Biggest Winners and Losers of the 2013 MLB Season

Joel ReuterFeatured ColumnistNovember 1, 2013

Biggest Winners and Losers of the 2013 MLB Season

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    Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

    The 2013 MLB season gave us our fair share of memorable moments and was capped off with the Boston Red Sox taking home their third title in a span of 10 years after they bested the St. Louis Cardinals in six games in the World Series.

    Saying the Red Sox won the 2013 season and everyone else lost would not be out of line, but there were winners and losers throughout the league this year on both a team and individual-player level.

    From teams surprising people in reaching the postseason or falling short of expectations and disappointing everyone to players significantly boosting their free-agent stock or failing to produce following a breakout year, here is a look at the biggest winners and losers of the 2013 MLB season.

Losers: The AL Rookie Class

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    RF Wil Myers
    RF Wil MyersJeff Gross/Getty Images

    Notable 2013 AL Rookies

    NameStats
    SS Jose Iglesias, DET109 G, .303/.349/.386, 16 2B, 3 HR, 29 RBI, 39 R
    RF Wil Myers, TB88 G, .293/.354/.478, 23 2B, 13 HR, 53 RBI, 50 R
    SP Chris Archer, TB23 GS, 9-7, 3.22 ERA, 1.127 WHIP, 101 K, 128.2 IP
    SP Martin Perez, TEX20 GS, 10-6, 3.62 ERA, 1.335 WHIP, 84 K, 124.1 IP
    SP Daniel Straily, OAK27 GS, 10-8, 3.96 ERA, 1.241 WHIP, 124 K, 152.1 IP
    RP Cody Allen, CLE77 G, 6-1, 2.43 ERA, 1.251 WHIP, 88 K, 70.1 IP

    A year after we saw the fantastic trio of Mike Trout, Yu Darvish and Yoenis Cespedes take the AL by storm, this year's AL rookie class goes down as one of the weakest in recent memory.

    Wil Myers looks like the front-runner for AL Rookie of the Year honors, and he was not even called up until June 18. His teammate, Chris Archer, looks like his biggest competition, and while he had a solid year, there were at least five NL rookie pitchers who put together better seasons.

    Slick-fielding shortstop Jose Iglesias could also garner some votes, and he exceeded offensive expectations.

    Overall, however, it was an incredibly weak crop of AL first-year players.

Winners: NL Rookie Starting Pitchers

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    SP Jose Fernandez
    SP Jose FernandezJason Arnold/Getty Images

    2013 NL Rookie Starting Pitchers

    NameG/GSW-LERAWHIPHBBKIP
    Jose Fernandez, MIA28/28 12-62.190.97911158187172.2
    Julio Teheran, ATL30/30 14-83.201.17417345170185.2
    Hyun-Jin Ryu, LAD30/30 14-83.001.20318249154 192
    Shelby Miller, STL31/31 15-93.061.20615257169173.1
    Tony Cingrani, CIN23/18  7-42.921.099 7243120104.2
    Gerrit Cole, PIT19/19 10-73.221.16810928100117.1
    Zack Wheeler, NYM17/17  7-53.421.360 9046 84 100
    Wily Peralta, MIL32/3211-154.371.41818773129183.1

    There may be no better crop of rookie pitchers from one league—at least in terms of how they performed in their rookie seasons—than in the National League this year.

    Jose Fernandez is a shoo-in for NL Rookie of the Year honors, but in virtually any other year, Julio Teheran, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Shelby Miller all would have had a terrific chance of taking home the award.

    Even beyond those four, Gerrit Cole and Tony Cingrani each played a significant role in their respective team reaching the postseason, while Zack Wheeler and Wily Peralta are likely only scratching the surface of what should be a bright future.

Loser: The Biogenesis Culprits

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    Marc Serota/Getty Images

    Major League Baseball has done its best to clean up the sport in the aftermath of the Steroid Era, but it was dealt another blow this past season with the Biogenesis scandal.

    In total, suspensions were handed down to 13 players for their involvement with Anthony Bosch and the Florida-based heath clinic that was busted for distributing steroids, and it was no insignificant list of guys.

    Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun, Nelson Cruz and Jhonny Peralta headlined the list of culprits, with the suspension of Braun, in particular, hurting not only the Brewers but the sport in general, as he was one of the game's top stars and in the prime of his career.

Winner: Mariano Rivera's Retirement Tour

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    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    Few players in the history of any sport have been as universally respected and admired than Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, and he announced this past spring that the 2013 season would be his last.

    The all-time saves leader and a sure-fire, first-ballot Hall of Famer, Rivera wrapped up his career with 652 saves during the regular season and another 42 in the playoffs. He is undoubtedly the best relief pitcher in the history of the game.

    He managed to go out on top, putting together one of the better seasons of his career in 2013, but it was the way that other teams honored him league-wide that made his final season so special. 

