Biggest Winners and Losers of MLB's Offseason Heading into 2014
It's still too early to declare a team as a "winner" or "loser" at this point in the offseason. Because there's still plenty of time left for them to make trades and several impact players still available on the free-agent market, the perception of how a team's offseason has gone can change in a moment's notice.
A lot has happened, though, and there are teams that have certainly established themselves as having had a successful offseason and those who have either made enough questionable moves or non-moves to give their fanbase a reason to be disappointed.
Here are four winners and four losers from the first two months of the offseason.
Winner: Chicago White Sox
The White Sox got off to an early start on the revamping of their 2014 roster when they traded away pitcher Jake Peavy and outfielder Alex Rios in July and August, respectively, in exchange for two talented young position players, outfielder Avisail Garcia and infielder Leury Garcia.
It didn't stop there. Cuban slugger first baseman Jose Dariel Abreu (pictured) was signed to a six-year deal in October while center fielder Adam Eaton and third baseman Matt Davidson were acquired from the Diamondbacks in separate trades earlier this month.
That's five hitters, all with significant upside, between the ages of 22-26 who are under club control for the next six seasons.
Closer Addison Reed and starter/reliever Hector Santiago, who were traded away in the Eaton and Davidson deals, could leave the team vulnerable in the pitching department, but there is plenty of time to replenish that depth. While they haven't been big spenders this offseason, the Sox also cleared a significant amount of payroll in the Peavy and Rios deals, which could position them to land an impact player prior to the start of the season.
Don't declare them playoff contenders just yet, but general manager Rick Hahn has done a tremendous job of changing the makeup of his roster from an aging and overpaid group of players on the decline to an exciting and up-and-coming team on the rise.
Loser: Arizona Diamondbacks
Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers did well to trade reliever Heath Bell and all but $500,000 of the $5 million he was owed by the team to the Tampa Bay Rays. Acquiring Addison Reed after the team had a rough time closing out games in 2013 was also a solid move. But it ends there.
Although Towers landed the power-hitting corner outfielder he had been seeking in Mark Trumbo (pictured), he traded away two young players, center fielder Adam Eaton and pitcher Tyler Skaggs, who have the ability to make this trade look extremely poor for the D'backs.
Not long after Towers was hired by Arizona, he made it a point to rid the team of some of their strikeout-prone hitters, notably third baseman Mark Reynolds and outfielder Chris Young. Reynolds was traded during Towers' first offseason on the job, while Young was traded last offseason.
With Eaton, a prototypical leadoff man with a career .450 on-base percentage in the minors, arriving in the majors, the makeover appeared to have been completed. But in a reversal of philosophy, Towers sent Eaton packing to the White Sox in order to acquire Trumbo, a one-dimensional player who struck out 184 times last season.
Skaggs, who was one of the top pitching prospects in the game coming into the 2013 season, went to the pitching-starved Angels, where he'll have a much better chance to break into the majors. At just 22 years of age, it's very possible the D'backs gave up on him a season too early.
Winner: New York Yankees
Heading into the offseason, the New York Yankees had more holes to fill than any other team in baseball. And while they still have a ways to go, especially in patching up their rotation and bullpen, they've added several impact players to the lineup and a few other solid role players who should help in 2014.
It's very possible that outfielders Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury and catcher Brian McCann will be overpaid former stars reaching the end of their careers by the time their new multi-year deals with the Yankees expire. But for at least the immediate future, the Yankees fanbase will be treated to a star-studded lineup on a daily basis, and the chances of the team having a disastrous season have decreased substantially.
As long as they can add one of the top four starting pitchers available—Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana or Masahiro Tanaka—and either Grant Balfour or Fernando Rodney to the back of their bullpen, this Yankees team should be viewed as a legitimate playoff contender for 2014.
Loser: Chicago Cubs
Year three of the Theo Epstein era isn't showing much promise at the moment. There is still plenty for Cubs fans to be excited about as the team's four elite hitting prospects should begin to arrive in the majors soon, likely beginning in late-2014 or 2015.
But what about 2014?
Patience during a rebuilding process was going to be necessary, but a team that looks eerily similar to the one that lost 96 games in 2013 has to be disappointing to a fanbase that probably didn't realize that "rebuilding" meant that the team would be awful for at least the next three seasons.
Bringing in Jose Veras (pictured) as the closer and re-signing outfielder Ryan Sweeney have been the team's two most notable roster moves this offseason.
