The 20 Best Moves of the MLB Offseason (Thus Far)
Believe it or not, opening day is a mere two-and-a-half months away.
With such players as Johnny Damon, Orlando Hudson, and Ben Sheets still available, "Hot Stove season" isn't winding down by any means. However, spring training is getting closer and closer.
Despite those players listed and a few others, the impact players have signed for the most part. The players everyone expected to be dealt either have new homes or have been taken off the block.
As such, I don't think it's too early to review the best, most impactful moves of the offseason so far.
Let me know what you think; constructive criticism please. Enjoy.
20. Braves Sign Billy Wagner
Rather than shell out the exorbitant years to keep Mike Gonzalez or Rafael Soriano (who actually wound up accepting arbitration), the Braves went bargain hunting to a degree, picking up the veteran Billy Wagner on a one year deal.
After being traded to the Red Sox in late August, Wagner came back breathing fire and making fools out of opposing hitters as he has for much of his great career. The former Phillie and Met knows the NL East as well as anyone; I look for him to have success in Atlanta.
19. Giants Re-sign Bengie Molina
Brian Sabean and co. obviously got the impression the promising but young Buster Posey wasn't quite ready for full time catching duties, so the Giants swooped out of nowhere to bring back Bengie Molina.
In doing so, they bring back one of the few potent bats their lineup boasted last season. With Mark DeRosa and Aubrey Huff in the fold, and Freddy Sanchez around for a whole year, Molina, Pablo Sandoval, and the Giants' pitching staff should get a lot more help than they got last season.
18. Mariners Acquire Milton Bradley
Yes, I'm still amazed I'm listing him here. If you'd told me Bradley would be one of the best acquisitions of the offseason a few months ago, I never would've believed you.
Leave it to Jack Zduriencik to make something out of nothing. I'm as big a Bradley critic as anyone; he's a moody, mercurial headcase, but he's also an immeasurably more useful player than Carlos Silva. Maybe Ken Griffey Jr., a hero of Bradley's, can help calm him down.
17. Reds Sign Aroldis Chapman
The Chapman sweepstakes undeniably was one of the most intriguing storylines of the offseason. Every week, it seemed there was a new frontrunner for the Cuban southpaw's services: the Yankees, Red Sox, Angels, Marlins, Blue Jays, etc.
At no point did the Reds seem to really be in on the talks. That is, until the very end.
Cincy came out of nowhere and gambled six years and $30M on the 21-year-old. It is a risk, no doubt, but the encouraging thing is the Reds are taking another step in trying to return to relevance.
16. Angels Re-sign Bobby Abreu
He re-upped so soon, it's hard to remember the Angels haven't lost everybody this offseason.
I saw him re-signing with the Angels all along; he simply fits their style too well. While the team enters 2010 with a series of question marks, Abreu is as consistent a player as there is in the league right now, driving in 100 runs each of the last seven seasons.
15. Giants Sign Mark DeRosa
Despite being of little use to the Cardinals after coming over from Cleveland, DeRosa was still able to generate some buzz this winter and end up with a nice multi-year deal from the Giants.
I'm a huge fan of this guy; not flashy, just a really solid player. He gives the Giants great versatility, as they now have three infielders (four if you still think Aubrey Huff can play 3B) who can play multiple positions.
14. D-Backs Sign Adam LaRoche
After realizing Brandon Allen wasn't quite ready, the D-Backs made one of the great bargain signings of the offseason thus far, signing Adam LaRoche to a one year deal to be their first baseman.
The signing moves Conor Jackson back to LF where it's said he is most comfortable. At one year, $4.5M, LaRoche is an excellent complement to Justin Upton and Mark Reynolds.
13. Orioles Acquire Kevin Millwood
I love this trade for Baltimore; more great work from Andy MacPhail. Every team with young pitchers getting ready to learn the major leagues should have a guy like this. With this move, I see a lot of parallels with what the Tigers did a few years ago bringing in Kenny Rogers to mentor their young pitching staff.
Are the Orioles going to win the AL East and go the World Series? No, but they should be noticeably better, and Matusz, Tillman, and the other young arms have a proven veteran to watch and learn from now.
12. Red Sox Sign Adrian Beltre
The Red Sox weren't going to pay to try and outslug the Yankees, and you can't blame them.
So, Theo Epstein took a different approach, emphasizing defense and bringing in Adrian Beltre, one of the most sure-handed third sackers in the game.
He and Marco Scutaro drastically improve Boston's D, and if healthy, Beltre can be a very solid contributor on offense. Add in that he'll probably he hitting seventh or eighth most nights, and maybe the Red Sox offense will be alright without Jason Bay.
11. Rays Acquire Rafael Soriano
Though the Braves didn't really need him (and obviously didn't want him), Soriano is still one of the great steals of the offseason thus far. Andrew Friedman was very opportunistic in getting Soriano after he put the Braves in the awkward situation of accepting arbitration.
