Each MLB Team's Biggest Missed Opportunity in the Offseason
When opportunity knocks, some teams answer the door.
Others shut off all of the lights and pretend that nobody's home.
Hindsight is one thing that general managers around baseball don't have the benefit of as they make moves to strengthen their team's roster, hopefully giving the players on the field a better chance of finding success on a regular basis in the season that lies ahead.
Thankfully, we do have the benefit of hindsight, and a number of teams have missed opportunities to, if not improve their respective rosters, at least maintain the status quo.
For those who passed on opportunity the first time, there is still time left for deals and improvements to be made. But until that happens, these are the biggest opportunities that each team missed thus far in the Hot Stove League.
Missed Opportunity: Maximizing Justin Upton's Value
Justin Upton was heading to the Seattle Mariners on Thursday night before he invoked his limited no-trade clause, blocking the deal. According to CBS Sports' Jon Heyman, Arizona would have received some big-time talent in the deal:
it was Taijuan Walker who was the big player in agreed-upon trade that upton rejected. so walker, franklin plus 2 more.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) January 11, 2013
According to Heyman's colleague, Scott Miller, the other two players Arizona would have received were relievers Charlie Furbush and Steven Pryor.
Furbush and Pryor are solid relievers, but this deal was about Franklin and Walker, both of whom are big-time prospects with high ceilings.
The Texas Rangers, who have been in pursuit of Upton for months, are done trying to make a deal, according to the Dallas Morning News' Evan Grant:
Hearing Rangers don't expect to re-engage Arizona after Upton rejected Seattle deal. Rangers made final offer before Seattle deal; moving on— Evan Grant (@Evan_P_Grant) January 11, 2013
Arizona, now saddled with a player that it has entertained trading for three-years-in-a-row, has lost its leverage.
Sure, the Diamondbacks could keep Upton, who is under contract through the 2015 season, but it's clear that he has worn out his welcome in Arizona.
Other teams know that as well, and Arizona won't see another proposal as good as what the Mariners offered—or what the Rangers were thought to be offering.
Missed Opportunity: Adding a Left Fielder
Make no mistake about it, Martin Prado is an excellent left fielder. But he's more valuable to the Atlanta Braves as a third baseman, filling the void left by Chipper Jones' retirement.
While the signing of B.J. Upton to replace Michael Bourn was a solid move, the Braves passed on a chance to sign Cody Ross or one of the second-tier free-agent outfielders on the market to take over for Prado in left.
Ironically enough, it very well may be Bourn who saves the day, as the Braves have not ruled out a reunion with their former Gold Glove center fielder, according to David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Just talked to #Braves GM Wren on Bourn: "Nothing’s changed. If we got a call and there was a deal to be made, we’d be open to it."— David O'Brien (@ajcbraves) January 6, 2013
Of course, for the Braves to re-sign Bourn, the outfielder would need to reduce his salary expectations by quite a bit, making an outfield of Bourn, Upton and Jason Heyward very unlikely.
Missed Opportunity: Re-Signing Mark Reynolds
Nobody expected the Orioles to exercise the seven-figure team option that the club held on Mark Reynolds for the 2013 season, but to let such an integral piece of their lineup walk away?
Nobody saw that coming either.
Reynolds might strike out more than you'd like, but his timely hitting and ability to put the ball in the stands were big parts of Baltimore's surprising playoff run in 2012.
While he wasn't going to win a Gold Glove at first base, his defense at first was markedly better than it was at the hot corner, and his run production made up for whatever defensive miscues he did make.
Instead, Baltimore is now faced with a designated hitter (Chris Davis) at first base, Wilson Betemit as the team's DH and one less reliable option off of the bench available for manager Buck Showalter to use late in games.
All because giving Reynolds a one-year deal for $6 million (what he signed with Cleveland for) was apparently too rich of an investment.
Boston Red Sox
Missed Opportunity: Trading Jacoby Ellsbury
Jacoby Ellsbury is going to test free agency at the end of the season, and while things should be substantially better in Boston in 2013 than they were in 2012, the Red Sox still aren't quite back to their glory days of contending for a World Series championship.
With a handful of teams looking for a center fielder and a few more in need of a leadoff hitter, moving Ellsbury with a full year left on his deal made sense.
Boston could add additional pieces to the mix for both now and the future while going with an inexpensive stopgap option in center for 2013 while Jackie Bradley Jr. continues his development in the minor leagues.
But that's not in the cards for the Red Sox, according to ESPN Boston's Gordon Edes:
Cherington reiterated his intent is not to trade Ellsbury and expects CF to be key part of club in 2013— Gordon Edes (@GordonEdes) December 19, 2012
If Ellsbury bolts Beantown after the season, leaving the Red Sox with nothing more than a compensatory draft pick to show for it, the team's reluctance to move him this winter will prove to be even more of a missed opportunity than it currently is.
