MLB Power Rankings: The Most Improved Teams So Far This Offseason

James Stewart-Meudt@@JSMeudtCorrespondent IIDecember 15, 2010

MLB Power Rankings: The Most Improved Teams So Far This Offseason

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    As the baseball offseason continues, teams are signing players in an attempt to improve their clubs. In a sport where one signing can turn an entire team around, there just aren't as many high-impact players available this offseason.

    Jayson Werth (seven years, $125 million) signed with the Washington Nationals. Carl Crawford (seven years, $142 million) signed with the Boston Red Sox, who also acquired first baseman Adrian Gonzalez from the San Diego Padres via trade.

    Of course the biggest move this offseason is Cliff Lee's return to Philadelphia, leaving two years and at least $20 million on the table.

    While it's not even Christmas yet and there is still a lot of offseason to go, let's take a look and see what teams are most improved so far.

    The list starts from least improved to most improved. It is not a list to determine the best teams in baseball, so there are good teams towards the bottom simply because they haven't improved much so far.

Cleveland Indians

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    Key Moves: none on the major league level

    The Indians haven't done anything to impact their club on the big league level so far this offseason. They'd like to find a solution for third base and maybe add a right-handed-hitting outfielder. They could use an affordable starting pitcher, but there aren't many available unless they're willing to take a chance. The Indians will hope Grady Sizemore and Carlos Santana can recover from injuries to contribute in 2011.

Texas Rangers

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    Key Moves: singed Yorvit Torrealba (two-years, $6.25 million), Frank Francisco accepted arbitration, re-signed Matt Treanor (one year, $850k)

    The Rangers, much like the Yankees, put all their focus into trying to sign Cliff Lee. The Rangers were able to hang in with the Yankees' superior offers for weeks, so they deserve credit. But in the meantime, they weren't able to get anything else done. They do have the prospects to get a trade done for Zack Greinke, so we'll have to wait and see what happens there.

New York Yankees

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    Key Moves: re-signed Derek Jeter (three years, $51 million), re-signed Mariano Rivera (two years, $30 million), signed Russell Martin (one year, $4 million), re-signed Sergio Mitre (one year, $900k), traded Juan Miranda to the Diamondbacks for Scott Allen

    What can you say about the Yankees' offseason? They put all their eggs in one basket with Cliff Lee and failed to sign him, despite offering the most years and most money. You can't really blame them for missing out on Lee, and most questioned whether a seven-year deal for a pitcher of Lee's age was a good idea, but in the end it doesn't matter. The Red Sox have made huge strides this offseason and the Yankees need to figure something out. Signing Russell Martin gives the Yankees the flexibility to use top prospect Jesus Montero in a trade for a starting pitcher, but if Zack Greinke is the best available, some say the Yankees don't have enough to make the deal.

    Giving Jeter a three-year deal might not be such a great idea, but I really can't see his career degrading so quickly. It's a lot of money for a 36-year old shortstop, but he'll need to be open to a position change down the road. Re-signing Rivera was a no-brainer, but this offseason is more about what the Yankees didn't do than what they did.

Tampa Bay Rays

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    Key Moves: re-signed J.P. Howell (one-year, $1.1 million)

    It's been a difficult season for the Rays. They watched their best player, Carl Crawford sign with the rival Boston Red Sox, and Rafael Soriano, the AL leader in saves last season, leave for free agency. Carlos Pena also left for free agency. All in all, the Rays are going to be a much different team next season. The Rays and Padres have been trying to complete a deal which would send Jason Bartlett to San Diego for relievers Cesar Ramos and Adam Russell, but the deal is on hold at the moment while the Rays look for a second opinion on Russell after his physical.

