Grading Every MLB Team's Offseason Entering Spring Training
We're still months and, in some cases, years away from being able to accurately grade each team's moves from the 2013-14 offseason. It doesn't mean we can't love or hate what a team has done to upgrade its roster in preparation for the upcoming season.
Here are my offseason grades for each of the 30 teams.
The acquisition of Mark Trumbo (pictured) filled the Arizona Diamondbacks' need for another power hitter in the lineup. While they didn't land a potential front-line starting pitcher, the signing of Bronson Arroyo gives them a reliable veteran at a fairly reasonable cost (two years, $23.5 million).
Sending Heath Bell and $5 million of his remaining salary to the Tampa Bay Rays was also a savvy move by general manager Kevin Towers, as was the re-signing of Eric Chavez (.810 OPS, 9 HR in 80 games) to ensure the team's corner infield depth and give the bench some left-handed pop.
The trade of third base prospect Matt Davidson for closer Addison Reed could go either way, although the D'backs don't have a spot for Davidson, with Martin Prado blocking him at the hot corner for at least the next couple of seasons. It was a risk worth taking for a team that had trouble holding leads in 2013.
Where the results of this offseason could go terribly wrong is in the price paid for Trumbo. If Adam Eaton turns into the prototypical leadoff man he's projected to be with high on-base skills and the ability to energize a ballclub with his speed and grittiness and Tyler Skaggs comes close to the potential that made him one of the top pitching prospects in the game not too long ago, this could potentially haunt the D'backs for years.
Landing Japanese star Masahiro Tanaka would've been costly in financial terms, but with the division rival Los Angeles Dodgers capable of running away with the division, it might prove to have been necessary to bring in a top-of-the-rotation arm.
A 96-win division champ in 2013, this young and talented Atlanta Braves roster wasn't in need of a huge talent infusion this offseason. The Braves have only added a few inexpensive pieces this winter and, despite the loss of star catcher Brian McCann and veteran starting pitcher Tim Hudson, still appear to be in good shape to defend their NL East title.
With power-hitting Evan Gattis ready to succeed McCann as the starting catcher, the Braves acquired Ryan Doumit (pictured) from the Minnesota Twins to fill Gattis' role as the top bat off of the bench. The 32-year-old switch-hitter isn't expected to catch any longer due to concussion concerns, but he can play first base and either corner outfield spot while providing the team with a power-hitting pinch hitter late in games.
A veteran innings-eater was needed to help solidify the team's young rotation, led by Mike Minor and Julio Teheran, but the signing of Gavin Floyd is a risky investment. The former Chicago White Sox starter gets $4 million guaranteed for 2014 despite being a question mark while recovering from Tommy John surgery that he underwent last May.
The 31-year could be a major boost if he returns strong down the stretch, but the Braves will be counting on 23-year-old lefty Alex Wood or veteran journeyman Freddy Garcia, who was re-signed to a minor league deal, to fill out the rotation for the first few months of the season.
If they fall short of the playoffs because the rotation wasn't good enough at a certain point of the season, they'll regret not making a move for a more reliable starter.
It's still not too late for the Baltimore Orioles to make an offseason splash, but they're running out of time. If they don't make a last-minute acquisition of an impact bat or pitcher, this offseason will appear to be a lackluster one at best.
The O's traded away closer Jim Johnson for Jemile Weeks, who had fallen out of favor in Oakland and will be just one option to fill the second base void until prospect Jonathan Schoop is ready to take over. To replace Johnson, they agreed to a two-year deal with Grant Balfour, but the deal ultimately fell through due to medical concerns.
They have not gone to a "Plan B," however, and while Tommy Hunter could very well prove to be capable replacement in the closer's role, the bullpen depth could take a hit. Relievers Ryan Webb and Edgmer Escalona, who signed free-agent deals, have the potential to step into Hunter's setup role, though neither pitcher was retained by his former team at what would've been a low cost.
