MLB Offseason: Which Two Teams Increased Their Playoff Chances the Most?

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MLB Offseason: Which Two Teams Increased Their Playoff Chances the Most?
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There were a lot of teams this offseason that made major moves to bolster their playoff chances for the upcoming 2013 MLB season.

However, teams that missed out on October baseball last season stood out the most in terms of savvy offseason acquisitions. Here are the two teams that will improve their postseason fortunes because of their outstanding offseasons.  

 

1. Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays were coming off a fourth-place finish in the 2012 season; however, they sent shock waves around the baseball world with two blockbuster trades. 

General manager Alex Anthopoulos first acquired Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and Emilio Bonifacio from the Miami Marlins. Through that trade, the Blue Jays immediately addressed two of their biggest problems from this past season: their top of the lineup and starting pitching depth.

On Opening Day last season, the Blue Jays had shortstop Yunel Escobar and second baseman Kelly Johnson at the top of the order. Both of those guys were traded during the season. 

Reyes didn't have a great season offensively in 2012, but he still had an on-base percentage of .347 and stole 40 bases. He had the highest batting average in the National League in 2011 and has stolen at least 30 bases in seven of the last eight years. 

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Bonifacio's best season of his career was also two years ago, when he batted .296 and stole 40 bases. Last year, in just 64 games played, he still managed to steal 30 of them.

Both of these guys will be cause trouble on the bases, which will help the big bats of Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Brett Lawrie a lot. 

The Blue Jays were hit extremely hard by injuries on their starting pitching staff last year. By acquiring Johnson and Buehrle from the Marlins, they added two pitchers that have pitched very well throughout the duration of their career. While the Blue Jays, at that point, had those two, along with Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow, they needed an ace.

Thus, they acquired R.A. Dickey from the New York Mets, the reigning National League Cy Young winner. Dickey won 20 games for the lowly Mets last season, and he led the NL with 233.2 innings pitched. His 230 strikeouts were also a league-best.

The team's under-the-radar acquisition of Melky Cabrera was also a critical move. The risk and reward of this signing is obvious.

Cabrera was busted for performance-enhancing drugs last season and served a 50-game suspension. However, he was batting .346 before the suspension and could be a great No. 2 hitter in the Blue Jays lineup.   

 

2. Los Angeles Angels

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For the second consecutive offseason, Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto made arguably the biggest splash. Signing stud outfielder Josh Hamilton away from the Texas Rangers was a double whammy, just like when they snatched ace C.J. Wilson away from the Rangers last offseason.

Adding Hamilton to a lineup that already includes Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Mark Trumbo is scary. There's a lot of power and offensive firepower in that group, and the Angels offense will be elite this season because of those four.

However, the Angels also revamped their starting pitching and bullpen. They essentially traded Zack Greinke, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana for Jason Vargas, Tommy Hanson and Joe Blanton. While at first glance it looks like the Angels downgraded their rotation, Haren and Santana struggled mightily last season. 

Vargas, though, won 14 games for the last-place Seattle Mariners last season and finished with a 3.85 ERA.

Meanwhile, Hanson's ERA has increased in each of his four seasons of his major league career, and he's also pitched above 175 innings once. But he still has a lot of promise, and he has averaged close to a strikeout per inning in his career. The one thing he needs to fix is that he's prone to giving up the long ball, allowing 27 home runs last year.

The biggest problem the Angels addressed over the offseason was their bullpen. Ernesto Frieri, Scott Downs and Jordan Walden blew several games for the Angels down the stretch. They traded away Walden to the Braves, but they signed lefty Sean Burnett and righty Ryan Madson.

The fact that the Angels have two late-inning lefties and righties will definitely help out the bullpen dramatically. 

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