Predicting Every MLB Team's Best and Worst Offseason Move
With spring training officially underway, it's time to predict every MLB team's best and worst offseason move.
The following list consists of trades, free-agent signings and even a few contract extensions. Make sure that you keep in mind the fact that for select teams, their "best" move might not have actually been very good. Of course, for other clubs, their "worst" move might not have been that bad.
So here's a look around the league at every MLB team's best and worst offseason move.
Best Move: Acquiring Mark Trumbo for Tyler Skaggs and Adam Eaton as part of a three-team trade
There's always a risk when a team deals away highly touted prospects. However, it's easy enough to understand why the Arizona Diamondbacks were willing to part with Tyler Skaggs and Adam Eaton in order to land Mark Trumbo.
With the former Los Angeles Angel now in the fold, the Diamondbacks have one of the most fearsome 3-4 combos in the National League between Trumbo and Paul Goldschmidt.
Worst Move: Acquiring Addison Reed for Matt Davidson
Addison Reed could prove to be a highly valuable pitcher for the Diamondbacks. Still, it's reasonable to ask if it was worth parting with Matt Davidson in order to acquire him. Davidson recently landed in the No. 72 spot on Baseball America's top 100 prospects list. Meanwhile, the Diamondbacks already had closing options in J.J. Putz, David Hernandez and Brad Ziegler.
Best Move: Signing Craig Kimbrel to a four-year, $42 million contract extension
Over the past three seasons, Atlanta Braves closer Craig Kimbrel has arguably been the best pitcher in all of baseball. During that stretch, the right-hander has produced the lowest ERA, WHIP and batting average against as well as the highest K/9 ratio (14.9) in all of baseball, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
The six-year, $32.4 million extension that the club handed out to Julio Teheran was also in the mix for the Braves' top move of the offseason.
Worst Move: Signing Andrelton Simmons to a seven-year, $58 million contract extension
The Braves have made some brilliant moves this offseason in locking up Kimbrel, Freddie Freeman, Julio Teheran and Andrelton Simmons. Of all those deals, the extension for Simmons carries the most risk.
The 2013 Gold Glove winner is incredible in the field, but his bat very much remains a question mark, so he's here by default. Simmons did hit 17 home runs in 2013, but he also posted a .296 OBP and a 87 OPS+. Those numbers could improve as he gains experience, but if they go in the opposite direction, that contract could begin to look too large even with the runs he saves on the field.
Best Move: Signing Nelson Cruz to a one-year, $8 million contract
There's no doubt that Nelson Cruz has his drawbacks. Namely, the slugger served a 50-game ban for PED usage last season and was attached to draft-pick compensation. Still, at just $8 million, the signing of Cruz isn't just a bargain for the Baltimore Orioles, it's one of the best moves of the entire offseason.
Worst Move: Signing Ubaldo Jimenez to a four-year, $50 million contract
A four-year, $50 million deal is simply too rich for a pitcher as inconsistent as Ubaldo Jimenez. The eight-year veteran posted a 1.82 ERA in his final 13 starts last year, but in his first 19 outings, he produced a 4.56 ERA. Back in 2012, the right-hander went just 9-17 with a 5.40 ERA and a 72 ERA+.
Boston Red Sox
Best Move: Signing Mike Napoli to a two-year, $32 million contract
The genius of the Boston Red Sox's new deal with Mike Napoli is that the agreement is only for two seasons. Napoli gets a more than fair $16 million per season, while the Red Sox get to avoid paying for the decline phase of his career.
Worst Move: Failing to add an experienced backup at shortstop/third base
With Xander Bogaerts taking over at shortstop and Will Middlebrooks holding down third base, it's easy enough to see why the Red Sox aren't tempted to meet Stephen Drew's demand for a multiyear deal.
Still, the club would be much better off if it had a more experienced backup for the left side of the infield beyond Brock Holt and Jonathan Herrera.
