One Big Winter Temptation Each MLB Team Was Right to Resist
While it's true that not all teams are equal, whether it be from the perspective of finances or talent—both on the major league roster and in the minor leagues—every team has the ability to make a move.
It's an ongoing battle, and kind of a crap shoot, to determine if a player available via free agency or trade is a better fit, a better option, than what a team currently has.
The temptation of making a move can be overpowering and unrelenting.
In some cases, resistance is futile.
In others, resistance can save a team from making a major mistake, one that ultimately hinders the team's ultimate goal of contending for a World Series title.
Let's take a look at moves that thus far, general managers have been able to resist this winter.
Rick Weiner is a Featured Columnist covering all of MLB.
Temptation Resisted: Re-signing Michael Bourn
The easiest thing for the Braves and GM Frank Wren to do this winter would have been to re-sign center fielder Michael Bourn.
Atlanta knew what Bourn bought to the table, how he fit into the clubhouse and that he'd play outstanding defense and be the table setter atop the lineup.
But the Braves also knew that Bourn's asking price was exorbitant, and that a player as reliant on his speed as Bourn is tend to begin fading after they celebrate their 30th birthday.
That, coupled with the fact that Atlanta needed to address the reduction in power with Chipper Jones' retirement, made B.J. Upton a far better investment, both in 2013 and going forward.
Temptation Resisted: Keeping Ozzie Guillen
While Jeffrey Loria did his damnedest to alienate the few Marlins fans that the team had left by trading nearly anyone worth a damn on the roster, he did, somehow, manage to make a good move.
He didn't retain the services of manager Ozzie Guillen.
Guillen was under contract and, while he certainly would have been vocal about the lack of major league talent on the club, keeping him on board would have been the easy thing to do.
Instead, Loria realized that Guillen, who did his own damage to the Marlins fan base last season by expressing his thoughts about Cuban dictator Fidel Castro—something that infuriated the Cuban-American population in South Florida—had to go.
You can't help but feel badly for new skipper Mike Redmond, who inherits a club that consists of outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, starter Ricky Nolasco and not much else.
New York Mets
Temptation Resisted: Letting Jason Bay Play Out His Contract
It would have been easy for the cash-strapped Mets to keep Jason Bay around for another season.
Thankfully for Mets fans, the team didn't take the easy way out this time around, working out an agreement to end Bay's contract a year earlier than expected.
Fairly or unfairly, Bay was the poster boy of all that ailed the franchise. Keeping him would have been another slap in the face of a passionate fan base that has been slapped around by incompetent ownership for far too long.
Temptation Resisted: Trading Cliff Lee
The Phillies entered the offseason with plenty of holes to fill and one quick way to fill them—trade Cliff Lee.
Boston approached Philadelphia about a deal involving center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, according to CSN Philly's Jim Salisbury, but GM Ruben Amaro Jr. wisely declined.
With Roy Halladay battling injury and struggling in 2012, pitching to a 4.49 ERA and looking nothing like the perennial Cy Young award contender that we've come to know, Philadelphia simply couldn't afford to weaken the rotation by moving Lee.
Temptation Resisted: Signing a Big-Name Free Agent Center Fielder
One of the worst kept secrets in baseball heading into the offseason was that the Nationals needed a center fielder.
With no shortage of choices available via free agency, it was a foregone conclusion that either Michael Bourn, B.J. Upton, or perhaps even Josh Hamilton would wind up playing in our nation's capital.
Yet Washington chose a different—and far cheaper—path, acquiring Denard Span from the Minnesota Twins for pitching prospect Alex Meyer.
Sure, Meyer could turn out to be a front-of-the-rotation starter, but on the pitching-rich Nationals, there isn't an immediate opening in the starting rotation.
An excellent leadoff hitter who plays fantastic defense, Span is exactly what the Nationals needed. Span is under contract through the 2014 season, due $11.25 million. The Nationals hold a $9 million option on him for the 2015 season, which would bring his total deal to three years, $20.25 million.
Not a steep price to pay for someone in the prime of his career.
Temptation Resisted: Not Trading Prospects
After a surprising playoff run in 2012, many people, myself included, expected the Orioles to make a big splash in the Hot Stove League heading into 2013.
As the big-name free agent starting pitchers continued to come off the market, it looked as if any chance for the Orioles to improve would come via trade.