While bigger question marks loom in left field and the designated hitter spots, the most notable acquisitions to compete for the jobs are David Lough (pictured), who was acquired in a deal with the Kansas City Royals, and Delmon Young, who signed a minor league deal.
The roster is still solid throughout and should be capable of a third consecutive winning season, but the lack of aggressiveness this winter could make it hard to keep up in what should be a very competitive division.
Boston Red Sox
The possibilities were endless for the Boston Red Sox this winter. They have rotation depth on their big league roster. They have even more starting pitching depth in the upper minors. They have a deep farm system. They have the financial resources to compete for the top free agents on the market.
Yet they have stood pat and, at least thus far, held onto their pitching and will head into 2014 with a roster that looks very similar to the one that just won the World Series a few months ago. That's not a bad thing.
The big move was the re-signing of first baseman Mike Napoli to a two-year, $32 million deal. His loss would've created a major void in the middle of the lineup during an offseason with limited alternatives. Replacing free agent Jarrod Saltalamacchia behind the plate is veteran A.J. Pierzynski, who signed a one-year free-agent deal, while setup man Edward Mujica was signed to help bridge the gap to closer Koji Uehara.
In a position to do much more—the re-signing of shortstop Stephen Drew is still a possibility, as is a trade of one of their six major league starters—the Sox's offseason probably isn't over. They've done enough where a major decline shouldn't be expected, but they could've also made a much bigger splash and opted against it.
We're heading into year three of the Theo Epstein regime, and the natives are starting to get restless. Still, the front office resisted the temptation to go all out to put together a playoff-contending roster in 2014.
Their best prospects, including Javier Baez, Kris Bryant and Jorge Soler, could be in Chicago by 2015, and the Cubs feel they're close to being in a position where they're competitive year in and year out. Just not quite yet.
Thus, investing a ton of money into 2014 when they don't feel it would make them a contender would be a poor decision. Instead, they've made a couple of cost-effective moves, signing starting pitcher Jason Hammel (pictured) and closer Jose Veras to one-year deals, and will cross their fingers that they can somehow be much better than expected.
As was the case with Scott Feldman last year, Hammel could be flipped to a contender if he can have a solid two- to three-month stint with the Cubs. The same could happen with Veras.
One big move that would've made sense would've been the signing of 25-year-old Masahiro Tanaka, who is young enough to still play a big role during the time the Cubs think they'll be contenders. And the Cubs were actually thought to be in the lead for Tanaka at one point, according to Bruce Levine of 670TheScore.com. Instead, they've come up pretty much empty-handed this offseason.
Chicago White Sox
The 2014 White Sox have a much different look than recent White Sox team. Paul Konerko is still there, but the 37-year-old will have a reduced role in 2014 after being re-signed to a one-year, $2.5 million deal. He'll take a backseat to free agent signee Jose Dariel Abreu, a 27-year-old slugger out of Cuba, who is just one of many young position players that are new to the team.
In addition to Abreu, who signed a six-year, $68 million deal in October, the Sox acquired center fielder Adam Eaton (pictured) and third baseman Matt Davidson, who'll likely join right fielder Avisail Garcia, acquired at the July deadline, in the starting lineup.
Addison Reed was traded for Davidson, meaning Nate Jones will likely get his first shot at being a big league, closer while Ronald Belisario, Mitchell Boggs and Scott Downs were each signed to free-agent deals in order to replenish the bullpen depth.
Free-agent signee Felipe Paulino, who missed most of the past two seasons recovering from Tommy John surgery, could be a great value if he can make a healthy return and approach his pre-injury form when he had a 1.67 ERA in his first seven starts of the 2012 season.
The Sox didn't go all out for a big free agent, but the moves made by general manager Rick Hahn were smart and could have a major impact beyond 2014.
Losing Shin-Soo Choo and counting on rookie Billy Hamilton, who had a .309 on-base percentage in Triple-A, to replace him can't end up with a positive result. The Cincinnati Reds needed to have a much better plan in place for 2014, and the best they could do was to sign Roger Bernadina to a minor league deal.
