Most of the top-tier free agents remain unsigned roughly a month after the frenzy began, but several deals have been struck. Some of them look like good signings and some of them...do not. Here are the early winners and losers of the offseason.
Cardinals: The rich get richer, at least on paper. The Redbirds improved at two up-the-middle positions, signing free agent shortstop Jhonny Peralta and trading for center fielder Peter Bourjos. Peralta is a huge upgrade at short, and though some were surprised to see him get four years and $52M coming off a PED suspension, the annual average salary is still team-friendly, and he didn't cost a draft pick because the Tigers didn't make him a qualifying offer.
Acquiring Bourjos for David Freese allows the Cards to move Matt Carpenter to third base and turn over second base to Kolten Wong, improving the infield while saving money. Bourjos could platoon with Jon Jay in center field or perhaps relegate Jay to fourth-outfielder duties. With Matt Holliday, Bourjos, Jay and Allen Craig as their four outfielders, there's no need to rush super-prospect Oscar Taveras up to the majors if he starts slowly in the minors.
Yankees: The Yanks have made only one move so far, but signing All-Star catcher Brian McCann was a big one. They got him for five years and $85M, with a vesting option for a sixth year. McCann will turn 30 in February, so there could be some dead years on the back end, but for now the Yanks acquired one of the best players in the game at the position—one, by the way, that was a black hole for them in 2013.
The Yankees still have work to do. They're interested in free agent outfielder/DH types like Carlos Beltran and Curtis Granderson, and they probably need a backup plan at third base in case Alex Rodriguez's suspension is upheld. And of course, their negotiations with second baseman Robinson Cano loom. For now, though, McCann is an excellent start.
Phillies: The Phils have made two moves of note, signing both Carlos Ruiz and Marlon Byrd to multiyear deals at modest annual average salaries. The problem isn't the terms of the contracts but rather that both guys are old and could have pretty low floors if their production falls off a cliff. The Phillies could eat either contract in that case but will have already wasted time and money if it comes to that.
With that in mind, these deals seem to indicate a lack of organizational direction. Are they win-now moves? Stopgap moves? A little bit of both, perhaps.
Giants: The Giants have been one of the most active teams so far this offseason. While none of their moves looks terrible in a vacuum, the question is whether their cumulative impact is enough to allow the Giants to threaten the Dodgers in the NL West. Simply put, I don't think so.
The Giants had something of a worst-case-scenario season in 2013, so some rebound is expected. But bringing back Hunter Pence, Tim Lincecum, Javier Lopez and Ryan Vogelsong doesn't improve the team much—nor does it address gaping offensive holes at shortstop, left field and center field. The addition of Tim Hudson to the rotation helps, but at this point in his career he's a No. 3 or 4 starter.
It's too soon to write off the Giants' offseason entirely for obvious reasons, but they need to make at least one big move if not two, and that may be tough considering they've spent a lot of money already. Otherwise, it looks to me that they're trotting out a team similar to last year's, and I just don't think counting on rebounds from guys like Matt Cain will be enough to close the gap with the Dodgers.