While top pitching prospect Dylan Bundy and shortstop/third baseman Manny Machado were off-limits, the same couldn't be said about Jonathan Schoop, who at this point looks like the team's second baseman of the future.
Instead of packaging Schoop with one of the team's young arms, such as Jake Arrieta, to acquire an established major leaguer to fill the hole at first base or bolster the rotation, the Orioles have stood their ground.
Boston Red Sox
Temptation Resisted: Signing a High-Priced Free Agent
After GM Ben Cherington blew the team up towards the end of the 2012 season, there was a common theme emanating from Boston's front office: "discipline."
Translation: the days of handing out $100 million contracts to free agents are a thing of the past.
Whether you agree with the moves that Cherington has made this winter, he's been disciplined in his spending.
For less than it cost the Atlanta Braves to sign B.J. Upton ($75 million), the Red Sox landed a starting outfielder in Shane Victorino ($39 million), a starting pitcher in Ryan Dempster ($25 million) and a first baseman in Mike Napoli ($5 million).
New York Yankees
Temptation Resisted: Signing a High-Priced Free Agent
A typical Yankees offseason following a disappointing showing in the playoffs would include at least one high-profile free agent signing.
At the very least, there would have been strong rumors about the Yankees making a run for Josh Hamilton, B.J. Upton or Zack Greinke.
It's been the team's Modus operandi for years.
Yet there wasn't as much as a tepid rumor involving the biggest free agents and the Yankees this winter.
We saw restraint come out of the Bronx, as the front office is working under owner Hal Steinbrenner's edict that the team get under the $189 million luxury tax threshold in 2014.
While the Yankees have been able to keep their team largely intact under the once foreign concept of fiscal responsibility, the loss of starting catcher Russell Martin is still a move that makes any Yankees fan scratch their heads.
Tampa Bay Rays
Temptation Resisted: Trading David Price, Jeremy Hellickson or Matt Moore
Entering the offseason, it was a foregone conclusion that Tampa Bay was going to move one of its starting pitchers.
Seemingly everyone on the staff—from über prospect Matt Moore to the American League Cy Young Award winner, David Price—was the subject of trade speculation at one point or another.
Finally, the Rays made the move that everyone expected them to make: trading James Shields.
While it's fair to speculate how great the return for Price, Moore, or Jeremy Hellickson would have been considering the haul the Rays got for Shields, Tampa Bay moved the one arm it could most afford to lose going forward.
Toronto Blue Jays
Temptation Resisted: Holding Onto Prospects
For the past few years, Toronto has had the deepest farm system in baseball—a farm system that GM Alex Anthopoulos was hesitant to move pieces from.
Until this winter.
With two moves, Anthopoulos changed everything.
A combination of prospects and inexpensive major leaguers bought back three-fifths of the Blue Jays starting rotation (Mark Buehrle, R.A. Dickey and Josh Johnson) along with the team's middle infield (Emilio Bonifacio and Jose Reyes), among others.
Toronto has put the rest of baseball on notice—the Blue Jays are looking to win it all in 2013.
Temptation Resisted: Acquiring a Big Name
While Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have preached patience during the rebuilding of the Chicago Cubs, it hasn't stopped the duo from checking in on some of the bigger names in the game.
It was only last week that ESPN Chicago's Bruce Levine reported that the Cubs and Diamondbacks had discussed a deal that would have bought Justin Upton to Wrigley Field, but that the Cubs ended the conversation after Arizona asked for Starlin Castro in return.
Sure, adding Upton's bat—or that of a comparable player—to the lineup in Chicago would be a welcome addition, but the Cubs aren't yet in a position where one player is going to push them over the fence from pretender to contender.
The team's resources are better used to plug other holes while continuing to build towards fielding a contender in another few years.
Temptation Resisted: Playing It Safe
Cincinnati easily could have stayed the course, entering 2013 with the same club that won the NL Central in 2012.
But there's no fun in that.
Instead, the Reds went out and added a corner outfielder, Shin-Soo Choo, to play center field, while electrifying closer Aroldis Chapman will become part of the starting rotation.
There's no question about Choo's ability to help the Reds at the plate. His career .381 OBP will be an incredible asset for a lineup that sorely needed someone to consistently get on base ahead of the big boppers in the lineup.
