The days of the Yankees being a significant player in the offseason transaction market may be over.