Missed Opportunity: None
It's hard to find fault with how GM Jed Hoyer and president Theo Epstein have gone about things this offseason.
In the midst of rebuilding the franchise from the ground up, they addressed the team's need for a reliable innings-eater in the rotation by signing Edwin Jackson to a four-year deal.
They have also tried to move left fielder Alfonso Soriano, making the slugging veteran even more attractive to perspective suitors by eating much of the money left on his deal, according to CBS Sports' Jon Heyman:
#cubs are willing to pay about $26M of soriano's $36M if they get right prospect back. seems reasonable. 30/100 last yr— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) December 13, 2012
With the team still a few years—and pieces—away from seriously contending, the slow and steady rebuild of one of baseball's most storied franchises continues.
Chicago White Sox
Missed Opportunity: Making Any Improvements
The same team that crashed and burned down the stretch in 2012 was, for all intents and purposes, superior to the one that will take the field for the White Sox in 2013.
Gone are third baseman Kevin Youkilis, reliever Brett Myers and long-time catcher A.J. Pierzynski; they're replaced by utility infielder Jeff Keppinger, prospect Dylan Axelrod and Tyler Flowers—a career .205 hitter—respectively.
By the team's inaction this winter, the White Sox have taken a step backwards in the AL Central heading into 2013.
Missed Opportunity: None
With prospect Billy Hamilton making the switch from shortstop to center field, the Reds have their center fielder of the future continuing to blaze a path on the bases to the major leagues, making a free-agent signing of Michael Bourn or B.J. Upton unnecessary.
In the meantime, Cincinnati went out and got itself a short-term upgrade, trading for former Cleveland Indians All-Star Shin-Soo Choo.
While Choo isn't technically a center fielder, his penchant for getting on base with regularity makes an already dangerous Cincinnati lineup even more potent.
It's hard to find fault with anything that the Reds have done this winter.
Missed Opportunity: Proving the Doubters Right
Many expected the Cleveland Indians to conduct something of a fire sale this winter, selling off veteran pieces as the team tried to rebuild on the fly once again.
Instead, they acquired big-time pitching prospect Trevor Bauer in the three-team deal that saw Cleveland move pending free agent Shin-Soo Choo, signed Nick Swisher to a deal and added veteran pieces like Mark Reynolds, Brett Myers and Yan Gomes to the mix.
Not to mention the hiring of Terry Francona as the team's new manager, one of the most successful skippers in baseball over the past decade.
Considering what could have been, this was about as good an offseason as Chief Wahoo and the Tribe could have hoped for.
Missed Opportunity: Improving the Starting Rotation
The Colorado Rockies' starting pitchers posted a 5.81 ERA in 2012, and the team did absolutely nothing to address that this winter.
Granted, the return of Juan Nicasio and Jorge de La Rosa from injury will help, but really?
There wasn't (or isn't) a starting pitcher on the open market that would take Colorado's money?
Re-signing Jeff Francis, who was last effective as a major league starter back in 2007, does not count as a step in the right direction.
Missed Opportunity: Adding an Established Closer
Adding Torii Hunter to the outfield was a stroke of genius, as he not only gives the Detroit Tigers another excellent hitter in an already explosive lineup, but his defensive acumen is going to win the Tigers a handful of games by itself.
With Jose Valverde gone, the Tigers are said to be handing the reins in the ninth inning to rookie Bruce Rondon—a hard-throwing power pitcher who has zero major league experience.
Should he falter, the team will be forced to turn to options like Joaquin Benoit, Al Alburquerque and Octavio Dotel, who last served a a team's primary closer back in 2010 with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Considering some of the free-agent options that were available to start the Hot Stove League—Rafael Soriano, Jonathan Broxton, Ryan Madson and Joakim Soria—it may have been a better option for the Tigers to bring one of those more established closers on board.
Missed Opportunity: Reuniting with Lance Berkman
The days of Lance Berkman as a perennial All-Star in Houston are long gone, but when the opportunity to reunite with their former slugger presented itself, the Astros should have jumped at the opportunity to do so.
Granted, Berkman may not have thought highly of the idea of joining a team that's eons away from being a contender, and he wound up with the Texas Rangers—a team that will battle Houston routinely in the AL West.
But with little reason for fans to come out and see the Astros play, Berkman's presence would have helped both on the field and at the gate as fans reminisced about the good ol' days when the Astros were contenders.
Kansas City Royals
Missed Opportunity: None
Kansas City's biggest need was quality starting pitching. The Royals addressed that situation in a big way, adding three arms to their five-man staff, none bigger than "Big Game" James Shields.
Shields was acquired along with Wade Davis from the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for four players, including top prospects Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi.
