Major League Baseball: The Top 10 Offseason Moves (updated)

Orly Rios Jr.Analyst IIFebruary 11, 2013

Major League Baseball: The Top 10 Offseason Moves (updated)

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    While the rest of the baseball world buzzed over the signings of Yu Darvish, Yoenis Cespedes and Albert Pujols last year, it was the St. Louis Cardinals who, in the end, were the real winners of the 2012 offseason.

    A two-year deal worth $26 million brought outfielder Carlos Beltran over from the West Coast last year to the Midwest and the Pujols-less defending World Champion St. Louis Cardinals.

    It was an under-the-radar type of signing, lost on the back pages of the sports section. By season's end, the defending champion Cardinals looked like geniuses for pulling off a coup d'état in the baseball world.

    Beltran's bat helped ease the loss of Pujols on offense as he hit 32 homers and drove in 97 runs. In one 10-game span in May, Beltran smashed seven home runs and drove in 20 RBI.

    In the postseason, Beltran batted a whopping .357 (15 hits in 42 at-bats) as the Cardinals advanced from the second wild-card spot all the way to the NL Championship Series, before falling in seven games.

    It was the kind of signing most GM's in baseball dream of.

    This offseason year brought no shortage of moves for GM's hoping to landing a Carlos Beltran type of deal. Here are the Top 10 moves of the 2013 offseason in Major League Baseball.

No. 10: Angels Trade for Pitchers Tommy Hanson and Jason Vargas

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    Last season, the Los Angeles Angels' third and fourth pitchers in the rotation, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana combined for 21 wins, 26 losses, 275 strikeouts and an ERA of 4.75.

    In the offseason, the Angels made a pair of moves to help out the middle of their rotation. Enter Tommy Hanson and Jason Vargas, who last season combined for 27 wins, 21 losses and an ERA of 4.17.

    The Angels traded for Braves pitcher Tommy Hanson, who was once regarded as the No. 1 prospect in the Atlanta farm system. In four seasons with the Braves, Hanson has racked up 45 wins and an ERA of 3.61.

    Despite his fastball having gotten slower and his ERA having jumped every season, Hanson is still regarded as a solid pitcher. Entering the month of August, Hanson was 12-5, despite a 4.29 ERA. He finished the final two months with just a single win and five losses. 

    Jason Vargas finished last season with 14 wins, 11 losses and an ERA of 3.85. Those 14 wins were on a Seattle Mariners ballclub that finished dead last in batting average and was second worst in MLB in hits.

    Now Vargas goes to one of the best offenses in baseball.

    With both Hanson and Vargas, the Angels rotation appears set: Jered Weaver, CJ Wilson, Tommy Hanson and Jason Vargas, a solid rotation rounded out by Joe Blanton, who spent last season with the Dodgers and Phillies. 

No. 9: Boston Red Sox Go "Moneyball," Trade for Joel Hanrahan

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    In the middle of their worst season since 1965, the Boston Red Sox unloaded their biggest contracts to the Los Angeles Dodgers, trading away Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford, ridding themselves along the way of over $260 million.

    No more blockbuster moves, just solid baseball signings became their offseason mantra. Exit monster contracts, enter a more "moneyball" approach.

    First baseman Mike Napoli finally agreed to a one-year deal worth $5 million. Pitcher Ryan Dempster signed for $26.5 million over two years.

    Former Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Shane Victorino signed a three-year deal for $39 million while former Oakland A's DH/outfielder Jonny Gomes got a two-year deal worth $10 million. 

    Shortstop Stephen Drew signed for one season at $9.5 million and catcher David Ross got a two-year deal for $6.2 million.

    Still needing to shore up their closer spot, Boston traded with the Pittsburgh Pirates for their closer, Joel Hanrahan. Over the last two seasons as a closer, Hanrahan has 76 total saves and an ERA of just 2.28.  

    Last season, Boston's closers combined for 22 blown saves, while saving just 35 total games.

    The small-market approach could work for Boston now that expectations have been humbled from last year's 69-win season.

No. 8: Texas Signs Oldies but Goodies in AJ Pierzynski and Lance Berkman

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    What an offseason for the Texas Rangers.

