This year’s offseason action has been one of the more memorable in recent years.
Whether it was uprooting household names for greener pastures (Chone Figgins) or acquiring antique players in mind-boggling deals (Philly signing Placido Polanco to a three-year, $18 million deal at 36), it is safe to say the offseason has afforded fans a constant torrent of interesting changes.
Nearly every team has something it can claim as a “great move,” but there at least 10 teams that get to go to the front of the line with the moves they have made.
But when teams make an “offseason move” it’s not just about who they acquire, but also who they kept and what they had to give up. If we put all three of these elements together, we find the following top 10 to be a cut above the rest.
Now, let’s rank the 10 best teams from last to first and see who's had the best offseason thus far.
Small checkbooks and "moneyball" always make for an interesting offseason, and leave it to the A’s to chime in with a bit of intrigue this year.
The internal moves of preserving Jack Cust and Justin Duchscherer should maintain the silent competitive edge the A’s do possess, while their acquisitions will provide the club with some additional balance.
The Cubs were gracious enough to hand over Jake Fox, bolstering the DH spot for the team, while the acquisition of Coco Crisp will improve the team’s defense in center field and adds a bit of speed the A’s were lacking previously.
The biggest move, of course, was the signing of longtime ace Ben Sheets. If we assume Sheets stays healthy, he will not only add a true veteran arm to the club, but just think of what he can teach youngster Brett Anderson as well.
At a passing glance, the Phillies’ two major moves in acquiring Roy Halladay and one time Philadelphia star Placido Polanco seems to be an absurd move considering the prospects they lost, and the amount of money they coughed up for the two players.
But if we delve further into to it we see another side of the move that shows itself to be smarter than it looks.
The Phillies needed to be sure that getting rid of Pedro Feliz would only produce a third base glove that was of equal talent defensively. The real trick was finding a guy who could hit better than Feliz without sacrificing said defense.
Placido Polanco is that guy.
Polanco’s HR production and RBI production saw a slight increase in 09’ with Detroit while his OPS and AVG saw a decrease, but the guy is a solid hitter and doesn’t strikeout a lot, and he has a good eye for the zone making him an offensive upgrade over Feliz.
Roy Halladay on the other hand, is a tougher question to field.
There are some that will say the Phillies neither gained nor lost in trading for Halladay and giving up Lee, so why waste the money?
There are those that will dig a bit deeper and say, there’s more to the story.
The Phillies main focus was security in their investment. That’s not to say that Lee wasn’t a safe investment, but when you look at the long and short of it all, you have to agree that while Lee and Halladay are workhorses and dominate presences on the mound, it is Halladay that proves to be a bit more durable.
Halladay led the league last year with 9 complete games while enjoying a 2.79 ERA and while the man turns 33 this May, there really isn’t any signs of him slowing down anytime soon.
Add in his stellar record of 17-8 and 3.02 ERA and 1.14 WHIP against the National League along side 6 million in cash from the Blue Jays, and suddenly everything just seems to be in their right place for everyone.
The Chicago Cubs have finally done something productive with their offseason by signing Marlon Byrd and Xavier Nady—signings that should provide not only more balance in the lineup, but also some much needed depth.
Byrd brings a solid five-spot hitter to the table with no baggage whatsoever, while Nady brings a ton of power and is a fantastic weapon against lefties.
Last year, as we all know, the Cubs not only struggled with Milton Bradley but also with Kosuke Fukudome’s inability to live up to the hype—something that is now addressed with these additions. If the club remains healthy, their impact will go farther than most people think.
But the Cubs aren’t quite done yet since they still have to sign another quality bullpen guy, and it will either be Chan Ho Park or Kiko Calero. Park is the worse of the two, but both would do fine in a limited role; it just comes down to who is going to accept a single-year deal.
Outside of all of this, the Cubs come back in 2010 virtually unchanged, and the Boys in Blue have a lot to prove this year. Signing Nady and Byrd was huge for a team that can’t seem to rub two pennies together.
The Washington Nationals were a team that was very capable of hitting with the best of them, but they had such a horrible pitching staff that it didn’t matter how good the bats really were.
All of that has been addressed.
The Nats brought in Doug Slaten, Brian Bruney, and Matt Capps, which should have a profound impact on the bullpen, and re-signed Scott Olsen to bolster the rotation. Olsen is a proven starter and will be an upgrade no matter how you look at it.
Slaten is a quality lefty the club desperately needed, and although the knock on him is that he lost his command after knee surgery, the move to bring him in is still a quality one, and Slaten should be fine after having another year to work things out.
Olsen is another lefty with a lot of suspicion surrounding him due to his shoulder surgery, but let’s not forget this was the same guy who had three years of well over 100 strikeouts, and he is still a strong pitcher who can dominate power hitters.
Adding Capps and Bruney to the mix gives the Nats something they didn’t have last year: a one-two punch out of the pen. Bruney is a quality setup man, while Capps is a proven closer, and this gruesome twosome is something the Nationals will benefit from.
Ivan Rodriguez, Joel Peralta, Jason Marquis, and Eric Bruntlett are among the other notable acquisitions.