While they're expected to be aggressive in their pursuit of Masahiro Tanaka—David Kaplan of CSN Chicago was told by a source that the Cubs would not be outbid—their offense leaves much to be desired and, barring significant improvements by shortstop Starlin Castro and first baseman Anthony Rizzo, they'll likely struggle to score many runs next season.
Winner: Kansas City Royals
After failing to get consistent production at the plate from the second base and right field spots over the past couple of seasons, the Kansas City Royals appear to have finally found some answers.
Second baseman Omar Infante (pictured) was signed to a four-year deal, while outfielder Norichika Aoki was acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers for lefty reliever Will Smith. Neither is a star, but both are solid players who should be significant upgrades to the Royals lineup.
Paying big money to re-sign pitcher Ervin Santana doesn't appear to be in the cards, and filling his shoes will be difficult after his terrific 2013 season. However, the addition of lefty Jason Vargas, a full season from Danny Duffy and the eventual arrivals of top prospects Yordano Ventura and Kyle Zimmer make it less likely that they'll ever regret not paying top dollar to bring Santana back to their pitching staff.
Loser: Milwaukee Brewers
After longtime Brewer Corey Hart made it clear that he wanted to stay in Milwaukee and would do so at a discounted rate, according to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Brewers lost in the bidding to the Seattle Mariners, who gave him a one-year contract that guarantees him only $6 million and could pay him another $7 million in incentives.
For a team that currently has Juan Francisco penciled into be its starting first baseman, it doesn't appear that it made a strong enough effort to retain the 31-year-old Hart, who had an .830 OPS with an average of 24 home runs per season from 2007-2012 before separate knee injuries sidelined him in 2013.
There's still time to find a viable option at first base, but it will be hard to find a better answer than a healthy Hart. If he returns to form, the Brewers will regret the decision to let him walk.
During what has been a very quiet offseason thus far, the only notable move the team has made is trading away a very productive outfielder (Norichika Aoki) making very little money ($1.95 million) for a lefty pitcher, Will Smith, who gives the team another option for the back of the rotation or, more likely, a middle reliever.
The player who benefits from Aoki's departure is outfielder Khris Davis, a very limited defender who earned the chance to play every day when he hit 11 homers in his last 119 at-bats of the 2013 season. The 26-year-old has never been considered a big-time prospect, though, so there's a good chance that the small sample from his rookie season was a fluke, and he might not be a productive hitter that's capable of playing regularly in the majors.
Winner: Texas Rangers
The Texas Rangers began the offseason with a roster that had a very right-handed heavy lineup and three very good middle infielders vying for two spots. General manager Jon Daniels fixed that problem with two major roster moves.
Second baseman Ian Kinsler was traded to the Detroit Tigers, opening up the starting job for Jurickson Profar, who was widely considered to be the best prospect in baseball heading into the 2013 season. Check.
First baseman Prince Fielder was acquired in return for Kinsler, once again giving the team the left-handed power hitter they had when Josh Hamilton was on the team. Check.
Outfielder Shin-Soo Choo (pictured) was signed to a seven-year deal, giving the Rangers a leadoff hitter to replace Kinsler, some more left-handed power and one of the best in the game at getting on base. Check.
The acquisition of outfielder Michael Choice for veteran outfielder Craig Gentry has the potential to be extremely one-sided if the 24-year-old can live up to his potential as a former first-round pick of the Oakland A's.
Adding another starting pitcher is likely still on the agenda for the Rangers. If they could land one of the top four, it wouldn't be a stretch to call them the "winner" of the 2013-2014 offseason.
Loser: Minnesota Twins
The Minnesota Twins have a bright future ahead with outfielder Byron Buxton and infielder Miguel Sano, two of the best prospects in the game, on the fast track to the majors. Until then, Twins fans don't have much to get excited about.
The pitching staff was a mess in 2013, which is why the team made it a priority to try and upgrade the rotation through free agency this offseason. Spending a total of $88 million, approximately $25 million of which will count toward the 2014 payroll, to fill three of the gaping holes doesn't sound all that bad until you realize that those three pitchers are Ricky Nolasco, Phil Hughes (pictured) and Mike Pelfrey.
It's an improvement but not nearly enough to keep them out of the AL Central cellar in 2014. If there's any consolation, it's that the team could be so bad that it might not have no other choice but to bring up Buxton and Sano by midseason so the fanbase still has a reason to come out and watch.