Make it two straight strong offseasons for Angels GM Jerry Dipoto.
General managers across Major League Baseball still have work to do before pitchers and catchers report next month, but we're at a point in the offseason where there's time for a little back-patting.
So long as it's deserved, of course.
Not every GM in the league owes himself a pat on the back, and they can rest assured that I'm watching for unauthorized back-patting.
That means you, Jon Daniels.
There are a fair number of GMs out there who have done right by their clubs this winter, but only 10 who came, saw and conquered. It's these GMs who should be celebrating the most.
And it is to them we pay homage.
It's cool. You can admit that you totally forgot about the Minnesota Twins.
Nonetheless, Twins GM Terry Ryan has done a fine job of patching up various holes in Minnesota's roster and shoring up the club's foundation for future success.
The Twins don't look like a contender, but they don't resemble the same train wreck they've been for two years.
Ryan's first big move was sending outfielder Denard Span to the Washington Nationals in November for minor-league right-hander Alex Meyer. He then dealt Ben Revere to the Philadelphia Phillies in December for right-hander Vance Worley and minor-league right-hander Trevor May.
Worley will provide some stability for a starting rotation that didn't have any in 2012, and Meyer and May are part of what is now a respectable farm system. Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com ranks them as two of the organization's five best prospects.
Elsewhere, Ryan picked up a viable starter in veteran right-hander Kevin Correia, and he's pursuing a couple of worthwhile reclamation projects in right-handers Mike Pelfrey and Rich Harden.
In the short-term, the Twins are going to have a pitching staff that can't possibly be any worse than the one that posted a 4.77 ERA in 2012 (28th in MLB). In the long-term, they should benefit from a farm system that now features a couple of high-upside arms to go along with its high-upside bats.
The Twins won't be winning the World Series anytime soon, but Ryan has done precisely what he needed to do this winter.
Both 2012 World Series participants have done well this winter. The San Francisco Giants have kept the status quo intact, and the Detroit Tigers have stayed together as well.
But between Giants GM Brian Sabean and Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski, it's Dombrowski who deserves extra points. Sabean has done well this offseason, but Dombrowski has been the bolder of the two.
The Tigers have made two major free-agent signings this offseason. The first saw them ink veteran outfielder Torii Hunter to a two-year contract worth $26 million, and then they retained right-handed starter Anibal Sanchez with a five-year contract worth $80 million.
Hunter is the right-field upgrade the Tigers needed to find this offseason after watching Brennan Boesch crash and burn in 2012. Hunter should also be an upgrade for the No. 2 spot in Jim Leyland's starting nine, even if he doesn't repeat his .389 BABIP from 2012 (and he won't).
The Tigers agreed to pay Sanchez more than his career track record says he's worth, but retaining him allowed the Tigers to maintain their greatest strength from the 2012 season: starting pitching. They have the best rotation in the AL Central by a mile and a half.
I'm also willing to give Dombrowski props for not committing truckloads of cash to free-agent closer Rafael Soriano, thus denying super-agent Scott Boras' advances.
Regardless of any further acquisitions, the Tigers still have a championship-caliber team thanks to Dombrowski (executive producer: Mike Ilitch's bank account).
The Dodgers haven't been as active this winter as they were during the regular season, but they've still made their presence felt with a couple of major signings.
Dodgers GM Ned Colletti kicked things off by re-signing Brandon League to a three-year, $22.5 million deal, and then went on to sign a pair of starters to big free-agent contracts.
Right-hander Zack Greinke got the bigger of the two, inking a six-year, $147 million contract in December. For that, the Dodgers are getting a former Cy Young winner who's still in the prime of his career at the age of 29.
The Greinke signing was a decisive victory for the Dodgers for two reasons. One, they now have one of the best righties in the business backing up the best lefty in Clayton Kershaw. Two, they further cemented themselves as the top spenders in baseball by outbidding a Texas Rangers team that really wanted Greinke.
Soon after they inked Greinke, the Dodgers signed Korean left-hander Ryu Hyun-Jin to a six-year, $36 million contract that was preceded by a $25.7 million fee for negotiating rights. Ryu is much more of a mystery than Greinke, but he's coming to the Dodgers with favorable scouting reports and an impressive career track record in Korea behind him.
We may be talking about a small bundle of moves here, but there's no doubt that the Dodgers have gotten better this winter. They're either going to be a typical L.A. showtime team or a twisted train wreck.
Regardless, it's fun for the whole family.
It became obvious in 2012 that Nationals GM Mike Rizzo has built a long-term contender in Washington. He could have done nothing this winter, and the Nats still would have been in very good shape in 2013.
Rizzo hasn't done nothing. He hasn't done much, mind you, but the moves he's made have made the Nationals a better team than they already were.