Best Move: Signing Jose Veras to a one-year, $4 million contract
There aren't many options to choose from when it comes to picking the best move from a quiet offseason for the Chicago Cubs. The signing of Jose Veras appears to be the shrewdest move for the team. The veteran right-hander is slated to become the closer and is already highly popular with his new teammates, as Carrie Muskat of MLB.com reports.
Worst Move: Doing Nothing
After dropping 96 games in 2013, the Cubs have done next to nothing to improve the roster. The most noteworthy story of the offseason was the team's failed attempt to land Japanese starter Masahiro Tanaka.
That lack of activity suggests that the Cubs are in line for yet another disappointing campaign in 2014.
Chicago White Sox
Best Move: Signing Jose Abreu to a six-year, $68 million contract
There's clearly a risk in giving out nearly $70 million to a player who has never appeared in a single big league game. Then again, it's not easy finding a player with the power potential that Jose Abreu demonstrates in the video above.
If that power translates to MLB, then Abreu will be a downright bargain for the Chicago White Sox.
Worst Move: Failing to improve the catcher's position
The White Sox have enjoyed a rather successful offseason on both the trade and free-agent fronts. However, one position that the team failed to bolster was the catcher's spot.
General manager Rick Hahn explained that Brian McCann was the only backstop who caught the club's attention this offseason, according to Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune. The White Sox, of course, didn't end up making a big splash for the seven-time All-Star. As a result, the team will go with Tyler Flower and Josh Phegley, both of whom underwhelmed a season ago.
Note: Video courtesy of MLB advanced Media.
Best Move: Acquiring David Holmberg for Ryan Hanigan as part of a three-team trade
Back in December, the Cincinnati Reds landed left-hander David Holmberg in a three-team swap that included the Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Rays.
The Reds only had to part with backup catcher Ryan Hanigan in the deal, and they landed the promising Holmberg in exchange. Last year, Holmberg posted a 2.75 ERA while pitching for the Diamondbacks' Double-A affiliate.
Worst Move: Relying on Billy Hamilton to be the team's new leadoff man
It won't be easy for Billy Hamilton to take over for Shin-Soo Choo as the new leadoff hitter for the Reds. Choo owns a .389 OBP in nine big league seasons, and last year, he posted a .423 OBP. For his part, Hamilton put up just .308 OBP in Triple-A last season.
Best Move: Signing David Murphy to a two-year, $12 million contract
David Murphy was not very good in 2013, as he hit just .220 with a .656 OPS for the Texas Rangers. However, in 2012, the outfielder batted .304 with an .859 OPS. As the owner of a career .778 OPS, Murphy is an excellent candidate to have a bounce-back season in 2014 and to provide the Cleveland Indians with a strong return on their investment.
Worst Move: Failing to account for loss of veteran starters
Last year, Scott Kazmir and Ubaldo Jimenez combined to pitch a 340.2 innings for the Cleveland Indians. That's a ton of innings for the club's young starters to account for in 2014.
Best Move: Signing LaTroy Hawkins to a one-year, $2.5 million contract
With a price tag of $2.5 million, LaTroy Hawkins should be an excellent value for the Colorado Rockies in 2014. Last year, the veteran right-hander put up a 2.93 ERA with 13 saves while appearing in 72 games for the New York Mets.
Worst Move: Acquiring Brandon Barnes and Jordan Lyles for Dexter Fowler
It remains to be seen just why exactly the Rockies felt compelled to ship out Dexter Fowler in exchange for Brandon Barnes and Jordan Lyles. Neither Barnes nor Lyles figures to be a key contributor for the team in 2014. Barnes will have to battle just to earn a spot on the bench, while Lyles is coming off a terrible season in which he went 7-9 with a 5.59 ERA.
Best Move: Acquiring Ian Kinsler for Prince Fielder
The swap of Ian Kinsler for Prince Fielder worked out perfectly for both sides involved. For the Detroit Tigers, the deal provided major financial flexibility as the team got out from under Fielder's megadeal.