The Royals enter 2013 with the pitching needed to give the team a chance to win—putting the onus back on a young, talented lineup that underachieved at times in 2012.
If Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and company can get their swings right, Kansas City could surprise a lot of people in 2013.
Los Angeles Angels
Missed Opportunity: Re-signing Zack Greinke
It's hard to find fault with the Angels' offseason considering that they added the biggest free-agent prize of them all, slugger Josh Hamilton.
The Angels also replaced Zack Greinke and Dan Haren, who both left the club as free agents via trade, landing Tommy Hanson from Atlanta and Jason Vargas from Seattle.
Still, Greinke was a front-of-the-rotation arm. And while he struggled early on for Los Angeles, he seemed to find his groove towards the end of the season.
Whether Hanson and Vargas can effectively replace what Greinke potentially could have done over a full season with the Angels remains to be seen.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Missed Opportunity: Signing Josh Hamilton
It's not really a missed opportunity, as there wasn't actually a place for him to play with the Dodgers, but considering how the new ownership throws its money around, the fact that the Dodgers didn't sign every significant free agent available could be viewed as an opportunity missed.
Still, the Dodgers went out and got the front-of-the-rotation arm they sought to pair with Clayton Kershaw atop the rotation in Zack Greinke—the best free-agent starter available.
The addition of Greinke, coupled with the team's late-season trade that landed Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez and others from the Boston Red Sox, makes this a must-win year for manager Don Mattingly.
Anything less than a playoff berth will probably lead to new leadership being put in place for 2014 and beyond.
Missed Opportunity: Giving Fans a Reason to Buy a Ticket
After Ozzie Guillen, then the team's manager, infuriated the Cuban and Latino community in South Florida with his comments about Cuban dictator Fidel Castro last season—not to mention the disappointing results on the field—you'd think that the Marlins would have given fans added incentive to come out to the team's new stadium.
Instead, the Marlins did everything possible to alienate the few fans that the team has left, trading away literally every quality player on the team, leaving the team with Giancarlo Stanton and a bunch of prospects, washed up veterans and career journeymen.
That's a great way to increase attendance.
Missed Opportunity: Adding a Veteran Starter
Yovani Gallardo returns as the ace of the starting rotation in Milwaukee, but after him, the Brewers will be relying on promising, unproven youngsters to step in and replace departed veterans Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum.
Marco Estrada, Michael Fiers and Mark Rogers have a combined 56 major league starts under their belt, and the lack of a veteran presence leaves the Brewers little room to maneuver should one of those youngsters struggle terribly early on.
Missed Opportunity: Dealing Justin Morneau
According to Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com, the Twins have decided not to trade first baseman/designated hitter Justin Morneau before the season, though they left the window open that a deal could come at the trade deadline.
My question is this: What's the point?
Morneau, who has battled injuries and concussion symptoms on and off for the past few seasons, is entering the last year of his deal.
Minnesota isn't going to get a big-time package in exchange for him, regardless of when the team deals him, but it will get far more right now than at the end of July.
New York Mets
Missed Opportunity: Upgrading the Outfield
As presently constituted, the New York Mets will open 2013 with an outfield that features a first baseman in Lucas Duda and a pair of fourth outfielders on a contending club, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Mike Baxter.
That's not a very encouraging sign.
Instead of signing an affordable second-tier outfielder like Cody Ross, someone who would have been an upgrade over their current options, the Mets seem content to go into 2013 with the same mediocre players that they finished 2012 with.
That's not encouraging news for a fanbase that is starving for a contending team to take the field.
New York Yankees
Missed Opportunity: Keeping Russell Martin
Russell Martin gave the Yankees solid defense, game-calling ability behind the plate and some pop at the bottom of the lineup.
Instead of bringing the veteran back for 2013, the Yankees decided that Martin wasn't worth the two-year, $17 million deal that he received from the Pittsburgh Pirates.
That leaves career backups Chris Stewart and Francisco Cervelli, along with oft-injured prospect Austin Romine, as the options to handle the full-time duties in the Bronx.
George Steinbrenner must be rolling over in his grave at some of the decisions that the team is making under the watchful—and frugal—eye of his son, Hal.
Missed Opportunity: Making a Big Splash
While the Oakland A's added some pieces this winter, most notably outfielder Chris Young and Japanese shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima, they didn't make a move that makes you say "Wow, the A's are for real!"
Granted, that's never been Billy Beane's style. And it's hard to argue with the success that the group of youngsters and castoffs had in 2012.
But asking the team to do it again in 2013 may prove to be asking too much.
Missed Opportunity: Adding More Power
The Philadelphia Phillies need to add a right-handed bat with power, and Alfonso Soriano certainly fits that description.