Replacing Bronson Arroyo in the rotation with Tony Cingrani isn't as big of a risk, though the starting pitching depth is taking a hit, and bringing in another starter on a multi-year deal this offseason could've been smart considering that Homer Bailey is likely out the door next offseason. Instead, minor league free-agent signees Jeff Francis and Chien-Ming Wang could be the team's No. 6 and 7 starters down in Triple-A.
The Reds did acquire young lefty starter David Holmberg in the trade that sent catcher Ryan Hanigan to the Tampa Bay Rays. He had a 2.75 ERA in Double-A last season and could also help, if necessary, next season.
Hanigan's departure means that Devin Mesoraco will be the primary starter. The signing of free agent Brayan Pena to be his backup likely means he'll get the lion's share of time behind the plate. If Mesoraco can approach the potential that made him one of the top catching prospects in the game not too long ago, there will be no regrets in trading away Hanigan, who is considered a terrific defensive catcher and handler of pitching staffs.
When the re-signing of lefty reliever Manny Parra and the signing utility man Skip Schumaker to a free-agent deal are the only semi-notable moves for a team that has some obvious weaknesses, it can't be considered a great offseason.
After making some noise in free agency last offseason by signing Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher, the Cleveland Indians have been relatively quiet this time around.
John Axford (pictured), who was signed to a one-year deal, replaces longtime closer Chris Perez, who was released after the season. David Murphy will take over as the primary right fielder after signing a two-year, $12 million deal.
While those two moves will help solidify the bullpen and lineup, respectively, the loss of free agent Ubaldo Jimenez could prove to be a major blow to the rotation. And, at least as of now, the Tribe has not replaced his production.
Corey Kluber had a promising 2013 season, but it could be a stretch to think he could step in as the No. 2 starter behind Justin Masterson. Danny Salazar may have No. 2 potential, as he flashed late last season, but he tallied 145 innings in 2013 after several injury-plagued minor league seasons.
Shaun Marcum was brought in on a minor league deal and Josh Tomlin is recovered from Tommy John surgery, but the rotation depth is scarce. Barring the re-signing of Jimenez or another move to acquire a front-line starter, the Indians are in danger of a quick decline after a terrific 2013 season.
Healthy seasons from Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki could be all the Colorado Rockies need to bounce back to the top of the NL West. But a strong offseason would've also helped, and it's been nothing short of underwhelming.
Two questionable trades have headlined the winter moves for the Rockies: Dexter Fowler being sent to Houston for backup outfielder Brandon Barnes and potential No. 5 starter Jordan Lyles and former prospect Drew Pomeranz going to Oakland for injury-prone lefty Brett Anderson (pictured).
Either trade could very well work in Colorado's favor. But it would seem that Fowler and his last two years of club control could've fetched much more. Meanwhile, Pomeranz could have still rebuilt his former top prospect value with a strong Triple-A performance, and acquiring Anderson and $6 million of his $8 million contract could've been done without his inclusion.
Lefty specialist Boone Logan should help stabilize the middle of the bullpen, although he was costly (3 years, $16.5M), while 41-year-old LaTroy Hawkins, who was signed to a one-year, $2.25 million free-agent deal, will be asked to close out games in 2014.
Justin Morneau is a wild card, after signing a two-year, $12 million deal. If he can continue to remain healthy, he could hit 20-plus homers playing half of his games at Coors Field. And if he's really on the decline at age 33, even the hitter-friendliest confines in the game won't help.
Drew Stubbs was a solid acquisition, acquired from Cleveland for reliever Josh Outman. His defense will play well in spacious Coors Field and right-handed bat should fit well in a left field platoon with either Corey Dickerson or Charlie Blackmon.
Signing Joe Nathan (pictured), the best closer on the free-agent market, after consecutive late-season bullpen implosions was a necessary move for a team that expects to be in the postseason again in 2014. And at two years and $20 million, the price for the 39-year-old was a reasonable one.