Seattle Mariners

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    Key Moves: re-signed Erik Bedard to a non-guaranteed contract, traded Jose Lopez to the Rockies for Chaz Roe, signed Jack Cust (one year, $2.5 million), signed Miguel Olivo (two years, $7 million), traded Maikel Cleto to the Cardinals for Brendan Ryan

    Acquiring Brendan Ryan is basically just a stopgap at second base until Dustin Ackley is ready to take over the position. He's nothing more than a utility player for the Mariner's after batting just .223 with two home runs in 439 at-bats last season.

    Erik Bedard will look to even get on the field next season, something the Mariners are betting against by giving him a non-guaranteed contract. He hasn't pitched since the middle of the 2009 season and has started just 30 games for Seattle in three seasons.

    Jack Cust will serve at the team's primary DH next season. He's a decent addition to an offense which was difficult to watch last season. Seattle scored just 503 runs and only one player batted .260 or better—Ichiro (.315). Cust led the Athletics with 25 home runs last season.

Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Key Moves: signed Scott Olson (one year, $500k), signed Matt Diaz (two years, $4.25 million), signed Lyle Overbay (one year, $5 million), signed Kevin Correia (two years, $8 million), traded Zach Duke to the Diamondbacks for a player to be named later

    The Pirates just never seem to do anything right. Last season for the Padres, Correia went 10-10 with a 5.40 ERA. Without Zach Duke, the Pirates basically swapped one poor starter for another in Correia. Diaz missed a lot of time last season due to injury, and hit just .250 in 224 at-bats. Overbay is a confusing move as the Pirates also still have Garrett Jones on their roster. Last season, Overbay batted .243 with 20 home runs and 67 RBI in 154 games with the Blue Jays.

Houston Astros

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    Key Moves: traded Felipe Paulino to Rockies for Clint Barmes, signed Nelson Figueroa (one year, $900k), signed Ryan Rowland-Smith

    Barmes is a nice defensive player, efficient at both shortstop and second base. At 31 years old, Barmes hit just .235 with eight homers and 50 RBIs in 387 at-bats last season. Not a terrible addition, but it's not going to make any difference. Rowland-Smith was absolutely ugly last season. He went 1-10 (that's right, 1-10!) in 20 starts for the Mariners last season. He posted a 6.75 ERA with 49 strikeouts to 44 walks in just 109.1 IP. A terrible pitcher to a somewhat improving team. He'll probably do more harm than good.

Kansas City Royals

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    Key Moves: acquired Vin Mazzaro and Jason Marks from the Athletics for David DeJesus, signed Wilson Betemit (one year, $1 million), signed Jeff Francoeur (one year, $2.5 million), signed Melky Cabrera (one year, $1.25 million)

    What can you really say about the Royals? Trading Zack Greinke would be their best move of the offseason. Francoeur and Cabrera aren't the worst players, but they're not improving anything on any team. Francoeur, another player who never lived up to his potential, has a cannon arm and plays a solid right field, but he's an all-or-nothing hitter who will hopefully run into some home runs for the Royals. The Royals made moves, so give them credit, but they might as well have done nothing at all. Luckily for Royals fans, they have some nice impact players on their way from the minors.

New York Mets

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    Key Moves: signed Ronny Paulino (one year, $1.3 million), signed D.J. Carrassco (two years, $2.5 million), picked up Jose Reyes' $11 million option for 2011, took Brad Eamus and Pedro Beato in the Rule 5 draft.

    Sigh. What happend to my Mets? Limited payroll has restricted the Mets to one and two-year deals. A terrible lack of starting pitching depth has led to names like Jeff Francis and Brandon Webb mentioned around the team. The loss of Hisanori Takahashi and Jose Feliciano will hurt the bullpen as well. Another fourth-place finish is likely. Johan Santana is out with a shoulder injury, which required surgery, until at least the All-Star break. The Mets will be leaning on Jason Bay, Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes to have bounceback seasons and hope their young prospects can step up big time.