Yet, despite the Cubs' stated willingness to eat most of the money remaining on the veteran's contract, the Phillies don't appear to be all that interested, according to ESPN's Jayson Stark:
— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) December 11, 2012
With no viable options remaining on the free-agent market, Soriano is one of the few sluggers that the Phillies have the prospects to acquire.
I proposed a Domonic Brown for Soriano swap last week, and I stand by that proposal as one that makes sense for both teams.
Missed Opportunity: Getting Andrew McCutchen Some Help
Nobody will argue against the fact that Andrew McCutchen is a phenomenal talent who's capable of putting a team on his back and swinging his way to victory.
But sooner or later, even the best players in the game need someone else to pick up some of that burden.
While the Pirates lineup has some decent veterans in second baseman Neil Walker and first baseman Garrett Jones, along with some youngsters who have yet to prove themselves in third baseman Pedro Alvarez and left fielder Starling Marte, none provide the real impact bat that McCutchen and the team would benefit from.
Russell Martin will provide some power, but he's more of a hit-or-miss guy than someone who is a consistent contributor.
Like Oakland, Pittsburgh is a small-market club with limited financial resources, but adding one more bat to the mix would have changed things substantially for the Pirates in 2013.
San Diego Padres
Missed Opportunity: Bolstering the Starting Rotation
San Diego heads into 2013 with Edinson Volquez the ace of a starting rotation that is average at best.
Clayton Richard is a solid starter, while veteran Jason Marquis—if he can stay healthy—should be able to eat some innings in the middle of the rotation.
But the back-end is unproven, and the group as a whole could benefit from a steadying veteran presence.
Obviously, Dan Haren didn't happen, as he's signed with Washington. But there were—and still are—pitchers available who could help San Diego in 2013.
The Padres would be wise to travel down that path.
San Francisco Giants
Missed Opportunity: Nothing
San Francisco hasn't done much aside from re-sign its own free agents this winter, but that's all that the Giants really needed to do.
After winning their second World Series championship in the past three years, you can't argue with how the Giants go about their business.
Missed Opportunity: Landing a Difference-Maker on Offense
It certainly isn't for a lack of trying—the team made a concerted effort to sign Josh Hamilton and had a trade worked out for Justin Upton before the All-Star outfielder invoked his no-trade clause—but good intentions aren't going to help the Mariners score more runs in 2013.
Kendrys Morales will certainly help, but he's more of a complementary piece, not a bona fide difference-maker with a bat in his hands.
Somehow, someway, the Mariners must figure out a way to add a big-time bat to the middle of their lineup.
St. Louis Cardinals
Missed Opportunity: Upgrading Shortstop
Rafael Furcal can't be relied upon to play a complete season, as the veteran has a lengthy history of injuries that continues to grow, and Pete Kozma is best suited for a utility role.
While the free agent-pickings were slim, signing Japanese import Hiroyuki Nakajima would have given the Cardinals some breathing room—not to mention that he'd be an upgrade over Furcal at this point in their respective careers.
Tampa Bay Rays
Missed Opportunity: Upgrading First Base
James Loney is on his third team in less than a year for a reason: He's a mediocre player at best.
Tampa Bay, which cut ties with the equally mediocre Carlos Pena following the 2012 season, hasn't really addressed the gaping hole that is first base at all.
With Washington shopping Mike Morse, however, this could all be rectified if GM Andrew Friedman is able to convince ownership to add Morse's $6.75 million salary to the budget.
Missed Opportunity: Josh Hamilton
Regardless of your personal feelings towards Josh Hamilton, there is no argument to be made that the Texas Rangers are a better team without the superstar slugger than they were with him, despite his defensive deficiencies.
Now, the Rangers are faced with their division rivals benefiting from Hamilton's prodigious run production—something that makes the Rangers' chances of contending in the AL West that much more difficult a task.
Failing to land Zack Greinke and making any real upgrades to the starting rotation could fall under the category of a missed opportunity as well, but it's the loss of Hamilton that will haunt the Rangers the most in 2013.
Toronto Blue Jays
Missed Opportunity: None
Let's see, in two moves, the Blue Jays completely overhauled their roster and became instant contenders in the American League.
That's what happens when you add Mark Buehrle, R.A. Dickey and Josh Johnson to your rotation, Jose Reyes and Emilio Bonifacio to your infield and Melky Cabrera to your outfield.
A phenomenal offseason by Toronto—a team that jumped at every opportunity that presented itself to improve the club this winter.
Missed Opportunity: None
The Nationals needed an upgrade in center field. Check.
The Nationals needed to replace Edwin Jackson in the starting rotation. Check.
The Nationals needed to re-sign Adam LaRoche to play first base. Check.
Washington realized all of its goals in 2012—adding Denard Span in center field, Dan Haren to the rotation and keeping LaRoche in the fold—allowing the team to shop Mike Morse, who could bring back some live arms to bolster an already-strong bullpen.