Free-Agent Moves Each MLB Team Should Have Made This Offseason
General managers have to determine if the risk is worth the reward when it comes free agency, taking into consideration that not every move is going to work out.
It’s tough to predict the future no matter what type of statistics or intelligence a Major League Baseball front office has on a certain player. Even if a player has been good the last five years, there’s no guarantee that it’ll continue. There’s also always the chance that player breaks out after signing with a new team.
Although the season is still young, let’s take a look at the moves that teams should or should not have made during free agency. Did a team not prepare itself enough? Did a team sign a player that just hasn’t played well yet?
It’s time to find out.
*All statistics in this article were obtained via Baseball-Reference unless otherwise noted. All contract information was obtained via Cot’s Contracts. All injury information was obtained via Baseball Prospectus.
Move in Retrospect: Sign Robert Andino
The Baltimore Orioles went into the offseason with the expectation that Brian Roberts was going to be healthy enough to play the entire season. He had not played a full year since 2009 due to injury, but finally appeared ready to go.
That being said, Baltimore felt comfortable trading away Robert Andino, who had played second base in Roberts’ absence. Andino, who was dealt to the Seattle Mariners, re-signed with Seattle over the winter after filing for free agency.
Baltimore could have tried to sign Andino with the mindset that Roberts might get injured again. That would’ve been the smart move since Roberts is already on the disabled list and the Orioles have been forced to use a platoon at second base.
Boston Red Sox
Move in Retrospect: Don’t Sign Stephen Drew
Jose Iglesias had yet to give the Boston Red Sox a reason to believe that he was ready to take on the everyday shortstop duties. Knowing this, Boston went into the offseason seeking a new shortstop to give Iglesias a little more time.
The Red Sox decided to sign Stephen Drew to a one-year deal worth $9.5 million. What ensued was not what Boston had in mind. Iglesias started to play well, and Drew sustained a concussion that put him on the disabled list to start the season.
While Drew was out, Iglesias really shined. In six games, he went 9-for-20 with a pair of doubles. Once Drew was healthy again, though, Boston sent Iglesias back to the minors. Since the return, Drew has looked non-existent at the plate.
New York Yankees
Move in Retrospect: Sign a Shortstop
The New York Yankees knew over the offseason that Derek Jeter was going to need some time to rest his broken ankle. New York had to have known that there was a chance he wouldn’t be ready for Opening Day.
The Yankees still didn’t sign anyone just in case something went wrong with Jeter’s rehab, already having Jayson Nix and Eduardo Nunez on the roster. But Jeter has since had a setback and now won’t be playing anytime soon. He’ll likely be out until after the All-Star break.
There wouldn’t be any issue here if Nix and Nunez were able to pick up the slack, but through the first chunk of the season, they haven’t. Yankees shortstops currently rank No. 28 in baseball in terms of WAR, according to FanGraphs.
Tampa Bay Rays
Move in Retrospect: Sign Mark Reynolds
The Tampa Bay Rays don’t have many long-ball hitters in their lineup. Sure, Evan Longoria, Ben Zobrist and Matt Joyce should each hit their fair amount of home runs, let’s say around 20 apiece, but outside of that trio, it’s a bunch of weak hitters.
Tampa Bay signed Luke Scott to be the designated hitter, who would’ve brought a decent amount of power with him, but he’s been hurt, and Kelly Johnson has been filling in. Even with Scott, Tampa Bay still didn’t have the power it needed.
Mark Reynolds would’ve been a smart addition, but he ended up signing with the Cleveland Indians. Reynolds could play first base instead of James Loney or DH instead of Johnson, and probably Scott too. He’s hit at least 23 home runs in each of the last five seasons.
Toronto Blue Jays
Move in Retrospect: Don’t Sign Maicer Izturis
The Toronto Blue Jays made a lot of moves over the offseason, but many of the new players on the team were acquired via trade, not free agency. One free agent that caught Toronto’s eye, however, was Maicer Izturis.
Izturis had been an all-right second baseman over the course of his career, but giving him a three-year deal was definitely questionable. He’d never been outstanding enough to earn a three-year contract, but the Blue Jays needed a second baseman and felt that he’d do a sufficient job.
Thus far, however, Izturis has been a bit of a disappointment. Through 15 games, he’s hitting .170/.200/.302 while playing poorly defensively. Toronto hasn’t hit well collectively, but Izturis seems to be the sore thumb of the bunch.