Oakland Athletics

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    Key Moves: picked up 2011 options on Coco Crisp ($5.75 million) and Mark Ellis ($6 million), acquired David DeJesus from the Royals, claimed Edwin Encarnacion off waivers from the Blue Jays, traded Rajai Davis to the Blue Jays for Trystan Magnuson and Danny Farquhar, re-signed Ryan Sweeney (one year, $1.4 million), signed Brandon McCarthy (one year, $1 million), signed Hideki Matsui (one year, $4.25 million), signed Rich Harden (one year, rumored)

    Pitching is what kept the A's above water last season as they finished 81-81. They were fourth in baseball in ERA (3.56), first in quality starts (103) and fifth in BAA (.245). With their starting rotation intact for next season, the A's could surprise some people again.

    The addition of Matsui should give some extra pop to the DH position. Last season with the Angels, Matsui hit .274 with 21 homers and 84 RBIs.

    The A's used the disabled list 23 times last season, two fewer than the franchise record set in 2008, so staying healthy is a very important for next season. With the Angels missing out on Carl Crawford and the Texas Rangers failing to sign Cliff Lee, the AL West could be pretty open next season.

Toronto Blue Jays

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    Key Moves: traded Trystan Magnuson and Danny Farquhar to the Athletcs for Rajai Davis, Jason Frasor accepted arbitration, acquired Carlos Villanueva from the Brewers for a player to be named later, traded Shaun Marcum to the Brewers for Brett Lawrie.

    Marcum was Toronto's opening day starter so the loss hurts, but the Blue Jays have been stockpiling young talent in recent years. The Jays also have the potential to trade for Zack Greinke. Such a trade would give them an excellent front of the rotation starter.

    Lawrie, 20, is a second baseman who hit .285 with eight home runs, 63 RBIs and 30 stolen bases in Double-A last season. He is rated among Milwaukee's top minor league prospects.

    Villanueva posted a 4.61 ERA in 52.2 IP last season for the Brewers.

Minnesota Twins

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    Key Moves: traded J.J. Hardy, Brendan Harris and cash to the Orioles for Brett Jacobsen and Jim Hoey, exercised 2011 option on Jason Kubel, added David Bromberg, Joe Benson, Chris Parmelee and Rene Tosoni, agreed to terms with OF Jason Repko and RHP Pat Neshek

    It's a lot of small moves so far this offseason for the Twins. Brett Jacobsen went 8-1 with a 2.79 ERA in 34 appearances for the Orioles' Single-A club last season so he's a nice addition. The Twins have more questions to answer than potential moves. Alexi Casilla needs to step up in place of Orlando Hudson, who left for free agency, they need to make a decision regarding free agent Carl Pavano, Matt Capps and Jon Rauch. The Twins will be solid once again in 2011, especially with a healthy Justin Morneau.

Cincinnati Reds

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    Key Moves: extended Bronson Arroyo (three years, $35 million), re-signed Miguel Cairo (two years), re-signed Ramon Hernandez (one year, $3 million), picked up 2011 option on Jonny Gomes ($1.75 million), extended Jay Bruce (six years, $51 million)

    The Reds won the NL Central last season and can be expected to do the same again in 2011. Bruce and Joey Votto give the Reds an excellent young, homegrown core of players. Arroyo has been their most dependable starting pitcher for years now and Aroldis Chapman can mow down batters as either a starter or in the bullpen. Nothing flashy from the Reds this offseason, but solid nonetheless.

Chicago Cubs

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    Key Moves: signed Carlos Pena (one year, $10 million), picked up 2011 option on Aramis Ramirez ($14.6 million)

    What can you say about the Cubs? Pena is a nice power hitter, but the Cubs can't survive with him hitting under .200 again. Hopefully he'll bounce back in 2011. They still need another starting picher and some bullpen help. It could be another sad season for the Cubbies.