Trading Prince Fielder and $138 million of the remaining $168 million left on his contract to the Texas Rangers for Ian Kinsler, who replaces free agent Omar Infante as the starting second baseman, appears to be a smart move for the future. It could also pay immediate dividends if Kinsler can return to the form that made him a 30-30 player (30 homers, 30 stolen bases) in 2009 and 2011 and not the one who had 13 homers and 15 stolen bases in 2013.
It also would've helped if the Tigers had bothered to fill the gaping hole that Fielder's departure left in the middle of the lineup. They'll hope that one of Nick Castellanos, Torii Hunter, Alex Avila—or one of the other lineup regulars—will step up, but they could regret not acquiring a big bat to hit behind Miguel Cabrera and Alex Avila.
The rotation has also undergone a major change, with Doug Fister being traded to the Washington Nationals to open up a spot for Drew Smyly. The return, at least on paper, is underwhelming. Utility man Stephen Lombardozzi will have a decreased role in the American League, while lefty reliever Ian Krol, despite a solid 32-game rookie stint, is untested. Pitching prospect Robbie Ray could be the key piece in the deal, but he could be a few years away from making an impact, if he makes one at all.
While Nathan should solidify the back of the bullpen, the signing of Joba Chamberlain to be one of his primary setup men isn't a safe move by any means. The 28-year-old still has some upside, but he hasn't been healthy and productive in years.
As far away as the Houston Astros are from being a playoff contender after a 111-loss season, no one would've blinked an eye if they didn't make one significant move to help the 2014 team and continued to develop their young talent while waiting for their best prospects to arrive.
But, figuring it was time to at least start working their way back to being a competitive ball club, general manager Jeff Luhnow made several moves geared toward 2014.
The acquisition of Dexter Fowler (pictured), who will likely lead off and play center field, gives the team a proven major league hitter with the potential to break out and be an impact player. The pitching staff also got a huge boost, via the free-agent market, with the addition of Scott Feldman to the top of the rotation and Jerome Williams to the back, as well as Jesse Crain, Chad Qualls and Matt Albers to the bullpen.
In all likelihood, all five of those players will be on the trade block by early July, so Luhnow will be able to continue cashing in his chips and adding to what has become a very strong farm system.
Kansas City Royals
With free-agent starting pitcher Ervin Santana not expected to return, the Kansas City Royals had some big shoes to fill this offseason. They opted to replace his production by upgrading throughout the 25-man roster.
After signing Jason Vargas to a four-year, $32 million deal to replace Santana's rotation spot, the Royals filled their longtime void at second base by signing Omar Infante (pictured) to a four-year deal. And they also acquired Norichika Aoki, a solid all-around player who will fill the leadoff spot and give the team some much-needed stability in right field.
Aoki also comes at a bargain $1.95 million price tag in 2014, and it only took lefty reliever Will Smith to pry him away from the Milwaukee Brewers.
A less notable trade acquisition could pay dividends as well. Danny Valencia, who ended the 2013 season on a tear with a .385 batting average (35-for-91), nine doubles and four homers over his last 28 games, gives the team insurance in case third baseman Mike Moustakas continues to struggle at the plate.
Along with the continued emergence of the Royals' young core of talent, these four moves should allow the team to build on last year's 86-win season and make a push for the playoffs in 2014.
Los Angeles Angels
If Los Angeles Angels general manager Jerry DiPoto was going to dig himself out of the hole he created after the signings of Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton—both perceived as terrible decisions so far—during his first two offseasons in his current post, this was the time to do it.
Limited financially, mostly because owner Artie Moreno wasn't going to make another huge investment after the poor early returns on Pujols and Hamilton, and on the trade market because of a very thin farm system, DiPoto had a challenging offseason ahead.
The results, on paper, aren't quite impressive. The team will still need a lot to go right, but after the acquisitions of starting pitchers Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs, third baseman David Freese, designated hitter Raul Ibanez and setup man Joe Smith, this Angels squad has the talent to surprise a lot of people in 2014.