But Choo has played only 10 games in center field since breaking into the big leagues with the Mariners back in 2005. Now the Reds are asking him to play the position on a daily basis.
Chapman, who routinely hit triple digits on the radar gun in 2012, will be stretched out and used every fifth day in 2013.
While he has the talent to succeed as a starting pitcher, there's no way to get away from the fact that his promotion to the rotation makes the Reds bullpen significantly weaker, even with former All-Star Jonathan Broxton taking over in the ninth inning.
Temptation Resisted: Adding a Veteran Starter
With no shortage of second-tier starting pitchers available on the free agent market this winter, the Brewers very easily could have added one or two in an effort to bolster a rotation without Zack Greinke.
Instead, the Brewers watched as Brandon McCarthy, Ryan Dempster and the like signed contracts elsewhere, ensuring that both 28-year-old Mike Fiers and 27-year-old Mark Rogers will have spots in the starting rotation for 2013.
Both showed promise in 2012, and with a full year of playing time ahead of them, there's no reason to think they couldn't take the next step and become solid, middle-of-the-rotation arms.
While the Brewers aren't your typical small-market club (they'll make a $100 million offer to a player if they feel comfortable doing so), developing from within, especially when it comes to the starting rotation, is imperative to the team's long-term success.
Temptation Resisted: Unwise Spending
It might sound odd considering that Pittsburgh is a small-market team, but the team has managed to improve the roster without having to cut corners elsewhere.
While the Pirates could have gone out and signed someone like Ryan Dempster, who wound up signing a two-year, $26.5 million deal with the Boston Red Sox.
Instead, the Pirates were able to spend slightly more than that and not only address the starting rotation, adding Francisco Liriano (two years, $14 million), but greatly improve the catching situation as well, signing Russell Martin to a two-year, $17 million deal.
With a limited budget, the Pirates needed to spend wisely—and they did.
St. Louis Cardinals
Temptation Resisted: Overpaying For Talent
The Cardinals could have engaged Kyle Lohse in negotiations once he hit the open market, but the team has stood its ground.
Nobody would have blamed St. Louis for trying to re-sign Lohse, who went 30-11 with a 3.11 ERA in St. Louis over the past two seasons, especially given the shaky endings to the 2012 season by Jaime Garcia and Lance Lynn, both of whom will be counted on in the rotation this season.
Since declining the Redbirds' qualifying offer back in November, the two sides, from what we can tell, haven't spoken at all.
Lohse, who is represented by Scott Boras, has yet to find the lucrative, multi-year deal that he was seeking.
At this point, it's fair to say that he's not going to get it, while the Cardinals, with prospects like Joe Kelly and Shelby Miller, have the depth to handle continued struggles by Lynn or Garcia, the latter of which put off shoulder surgery and has tried to rehab his balky joint throughout the winter.
Chicago White Sox
Temptation Resisted: Trading a Starting Outfielder
Earlier this offseason, it was reported by the Chicago Tribune's Mark Gonzales that the White Sox had discussed trades involving Alejandro De Aza and Dayan Viciedo with the Cincinnati Reds and Seattle Mariners, respectively.
While neither player is a superstar by any stretch of the imagination, both are quality players that won't break the budget of any team, De Aza especially.
But would the return for either player have put the White Sox any closer to getting over the hump in the AL Central, a division they controlled up until the last few weeks of the 2012 regular season?
Considering that prospects were the expected return for Viciedo, the answer is a resounding no.
Temptation Resisted: Selling the Farm
Cleveland serves as the latest example of a team learning from its past mistakes.
After giving up multiple prospects to acquire Ubaldo Jimenez at the 2011 trade deadline, the Indians have watched Jimenez implode, hindering the team's chances for success far more than he's helped things.
When you pitch to a 5.32 ERA and 1.57 WHIP over 42 starts, there's nothing positive to take from it.
Rather than deal promising youngsters for another mediocre, overrated veteran, the Tribe went out and used a veteran, Shin-Soo Choo, to land someone who could be the team's future ace in Trevor Bauer.
They solved their lack of production from the corner outfield spots by inking Nick Swisher to a deal, and kept the farm system largely intact.
Temptation Resisted: Signing a Veteran Closer
By the time the 2012 season came to an end, there was no doubt in anyone's mind that the Jose Valverde era in Detroit was over.