That extra flexibility ultimately could allow the team to lock up either Miguel Cabrera or Max Scherzer long-term. Plus, the team added Ian Kinsler, who takes over for the departed Omar Infante.
Worst Move: Acquiring Robbie Ray, Steve Lombardozzi (pictured) and Ian Krol for Doug Fister
If Robbie Ray ends up developing into an ace, then this deal will work out just fine. For now, though, the Tigers have parted with one of the most consistent starters in the AL for a middle reliever, utility man and a prospect who has only appeared in 12 games above Single-A.
Best Move: Signing Jesse Crain to a one-year, $3.25 million contract
Last year, Jesse Crain was one of the most effective relievers in all of baseball, as he produced a 0.74 ERA and a 11.3 K/9 ratio on his way to earning All-Star honors.
The right-hander will miss Opening Day as he recovers from offseason surgery, but he isn't expected to be out for more than a couple of weeks. When he does return, Crain will be a leading contender to take over as the Houston Astros closer. Ultimately, the reliever could prove to be a valuable trade chip later this summer.
Worst Move: Signing Chad Qualls to a two-year, $5.95 million contact
Assuming Crain gets the nod as the Astros closer once healthy, Chad Qualls is destined to become an expensive setup man for the Houston in 2014. For a team that's likely headed for yet another last-place finish, that's an unnecessary expense.
Kansas City Royals
Best Move: Acquiring Norichika Aoki for Will Smith
The acquisition of Norichika Aoki provided the Kansas City Royals with a legitimate leadoff hitter to place atop their underrated lineup. The outfielder owns a .355 OBP in two big league seasons, and last year he was the most difficult batter to strike out in baseball, per FanGraphs.
Worst Move: Signing Jason Vargas to a four-year, $32 million
There's no reason why Jason Vargas should have landed a four-year deal this offseason. Last year, he went 9-8 with a 4.02 ERA and a 94 ERA+ while pitching for the Los Angeles Angels. Sure, the $8 million per year salary is reasonable, but why the Royals locked him in four four years remains puzzling.
Los Angeles Angels
Best Move: Signing Raul Ibanez to a one-year, $2.75 million contract
The Los Angeles Angels needed to add some power after jettisoning Mark Trumbo, and Raul Ibanez should prove to be the perfect replacement. In 327 plate appearances at Angel Stadium, the 41-year-old owns a career slash line of .349/.407/.522, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.
Worst Move: Failing to add a veteran starter to the rotation
In Tyler Skaggs and Hector Santiago, the Angels have picked up a couple of intriguing options for the rotation. If the Angels plan to compete with the Oakland Athletics and the Texas Rangers in the fiercely competitive AL West, though, then the team absolutely should have added a veteran start either via free agency or trade.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Best Move: Signing Dan Haren to a one-year, $10 million contract
For a big-market team like the Los Angeles Dodgers, there's no such thing as a bad one-year deal. In 2013, Dan Haren had a solid second half for the Washington Nationals, going 6-4 with a 3.52 ERA.
If the right-hander can repeat that performance in 2014, then this will prove to be a strong signing for the club. If not, the investment is minimal enough that the Dodgers can simply discard Haren and replace him with a midseason acquisition.
Worst Move: Signing Juan Uribe to a two-year, $15 million deal
The Dodgers didn't have a lot of choices when it came to the third baseman free-agent market this offseason.
Still, giving Juan Uribe a two-year, $15 million deal clearly was not their best decision. The veteran hit .278 during his contract season in 2013, but in the two years before, that he batted .191 and .204 respectively.
Best Move: Signing Jarrod Saltalamacchia to a three-year, $21 million contract
Jarrod Saltalamacchia definitely has his limitations defensively. As a hitter, though, he's quite accomplished. In each of the past two seasons, Saltalamacchia has actually posted a higher OPS than Brian McCann has. That suggests that the Miami Marlins will get a healthy return on their $21 million investment.