A return to the playoffs would likely consist of bounce-back seasons from Pujols and/or Hamilton and Mike Trout carrying the team on his back at certain points of the season, but the strong offseason of DiPoto should not be overlooked in such a case.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Like the Boston Red Sox, the Dodgers had the ability to do so many things this offseason. They had the financial resources to sign one of the top free agents. They had the farm system talent and depth to acquire an impact player on the trade market.
And yet they just went about their offseason by filling a few minor holes and will move forward with a roster that proved it was already one of the best in baseball last season.
Those aforementioned holes, at second and third base and in the rotation, were filled by the signing of Cuban Alexander Guerrero, the re-signing of Juan Uribe and the free-agent signings of Dan Haren (pictured) and Paul Maholm to one-year deals, respectively. The bullpen was also solidified in a big way with the re-signings of Brian Wilson and J.P. Howell and the free-agent additions of Chris Perez and Jamey Wright.
None of the above will make a major impact, but the sum of the entire group could prove to be the difference that allows the team to to lock down a playoff berth late in the season.
One significant move that can't be overlooked is the signing of star pitcher Clayton Kershaw, who got a seven-year, $215 million contract extension and is no longer eligible for free agency after the season.
Without spending lavishly or sacrificing any of their top minor league talent to bring in an impact player or two, the Dodgers are a World Series favorite. They will be counting on a return to health of some key players, including Matt Kemp, but it's an enviable position to be in for a major league franchise.
The emergence of young pitching star Jose Fernandez and the arrival of outfield prospect Christian Yelich give the Miami Marlins reason for optimism. While they aren't quite ready to compete for a playoff spot, they won't be pushovers in 2014—and the additions from this offseason are a big reason why.
Free-agent signees Jarrod Saltalamacchia (pictured), Garrett Jones, Rafael Furcal and Casey McGehee won't find it difficult to improve on the production from the catcher, first base, second base and third base spots, respectively.
Carlos Marmol, signed to a one-year, $1.25 million deal, gives the Marlins a low-cost bounce-back candidate for the bullpen, while right-hander Carter Capps, acquired from the Seattle Mariners for Logan Morrison, can hit triple digits on the radar gun and could be the team's closer of the future.
The rotation probably could've used a veteran anchor, however, to help mentor a young staff and give the team innings until its best pitching prospects—lefties Andrew Heaney and Justin Nicolino are on the fast track—arrive in the majors. Considering the Marlins' pitcher-friendly home ballpark, it's a surprise that they didn't bring in at least one free-agent starter.
What could've easily been the lone "F" of the offseason has been upgraded substantially with the free-agent signing of Matt Garza (pictured), who could prove to be a huge bargain at four years and $50 million.
Up until Garza's signing last month, the team had only traded away a highly productive outfielder, Norichika Aoki—who was due to make less than $2 million in 2014—for Will Smith, a long shot for the No. 5 rotation spot and more likely just another candidate for a middle relief job.
It was surprising to see the team let Corey Hart walk away as a free agent on a one-year deal that only guaranteed him $6 million. But, in reality, it wouldn't be a surprise to see a platoon of Juan Francisco and Mark Reynolds, who was signed to a minor league deal, come close to matching Hart's production in his first year back after major surgeries to each of his knees.
The recent return of Francisco Rodriguez on a one-year, $3.25 million free-agent deal was also a smart move to help an inexperienced relief corps.
The Minnesota Twins' starting pitching was in such bad shape that they could upgrade in three of the five spots by signing Ricky Nolasco (pictured) and Phil Hughes to free-agent deals and re-signing Mike Pelfrey and still might be one of the worst rotations in baseball.
It doesn't mean they're not much-improved or that those moves weren't necessary. With a group of starters who are at least capable of giving a team five or six solid innings, the team has a chance to be competitive.