San Diego Padres

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    Key Moves: acquired Casey Kelly, Anthony Rizzo and Reymond Fuentes from Boston Red Sox for Adrian Gonzalez, signed Aaron Harang (one year, $3.5 million), acquired Cameron Maybin from Florida Marlins for Ryan Webb and Edward Mujica.

    Padres fans were livid after the trade of Adrian Gonzalez. Gonzalez, in my opinion, is the most underrated player in baseball and will finally have a chance to showcase his skills on the big stage. But for Padres fans, this hurts...a lot. They made some decent moves, but only came as close to winning the division as they did last season because of excellent starting pitching and timely hitting. It will be tough without Gonzalez, but they received good players in return. Maybin, while he's never really lived up to his hype offensively, is solid in the outfield and will run down balls in the gaps; a very important ability at Petco Park. Harang is a questionable addition to a good starting rotation. He hasn't thrown more than 200 innings in three seasons, he's given up far too many hits each season and his ERA was an ugly 5.32 last season.

Los Angeles Angels

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    Key Moves: signed Hisanori Takahashi (two years, $8 million), signed Scott Downs (three years, $15 million)

    Other than the New York Yankees, no one has had a more disapointing offseason than the Angels. Expected to be players for both Cliff Lee and Carl Crawford, the Angels landed neither. Crawford must hurt the most though, because he was so close to going to LA that one baseball executive said, "It's like he's already on the team." Well, that didn't work out. Takahashi is a nice pickup for the Angels, as he was solid as both a starter and closer. Versatile and a great control pitcher, he'll be solid for the Angels. Adrian Beltre and Rafael Soriano also need to be on their radar.

San Francisco Giants

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    Key Moves: signed Miguel Tejada (one year, $6.5 million), re-signed Aubrey Huff (two years, $22 million), re-signed Pat Burrell (one year)

    Coming off their World Series victory, Giants fans have high hopes for next season and rightfully so. The Giants still boast one of the best starting rotations in baseball and brought back Aubrey Huff and his orange thong for the next two years. Tejada is a nice addition to their offense, which mustered just enough to win last season but was far from impressive. Pitching dominates the NL West and the Giants are the perfect example.

Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Key Moves: signed Zach Duke (one year, $4.25 million), acquired David Hernandez and Kam Mickolio from Baltimore Orioles for Mark Reynolds, signed J.J. Putz (two years, $10 million)

    If it's a question of quantity over quality, then the D'Backs are the biggest winners of this offseason. They made a ton of moves, but none that will really make a huge difference. They lost a lot of home runs in trading Reynolds away and we'll have to wait and see if they can add any bats to make up for it. Putz is a nice addition to one of the worst bullpens in baseball last season. He missed time twice last season due to injury, but still managed 65 strikeouts in just 54 IP with a 2.83 ERA.

St. Louis Cardinals

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    St. Louis Cardinals Key Moves: signed Jake Westbrook (two years, $16.5 million), acquired Ryan Theriot from Dodgers for Blake Hawksworth, signed Lance Berkman (one year, $8 million), acquired Maikel Cleto from Mariners for Brendan Ryan

    The Cards basically swapped Ryan for Theriot. Ryan had fallen out of favor in St.Louis after batting just .223 with a poor .279 OBP. I'm not completely sold on Berkman playing the outfield, though his defenders will tell me his offense will make up for it. With Matt Holliday and Prince Albert in the same lineup, they're probably right. The impending free agency of Pujols will weigh heavily over the Cardinals' heads until they sign him to his inevitable monster extension (10 years, $300 million anyone?). Cleto can hit 100 mph on the gun, and projects as a back of the bullpen-type player.