The club's acquisition of Denard Span was an excellent move. He's a very good defensive center fielder whose presence will allow Davey Johnson to play Bryce Harper in right field, a position perfectly suited to his skill set.
Span is also the natural leadoff hitter that Washington's lineup never really had in 2012. His solid on-base skills and top-notch baserunning will come in handy in front of the club's big boppers.
To replace the departed Edwin Jackson, Rizzo brought in veteran right-hander Dan Haren on a one-year deal worth $13 million. Back problems held Haren back in 2012, but he was one of the league's top pitchers between 2007 and 2011, posting a 3.33 ERA and compiling a 4.68 strikeout-to-walk ratio. If his health returns, the Nats are going to have one of baseball's deepest starting rotations.
Elsewhere, Rizzo deserves credit for waiting out first baseman Adam LaRoche and getting him to agree to a surprisingly team-friendly two-year deal worth $24 million with a mutual option for 2015.
The LaRoche deal will allow Rizzo to trade Mike Morse for needed players, which will only make Washington's offseason better.
On Tuesday, Rizzo added reliever Rafael Soriano on a two-year, $28 million deal. Although Rizzo overpaid, as the Yankees declined Soriano's $14 million option, the 33-year-old will bring a lot to an already strong Nationals bullpen.
Rizzo will have had an excellent offseason once that trade goes down. For now, he's already done well enough.
The Cubs still aren't anywhere close to being World Series contenders, but President of Baseball Ops Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer pushed the organization's resurrection a big step forward this winter.
The Cubs have handed out one major deal, inking right-hander Edwin Jackson to a four-year contract worth $52 million. He has his flaws as a pitcher, but he looks like a very strong No. 3 in a starting rotation that is being overlooked.
Jackson isn't the only new addition the Cubs have made to their starting rotation. They've also signed right-handers Scott Feldman and Scott Baker to one-year deals. Carlos Villanueva, who signed a two-year deal, can be used as either a starter or a reliever.
The Cubs also added Japanese reliever Kyuji Fujikawa, giving him a $9.5 million, two-year contract with an option for 2015. He could supplant Carlos Marmol as the club's closer, and it's also been speculated that he could be dealt at the trade deadline for prospects.
Feldman, Baker and Villanueva are also candidates to be flipped for prospects this summer. New right fielder Nate Schierholtz could also be turned into prospects if he makes something out of long-overdue everyday playing time.
Setting themselves up for trades that will aid the team's youth movement appears to be what the Cubs have had in mind all along this offseason. If so, they've executed their plan quite perfectly.
Even if this hasn't been the strategy, the Cubs have still done very well. After all the moves they've made, they no longer resemble a team doomed to lose 100 games.
The Indians are not the favorites to win the AL Central in 2013. But thanks to the moves Chris Antonetti has made this winter, they at least look like a promising sleeper.
The Indians made out like thieves in the three-team trade that sent right fielder Shin-Soo Choo to the Cincinnati Reds. They acquired a center fielder in Drew Stubbs who has an excellent glove, good speed and solid pop—even if he does strike out way too much—and they also acquired top-prospect Trevor Bauer.
Bauer endured a rough stint in the majors when the Arizona Diamondbacks called him up in 2012. There are concerns about his attitude, but the talent is definitely there. He checks in at No. 5 overall in MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo's rankings of the top-100 prospects in baseball, and he could be in Cleveland's rotation in no time at all.
Not long after the big three-team trade, Antonetti scored a victory by pulling out all the stops to lure Nick Swisher to Cleveland to play right field. Swisher's production will easily replace Choo's, and his energetic personality will inject some life into a clubhouse that has been lifeless in the second half of each of the last two seasons.
Antonetti also added a solid innings-eater to his rotation in Brett Myers and a very powerful first baseman in Mark Reynolds. Cleveland also got a couple of relievers in the three-team trade to add to what was already a solid bullpen.
I was of the mindset that the best thing for the Indians to do this winter was blow their roster up and start fresh. Instead, they've managed to shore up their short- and long-term futures while keeping much of the talent they already had.
Under Andrew Friedman, the Rays are what the Oakland A's were under Billy Beane in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
The Rays reminded everyone of this with the moves they've made this winter, especially with the trade they made with the Kansas City Royals in December. In that deal, the Rays gave up right-handers James Shields and Wade Davis and got prized outfield prospect Wil Myers.
Myers was named Baseball America's Minor League Player of the Year for 2012 after hitting 37 home runs and posting a .987 OPS between Double-A and Triple-A. He should be a fixture in right field for the Rays in the very near future.