    For a full rundown of the gifts and tributes teams gave him in his final trip to their stadium, I'll direct you to an article I wrote back in September. But suffice to say, it was a perfect example of just how revered Rivera is across the sport.

Loser: Roy Halladay

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    Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

    2013 Stats

    GSW-LERAWHIPBBKIP
    13 4-56.821.468365162

    In his prime, Roy Halladay was arguably the best pitcher of his generation. Over a 10-year span from 2002-2011, the right-hander went 170-75 with a 2.97 ERA and a whopping 63 complete games.

    Just two years ago, he was still at the top of his game, going 19-6 with a 2.35 ERA to finish second in the NL Cy Young voting. However, he showed signs of declining in 2012, when he went just 11-8 with a 4.49 ERA, and the slide continued this past season.

    A workhorse throughout his career, the 36-year-old was limited to just 13 starts due to a shoulder injury, and he now hits the free-agent market after failing to get a $20 million option to vest.

    Given the workload he has shouldered over the years, a decline of this sort was inevitable, but it's still tough to see one of the best around fall off so sharply. Here's hoping he can land on his feet somewhere and go out with a few more solid seasons under his belt.

Winner: Koji Uehara

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    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    2013 Stats

    GW-LSVERAWHIPK/9
    73 4-1211.090.56512.2

    Signed by the Orioles out of Japan as a 34-year-old back in 2009, Koji Uehara enjoyed moderate success as a starter in his first season in the MLB before finding a home in the bullpen.

    In 145 appearances from 2010-2012, the right-hander posted a 2.36 ERA, 0.772 WHIP and 11.4 K/9 as one of the top setup men in the game. That was enough to earn him a two-year, $9.25 million deal from the Red Sox in the offseason, and what a signing that turned out to be.

    After Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey went down with injuries, Uehara found himself in the closer's role, and from July 1 to the end of the season, he was 17-of-18 on save chances with a 0.22 ERA. He capped-off his fantastic season by saving seven games for the Red Sox in the postseason and winning the ALCS MVP.

Loser: Chase Headley

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    Kevin Liles/Getty Images

    2013 Stats

    BA/OBP/SLGH2B3BHRRBIRSB
    .250/.347/.40013035 213 5059 8

    Chase Headley looked to be on his way to another solid season at the All-Star break in 2012, and perhaps to a new team, as he was hitting .267/.368/.413 with eight home runs and 42 RBI for a Padres team in a position to sell.

    Then he got red-hot to kick off the second half and never slowed down, hitting .308/.386/.592 with 23 home runs and 73 RBI after the All-Star break to wind up leading the NL in RBI.

    Looking like a prime candidate for a huge extension, the Padres instead held off, and that looks like the right decision now. A left thumb injury hampered him early on this year, and he was never able to get things going, taking perhaps the biggest step back of any hitter in baseball in 2013.

Winner: Chris Davis

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    Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

    2013 Stats

    BA/OBP/SLGH2B3BHRRBIRSB
    .286/.370/.63416742 153138103 4

    By all accounts, the 2012 season constituted a breakout year for first baseman Chris Davis. In what was his first full season with the Orioles, Davis finally had an everyday role to call his own, and he thrived away from the pressure he had faced with the Rangers.

    He led a surprise Orioles team with 33 home runs and 85 RBI, while hitting a solid .270/.326/.501 as he had finally reached the vast potential he showed as a rookie back in 2008.

    Even with those numbers though, it's safe to say no one saw his monster 2013 performance coming, as he led all of baseball in home runs and RBI and quickly emerged as one of the most feared hitters in the game. Still only 27, he could be in for several more big years in the middle of the Orioles lineup.

Loser: Josh Johnson's Free-Agent Stock

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    Greg Fiume/Getty Images

    2013 Stats

    GSW-LERAWHIPBBKIP
    16 2-86.201.660308381.1

    Despite a subpar showing in 2012, when he went 8-14 with a 3.81 ERA, big things were expected of Josh Johnson when he joined the Blue Jays this season. He was also then expected to be one of the most coveted free agents of the 2014 offseason.

    Though injuries had plagued him for a number of years, Johnson still had the stuff to be an impact starter, and with a move away from Miami and to an expected contender, a breakout year looked possible. That couldn't have been further from the case though, and he now finds himself at a crossroads in his career.

    The 29-year-old will no doubt have to settle for a one-year deal in free agency, as he looks to prove that he still has it in an effort to boost his stock for next offseason. That's a far cry from the potential $100-million deal he was looking at if he had the season many predicted.

Winner: Marlon Byrd's Free-Agent Stock

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    2013 Stats

    BA/OBP/SLGH2B3BHRRBIRSB
    .291/.336/.51115535 524 8875 2

    It's safe to say that no player boosted their free-agent value more during the 2013 season that Marlon Byrd, as the veteran outfielder was all but forgotten last offseason.

