The Boston Red Sox won the 2013 World Series, the MLB season has concluded and contracts have expired. What this all adds up to is one of the most critical periods of time in all of baseball: the offseason.
Only one team had a near-perfect one in 2013, and that has 29 other squads back rethinking their approach. Even the Red Sox will be joining in this offseason, as every team searches for the trades and signings that could elevate their contender status to new levels.
As always seems to be the case, pitchers will be the most influential additions. Here are the hot names who will change teams.
2013 Season Statistics: 38 GP, 36.2 IP, 2-3, 19 HLD, 0.74 ERA, 1.15 WHIP
In 2013, right-handed relief pitcher Jesse Crain had one of the most dominant seasons in recent history. In 38 games with the Chicago White Sox, he went 2-3 with 19 holds and an ERA of 0.74.
Unfortunately, a right shoulder strain cut his year short, and Crain now enters free agency with question marks surrounding his future.
When healthy, Crain is a dominant relief pitcher, and that's something that every single team needs for a postseason run. He's struggled in the playoffs in previous years, but Crain has made dramatic progressions as a late-game pitcher over the course of the past two years.
The only question at this point is where he'll end up.
Crain was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays in July but never played a game with the squad due to injury. Unfortunately for the Rays, Crain will command a strong salary, and finances in Tampa Bay have always been tight.
Crain will be changing teams this offseason.
2013 Season Statistics: 24 GP, 155.1 IP, 10-6, 3.82 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 136 SO
Since joining the Chicago Cubs in 2011, Matt Garza has been at the center of a countless number of trade rumors. In 2013, that resulted in Garza being dealt to the Texas Rangers, where he was 4-5 with a 4.38 ERA.
Don't expect one half-season to eliminate Garza's open-market value.
During his 11 games with the Chicago Cubs in 2013, he went 6-1 with a 3.17 ERA. He's never been a dominant pitcher, but Garza has long been a quality right-hander who has pitched well in the postseason with a 3.48 ERA.
That's exactly why he'll see a fat new contract.
Adam Kilgore of The Washington Post reports that the Washington Nationals are amongst the teams with interest in acquiring Garza's services. That should be the theme, as Garza can be a very good pitcher in the proper system.
Look for Garza to cash in on a heavy payday and change cities. Again.
2013 Season Statistics: 16 GS, 81.1 IP, 2-8, 6.20 ERA, 1.66 WHIP, 83 SO
In 2010, Josh Johnson made a case for being the best right-handed pitcher in the MLB. He led the league in ERA, made the All-Star Game and did all of this with an underwhelming supporting cast as a member of the now Miami Marlins.
Since then, Johnson has battled a number of injuries and appeared in 56 total games since 2011.
Johnson, like many other players, reached new lows as a member of a star-studded Toronto Blue Jays squad in 2013. He posted a 6.20 ERA and went 2-8 in 16 starts, again battling injuries.
Still 29, don't think his failure in 2013 will prevent a team from taking a chance on the former Cy Young contender.
Johnson can still be a quality starter on the back end of a rotation. His upside as a No. 1 starter is unclear and could be lost, but pitching depth is one of the most important strengths that a team can possess come the playoffs.
Shi Davidi of Sportsnet Canada reports that Toronto did not extend Johnson a qualifying offer. There's a possibility that he re-signs, but Johnson is more likely to embrace a fresh start.