With a handful of veteran closers on the open market—Jonathan Broxton, Ryan Madson, J.J. Putz, Joakim Soria and Rafael Soriano—it would have been easy for the Tigers to pick the one they liked and sign them to a deal.
Instead, the Tigers looked within for the answer it sought, and barring any unforeseen circumstances, hard-throwing prospect Bruce Rondon will take the ball in the ninth inning from now on.
It's a risky pick to be sure, as Rondon has zero major league experience.
But you have to give the Tigers credit for standing their ground.
Kansas City Royals
Temptation Resisted: Trying To Make Mediocrity Look Awesome
With all due respect to Royals starter Bruce Chen, he's a back-of-the-rotation arm—not a game-changer.
Yet it's pitchers like Chen—or Jeff Francis—that the Royals have landed in free agency over the past few years, trying to pass them off as upgrades to a miserable starting rotation.
Finally, this winter, the Royals went out and actually addressed the problem, signing Ervin Santana as a free agent and landing both James Shields and Wade Davis via trade.
With a rotation that features Chen as the team's fifth starter, things are starting to look up in Kansas City.
Temptation Resisted: Trading Justin Morneau
Here's the thing: the Twins should trade Justin Morneau.
But not yet.
Minnesota's lineup, with Morneau, Joe Mauer and Josh Willingham sitting in the middle, has the potential to put runs on the board.
While the pitching staff is improved, with the addition of Vance Worley, the Twins are likely still a few pieces away from returning to contention in the AL Central.
But nobody expected the Orioles or A's to be contenders in 2012, and we saw both clubs make improbable runs to the playoffs.
Anything can happen, and the Twins give themselves a better chance to win games with Morneau in the lineup than without him.
Should the team struggle and find itself clearly out of playoff contention, there will be no shortage of suitors interested in adding Morneau's bat for the stretch run, potentially increasing what the Twins could get in return.
Temptation Resisted: Not Trading Justin Upton
Yes, Justin Upton is still a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
But that's his choice—not the team's.
As has been widely discussed, the Diamondbacks had a deal in place that would have sent Upton to Seattle for a four-player package, highlighted by pitching prospect Taijuan Walker.
Upton, with Seattle being one of the four teams on his limited no-trade list, shot the deal down.
But after years of speculation, we finally know that Upton can be pried from GM Kevin Towers' hands.
It's clear that Upton has worn out his welcome in Arizona, and at this point, it's only a question of when, not if, the former All-Star is going to be dealt.
Temptation Resisted: Sticking With the Ill-Fated Four-Man Rotation
Towards the end of the 2012 season, Troy Renck of the Denver Post reported that the pitching-starved Colorado Rockies were going to stick with the bizarre four-man rotation the team had tried out:
Rather than four starters and three "piggyback" relievers, the Rockies ideally would like to employ an octopus: eight arms.
There would be four starters on a 75-pitch count and four "hybrid" pitchers, trained starters limited to 50 pitches. Two pitchers, in essence, would be asked to perform the previous job of a starter — get the team as deep as possible into a game.
So, hypothetically, the Rockies next year could have a starting staff of Jorge De La Rosa, Jhoulys Chacin, Jeff Francis and Drew Pomeranz, followed by the likes of Tyler Chatwood, Alex White, Juan Nicasio and Christian Friedrich as the piggyback pitchers. The parts would be relatively interchangeable given the pitch counts involved.
"We have to trust it," said Rockies owner Dick Monfort, who was on board with the four-man rotation long before the team implemented it.
Thankfully, MLB.com's Thomas Harding notes that the idea has since been scrapped:
After experimenting with a four-man rotation last year, the Rockies are going back to the traditional five-man rotation, but they are staying with the idea of three relievers who pitch on a rotation and can be asked to face as few as one batter or pitch multiple innings.
When your starting rotation goes 29-68 with a 5.81 ERA and finds opponents hitting .304 against them, it's understandable that a team would resort to drastic measures.
But the four-man rotation isn't the answer—adding more talent is.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Temptation Resisted: Buying Every Free Agent Available
With new ownership that isn't afraid to spend, the Dodgers very easily could have gone on a shopping spree this winter, making moves simply because they could.