    They failed to land any of the big offseason prizes. They were unable to trade for Justin Upton, they finished second in the Zack Greinke sweepstakes, and failed to re-sign the face of their franchise, Josh Hamilton.

    In a sport that shows no mercy, the Rangers quickly went about their ways and chose to make two signings that could pay off significantly this season.

    Exit 31-year-old Mike Napoli, who last season made $9.4 million to catch and occasionally play first base for the Texas Rangers and enter 35-year-old AJ Pierzynski, who made $6 million with the Chicago White Sox

    In 108 games last season, Napoli hit just .227 with 24 home runs and 56 RBI. In 135 games, Pierzynski hit .278 with a career high 27 home runs and 77 RBI.

    Although AJ may not put up the same type of numbers as last season, he remains as one of the best overall catchers in the league today. His lefty bat brings some balance to an right-handed dominated offense.

    Lance Berkman's career appeared to come to a sad end last season, but Texas chose to bring back a native son, signing Berkman to a 1-year deal worth $10 million.  This is the kind of under-the-radar move that could greatly benefit Texas.

    Moving to the American League, Berkman no longer has to play the field, reducing the wear and tear on his knees, which shut him down during the postseason. Berkman is just one season removed from a campaign with 31 homers, 94 RBI and .a 301 average.

    Berkman should wind up in the middle third of the Rangers lineup, possibly hitting in front of Nelson Cruz.

No. 7: Tampa Bay Acquires Outfielder Wil Myers from Kansas City

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    You got to hand it to the Tampa Bay Rays. They have one of the best farm systems in all of Major League Baseball.

    They are stacked with talent and loaded with pitchers. Their rotation was so deep, they were able to part with a pair of starting pitchers in James Shields and Wade Davis (who pitched in relief last season) to the Kansas City Royals for three prospects, most notably their top prospect: Wil Myers.

    Myers was listed by as the No. 3 overall prospect in the minor leagues. In December, Sports Illustrated ran a piece comparing Myers to former two-time National League MVP Dale Murphy.

    Last season, Myers hit a combined .314 with 37 home runs and 109 RBI while splitting time between Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha. In four seasons of minor league ball, Myers has 64 home runs, 259 RBI and a batting average of .303.

    Myers is considered to be one of the best hitters in the minors and could make his debut sometime in 2013.

    To land a highly regarded 22-year-old prospect like Myers for Tampa's No. 3 pitcher was a complete robbery to the first degree.

No. 6: Cleveland Indians Trade for Bauer, Add Swisher and Bourn, Hire Francona

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    The Cleveland Indians finished the 2012 season with the second-worst record in the American League, just two games better than their division rival Minnesota.

    This year, Cleveland may be the most improved team in the AL Central.

    They hired two-time World Series champion head coach Terry "Tito" Francona to guide a franchise that hasn't won a World Series in over 64 years. Sound familiar?

    It should, because Tito did just that in Boston when he led the Red Sox to their first title in 86 years, then again a few years later.

    In Cleveland, the offseason moves have already taken shape.

    Michael Bourn enters as the new starting center fielder and leadoff hitter after agreeing to a four-year deal worth $48 million. In six full seasons as a starter, Bourn has 257 stolen bases.  Nick Swisher brings a little more pop to the lineup than Shin-Soo Choo but more importantly, he brings charisma and playoff experience. Drew Stubbs, brought in as part of a three-team deal adds much needed depth to the outfield. Mark Reynolds will command first base while Mike Aviles provides added depth as a utility man.

    Trevor Bauer was ranked as the No. 5 overall prospect in the minors last year and gets a fresh start in Cleveland, where he has a chance to develop behind a solid pitching core. Brett Myers could lock down the No. 3 spot in the rotation and Matt Albers and Bryan Shaw add depth to a solid bullpen.

    Cleveland was easily the most improved team in the AL Central this offseason. Good solid signings and youth could push Cleveland, not Kansas City as the team to be reckoned with in the near future in the division.

No. 5: Washington Nationals Trade for Denard Span

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    The Washington Nationals did not lure away outfielder Jayson Werth from the Philadelphia Phillies to the tune of seven years for $126 million to be the leadoff hitter last season.  No, they paid for Werth to protect Ryan Zimmerman in the lineup by hitting second.