Getting Myers would have been good enough, but Friedman also managed to squeeze left-handers Mike Montgomery and Jake Odorizzi, two more of Kansas City's top prospects, out of the Royals in the deal. As a result, Jim Callis of Baseball America thinks the Rays now have the No. 6 farm system in MLB.
Friedman has been a busy bee elsewhere, too. Bringing in James Loney to play first base on a low-risk, one-year deal could pay off, and the Rays traded for a shortstop in Yunel Escobar who has plenty of talent hiding underneath his character issues.
And though I was skeptical of the timing of the deal, Friedman does deserve some props for getting star third baseman Evan Longoria to agree to a very team-friendly extension that will keep him in Tampa Bay for the rest of his career.
The Rays haven't grabbed that many headlines this winter, but they've done very, very well.
Is the Mike Napoli situation a mess? Yes.
Have the Red Sox overspent on a couple of free agents? Yes.
Are they the favorites to win the AL East? No.
But are they better than they were the last time we saw them in 2012?
By a mile.
Ben Cherington has been more active than any general manager in baseball this winter. He's added a new left fielder in Jonny Gomes, a new right fielder in Shane Victorino and a new shortstop in Stephen Drew. He's also shored up the club's rotation with Ryan Dempster, and he brought in a new closer when he acquired Joel Hanrahan from the Pittsburgh Pirates.
In addition, Cherington saved himself what could have been a major headache by re-signing star DH David Ortiz, and he's also made some great additions to a coaching staff that needed a complete overhaul. John Farrell has all the qualifications to be Boston's manager, and Juan Nieves was an inspired choice to be the team's new pitching coach.
The Napoli situation is the lone smudge on what has otherwise been a very good offseason, but the Red Sox aren't going to let it ruin everything. Jim Bowden of ESPN and SiriusXM has reported that the Red Sox are looking to cut the length of the deal from three years to one, and Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com says that they're considering Mike Morse as a fallback option.
Regardless of what transpires at first base, the Red Sox will head into the 2013 season as a drastically improved team. They may not make the playoffs, but Cherington has ensured that Boston's stint as a laughingstock will be a one-and-done thing.
Angels GM Jerry Dipoto hasn't owned this offseason quite like he owned the last one, when he signed both Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson to monster free-agent contracts.
But he's still had a very good offseason, if for no other reason than because he once again managed to sign the top slugger on the open market.
Though his outfield was crowded enough already, Dipoto shocked the baseball world by inking Josh Hamilton to a five-year contract worth $125 million. Hamilton may not be a star by the fifth year of his deal, but in the short-term, he's going to form a killer middle-of-the-order duo with Pujols.
Dipoto gave the Angels' pitching staff an even bigger facelift. After cutting loose Dan Haren and Ervin Santana, he traded for Tommy Hanson and Jason Vargas and signed Joe Blanton.
None of the three will contend for the AL Cy Young Award in 2013, but all three of them are going to be in the right place at the right time. Hanson and Vargas are fly-ball pitchers who should benefit from Angel Stadium of Anaheim's spacious dimensions and the club's excellent defensive outfield, and Blanton should benefit from these things as well.
The Angels bullpen also got a couple of upgrades. Ryan Madson is due for a bounce-back year after missing 2012 recovering from Tommy John surgery, and Mike Scioscia now has two very good lefty relievers to call on with Sean Burnett joining Scott Downs.
The Angels were a good team that fell short in 2012. Instead of trusting that everything would work out in 2013, Dipoto got aggressive and made the Angels even better.
The previous nine guys on this list aren't even close to Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos.
The Blue Jays were an afterthought at the start of the offseason after going 73-89 in 2012, but Anthopoulos has made them the toast of baseball by acquiring more talent than any other GM in baseball.
It all started with the big trade the Jays made with the Miami Marlins, which brought shortstop Jose Reyes, starting pitchers Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson and utility man Emilio Bonifacio to Toronto.
Soon after that, the Jays signed disgraced All-Star Melky Cabrera to a two-year contract. His deal carries some risk, but it will be a steal if Melky shows the same form he did in 2011 with the Royals.
If it turns out that Melky's testosterone-fueled performance in 2012 with the Giants was no fluke, his contract will be the bargain of the offseason.
Anthopoulos then pulled off a trade for 2012 NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey. As part of the deal, Dickey inked a two-year, $25 million extension. Assuming his knuckleball doesn't lose its form, he'll be an ace for a starting staff that didn't have one in 2012.
Toronto's starting rotation now features three very strong starters at the top, and its lineup should be much more versatile with Reyes and Bonifacio in front of Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion.
Picking the Blue Jays to win the AL East this year will be all the rage during the spring, and justifiably so. On paper, they're easily the most stacked team in the division.
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