Chicago White Sox
Move in Retrospect: Re-Sign A.J. Pierzynski
The Chicago White Sox felt that it was time to give Tyler Flowers the reins behind home plate, so the team decided to let A.J. Pierzynski walk in free agency. Flowers, though, hadn’t done much in his major league career to earn the job.
Pierzynski went on to sign with the Texas Rangers, while Chicago hoped for the best with Flowers. Through 15 games, Flowers is hitting .229/.315/.479 with three home runs and seven RBI. Chicago catchers are ranked No. 23 in baseball in terms of WAR, according to FanGraphs.
Pierzynski, on the other hand, has gotten off to a good start with his new team. In 15 games, he’s hitting .302/.321/.509 with a trio of long balls and eight RBI. At this point, it would’ve made more sense to bring him back for at least one more year.
Move in Retrospect: Sign Frontline Starter
The Cleveland Indians have had their issues with starting pitching in recent memory, mainly because Ubaldo Jimenez and Justin Masterson haven’t thrown the ball well at all. But Cleveland didn’t do anything over the winter for insurance.
Instead, the Indians hoped that their top two starters would rebound. So far, Masterson has looked very good while Jimenez continues to struggle. Cleveland starters are only 4-10 on the young season and have a 5.84 ERA, the highest in baseball.
There were plenty of top pitchers on the free-agent market this winter, and Cleveland definitely had the money to sign one of them. Giving up draft picks certainly wouldn’t have been an issue either. Now, they’re still stuck in neutral.
Move in Retrospect: Sign Starting Catcher
It doesn’t appear that Alex Avila is going to be putting together another season like he did back in 2010, when he hit .295/.389/.506 with 19 home runs and 82 RBI. But the Detroit Tigers didn’t make any free-agent moves to boost the position.
As of now, Tigers catchers are hurting the team more than they’re helping. According to FanGraphs, Detroit catchers have the second-worst WAR in baseball, and it’s actually negative, meaning a replacement player would be better off playing.
There wasn’t a ton of catching talent on the market this past offseason, but Detroit still could’ve done something just in case Avila continued to struggle. Signing someone like Russell Martin or Mike Napoli would’ve been beneficial.
Kansas City Royals
Move in Retrospect: Sign Starting Third Baseman
It’s apparently going to take a while for the Kansas City Royals to finally give up on Mike Moustakas at third base. He had a decent 2012, but that was only because he played so well defensively. He hits home runs, but makes contact rarely.
This season, though 15 games, Moustakas is hitting .158/.226/.193 and has yet to hit a home run. He’s also scored twice and has driven in just one run. The Royals have gotten horrible production out of their third basemen, the third-worst, according to FanGraphs.
Kansas City should’ve prepared itself for a slow start from the incumbent by signing a free agent that could play third base and other positions as well. Kevin Youkilis would’ve been an interesting option since he can play first base too, despite Eric Hosmer already being there.
Move in Retrospect: Sign Starting Outfielder
Over the winter, the Minnesota Twins just got rid of their outfield talent. They traded Ben Revere and Denard Span away in order to get some younger players in return and some fresh legs in the lineup.
As prospect Aaron Hicks surged in spring training, it came as no surprise when he made the Opening Day roster. The decision to do so now, however, doesn’t look so good. Through 14 games, Hicks is hitting .059/.200/.059 and is striking out 35 percent of the time.
In order to have avoided a situation like this one, Minnesota either shouldn’t have traded one of either Revere or Span, or should’ve signed someone to replace them. Hicks clearly isn’t the answer at the moment, and the Twins don’t have many options.
Move in Retrospect: Don’t Sign Phil Humber
While the Houston Astros looked to continue their mentality of not spending money and waiting for their prospects to pan out, the team still needed starting pitching. Phil Humber was a low-risk type of pitcher that Houston took its chances on.
Through four starts, Humber has been very bad. He’s 0-4 with a 6.63 ERA through 19 innings of work. He’s only striking out around 3.8 batters per nine innings while also walking 2.4. While his command hasn’t been horrible, opponents are just smacking the ball off of him.
There were plenty of other starting pitchers available that wouldn’t cost Houston much. Humber just wasn’t the right choice, or at least he doesn’t appear to be at the moment. There’s a solid chance that he doesn’t win more than five games in 2013.
