MLB Teams Who Didn't Do Enough to Keep Up This Winter

Rick WeinerFeatured ColumnistFebruary 23, 2014

MLB Teams Who Didn't Do Enough to Keep Up This Winter

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    Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

    Whether it's to qualify for the playoffs after a lengthy absence or to make a deeper postseason run following an earlier-than-expected exit the season before, every team in baseball hopes to improve their roster over the winter by plugging holes and heading into the upcoming season stronger than they were a year ago.

    Every winter, some teams prove that they're more inclined—and able—to make those improvements than some of their counterparts.

    This past offseason has been no different, with a handful of clubs that fancy themselves contenders failing to do enough to keep up with their competition.

    Let's take a look at the teams that fall under that category—and that have set up both themselves and their fans for disappointment in 2014.

     

    *Unless otherwise noted, all statistics courtesy of FanGraphs.

Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Mark Trumbo
    Mark TrumboChristian Petersen/Getty Images

    Key Arrivals

    • RHP Bronson Arroyo
    • RHP Addison Reed
    • OF Mark Trumbo

     

    Key Departures

    • RHP Heath Bell
    • IF Willie Bloomquist
    • 3B Matt Davidson
    • CF Adam Eaton
    • LHP Tony Sipp
    • LHP Tyler Skaggs

     

    What Still Needs to Be Done

    Arizona continued a trend of trading young players for established veterans this winter, upgrading the closer spot with Addison Reed while landing the power bat it sought by acquiring Mark Trumbo.

    But Trumbo is as one-dimensional a player as they get, unable to get on base with any consistency and providing a below-average glove in the outfield. He's a designated hitter playing in the National League—something that's never a good mix.

    Arizona also missed out on its primary goal this winter, which was to add a front-line starter to pair with Patrick Corbin at the top of its rotation. Instead, it signed a reliable, innings-eating veteran in Bronson Arroyo.

    Entering his age-37 season, Arroyo is no better than an average MLB starter at this point in his career. Arizona had internal options—namely youngsters Randall Delgado and Archie Bradley, the best pitching prospect in baseball per MLB.com (No. 5 overall)—that could have, at the very least, provided the same level of performance.

    So while the Diamondbacks have made some improvements to the roster, none of them are big enough to push them past Los Angeles and San Francisco in the NL West—much less the rest of the contending clubs in the National League—for a chance at a wild-card berth.

Cincinnati Reds

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    Skip Schumaker
    Skip SchumakerMike McGinnis/Getty Images

    Key Arrivals

    • C Brayan Pena
    • MGR Bryan Price
    • IF/OF Skip Schumaker

     

    Key Departures

    • RHP Bronson Arroyo
    • MGR Dusty Baker
    • CF Shin-Soo Choo
    • C Ryan Hanigan
    • OF Xavier Paul
    • OF Derrick Robinson

     

    What Still Needs to Be Done

    It was a foregone conclusion that on-base machine Shin-Soo Choo was going to take his talents elsewhere after the 2013 season. It was also assumed that Billy Hamilton, a converted shortstop, would take over for Choo as Cincinnati's leadoff hitter and center fielder in 2014.

    But what happens if Hamilton can't handle the full-time job? Are the Reds really content with the idea of having 34-year-old Skip Schumaker, a below-average fielder and someone without any semblance of speed, replace him as the starter?

    You'd have thought that the Reds would have looked to solidify their outfield, perhaps adding a veteran like Rajai Davis, who is capable of playing all three outfield spots while providing some speed atop the lineup should Hamilton falter.

    Instead, the Reds have Jay Bruce in right field and a pair of question marks in left field and center with no viable replacements if one is needed. Chris Heisey has proven that he's best used sporadically, not over an extended period of time.

    Back in December, Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network noted that the Reds hadn't done anything to improve significantly. None of the team's additions over the past two months, which has largely consisted of minor leaguers and non-roster invites to spring training, has done anything to prove him wrong.

    That's no way for a team that fancies itself a perennial contender to head into the regular season.