If the other areas of the ballclub were strengths, it would be much less of a concern that the Twins didn't bring in a pitcher who was a proven front-line starter to anchor the rotation ahead of Nolasco, Hughes and Kevin Correia.
The future is bright in Minnesota with the impending arrivals of center fielder Byron Buxton, widely regarded as the best prospect in the game, and third baseman Miguel Sano, who isn't far behind Buxton. But the addition of Kurt Suzuki, who signed a one-year free-agent deal, and the return of Jason Kubel on a minor league deal, won't be enough to help an offense that doesn't have enough talent to compete in 2014.
A return to playoff contention was a possibility, but the Twins fell at least two impact players short of becoming that this offseason.
New York Mets
With money coming off of the books and a potential to be major players in free agency this offseason, the New York Mets found themselves allocating those dollars in an area they hadn't expected to after the loss of staff ace Matt Harvey to season-ending Tommy John surgery.
Instead of adding multiple impact bats to the lineup, they have settled on just one: Curtis Granderson (pictured) was signed to a four-year, $60 million. Their other big acquisition was starting pitcher Bartolo Colon, who got two-year, $20 million deal to replace Harvey in the rotation.
There's still a chance they sign shortstop Stephen Drew, although it doesn't appear that they're willing to give him a big-money, multi-year deal. Aside from bounce-back candidate Chris Young getting a one-year, $7.25 million deal, the Mets haven't spent to bring in additional talent this offseason.
While they should get a pass because of the Harvey situation, it does seem like they've put themselves in the gray area where they don't appear to be playoff contenders and aren't rebuilding, either.
New York Yankees
This is probably going to go unnoticed because they're the New York Yankees and it wasn't a surprise that they outbid the competition for four impact players—Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury (pictured), Brian McCann and Masahiro Tanaka—this offseason, but this might be the most improved team in baseball since the start of the offseason.
Although, the Yankees still have holes on their club that could still cause them to fall to the bottom of the AL East. The division is very good, for starters, but they have major question marks in their rotation, the bullpen and the infield.
Aside from the aforementioned quartet of impact talent, the Yankees re-signed Derek Jeter, Hiroki Kuroda and Brendan Ryan, and they signed Kelly Johnson, Brian Roberts and Matt Thornton to free-agent deals.
If they can somehow trade for another late-inning reliever to help out new closer David Robertson and sign one of the remaining free-agent starters, they could be a force in the American League. Regardless, it's been a terrific offseason for the Yankees.
One of the most active teams this offseason, the Oakland A's made over an already very good ballclub in hopes of taking the next step and moving beyond the ALDS, which they've reached in consecutive seasons.
Replacing Bartolo Colon in the rotation will be lefty Scott Kazmir, who signed a two-year, $22 million deal, which should help balance out what had been an all-righty rotation in 2013. The bullpen was also revamped with two major trade acquisitions—closer Jim Johnson (pictured) was acquired from the Baltimore Orioles for Jemile Weeks; setup man Luke Gregerson was acquired from the San Diego Padres for Seth Smith—to help make up for the loss of free-agent closer Grant Balfour.
The lineup remains pretty much intact, although speedster Craig Gentry, who was acquired from the Texas Rangers for prospect Michael Choice, will give the team an element of speed and defense that Smith was unable to provide off the bench.
Nick Punto, who signed a one-year, $3 million free agent deal, gives the team a solid utility man who can fill in at shortstop, second base and third base.
While there wasn't a major acquisition that would draw more attention to Oakland this winter, this team is still filled with players who have filled integral roles on the 94- and 96-win teams of the past two years, respectively, and now it might have one of the deepest rosters in the American League.
After getting a head start on the 2014 season by signing Cuban right-hander Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez back in August, the Philadelphia Phillies didn't waste much time filling the gaping holes in right field and at the catcher's spot. Marlon Byrd (pictured) was signed to a two-year, $16 million deal, a potential bargain if he can continue on with his success of 2013, and Carlos Ruiz was re-signed to a three-year, $26 million deal shortly after.