Los Angeles Angels
Move in Retrospect: Don’t Sign Josh Hamilton
In one of the biggest, if not the biggest, moves of the offseason, the Los Angeles Angels managed to pry Josh Hamilton away from the Texas Rangers. Signing Hamilton gave the Angels three MVP candidates in the heart of the lineup, joining Mike Trout and Albert Pujols.
But while Trout and Pujols have gotten off to good starts, despite the fact that Los Angeles is struggling overall, Hamilton has not. Through 17 games, Hamilton is hitting just .176/.247/.324 with a pair of home runs and eight RBI. His WAR is the worst on the team, according to FanGraphs.
Los Angeles spent a bunch of money in order to acquire Hamilton, but the investment doesn’t look like a great one yet. There’s still plenty of time for him to prove his worth, but for now, that money could’ve been better spent elsewhere.
Move in Retrospect: Don’t Sign Hiroyuki Nakajima
The Oakland Athletics were one of the teams to venture into international waters this winter, signing shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima. Oakland already had a fair amount of middle infield talent, though.
Nakajima has yet to take the field this season because of a strained hamstring. But even when he returns, he might not have a spot in the starting lineup. Jed Lowrie, who was also acquired over the offseason, has been fantastic and a big part of Oakland’s early-season success.
The A’s could decide to move Lowrie to second or third base, but for the time being, he looks like he deserves to be the shortstop. Oakland probably could’ve gotten away with not signing Nakajima and spending that money somewhere else.
Move in Retrospect: Don’t Sign Raul Ibanez
The Seattle Mariners acquired a handful of players over the offseason with the hopes of their offense finally becoming dangerous. Raul Ibanez was one of the players that Seattle took a chance on, signing him to play outfield and DH.
But through 13 games, Ibanez hasn’t looked like the same player that was so good for the New York Yankees. He’s hitting .174/.224/.348 with a pair of home runs and just five RBI. Seattle was most likely expecting a little more from him, to say the least.
Although the Mariners might not wanted to have spent a lot on a left fielder, there were other outfield options that would’ve been better. Signing Ibanez was going to be hit or miss, and as of now, it appears to be a miss.
Move in Retrospect: Sign Zack Greinke
Since the Texas Rangers failed to sign Josh Hamilton and several other players over the winter, the team could’ve decided to spend some money on starting pitching. The top of the rotation looked to be solid, but injuries have taken a toll on it.
The Rangers couldn’t have foreseen Matt Harrison needing to undergo back surgery, but his absence leaves them somewhat vulnerable going forward. Sure, Yu Darvish and Derek Holland have been good, but how long can the other starters stay afloat?
What Texas should’ve done this offseason was spend everything it had to land Zack Greinke. Although Greinke is injured at the moment right now, if he didn’t play for the Los Angeles Dodgers, he probably would’ve never broken his collarbone. Greinke would’ve given the Rangers another ace atop the pitching staff.
Move in Retrospect: Don’t Sign B.J. Upton
The Atlanta Braves are currently one of the top teams in baseball, but it’s not because everyone has been clicking. It’s mainly because some players are playing the lights out while others struggle under the radar.
Atlanta signed B.J. Upton over the winter to be the team’s center fielder, and while he’s played well defensively, he’s been poor at best offensively. Through 17 games, he’s hitting .167/.247/.303 with two home runs and three RBI. He’s also striking out 30.1 percent of the time.
In order to be legitimate contenders, the Braves need everyone to contribute. As of now, Upton isn’t looking like the star that he was with the Tampa Bay Rays. Atlanta has to hope he starts hitting very soon or it’ll have a big problem on its hands.
Move in Retrospect: Sign Legitimate Player
Over the winter, the Miami Marlins signed Chris Valaika, Juan Pierre, Placido Polanco, Kevin Slowey, Chad Qualls, Casey Kotchman, Jon Rauch and Miguel Olivo. It’s unlikely that any of those players would be on other big league rosters.
It’s understandable that the Marlins don’t want to spend, considering they don’t have enough talent to contend. But signing players that should be retired or in the minor leagues is really unacceptable, especially if they want fans to come to the games.
Even if it cost a little more than Miami wanted to, the team should have at least signed someone noteworthy to entice fans to show up. Guys like Polanco and Pierre aren’t going to do that.
New York Mets
Move in Retrospect: Don’t Sign Shaun Marcum
Compared to last season, the New York Mets don’t have two of their best starting pitchers. They traded R.A. Dickey over the offseason, and Johan Santana is likely out of the season after undergoing shoulder surgery.