Signing Zack Greinke was an excellent decision. The team needed another front-of-the-rotation arm to pair with Clayton Kershaw (and battle the Giants with), and they got that in Greinke, the best pitcher available via free agency.
We all kind of expected Greinke to eventually land with the Dodgers anyway.
But there were rumors of Los Angeles making a run at either Michael Bourn or Nick Swisher to play right field, a situation that would have found the Dodgers trading incumbent Andre Ethier.
Such moves made little sense.
San Diego Padres
Temptation Resisted: Trading Chase Headley
Trading Chase Headley would be about as arduous a task for Padres GM Josh Byrnes as walking into the bathroom and brushing our teeth is for you or me.
It's incredibly easy to do.
San Diego would receive a huge return in exchange for the All-Star third baseman, under team control through the 2014 season.
Byrnes could land a huge package for him, one that would bring multiple pieces for the Padres to use in their efforts to rebuild and rejoin the ranks of contenders.
But thus far, he's been able to resist the urge.
San Francisco Giants
Temptation Resisted: Making Major Changes
After one of the most remarkable postseasons in history, one that culminated with the Giants hoisting their second World Series trophy in three years, San Francisco saw a number of key pieces hit free agency.
With options to replace some of their own, the Giants decided to follow the old adage "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," re-signing key pieces in reliever Jeremy Affeldt, second baseman Marco Scutaro and center fielder Angel Pagan.
Did San Francisco overpay to keep them? Maybe.
But you cant argue with the results the team's had with them in the fold.
Temptation Resisted: Rushing Top Prospects
The Astros aren't kidding themselves—the team is still years away from contending, especially now that it finds itself in the American League.
While nobody expected the team to make major moves this winter, it would have been easy for the team to take one of their prospects in the system, such as first baseman Jonathan Singleton, and bring him to the big leagues in the hope of immediate success.
But Singleton, like many of the Astros top prospects, simply isn't ready for prime time yet.
Patience is a painful lesson to teach—especially when the results at the major league level are as disappointing as they have been in Houston.
But it's the best thing for the team's long-term success.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Temptation Resisted: Standing Pat
After signing C.J. Wilson and Albert Pujols to lucrative multi-year deals before the 2012 season, big things were expected from the Angels.
Pujols struggled early, Wilson got injured late, and the team failed to live up to expectations.
Nobody would have blamed owner Arte Moreno for not spending big again this winter—it's not like he got a great return on his investment last season.
But instead of standing pat while teams around them continued to improve, the Angels not only got stronger—but weakened one of its biggest rivals—when it signed slugger Josh Hamilton.
Questions remain about the rotation, but the Angels lineup has a chance to put up some incredible numbers in 2013.
Temptation Resisted: Moving Unproven for Proven
Oakland GM Billy Beane is not unlike his counterparts, constantly tweaking things here and there in an effort to improve the club without making major changes.
After the team's surprising playoff run in 2012, it would have been easy for Beane to move some of the complimentary pieces on the team for a more established player.
A perfect example of that would be 1B/OF Brandon Moss, who, according to the Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo, was a target of the Red Sox this winter. Beane had no interest in moving Moss, who has gone from journeyman to a key piece of a platoon with Chris Carter at first base.
Temptation Resisted: Trading Felix Hernandez
Until the day he retires—and maybe even not then—trade speculation will exist when it comes to Felix Hernandez.
Seattle has never wavered from its stance that King Felix is untouchable, while his highness has never said anything other than that he wants to play in Seattle.
But with the team in desperate need of offense, the package of players that Seattle would receive in exchange for Hernandez cannot be discounted.
It would be tremendous. The kind of package that changes a team's fortunes overnight.
But there's only one Felix Hernandez, and his value to the team is immeasurable—and it reaches far beyond the confines of Safeco Field.
Temptation Resisted: Trading Elvis Andrus
GM Jon Daniels knows what it will take to land Arizona's Justin Upton in a trade—shortstop Elvis Andrus.
With über-prospect Jurickson Profar ready to take over for Andrus, it would seem to be a win-win situation for the Rangers.
Upton would help fill the power gap left by Josh Hamilton's departure, and Profar has a chance to be a more dynamic player than Andrus, who is an All-Star shortstop.
Yet Daniels has steadfastly refused to move Andrus (or Profar), intent on figuring out a way to get both on the field at the same time.