Things were rather uneventful after the Byrd signing and the Ruiz re-signing, however, with the addition of Roberto Hernandez as the team's likely No. 5 starter the only other notable acquisition. Brad Lincoln was acquired in a trade with the Toronto Blue Jays and Wil Nieves was signed to be Ruiz's backup.
The 2014 team will rely heavily on bounce-back seasons from Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins and continued production from Chase Utley, though one more front-line starting pitcher would've been a big boost. That possibility is still looming, though, and the offseason grade could jump a full grade if they could land an A.J. Burnett, Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana.
UPDATE 12:30 p.m. ET: Burnett has agreed to a one-year, $16 million deal, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports. Offseason grade jumps from C to B.
There's been more departures than arrivals in Pittsburgh this offseason, as the Pirates lost A.J. Burnett to free agency after already losing Marlon Byrd, Justin Morneau and Garrett Jones.
The Pirates probably have enough talent to make up for that loss. But when reclamation project Edinson Volquez (pictured) is the top acquisition of the offseason and the trade for backup catcher Chris Stewart is next on that list, they better be very sure that the core of this team can can continue to produce and possibly even get better if they're to remain in playoff contention.
Top prospects Gregory Polanco and Jameson Taillon could be ready to help at some point in 2014, but that's no certainty. If they aren't, this team could be shopping the trade market for help in right field and in the rotation by mid-June.
San Diego Padres
The San Diego Padres have seemingly filled all of their needs this offseason.
They acquired a left-handed-hitting corner outfielder—Seth Smith (pictured) came over from Oakland in a trade for setup man Luke Gregerson—who can serve as insurance for injury-prone Carlos Quentin and push the inconsistent Cameron Maybin for playing time, replaced Gregerson by signing Joaquin Benoit to a two-year deal, brought in one of the best buy-low starting pitchers on the free-agent market in Josh Johnson and acquired lefty reliever Alex Torres in a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays.
While they didn't spend a ton of money in those deals, the Padres will head into 2014 with their highest payroll in the franchise's history—likely somewhere in the $85 million range—and a team that is talented enough to contend for a playoff spot if they can keep the core of their roster healthy.
San Francisco Giants
By signing Hunter Pence to a five-year, $90 million contract extension prior to the end of the 2013 season, the San Francisco Giants kept the 30-year-old outfielder from testing the free-agent waters. They also likely got him a bargain rate considering Shin-Soo Choo, a comparable player, ended up signing a seven-year, $130 million deal with the Rangers much later in the offseason.
In addition, the team re-signed Tim Lincecum to a two-year, $35 million deal; Ryan Vogelsong to a one-year, $5 million deal; and lefty reliever Javier Lopez to a three-year, $13 million deal. And it brought in a pair of veterans, Michael Morse (one year, $6 million) and Tim Hudson (two years, $23 million), to fill holes in the outfield and rotation, respectively.
With a majority of the world championship team of 2012 still in place, this team has a chance if it can get productive seasons from their core players.
After years of being shut out in their quest to add impact talent on the free-agent market, the Seattle Mariners finally broke through with the signing of second baseman Robinson Cano to a 10-year, $240 million deal.
While none of their other acquisitions have come close to that magnitude, the Mariners did sign Corey Hart (pictured) and trade for Logan Morrison to fill holes at the designated hitter spot and the outfield, respectively.
Fernando Rodney will be the team's closer after he was recently signed to a two-year, $14 million deal. And the signing of starting pitcher Scott Baker to a minor league deal could prove to be one of the biggest of the offseason.
There is still a chance the M's sign Nelson Cruz for a corner outfield spot and one of the remaining free-agent starting pitchers, which could take this grade up another notch.
St. Louis Cardinals
Defense was the theme of the St. Louis Cardinals' offseason, as they acquired Peter Bourjos (pictured) to play center field in a deal with the Angels for David Freese, who is replaced by Matt Carpenter, a better defender at the hot corner.