But even before the Santana injury, New York had gone out and signed Shaun Marcum to be a part of the regular starting rotation. Marcum, however, has yet to throw a pitch in a New York uniform after suffering from some neck discomfort.
Although Marcum didn’t cost much to sign, the Mets could’ve done without him. When he comes back, he’ll just be taking a spot away from Zach Wheeler, who’s the team’s top prospect and appears close to being ready to be promoted to the big leagues.
Move in Retrospect: Sign Starting Pitcher
The Philadelphia Phillies entered the 2013 season with what looked to be a solid starting rotation. Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels were expected to lead, Roy Halladay hoped to have a good year, and John Lannan and Kyle Kendrick looked to have fine campaigns.
But since the season started, Hamels and Halladay have been bad, and Lannan is now hurt. Lee and Kendrick, however, have been good. The Phillies are going to need more than two starters to make it into the playoffs, though. Assistance is needed.
Signing Lannan over the offseason doesn’t appear to have been enough right now. Philadelphia doesn’t have many options at all in the minor leagues. Signing another veteran starter over the winter would’ve been a smart move that was never made.
Move in Retrospect: Don’t Re-Sign Adam LaRoche
The Washington Nationals found themselves in an interesting spot over the offseason when determining who should be the starting first baseman. Adam LaRoche was coming off of a great season but was a free agent, and the team already had Michael Morse.
Washington felt that having LaRoche would be better than Morse, so it signed him and traded his opposition to the Seattle Mariners. The move, however, has not paid off yet. Through 15 games, he’s hitting .200/.298/.400 with three home runs and eight RBI.
Morse hasn’t been much better, hitting .231/.286/.538, but has crushed six home runs thus far. Keeping Morse was a cheaper option, but LaRoche seemed like a better choice. This could be a deal that comes back to bite the Nationals.
Move in Retrospect: Sign Rafael Soriano
The Chicago Cubs know what they’re getting themselves into each time they put Carlos Marmol into the game. He’s one of the most inconsistent pitchers in baseball, and to make matters worse, he’s been their closer.
In eight appearances thus far, Marmol has already been a train wreck and has also lost his role as the closer. He has just one save and has posted a 6.75 ERA through 6.2 innings of work. His command has been all over the place and seems to be a lost cause.
If Chicago were serious about winning games, it would have signed a true closer, someone like Rafael Soriano. Although he would’ve cost them a draft pick, he’s a much more reliable option than Marmol will ever be.
Move in Retrospect: Sign Starting Catcher
Devin Mesoraco and Ryan Hanigan are really struggling behind the plate for the Cincinnati Reds this season. Through the first 17 games of the year, they’ve been the least productive compared to all other teams in baseball, according to FanGraphs.
Mesoraco is hitting .259/.382/.370 through eight games and is still without a home run. Hanigan, now on the 15-day disabled list, was hitting .079/.182/.079 through 12 games. That’s not going to cut it no matter how you try to spin it.
There were a handful of catchers that Cincinnati could’ve gone after this winter to avoid this type of situation. Even if Mesoraco is the future catcher, it appears that he still might not be fully developed. Hanigan has been fine when healthy, but there were better options out there.
Move in Retrospect: Sign Starting First Baseman
The Milwaukee Brewers have been very unlucky this season when it comes to their first basemen. Corey Hart needed knee surgery, which will keep him out for the near future, and Mat Gamel is out for the entire year after tearing his ACL.
That has left a combination of players taking over that has primarily been Alex Gonzalez and Yuniesky Betancourt. Neither player, however, has been impressive at the plate, although, they have yet to struggle defensively.
Once Gamel tore his ACL, the Brewers should’ve gone out and signed a first baseman. It wouldn’t hurt to have a strong bench player for when Hart eventually returns as well. First base wasn’t very deep this offseason, but someone like Carlos Pena would’ve made for an intriguing option.
Move in Retrospect: Don’t Sign Francisco Liriano
It still makes me scratch my head as to why the Pittsburgh Pirates really wanted Francisco Liriano. Sure, he was supposed to be a great starting pitcher, but he’s yet to be that impressive no matter the team he’s pitched for.
To make things even more questionable, Pittsburgh signed him knowing that he had a fractured arm, although it did restructure his contract. Even still, it’s not like has a lot of upside when healthy, and the Pirates' current starters aren’t bad either.