Worst Move: Signing Rafael Furcal to a one-year, $3 million contract
The Marlins didn't really make any bad moves this offseason, but their decision to give Rafael Furcal a guaranteed base salary of $3 million doesn't quite add up. Considering the fact that Furcal has only totaled 500 plate appearances in one of the past four seasons, a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training would have been a far safer investment.
Best Move: Signing Mark Reynolds to a minor league contract
Mark Reynolds strikes out a ton. However, the 30-year-old has also clubbed 21 home runs or more in six straight seasons. That's a lot of pop at a base salary of $2 million, per John Heyman of CBS Sports.
Worst Move: Signing Matt Garza to a four-year, $50 million contract
The Milwaukee Brewers haven't made any particularly poor moves this offseason, but the decision to sign Matt Garza to a four-year, $50 million deal stands out as the riskiest.
The biggest red flag in signing Garza to such a lucrative contract is that the right-hander has struggled to stay on the mound. In the past two seasons, he has made 24 and 18 starts respectively.
Best Move: Signing Kurt Suzuki to a one-year, $2.75 million contract
Kurt Suzuki doesn't offer much with the bat, but the catcher is well-respected around the league for his defensive capabilities. The 30-year-old is also an ideal fit with the Minnesota Twins, as he can help guide the development of Josmil Pinto, who hit .342 in 21 games last year but still needs to improve behind the plate.
Worst Move: Signing Phil Hughes to a three-year, $24 million contract
A three-year deal is awfully generous for a pitcher who performed as poorly as Phil Hughes did in 2013. There's no question that the Twins needed to upgrade the club's starting staff. However, with a 4-14 record and a 5.19 ERA in 2013, it's difficult to see Hughes providing much help.
New York Mets
Best Move: Signing Daisuke Matsuzaka to a minor league deal
Watch out for Daisuke Matsuzaka. The veteran right-hander is finally healthy and is fresh off a strong finish in 2013. In his final for starts last year, Matsuzaka allowed just four earned runs. According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, he will make $1.5 million if he makes the team. That means the 33-year-old could be a bargain for the Mets in 2014.
Worst Move: Signing Chris Young to a one-year, $7.25 million contract
Back in November, the Mets inked Chris Young to a one-year, $7.25 million deal, which, at the time, appeared generous. Last season while playing for the Oakland Athletics, the outfielder had hit just .200 while totaling 12 home runs. The deal looks even worse now considering that Nelson Cruz, a substantially more accomplished hitter, cost the Baltimore Orioles just $8 million.
New York Yankees
Best Move: Signing Brian McCann to a five-year, $85 million contract
The left-handed-hitting Brian McCann will be a perfect fit at Yankee Stadium, with its 314-foot porch in right field. Sure, the nine-year veteran won't remain behind the plate for the entirety of his deal. However, with a career .823 OPS, McCann has the bat to provide plenty of value at first base or the designated hitter's spot.
Worst Move: Signing Jacoby Ellsbury to a seven-year, $153 million
There aren't a lot of players who can do what Jacoby Ellsbury does. Last year, the Boston Red Sox table-setter hit .298 and racked up 52 stolen bases. The problem with Ellsbury, of course, is that he just can't seem to stay on the field. Whether he's injury-prone or the victim of bad luck, he has averaged just 96 games per year over the past four seasons.
Unless he can reverse that trend, it will be incredibly difficult for Ellsbury to be worth $153 million.
Best Move: Acquiring Luke Gregerson for Seth Smith
The best part of the Oakland Athletics' acquisition of Luke Gregerson is that the team landed the reliever in exchange for a player without an obvious role on the team in 2014, Seth Smith. There's also the fact that Gregerson has been a highly effective pitcher for the San Diego Padres for five straight seasons. Last year, the right-hander posted a 2.71 ERA in 73 outings for the Padres.
Worst Move: Acquiring Drew Pomeranz and Chris Jensen for Brett Anderson
There are a couple of issues with the Athletics' decision to part with Brett Anderson. The first is that the team sold low on its 2013 Opening Day starter. The larger concern, however, is that neither of the pieces that the team got in return figure to be major contributors in 2014. That's a serious problem considering that Oakland is clearly in a win-now mode.