Cleveland Indians

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    Ubaldo Jimenez
    Ubaldo JimenezJason Miller/Getty Images

    Key Arrivals

    • RHP David Aardsma
    • RHP John Axford
    • RHP Scott Atchison
    • OF Jeff Francoeur
    • IF Elliot Johnson
    • RHP Shaun Marcum
    • CF Nyjer Morgan
    • RF David Murphy
    • LHP Josh Outman

     

    Key Departures

    • RHP Matt Albers
    • RHP Ubaldo Jimenez
    • LHP Scott Kazmir
    • RHP Chris Perez
    • RHP Joe Smith
    • OF Drew Stubbs

     

    What Still Needs to Be Done

    After losing Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir to free agency, Cleveland's rotation features Justin Masterson and four pitchers that have never spent a full season in the majors as a starter. 

    As a matter of fact, none of the arms penciled into the Indians rotation after Masterson—Corey Kluber, Zach McAllister, Danny Salazar and either Carlos Carrasco or Trevor Bauer—have ever made more than 24 starts in a given season or thrown more than 150 innings.

    By not replacing either Jimenez or Kazmir with a veteran innings-eater, it's hard to see how the Indians are going to remain in contention in an improved AL Central without the rotation depth that most clubs need to get through the course of the regular season.

Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Edinson Volquez
    Edinson VolquezDavid Manning-USA TODAY Sports

    Key Arrivals

    • C Chris Stewart
    • RHP Edinson Volquez

     

    Key Departures

    • RHP A.J. Burnett
    • RF Marlon Byrd
    • C John Buck
    • 1B/OF Garrett Jones
    • C Michael McKenry
    • 1B Justin Morneau

     

    What Still Needs to Be Done

    First base and right field were issues in Pittsburgh last season, so the team went out and acquired Justin Morneau and Marlon Byrd in separate deals to plug those holes.

    Both have since left for other teams as free agents, and the Pirates have done nothing to replace them. That's a problem.

    The Pirates currently have four mediocre players—Travis Ishikawa, Andrew Lambo, Chris McGuiness and Gaby Sanchez—in camp to compete for the first base job, and a platoon situation isn't ideal for a contending club.

    Neither is the team's situation in right field, where Jose Tabata has proven that he's too inconsistent to be counted upon to produce on a daily basis. Top prospect Gregory Polanco could be the team's internal answer at the position, but he's not expected to make an impact at the top level until late in the season.

    The Pirates also watched A.J. Burnett, the team's most reliable starter, walk away as a free agent. They replaced him with the incredibly wild and erratic Edinson Volquez, hoping that pitching coach Ray Searage can work his magic once again, as he did with Francisco Liriano a year ago.

    Pittsburgh failed to improve its roster—even slightly—after ending more than two decades of ineptitude and capturing the hearts of baseball fans across the country in 2013. As presently constituted, it's going to be nearly impossible for the Pirates to reach the postseason for a second straight season.

Toronto Blue Jays

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    Abelimages/Getty Images

    Key Additions

    • RHP Liam Hendriks
    • C Dioner Navarro
    • RHP Tomo Ohka

     

    Key Departures

    • C J.P. Arencibia
    • OF Rajai Davis
    • IF Mark DeRosa
    • RHP Josh Johnson
    • RHP Brad Lincoln
    • LHP Darren Oliver

     

    What Needed To Be Done

    Rather than paying market price to sign a free-agent starter or trade for one, general manager Alex Anthopoulos decided to sign nonfactors like Liam Hendriks and Tomo Ohka, failing to give Toronto's rotation the boost it needs.

    Anthopoulos believes the team's in-house options will cure what ails a group that ranked 29th in ERA (4.81) and 28th in FIP (4.54) and xFIP (4.23) a season ago, as he told MLB.com's Gregor Chisholm:

    We believe in these guys, believe it's going to come, and these guys are going to be successful, especially some of the young guys we have. There's a reason they were drafted as high as they were, there's a reason they were as highly touted as they've been. The skepticism and all that? I totally understand, it comes with the territory, but I think these guys might really surprise.

    To be sure, the young guys Anthopoulos is talking about—22-year-old Marcus Stroman, 23-year-old Drew Hutchison and 26-year-old Kyle Drabek—all have talent. But Stroman has yet to pitch above Double-A, while Drabek and Hutchison are both trying to return from Tommy John surgery.

    For a team that's built to win now, Toronto simply has too many questions surrounding the rotation to expect anything but another disappointing finish in the standings.