    After hitting just .210/243/.245 with one home run over 143 at-bats between the Cubs and Red Sox in 2012, Byrd found himself released and then slapped with a 50-game PED suspension. As a result, the best he could do last offseason was a minor-league deal from the Mets.

    Luckily for him, the team's outfield situation was bad enough that he quickly played his way into everyday at-bats and wound up being the team's best power option. He ended the year hitting in the No. 5 spot for the Pirates in the postseason, and at the very least, the three-year, $26 million deal that Cody Ross signed with the Diamondbacks last offseason seems like a good baseline for what the 36-year-old should be able to get in free agency this winter.

Loser: Atlanta Braves for the B.J. Upton Signing

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    2013 Stats

    BA/OBP/SLGH2B3BHRRBIRSB
    .184/.268/.2897214 0 9 263012

    After hitting .300/.396/.508 with 24 home runs and 22 steals as a 22-year-old in his first full season back in 2007, B.J. Upton looked like a superstar in the making.

    In the five years after that, though, he has hit just .248/.330/.416 while averaging 18 home runs and 39 steals per season. Despite that lack of consistent production, he managed to cash in as a free agent, as he joined his brother in Atlanta.

    It was a long season for B.J., and after missing some time due to injury during the regular season—and struggling even when he was healthy—the 29-year-old found himself on the bench during the postseason. He'll be given every chance to prove he deserves a lineup spot, but Year 1 was nothing short of a disaster.

Winner: Pittsburgh Pirates for the Francisco Liriano Signing

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    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    2013 Stats

    GSW-LERAWHIPBBKIP
    2616-83.021.22463163161

    After originally agreeing to a two-year, $12.75 million deal with the Pirates, Francisco Liriano broke his non-throwing arm the day before he was supposed to sign and wound up having to take a one-year, incentive-laden deal with a team option for 2014.

    He didn't make his debut until May 11, but it didn't take long for him to show the Pirates that they had made a smart move. By June, he was the ace of the staff.

    Liriano has always had the stuff to be an ace, and he looked like a star after going 12-3 with a 2.16 ERA and 10.7 K/9 as a 22-year-old rookie for Minnesota in 2006. Injuries had derailed his career for a while before this season though.

    The Pirates made a great decision by signing him to this contract, which includes an $8 million option for 2014, as Liriano will again be one of the best bargains in the game next season if he can duplicate his 2013 success. 

Loser: The New York Yankees' Overpaid Stars

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    Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    The New York Yankees missed the playoffs for just the second time since 1994 this past season, as injuries to their high-priced core of talent were too much for them to overcome.

    Before the addition of Alfonso Soriano at the deadline, the Yankees had 11 players on the roster making over $10 million dollars, and the lack of production they got from that group was staggering.

    Name2013 SalaryStatsfWAR
    Alex Rodriguez$29 million44 G, .244/.348/.423, 7 HR, 19 RBI, 21 R  0.5
    Mark Teixeira$23.1 million15 G, .151/.270/.340, 3 HR, 12 RBI, 5 R -0.2
    CC Sabathia$23 million32 GS, 14-13, 4.78 ERA, 175 K, 211 IP  2.7
    Derek Jeter$17 million17 G, .190/.288/.254, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 8 R -0.6
    Robinson Cano$15 million160 G, .314/.383/.516, 27 HR, 107 RBI, 81 R  6.0
    Curtis Granderson$15 million61 G, .229/.317/.407, 7 HR, 15 RBI, 31 R  1.4
    Hiroki Kuroda$15 million32 GS, 11-13, 3.31 ERA, 150 K, 201.1 IP  3.8
    Andy Pettitte$12 million30 GS, 11-11, 3.74 ERA, 128 K, 185.1 IP  3.2
    Kevin Youkilis$12 million28 G, .219/.305/.343, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 12 R -0.4
    Vernon Wells$11.5 million130 G, .233/.282/.349, 11 HR, 50 RBI, 45 R -0.8
    Mariano Rivera$10 million64 G, 6-2, 44 SV, 2.11 ERA, 7.6 K/9  1.5

    For those of you scoring at home, that's $182.6 million for 17.1 wins above replacement, and over a third of those came from Robinson Cano.

Winner: The Cardinal Way

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    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    There is no team in baseball better at cultivating talent and building from within than the St. Louis Cardinals, and that was on full display during a 2013 season that ended with an NL pennant.

    Matt Carpenter was moved from a super utility role to the everyday second base job and leadoff spot in the lineup, and he turned in an MVP-caliber season, leading all of baseball in hits (199), runs (126) and doubles (55).