Best Move: Signing Bobby Abreu to a minor league contract
The Philadelphia Phillies' signing of Bobby Abreu doesn't offer much upside. But at least the deal comes with minimal risk, which is more than can be said about most of the club's other offseason moves.
Abreu is set to make $800,000 if he makes the Phillies, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. After hitting .322/.416/.461 in a 50-game stint in the Venezuela Winter League (via MLB.com), there's an excellent chance of Abreu earning a spot on the Phillies' bench.
Worst Move: Re-signing Carlos Ruiz to a three-year, $26 million contract
In inking Carlos Ruiz to a three-year, $26 million deal, the Phillies simply gave the 35-year-old backstop too many dollars and too many years.
For comparison, the Miami Marlins landed a 28-year-old Jarrod Saltalamacchia for three years but just $21 million. Meanwhile, the Boston Red Sox snagged A.J. Pierzynski on a one-year, $8.25 million deal.
Best Move: Acquiring Chris Stewart for a Player to be named later
It's been a quiet offseason for the Pittsburgh Pirates, as evidenced by the fact that the trade for a backup catcher is the team's most notable acquisition. Chris Stewart provides the Pirates with a suitable veteran backup who will help keep Russell Martin fresh.
Worst Move: Signing Edinson Volquez to a one-year, $5 million contract
The club's one-year, $5 million deal with Edinson Volquez is very similar to the gamble the Pirates made on Francisco Liriano one year ago. The difference, though, is that Pittsburgh only had to spend $1 million to bring in Liriano. Another issue with the move for Volquez is that it likely blocks Jeff Locke from being a part of the rotation when the Pirates break camp.
San Diego Padres
Best Move: Signing Josh Johnson to a one-year, $8 million contract
Josh Johnson struggled through a terrible 2013 campaign with the Toronto Blue Jays, but a return to the National League should be a huge help for the right-hander. In eight seasons in the NL, Johnson owns a 3.15 ERA and a 133 ERA+.
Worst Move: Signing Joaquin Benoit to a two-year, $15.5 million
A two-year, $15.5 million deal for Joaquin Benoit is definitely an overpay, especially considering that the right-hander will be setting up for Huston Street. What makes this deal even worse, though, is that it was necessitated by the fact that the club traded Luke Gregerson to the Oakland Athletics.
San Francisco Giants
Best Move: Signing Tim Hudson to a two-year, $23 million contract
Generally, when teams sign a free agent early in the offseason, they end up overpaying. For the San Francisco Giants, though, that was not true when they inked Tim Hudson to a two-year, $23 million deal. The veteran right-hander will be a vital addition to a rotation that massively underperformed in 2013.
Worst Move: Signing Tim Lincecum to a two-year, $35 million contract
Over the next two seasons, Tim Lincecum will make $35 million. That's a ton of cash for a pitcher who posted a 76 ERA+ last year and a 68 ERA+ in 2012.
What's truly remarkable, though, is how much money Lincecum will make in comparison to Madison Bumgarner. The left-handed Bumgarner is currently pitching on a six-year deal that pays him $35.56 million.
Best Move: Signing Corey Hart to a one-year, $6 million
Corey Hart didn't play a single game in 2013, as he was recovering from surgeries on both of his knees. However, from 2010-12, he swatted 87 home runs. If he can regain that power for the Seattle Mariners in the upcoming season, he will prove to be an excellent low-risk signing for the club.
Worst Move: Signing Robinson Cano to a 10-year, $240 million contract
Ten-year deals tend to work out very poorly in baseball. Just ask the New York Yankees about their deal with Alex Rodriguez or the Los Angeles Angels about their agreement with Albert Pujols.
What makes the move inexplicable, though, is that since signing Cano, the team has failed to make the necessary additions to become a legitimate contender in the AL West.