We all know the Mets can pitch if they remain focused. We all know that the Mets should’ve hit better than they did last year. We all know that time is running out for the Mets to put together a solid, productive team if they are to make a run for the title.
Well, this could be the year.
The Mets needed an upgrade at the catcher position and got it with the signings of Chris Coste and Henry Blanco. The Mets needed an upgrade in the OF and really got it with the signing of Jason Bay.
It is these initial acquisitions that afford the Mets some much-needed “pop” to their offense.
But there is another move the Mets made to provide some quality to the pitching staff; that move was acquiring Kelvim Escobar.
Escobar is a guy with multiple attributes in the sense that he could start if needed, but is also a quality setup man, which is where he could be utilized better ahead of Francisco Rodriguez.
Kinda looks like Stone Cold Steve Austin, doesn't he?
The Orioles pulled out the sniper rifle this offseason and targeted three distinct players.
Kevin Millwood comes walking into town with his big arm, which will provide the O’s with some much needed quality in the starting rotation. Garret Atkins comes in to possibly play clean-up duty at third, and of course Miguel Tejada comes back home looking to rejuvenate himself in the one place he always felt most comfortable.
On paper, most people would say this isn’t a very good offseason for a team that wasn’t all that good in scoring and wasn’t all that good on the mound, but considering the Orioles could’ve stayed just the way they were from a year ago, I would wager to say there is improvement on both sides of the ball now.
Even if it is just a little bit.
Let’s not forget one little thing: Erik Bedard is still floating around out there in limbo, and although his decision on where he will pitch won’t come until later on in the year, you have to imagine the O’s are the first in line for his services—a move that could add even more intrigue to the lineup.
Last year, the San Francisco Giants showed the NL West that they shouldn’t be underestimated by placing third, but they also revealed that they just didn’t have enough quality bats to sustain their quest towards the postseason.
Enter Aubrey Huff and Mark DeRosa, as well as the re-signing of Juan Uribe.
All three players not only bring in some quality control for the Giants, but also some much-needed balance to the batting lineup—something the Giants simply didn’t have last year. Huff will bat fourth followed by DeRosa, which is a great upgrade from a year ago.
Uribe was the best move for the club since the Giants are in dire need of some insurance at second base following a suspect Freddy Sanchez and a surgery and rehab shrouded in mystery.
If you add in the club's upcoming farm kids like Nate Schierholtz and Madison Bumgarner, it’s safe to say the Giants have a legitimate shot at taking the division this year.
Well, you knew a list like this wouldn’t be complete without the subterranean pockets of the New York Yankees, now did ya? This year the Yanks let go of a bunch of players but also brought in a nice crop.
We begin with the Yankees going retro and bringing back Nick Johnson and Javier Vazquez. Johnson brings in a reliable bat and a great complement to an already stacked batting order, while Vazquez is coming off his best season yet and will undoubtedly provide a quality starting arm.
But wait, there’s more!
As if the Yanks didn’t have enough power bats at their disposal, they went ahead and traded for Curtis Granderson, and then they trumped that acquisition by upgrading defensively with Randy Winn.
You see, the Yankees are like that person who plays Monopoly and always purchases the really expensive properties with the intention of forcing their will upon you and bringing you to your knees in a total collapse.
These upgrades should continue to make the Yankees one of the most dangerous teams in the AL.
At No. 2 we have the Seattle Mariners, a team that always seems to be right on the cusp of breaking out but never really seems to turn the corner.
This year, however, the Mariners struck gold by acquiring veterans Chone Figgins and Casey Kotchman, as well as re-signing Ken Griffey Jr., adding not only a collection of quality bats to the mix but also some dangerous speed to the team.
The acquisition of Cliff Lee is another huge addition to say the least, and what Lee brings to the table in ability is only trumped by his penchant of being a workhorse. If there is any doubt left in the minds of the critics regarding Lee, all they have to do is call Philadelphia and ask their opinion.
In addition to the aforementioned, the Mariners also traded for relief pitcher Brandon League, who is considered a huge part of Seattle’s bullpen this season.
I wouldn’t listen to the hype that David Aardsma is NOT going to have another great year. His slight command issues will be dealt with, and he’ll be another elite pen guy, don’t you worry.
Remember that Monopoly reference I made a moment ago?
Yeah, well, the other person sitting across the table is—of course—the player who buys all the cheaper properties that nobody wants in an effort to methodically break your bank and your powerhouse strategy; that’s the Boston Red Sox.
The Red Sox come in at No. 1 simply because, at the risk of the thousands of Red Sox fans possibly not agreeing with me here, they dropped all their excess baggage on the side of the road while making some quality moves for the team’s present and future.
Goodbye Alex Gonzalez. Sayonara Jason Bay. See ya later Billy Wagner. Arrivederci Casey Kotchman.
Say hello to Marco Scutaro, Jeremy Hermida, Adrian Beltre, and John Lackey; all upgrades if you ask me, and considering how competitive the division is, these moves were quite possibly the best moves of any team.
The Red Sox now have some improved consistency in their batting lineup, another quality arm to complement an already dominant pitching staff, and they even added to their speed and defense in Scutaro and Beltre.
In other words, you can have Boardwalk and Park Place, New York—the Red Sox bought just as much property at half the cost and can still make another move or two if need be.