    The starting rotation dealt with injuries to Chris Carpenter and Jaime Garcia, as well as the departure of Kyle Lohse, but they were able to overcome them thanks to the emergence of youngsters like Shelby Miller, Joe Kelly and Michael Wacha.

    The bullpen was an absolute disaster early-on, but Edward Mujica stepped up into the closer's role and the rookie foursome of Trevor Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez, Seth Maness and Kevin Siegrist turned a problem area into a strength.

    When RBI-machine Allen Craig went down with an injury during the final month of the season, masher Matt Adams was waiting in the wings to step into a key run-producing role. 

    Really the list of what the Cardinals had to overcome in 2013 goes on and on, and even though they fell short of a title, the fact that they even reached the World Series is a testament to their organization as a whole.

Losers: Los Angeles Angels

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    Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    The Angels missed out on the playoffs in 2012 after spending big on Albert Pujols (10 years, $240 million) and C.J. Wilson (five years, $77.5 million), and they were at it again heading into this past season, signing Josh Hamilton to a five-year, $125 million deal and giving the team what appeared to be a juggernaut lineup.

    However, they would have been better served spending that money on the pitching staff, as the rotation was a mess behind Jered Weaver and Wilson, and the bullpen ranked 26th in the MLB with a 4.12 ERA. 

    The result was another disappointing season, as the Angels went 78-84 and finished a distant third in the AL West. They'll need to address their pitching situation in the offseason in order to have a chance at success in 2014, but there is certainly still enough talent for this team to be a contender.

Winners: Cleveland Indians

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    John Gress/Getty Images

    Some believed the Indians could opt to aggressively sell last offseason, and while they did wind up moving Shin-Soo Choo, they wound up being bigger buyers than sellers.

    Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher were signed to multi-year deals, but it was just as much the under-the-radar acquisitions of guys like Yan Gomes and Ryan Raburn that led them to being the surprise playoff team of the year.

    Bounce-back seasons from Ubaldo Jimenez, Justin Masterson and Scott Kazmir made for a perfect storm of exceeded expectations, and the Indians were able to claim a wild-card spot.

    Returning to the playoffs may be tough in 2014, howver, as they will need similar production from their rotation next year in order to have a chance in the AL, but they were no doubt among the biggest winners of 2013.

Losers: Washington Nationals

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    With their offseason additions of Denard Span and Dan Haren, many considered the Nationals to have the most complete roster in all of baseball from top to bottom. They won an MLB-best 98 games in 2012 but were knocked out of the playoffs in the NLDS, and they entered this season as one of the favorites in the NL.

    However, they were just 52-56 at the end of July and a full 11 games back in the NL East, and even with a late-season run that saw them go 34-20 over the final two months, they wound up missing out on the postseason and finishing just 86-76.

    They have essentially the same roster returning next year, and replacing Haren is their only real offseason need. Despite their disappointing finish, expectations will be high once again in 2014, as they'll have a chance to redeem themselves.

Winners: Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    The Pirates suffered through back-to-back second-half collapses in 2011 and 2012, but finally broke through this year to make the playoffs for the first time since 1992.

    They were eliminated by the Cardinals in the NLDS, but there is plenty of reason for optimism moving forward, and their postseason berth this year looks like it could be just the first step in a run of success. 

    With a good young core of players led by Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte and Gerrit Cole, and with plenty of young talent on the way to contributing from the farm system, look for this to be the first of several trips to October in the near future for the Pirates.

Losers: Toronto Blue Jays

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    Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

    With a pair of offseason blockbusters, the Blue Jays added R.A. Dickey, Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Emilio Bonifacio and John Buck. They also signed Melky Cabrera and Maicer Izturis in free agency, as they entered the year with sky-high expectations.

    Those newcomers added to the incumbent core of Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Brett Lawrie, Colby Rasmus, Brandon Morrow and Casey Janssen, and they all collectively made the Blue Jays a popular pick to come away with the AL East title and make a run at a championship.

    Instead, they stumbled out of the gates and never managed to get things going. Injuries played a role, but a disappointing starting rotation was perhaps the biggest culprit. When the dust settled, a $36 million payroll increase had netted them just one more win and a last place finish at 74-88.

Winners: Boston Red Sox

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    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    Who else tops this list but the Red Sox? Just a season ago, they went 69-93 to finish in last place in the AL East. It was their worst finish since 1965, and it sparked a major overhaul in the offseason.

    Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino, Stephen Drew, Jonny Gomes, David Ross, Ryan Dempster and Koji Uehara were all added in free agency using the money the team freed up last August in their blockbuster deal with the Dodgers, and John Farrell was brought in as manager.

    The result was a complete culture change and a 28-win improvement that saw them finish tied for the best record in baseball. The impressive turnaround was capped-off with a World Series title, as they knocked off the Cardinals in six games, and there is little question that they're the biggest winners of 2013.