Florida Marlins

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    Key Moves: acquired Ryan Webb and Edward Mujica from Padres for Cameron Maybin, acquired Dustin Richardson from Red Sox for Andrew Miller, signed John Buck (three years, $18 million), signed Javier Vasquez (one year, $6 million), acquired Omar Infante and Mike Dunn for Dan Uggla

    Depending on which way you see it, the Marlins have improved their team this offseason. Some say they've traded away some of their better players, which is true, but they've also brought in some good talent. The loss of Uggla will hurt as it leaves them with only one real power threat in their lineup, but Mike Dunn showed a lot of promise in limited work for the Braves and Vasquez will bounce back nicely in a return to the NL East. Buck had a good season last year and hopefully, Marlins fans will be screaming, "My name's Buck, and I came games."

Washington Nationals

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    Key Moves: signed Jayson Werth (seven years, $126 million)

    Wow. $126 million to Jayson Werth for seven years? You can say all you want about small market teams needing to overpay to attract big name players, but that doesn't make it a good deal. The Nationals are also sniffing around a trade for Zack Greinke. Nationals fans have a lot to look forward to though, with guys like Stephen Strasberg (what a disappointment) and Bryce Harper in their future. They lost a lot of offense when Adam Dunn signed with the White Sox, and Werth isn't going to come near that sort of production in a weak lineup.

Colorado Rockies

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Key Moves: signed Jorge De La Rosa (three years, $32 million), signed Troy Tulowitzki (seven years, $134 million), signed Ty Wigginton (two years, $7.5 million)

    The contract the Rockies gave to Tulowitzki is ridiculous. Sinking that much payroll into a single player who has never been able to go a full 162-game season without injury is a huge risk. Granted, he's the best shortstop in baseball, but if resigning him means Carlos Gonzalez or Ubaldo Jimenez walks, then it was a terrible decision. Time will tell. In a thin free agent market for pitching, De La Rosa, while not great, is probably the best the Rockies could do. He doesn't pitch a lot of innings, but did win 16 games for the Rockies in 2009 and missed time last season due to injury.

Baltimore Orioles

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    Key Moves: acquired Mark Reynolds from the Diamondbacks for David Hernandez and Kam Mickolio, re-signed Koji Uehara (one year, $3 million), acquired J.J. Hardy, Brendan Harris and $500k from the Twins for Brett Jacobsen and Jim Hoey, re-signed Cesar Izturis (one year, $1.5 million), signed Jeremy Accardo (one year, $1.08 million)

    The Orioles have made a lot of moves so far this offseason. Reynolds is an excellent power hitter, but he doesn't hit for much average (just .198 last season. Ew.). He's a big bat, but that's about it. The addition of Hardy to their infield was also a good move. When healthy, Hardy is a productive player (.853 OPS in September after recovering from wrist injuries) and his solid defensively (8.1 UZR last season). The Orioles are making big strides, only adding to the Yankees' embarrassment this offseason.

Milwaukee Brewers

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    Key Moves: signed Wil Nieves, traded Carlos Villanueva to the Blue Jays for a player to be named later, traded Brett Lawrie to the Blue Jays for Shaun Marcum

    Other than acquiring Marcum, the Brewers haven't done anything. On the other hand, Marcum is an excellent addition. Last season for the Blue Jays, Marcum went 13-8 with a 3.64 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP. Marcum gives the Brewers a No.1 starter to go along with Yovani Gallardo. Trade rumors about Prince Fielder will surround the team all season. They can't resign him after the 2011 season, but he's a huge part of their offense so they may have to gamble and keep him until the trade deadline; I wouldn't be surprised to see him moved before the start of the season though.

Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Key Moves: re-signed Hiroki Kuroda (one year, $12 million), signed Jon Garland (one year, $5 million), signed Ted Lilly (three years, $33 million), signed Juan Uribe (three years, $21 million), signed Vicente Padilla (one year, $2 million), traded Ryan Theriot to Cardinals for Blake Hawksworth.

    The Dodgers have made some big moves so far this offseason. They had their starting rotation set before December 1 and added a decent bullpen piece in Hawksworth. Uribe will also be a good player for them; he'll give them flexibility with their infield defense and add some power with 15-20 home runs. By far though, the starting rotation looks great. They have five guys that are almost all locks for 200 innings. Length and durability is the name of the game for the Dodgers.