    In August, Werth hit over .300 in 38 games as the leadoff hitter. Despite the success for Werth, the Nationals needed a leadoff hitter, and they got just that in Denard Span.  

    The move to get Span allowed the Nationals to make several inter-roster moves themselves. Span will play center field which, in turn, keeps Bryce Harper in left field where opposing teams were unwilling to run on Harper last season due to his rocket arm and accuracy.

    In the lineup, Span will bat leadoff, which allows for Werth to move to the No. 2 spot and do what he was brought in to do; protect Ryan Zimmerman.

    It was a great move by the Nationals, a move that solidified their only weakness in their batting lineup. The move is reminiscent of what the Atlanta Braves did when they traded for Michael Bourn.

No. 4: Dodgers Sign Zack Greinke

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    Over the course of the last two seasons, the Los Angeles Dodgers have overthrown the New York Yankees as the biggest spenders in baseball.

    Their Opening Day payroll increased from $95 million in 2012 to $213 million in 2013.

    At six years for $147 million, Zack Greinke was the gem of the free-agent pitchers. Since 2008, Greinke has 70 wins, 31 of them the last two seasons alone.

    With an offense as loaded as the Dodgers are, Greinke could easily put up 18 wins a year. Along with Clayton Kershaw, Josh Beckett and Chad Billingsley, the Dodgers could very well have the best pitching rotation in the NL West.  

No. 3: Atlanta Braves Land the Upton Brothers, Justin and BJ

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    For four days in January, the talk of the sports world was how two brothers were set to do battle against each other for the championship in professional football.

    On the fifth day, two brothers became the talk of the baseball world as Justin Upton joined his older brother BJ Upton to patrol the outfield for the Atlanta Braves.

    It was the feel-good story to the impending heartbreak story of the Super Bowl.

    The Upton brothers, who are three years apart in age, join a young Atlanta Braves squad that is loaded with talent and promise.

    Once catcher Brian McCann comes back, eight of the nine regular starters in the lineup will be under the age of 30 (Dan Uggla is senior at the age of 33). Their outfield includes the Uptons and The J-Hey kid, Jason Heyward, who last year set career highs in hits, home runs, RBI and stolen bases.

    The addition of the Upton brothers give the Atlanta Braves one of the most balanced batting lineups in baseball and more importantly, they may finally have enough offensive muscle to win the NL East for the first time since 2005. 

No. 2: Toronto Blue Jays Betting the House

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    Eighteen years is 18 too many for the Toronto Blue Jays.

    The last time the Jays were in the playoffs, third baseman Brett Lawrie was just four years old. After consistently finishing in the middle of the AL East, the Toronto Blue Jays had enough, and this offseason, they pulled a Miami Marlins.

    Toronto landed six starters, two reserves and a relief pitcher in the offseason. Emilio Bonifacio and Jose Reyes complete a revamped middle infield while last year's All-Star MVP, Melky Cabrera, will patrol left field.

    R.A. Dickey, fresh off a 20-win season, brings his knuckleball to the Great White North along with former Miami Marlins starters Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle.

    The offseason moves, along with a stable of young talent, gives Toronto the most talented lineup in the AL East and perhaps, the best rotation as well.

    They should be competitive for the division and possibly the pennant.   

No. 1: Angels Land Josh Hamilton

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    The 1927 New York Yankees were known as "Murderer's Row" because of the first six batters in their lineup. Four went on to the baseball Hall of Fame, including Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth.

    The 2013 Los Angeles Angels may be a batter short of that 1927 Yankees lineup, yet their lineup remains formidable.

    Their first five hitters include AL Rookie of the Year Mike Trout, Eric Aybar, who hit .290 last year, Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton and Mark Trumbo.

    When you compile last year's total stats, the top five batters in the Angels lineup combined for a batting average of .291, 811 hits, 143 home runs, and 456 RBI.

    Pujols, Hamilton and Trumbo all could be hitting three through five in the lineup; that alone amounts to 105 homers and 328 RBI, easily one of the best 1-2-3 punches in the entire majors.

    It's the kind of lineup that was usually reserved for a team like the New York Yankees, but not any more. The Angels are serious about winning, and what better way than to land the biggest fish in the offseason two years in a row?