Signing Liriano was an unnecessary move. Why not spend the money they gave Liriano to someone that can hit better than Clint Barmes at shortstop? That would’ve been a smarter decision.
St. Louis Cardinals
Move in Retrospect: Sign Starting Shortstop
The St. Louis Cardinals haven’t had much luck when it comes to Rafael Furcal lately. They had to go with Pete Kozma in the postseason and will now be without Furcal for even longer after he had to undergo Tommy John surgery.
But instead of signing another shortstop over the winter, St. Louis decided to stick with Kozma. That hasn’t been a great move just yet. Through 16 games, he’s hitting .232/.362/.357 with one home run and six RBI.
The Cardinals instead should’ve done whatever it took to sign Marco Scutaro or someone else who can play both second base and shortstop. It’s not like the Cardinals’ second base situation is much better, although Matt Carpenter has been playing well.
Move in Retrospect: Don’t Sign Brandon McCarthy
Brandon McCarthy was one of the bigger names on the list of available starting pitchers during the offseason. The Arizona Diamondbacks, who already had a lot of solid options, decided to give him a contract to boost their rotation.
Through four starts, McCarthy has been anything but impressive. He’s 0-2 with a 7.06 ERA through 21.2 innings. He’s not walking many batters at all, but he has a career 6.1 strikeouts-per-nine rate and is only striking out around 4.6 batters this season.
Arizona didn’t need to sign McCarthy, although a veteran presence is a good thing to have. Instead of signing McCarthy, the Diamondbacks could’ve had the same four other starters and added in either Randall Delgado or Tyler Skaggs, both of whom have a ton of potential for the future.
Move in Retrospect: Sign Starting Pitcher
The Colorado Rockies are one of baseball’s most surprising teams this season, and a lot of their success is due to their starting pitching. The rotation, which doesn’t look great on paper, has been as good as Colorado could’ve hoped for.
But the problem now is that the leader, Jhoulys Chacin, has a strained lower back and is now on the 15-day disabled list. The injury leaves Colorado without a No. 1 starter and it also creates a void in general. Colorado doesn’t have a lot of options.
What the Rockies should’ve done anyway was sign a starting pitcher over the winter. The front office signed Jon Garland, who has been fine, but some more depth would’ve been good to have.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Move in Retrospect: Sign Starting Pitcher
During spring training, it appeared that the Los Angeles Dodgers might have had too much starting pitching. But as they now know, you can never have too much. Injuries have plagued the starting rotation more than any other team to this point.
Zack Greinke suffered an unfortunate injury in a bench-clearing brawl, Chris Capuano has a strained calf, Chad Billingsley has elbow soreness and Ted Lilly is still recovering from shoulder surgery. Los Angeles really only has four starters at the moment.
Los Angeles entered the season with a bunch of veteran starters, but adding one more wouldn’t have hurt. Injuries are unpredictable, but the Dodgers are now in a jam since so many have occurred this early on in the season.
San Diego Padres
Move in Retrospect: Sign Starting Left Fielder
The San Diego Padres have gotten a mixed bag from Jesus Guzman through his first two seasons with the club. In 2011, he hit .213/.369/.478 with five home runs in 76 games. Last season, though, he hit .247/.319/.418 with nine home runs in 120 games.
Guzman, who’s been hitting in the cleanup spot for the Padres this season, hasn’t hit well at all to start the year. Through 17 games, he’s hitting .243/.333/.297 and is still without a home run. He’s only driven in one run, which is totally unacceptable for someone hitting in the heart of the lineup.
The Padres had the money to spend on a solid outfielder this offseason, but couldn’t really pull the trigger on any of them. San Diego needs Cameron Maybin, currently on the 15-day disabled list, back as soon as possible.
San Francisco Giants
Move in Retrospect: Don’t Re-Sign Marco Scutaro
The San Francisco Giants have gotten a lot out of Marco Scutaro since he joined the team last season. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that he deserved the contract they gave him over the winter.
Scutaro has been a big contributor to any team he’s played for, but he’s off to a poor start in 2013. Through 17 games, he’s hitting .227/.268/.273 with seven runs and four RBI. That’s relatively poor considering he’s a career .275/.339/.389 hitter.
The Giants have one of the top rosters in baseball and really don’t have many holes, if any. But if Scutaro continues to play this poorly, the Giants are going to have to take action near the trade deadline. San Francisco can’t afford to have any weaknesses.
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