Atlanta Braves

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Key Moves: acquired Dan Uggla from Marlins for Omar Infante and Mike Dunn, acquired Scott Linebrink from White Sox for Kyle Cofield, signed George Sherill (one year, $1.2 million)

    Dan Uggla is an excellent pickup who will add some extra pop as Chipper Jones inches closer and closer to retirement. Uggla, alongside Jason Heyward and Brian McCann is very impressive. Sherill and Linebrink are two excellent additions to the bullpen. Are the Braves the 2011 NL East favorite? They're certainly the sexy pick, but it's like a pop gun against a cannon when they meet the Phillies' rotation.

Chicago White Sox

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    Key Moves: signed Adam Dunn (four years, $56 million), re-signed Paul Konerko (three years, $37.5 million), signed Brian Bruney, traded Scott Linebrink to the Braves for Kyle Cofield.

    You can write it in permanent marker: Adam Dunn will hit 40-50 home runs and drive in at least 105 runs. Dunn has never struck out more than 200 times in a season (199 last season) and he can post an OBP between .380 and .390 in a given season.

    Konerko was great for the White Sox last season and bringing him back was a no-brainer.

    Cofield was an eighth-round pick of the Braves in 2005. Entering the 2010 season, he was ranked as the Braves' 24th-best prospect. He posted a 1-3 record with a 4.39 ERA at Mississippi of the Southern League.

Detroit Tigers

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    Key Moves: signed Victor Martinez (four years, $50 million), signed Joaquin Benoit (three-years, $16.5 million), signed Jhonny Peralta (two years, $11.25 million)

    The Tigers made some big, though questionable, moves. Martinez was very good for the Red Sox last season but four years and $50 million is a lot for him. The same can be said about Benoit for the Rays last season. Martinez is not an excellent catcher, but his bat should be good for 25-30 homers. He can also play first base to give Miguel Cabrera a rest and can DH when needed, so he's very versatile. Benoit was lights out for the Rays last season, posting a 1.34 ERA with 75 strikeouts in 60.1 IP, but again, a lot of money for a guy who posted a 5.00 ERA in 2008 and missed all of the 2009 season. Peralta gives the Tigers lots of defensive flexibility in the infield. He played the majority of his games at third base last season, but can also play shortstop, first base and DH.

Philadelphia Phillies

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    Key Moves: signed Jose Contreras (two years, $5.5 million), signed Dennys Reyes (one year, $1.1 million), signed Cliff Lee (five years, $120 million)

    Forget any move any other team made this offseason. This one was the biggest. The Phillies literally swooped in like a thief in the night and stole Lee from the New York Yankees and Texas Rangers. For less money and fewer years, Lee chose to return to Philly and complete what is easily the best starting rotation in baseball. The Phillies still have some questions to address, but adding Reyes and Contreras to the bullpen is a nice start and they might look to trade Joe Blanton to free up payroll. All I can say is, "Jayson Werth who?"

Boston Red Sox

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    Key Moves: acquired Adrian Gonzalez from the Padres for Casey Kelly, Anthony Rizzo and Reymond Fuentes, signed Carl Crawford (seven years, $142 million), picked up the 2011 option for David Ortiz ($12.5 million), claimed Taylor Bucholz off waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays, traded Dustin Richardson to the Marlins for Andrew Miller

    In two of the biggest moves of this offseason, the Red Sox acquired the speedy Crawford, fresh off the best season of his career, and the most underrated player in baseball, Adrian Gonzalez. Now that the New York Yankees have offically lost out on Cliff Lee, the Red Sox are the clear favorites to win the AL East. The Red Sox have a wealth of outfielders now, and might look to move either Jacoby Ellsbury or Mike Cameron. They still have some work to do on the bullpen, but the Red Sox are vastly improved from 2010.