Carpenter's move back to his natural position from second base opens up a spot for Kolten Wong, who will share duties with veteran Mark Ellis, who was signed to a one-year, $5.25 million deal. Along with Bourjos over Jon Jay in center field, the team has upgraded defensively at three positions.
The lone addition geared toward the offense was at shortstop, where Jhonny Peralta will take over after signing a four-year, $53 million deal. Even if the 31-year-old is closer to what he did during down seasons in 2010 (.703 OPS, 15 HR) and 2012 (.689 OPS, 13 HR), as opposed to All-Star seasons in 2011 and 2013, he'd be a huge upgrade over last year's tandem of Daniel Descalso and Pete Kozma.
Tampa Bay Rays
The Tampa Bay Rays focused primarily on defense and the bullpen this offseason, with the re-signing of James Loney to a three-year, $21 million deal also keeping one of the team's key offensive performers in place.
Catcher Ryan Hanigan, acquired from the Reds, will take over starting catching duties, while veteran Jose Molina was re-signed to be his backup. That tandem is considered among the best in the game at framing pitches and handling a pitching staff.
After acquiring Heath Bell and re-signing Juan Carlos Oviedo on the possibility that either returns to his previous dominant form and takes hold of the closer's role, free agent Grant Balfour (pictured) fell into their laps on a two-year, $12 million deal after a previous deal had fallen apart with the Orioles.
Logan Forsythe, who played five positions in 2013, was acquired from the Padres in a move that should strengthen the team's bench.
Aside from the Yankees, no team made a bigger offensive splash than the Rangers, who signed outfielder Shin-Soo Choo (pictured) to a seven-year, $130 million deal and acquired first baseman Prince Fielder from the Detroit Tigers for second baseman Ian Kinsler.
The Kinsler trade freed up a regular lineup spot for Jurickson Profar, who was widely regarded as the top prospect in baseball coming into the 2013 season.
Outfield prospect Michael Choice, who was acquired from the A's for Craig Gentry, could also play a role in 2014. While he doesn't offer the plus defense and speed that Gentry did, Choice has major upside and power that could eventually land him an everyday job.
The starting rotation is thin after the loss of Derek Holland for at least half the season with a knee injury, and it could be in bigger trouble if Matt Harrison doesn't return strong from back surgery and/or Alexi Ogando can't stay healthy. As a result, the Rangers re-signed Colby Lewis, who hasn't pitched since mid-2012 because of elbow and hip injuries, to a minor league deal and agreed to terms with former Braves and Angels pitcher Tommy Hanson, who could have the edge for the final rotation spot.
Toronto Blue Jays
As of now, catcher Dioner Navarro (pictured)—who signed a two-year, $8 million deal after a terrific 2013 season with the Cubs—is the lone offseason acquisition expected to make the Opening Day roster. The Toronto Blue Jays are a favorite to sign either Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana, but that's no lock, with plenty of other teams still looking to add a front-line starting pitcher.
If Navarro, who should be a nice addition to the lineup, ends up being the most notable move of the offseason, it would be a major disappointment. But just as being last year's "offseason champions"—with two blockbuster trades that brought in several big-name players—didn't work out on the field, an underwhelming offseason doesn't mean they can't be good.
Still, given the fact that the Jays have been connected with so many pitchers this offseason, it would make it a huge disappointment if they came up empty-handed.
After falling short of a playoff berth in a season in which they were widely regarded as World Series favorites, the Nats could sneak up on the league in 2014. An extremely talented core is in place, and the offseason acquisition of starting pitcher Doug Fister (pictured)—who could be one of the best No. 4 starters in baseball behind Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann—could be the final piece necessary to catapult them back ahead of the Braves in the NL East and deep into the playoffs.
The signing of outfielder Nate McLouth to a two-year, $10.75 million deal provides depth, while the acquisition of Jerry Blevins from the A's gives the team another lefty in the bullpen to replace Ian Krol, who was traded to the Tigers in the Fister deal.
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