St. Louis Cardinals
Best Move: Signing Mark Ellis to a one-year, $5.25 million contract
The St. Louis Cardinals didn't have a lot of glaring weaknesses to address this winter, which explains how the acquisition of Mark Ellis qualifies as the best move of the offseason. By signing Ellis, the Cardinals now have a proven insurance policy at second base in case Kolten Wong isn't ready for the big leagues by Opening Day.
Worst Move: Signing Jhonny Peralta to a four-year, $53 million contract
Jhonny Peralta will definitely provide the Cardinals with an offensive upgrade over Pete Kozma. However, it appears as though the club overpaid for that improvement. Much of the reasoning behind giving Peralta such a lucrative contract is that the shortstop market was incredibly thin this offseason.
Still, it's worth noting that Nelson Cruz, who, like Peralta, served a 50-game ban for PED usage last season, had to settle for a one-year, $8 million deal. That suggests that the Cardinals splashed out more cash than necessary to ink Peralta.
Tampa Bay Rays
Best Move: Signing Grant Balfour to a two-year, $12 million contract
Last year, Grant Balfour was one of the top closers in baseball, posting a 2.59 ERA with 38 saves and a 10.3 K/9 ratio. The deal looks even better considering that the Tigers paid $20 million for a two-year deal with fellow 2013 All-Star closer Joe Nathan.
Worst Move: Signing James Loney to a three-year, $21 million contract
The Rays haven't made any poor moves this offseason, but it could be argued that the team slightly overpaid James Loney. In 2013, the first baseman had an impressive season for the Rays, hitting .299/.348/.430 with 13 home runs.
Then again, Loney is just one year removed from posting a .630 OPS while playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox in 2012.
Best Move: Acquiring Prince Fielder for Ian Kinsler
The Texas Rangers took on some major financial risk in acquiring Prince Fielder from the Tigers, but the club also drastically improved its lineup for 2014. Fielder represents a perfect left-handed complement to Adrian Beltre. Plus, with Jurickson Profar in the fold, Ian Kinsler will barely be missed.
Worst Move: Signing Shin-Soo Choo to a seven-year, $130 million contract
Shin-Soo Choo was undoubtedly one of the top position players available on the free-agent market this offseason. Still, that doesn't mean that the Rangers' new leadoff man was worth the $130 million payout he landed.
Covering his age-31 to age-37 seasons, this deal is bound to turn ugly. But the worst part of the contract is that Choo simply can't hit left-handers. Last year, Choo batted just .215 with a .612 OPS against lefties while playing for the Cincinnati Reds.
Toronto Blue Jays
Best Move: Signing Dioner Navarro to a two-year, $8 million contract
With a limited number of options to choose from, the signing of Dioner Navarro stands out as the Toronto Blue Jays' best move of the offseason. Last year, the veteran catcher hit .300 with an .856 OPS and 13 home runs in 89 games for the Cubs.
Worst Move: Not upgrading the starting staff
The Blue Jays clearly would benefit from the addition of a starter or two to the rotation. Last year, the group served up the second-most runs in all of baseball, according to ESPN.com.
The club's failure to upgrade the rotation is even more confounding considering the fact that it has two protected first-round draft picks. That means the Blue Jays would only have to part with a second-round pick to sign a pitcher attached to draft pick compensation.
Best Move: Acquiring Doug Fister for Robbie Ray, Steve Lombardozzi and Ian Krol
The Washington Nationals now boast one of the most formidable rotations in all of baseball after acquiring Doug Fister from the Detroit Tigers. What makes the addition of Fister even better, though, is that the Nationals were able to add the right-hander without making the club weaker in 2014.
Worst Move: Failing to sign Ian Desmond to a contract extension
The Nationals enjoyed a highly successful offseason, but that's not to say the team got to every single item on its to-do list.
According to Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post, Ian Desmond has already turned down a seven-year contract extension in the range of $85-$90 million. That the shortstop would reject such a lucrative offer underscores just how challenging it will be for the Nationals to lock up Desmond long-term.
If you want to talk baseball, find me on Twitter @KarlBuscheck.
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