4 MLB Teams That Are Quietly Having Very Nice Offseasons

Robert KnapelCorrespondent IDecember 18, 2013

4 MLB Teams That Are Quietly Having Very Nice Offseasons

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    Trades and free-agent signings that involve big names are often the ones that make the headlines during baseball's offseason, and this year has been no different.

    The Prince Fielder-for-Ian Kinsler swap and signings of Brian McCann and Jacoby Ellsbury have all been major news. However, there are some teams that have made some great moves this winter that have not been recognized.

    A few teams have been able to stay under the radar because of the timing of their transactions or the magnitude of their moves.

Cincinnati Reds

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    As a team coming off of a 90-win season, the Cincinnati Reds do not have too many areas that they need to improve. They saw Shin-Soo Choo become a free agent this winter, but the Reds believe they have a potential internal replacement for him in Billy Hamilton.

    Cincinnati has made two moves so far this winter that should be very valuable once the season starts. The Reds traded from a position of strength when they sent catcher Ryan Hanigan to the Tampa Bay Rays as part of a three-team deal. Hanigan, who hit below the Mendoza Line last season, netted them David Holmberg, a young left-handed starter who John Sickels of Minor League Ball ranked as the Diamondbacks' fifth-best prospect heading into 2013.

    Additionally, the Reds were able to re-sign Manny Parra, who had the best season of his career pitching out of the Reds' bullpen. Parra should continue to help the Reds hold on to leads late in games.

Colorado Rockies

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    Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd has been a busy man this offseason as he looks to turn his team into a contender. As a result, the Rockies have made a number of trades this winter.

    O'Dowd was able to send Dexter Fowler and a player to be named later to the Houston Astros in exchange for Jordan Lyles and Brandon Barnes. In Lyles, the Rockies received a young, controllable starter with high upside.

    The Rockies were not done adding to their rotation via trade. Colorado sent Drew Pomeranz and Chris Jensen to the Oakland Athletics for Brett Anderson. While Anderson has struggled with injuries, he has shown that he can be a top starter when he is healthy.

    On Wednesday, the Rockies also acquired Drew Stubbs, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, and Franklin Morales, according to Thomas Harding of MLB.com, in separate trades. Morales will help bolster the team's bullpen, which has already been improved by the signings of LaTroy Hawkins and Boone Logan. Meanwhile, Stubbs will be added into what is an already crowded mix in the team's outfield.

    Additionally, the Rockies have signed Justin Morneau to replace Todd Helton. Adding a former American League MVP to the mix should add another dimension to the team's offense.

Houston Astros

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    The Houston Astros know they will not be contending in 2014, but they have done a good job so far this winter of improving their team and preparing for the future.

    Adding Dexter Fowler was a smart move, as he will provide a nice mix of power and speed for the team. Additionally, Fowler could turn into a trade chip within the next year to net the Astros more prospects, or he can be a player that they build around.

    Houston has also looked to improve its pitching staff by bringing in Scott Feldman, Chad Qualls, Matt Albers and Anthony Bass. As a result of these moves, the Astros will have both a much-needed top-of-the-rotation starter as well as a bullpen that can do a better job of holding on to the leads that they have.

    According to Corey Brock of MLB.com , the Astros have also traded for Jesus Guzman. He will likely push Brett Wallace for time at first base and may also see some starts in the outfield.

    With all of these moves, the Astros certainly enter 2014 as a better team than they were last season.

Pittsburgh Pirates

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    As the Pittsburgh Pirates wait and see what will happen with A.J. Burnett, they have made some other moves to improve their roster. After winning 94 games and reaching the playoffs last season, the Pirates are looking to build on their success.

    Moves such as signing Edinson Volquez will help them do that. While Volquez has struggled in the past, he is a low-risk signing that has a very high reward if he can replicate his 2008 season in which he had 17 wins and a 3.21 ERA.

    In addition to this, the Pirates have acquired Jaff Decker, Miles Mikolas and Chris Stewart via trade. Out of that group, none will likely make a major impact, but they all are valuable pieces for the Pirates to have on their roster.

    Pittsburgh was also active this winter in re-signing Clint Barmes to a one-year deal and giving Charlie Morton a three-year extension. Wrapping Morton up at an affordable price was a very smart move by Pittsburgh.