MLB Teams That Have Actually Gotten Worse so Far This Offseason
Yes, the MLB offseason is still young. The vast majority of free agents haven't been signed yet and several superstar-caliber trade candidates could soon affect the competitive landscape.
However, that doesn't excuse several 2013 contenders for moving in the wrong direction.
About one month into this offseason, the teams included in this analysis have regressed. Their modest additions so far don't come close to compensating for who they've lost to more aggressive bidders and clever trade partners.
There's nothing wrong with being deliberate, but frugality and sheer stupidity have also weakened these championship hopefuls.
Scott Kazmir (free agency), Chris Perez (release), Joe Smith (free agency)
Letting Smith walk away was probably toughest for the Cleveland Indians front office to swallow.
He has maintained a sub-3.00 earned run average for three straight seasons while making 70-plus appearances each time. Nobody else has accomplished the same during that span.
Kazmir reverted to his All-Star form down the stretch, but his first-half struggles cannot be swept under the rug. The former first-round draft pick has been notoriously inconsistent throughout his career and we shouldn't expect that to change.
If $22-plus million is what it would've taken to keep him in Cleveland, then cutting ties was the right decision.
David Murphy (free agency)
This much is certain—Murphy will be better than the .220/.282/.374 batting line he owned last season.
He doesn't replace Drew Stubbs' defense, but his contact skills and effectiveness against right-handed pitching should ensure that the Tribe gets better production out of right field.
That alone, however, isn't enough to offset the lost pitching depth.
Jim Johnson (trade), Tsuyoshi Wada (free agency)
With a handful of their position players in line for significant pay raises, the Baltimore Orioles were inevitably going to part with some veteran pitching.
Johnson's projected eight-figure salary, per Matt Swartz of MLB Trade Rumors, is now the Oakland Athletics' problem, but there isn't an adequate internal replacement.
Moreover, MASNSports.com's Roch Kubatko confirms that the O's won't even attempt to re-sign Wada. While the Japanese right-hander has never appeared in a MLB regular-season game, he could have provided rotation depth with great upside.
Jemile Weeks (trade), player to be named later
Weeks spent just nine plate appearances over eight games in the big leagues this past summer. Finding a second baseman was a high priority for Baltimore, but this soon-to-be 27-year-old is a long shot to produce in an everyday role at the position.
Kubatko expects the O's to pull off a trade or signing to spend whatever money they're saving from the Johnson trade. There has been recent speculation about the Orioles adding Nelson Cruz.
The front office isn't firmly committed to anybody yet, however.
Marlon Byrd (free agency), Justin Morneau (free agency)
Both veterans arrived via late-August trades, so they didn't dramatically alter the course of the Pittsburgh Pirates' dream season.
Nonetheless, Byrd and Morneau would've been good fits for this roster moving forward. First baseman/outfielder Garrett Jones is no longer part of Pittsburgh's future, leaving space for at least one more offensive-minded player.
Specifically, the left-handed Morneau provided necessary balance in a lineup where the primary producers swing from the opposite side.
The 2013 Pirates combined for a pedestrian .241/.309/.393 batting line against right-handed pitching. Barring a prominent addition, those numbers could get even uglier.
Chris Stewart (trade)
Stewart is a solid backup catcher whose all-around limitations were exposed last summer when he made nearly 100 starts for the New York Yankees.
But the Bucs won't demand nearly that much from him. That's because they still have Russell Martin.
The 31-year-old's defensive value is apparent to the untrained eye. Ben Lindbergh explains on Grantland that a closer look at Stewart's pitch framing shows that he's actually under-appreciated.
Ultimately, though, his lack of opportunities and power potential will prevent him from having the sort of influence that Byrd and Morneau will have for their new teams.
Craig Gentry (trade), Ian Kinsler (trade), Josh Lindblom (trade), David Murphy (free agency), Joe Nathan (free agency), A.J. Pierzynski (free agency)
Texas Rangers general manager Jon Daniels made it clear early in the offseason that he wouldn't even attempt to re-sign Nathan (h/t Richard Durrett, ESPN Dallas).
Although Nefali Feliz and Joakim Soria are trying to re-establish themselves following Tommy John surgeries, Nathan himself underwent the procedure a few years back. Now, he's about to become the highest-paid closer in the American League, so that departure shouldn't sting too badly.
Overcoming the loss of Kinsler, however, ought to be a challenge.
Now, Jurickson Profar gets the job, even though his major league performance thus far hasn't merited such a promotion. Perhaps Profar can mimic Kinsler's defensive prowess, but what about his power and plate discipline?
For the time being, left field is completely vacant. Daniels had better address that soon.
Prince Fielder (trade)
The 2013 version of Fielder—.279/.362/.457, 25 HR, 120 OPS+—would have enhanced the Texas lineup. Considering the change of venue from Comerica Park to Rangers Ballpark and the slugger's personal history, there's reason to suspect a bounce-back performance.
The downside, of course, is his inadequacy with the glove, even by first basemen standards. That will always hold him back from truly elite production.
Tim Hudson (free agency), Brian McCann (free agency)
Even when Hudson was healthy this summer, the Atlanta Braves were receiving better production from various homegrown starters.
Nonetheless, they'll sorely miss his consistency and clubhouse presence.
From 2007-12, Hudson's ERA+ was always substantially better than the league average. He topped the 215-inning mark three times during that span.
Beyond emerging as MLB's enforcer of all things unwritten, McCann used 2013 to make an encouraging comeback from shoulder surgery. Joel Sherman of the New York Post quoted an MLB executive who was unimpressed with the catcher's throwing ability, but overall, he's still a defensive upgrade over Evan Gattis.
There shouldn't be a presumption that Gattis can succeed in a near-everyday role anyway. Don't be blinded by the red-hot start to his rookie season.
From June through the second-to-last week of the regular season, the former janitor batted below the Mendoza Line (albeit with plenty of BABIP misfortune).
Compensatory draft pick in 2014
This won't pay dividends for the Braves until later this decade, if at all.
Boston Red Sox
Jacoby Ellsbury (free agency), Jarrod Saltalamacchia (free agency)
Not only is Ellsbury off the market, according to Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News, but he's signing with the rival New York Yankees for the next seven years with a vesting option for an eighth season.
The Boston Red Sox reaped the benefits of Ellsbury's unique skill set en route to two World Series titles. Although the consensus is that Jackie Bradley Jr. will excel in center field, it's doubtful that he'll perform at Ellsbury's extraordinary level.
The 30-year-old is aggressive and insanely efficient on the basepaths, plus there's still a sliver of hope that his 2011 power resurfaces (32 HR, .928 OPS).
At least Salty vanished to the NL East's cellar-dwelling Miami Marlins. No worries about him derailing Boston's championship runs in head-to-head competition.
As presently constituted, Boston has barely any chance of boasting the league's best lineup like it did last season.
A.J. Pierzynski (free agency), 2014 compensatory draft pick
Pierzynski has been freakishly durable throughout the past dozen years, but that's not necessarily predictive of what he'll do next summer. He's about to turn 37.
The wear and tear of squatting five days a week for so long is going to catch up to him eventually, either in the form of an injury or reduced production.
Regardless, even the 2013 Pierzynski wasn't quite on par with Saltalamacchia, much less as effective at the plate.
The Red Sox have a loaded farm system with enough promising assets to trade for pretty much any veteran in the league. Flipping a few of them for Matt Kemp, Chase Headley or somebody else of that caliber could completely alter our perception of their otherwise disappointing winter.
Ely is a national MLB Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and a sportscaster for 90.5 WVUM in Miami. He wants to make sweet, social love with all of you on Twitter.