All Tampa had to give up was Jesse Chavez, acquired from Pittsburgh for Akinori Iwamura. In essence, they traded the very expendable Iwamura for a direly needed closer. Not sure if the Rays are a playoff team now, but they should have a much easier time closing out games than they did last season.
10. Tigers Acquire Max Scherzer
Just when trading Curtis Granderson and Edwin Jackson looked to be a no-win situation for Dave Dombrowski, he got creative and was able to acquire four players who all could conceivably contribute in 2010.
The jewel of the package is Max Scherzer, a young flamethrower who replaces Edwin Jackson. Scherzer is younger, cheaper, under club control longer, and potentially better than Jackson.
No matter what their offense does, Verlander, Porcello, and Scherzer will at least give the Tigers chances to win games.
9. Rangers Sign Vladimir Guerrero
After scoring 100 less runs than they did in 2008, the Rangers brought Vladimir Guerrero to Arlington, where he has a .394 lifetime batting average.
This really is a match made in Heaven; Texas was the logical destination for Vlad from the start of the offseason. And at $5M, he'll be quite the bargain if he can stay healthy. A definite AL Comeback Player of the Year candidate.
8. Mets Sign Jason Bay
In 2009, Daniel Murphy led the Mets in home runs. His astronomical total? Twelve.
Needless to say, the Amazins needed some pop. Badly.
Enter Jason Bay, who finished third in the AL in round trippers last season with 36. The cavernous confines of Citi Field may bring that total down a bit, but no matter what, Bay should have a solid year in the middle of the Mets' lineup. They're counting on him.
7. Yankees Acquire Javier Vazquez
I have always liked this guy. Year after year, he'll give you strikeouts and innings; there's a place for a guy like that on any big league team. I know their rotation still is stacked without him and they needed to free up money, but I still don't know if it was worth it for Atlanta; time will tell.
He will not be as good in the American League; luckily for the Yanks, all they need him to do is be a serviceable number four. I think Vazquez will be more than up to that task.
6. Red Sox Sign John Lackey
Trusting in the age-old baseball adage that pitching wins championships, the Red Sox let Matt Holliday and Jason Bay go and signed John Lackey, bolstering what was already one of the AL's best rotations.
I love that Theo Epstein left nothing to chance this offseason, signing the best available free agent starter after last season's bargain-signings in Penny and Smoltz worked out terribly.
No matter what their offense does next season, the Red Sox should not be scrambling for innings next season as they were in 2009.
5. Yankees Acquire Curtis Granderson
Baseball could use a Robin Hood, because it's really absurd how rich some in this game have become. Already world champions, the Yankees acquired Curtis Granderson without giving up anyone who figured to play a prominent role in 2010.
Grandy could very well hit 40 home runs, playing half his games in a park tailor-made for his swing. An ingenious move by Brian Cashman. If nothing else, at least the Yankees got a little more likable.
4. Mariners Sign Chone Figgins
Clearly, Jack Zduriencik is a man who puts a lot of stock in killing two birds with one stone. In signing Chone Figgins, not only did he form one of the most potent leadoff duos we've seen in a long time, he robbed the rival Angels of their heart and soul.
The Mariners are doing it a different way; they're bringing back Whiteyball, emphasizing speed, defense, and pitching over power, a style of play perfect for Safeco Field.
I never saw Seattle as a match for him but in hindsight, Figgins is perfect for what they're trying to do.
3. Cardinals Re-sign Matt Holliday
Matt Holliday can relax; his lasting legacy in St. Louis won't be that guy who dropped the ball in LA. In an offseason where the large markets dominated the headlines, it's good to see a Midwest mid-market team lock up a superstar for seven years.
With Holliday back in the fold, the Cardinals can boast the two best hitters in the NL Central as well as the two best pitchers in that division. With Pujols still very likely to sign long term with the Redbirds, maybe the Phillies' run at an NL dynasty in the next few years won't go completely uncontested.
2. Mariners Acquire Cliff Lee
A year after making the jump from abysmal to good, the Mariners apparently aren't done making leaps. With Cliff Lee joining Felix Hernandez to form baseball's best one-two punch, the M's have started thinking about division titles.
Jack Zduriencik has made a reputation for himself of seizing opportunity, and this deal is no different, as he greatly improved the Mariners by facilitating the move most thought had to happen at some point, the move that ranks No. 1 on my list.
1. Phillies Acquire Roy Halladay
Sorry, Yankees and M's fans, but this wasn't close. The Phillies were already far-and-away the best team in the national league.
So what do they do? Go out and acquire the best pitcher in baseball, albeit after months of fruitless rumors.
With all due respect to Tim Lincecum, the doctor is the odds-on favorite for the NL Cy Young right now. As for the Phillies, championships aren't won on paper and there is no such thing as a sure thing in baseball, but wow do they look good.