MLB Offseason 2011: Ranking the 25 Most Significant Transactions
The 2010-2011 MLB off season was one for the books. Whether it was news regarding Carl Crawford's free agency or whether or not Zach Greinke would be traded, there was never a dull moment this winter for baseball fans. Very few teams remain in the same position as they were in November.
While there are still a handful of significant free agents still on the market such as Carl Pavano and Vladimir Guerrero, it is time to reflect on the unfolding of this winter. Which deals were the most significant? Who were the winners? Who is going to regret their aggressive behavior down the road?
In this article, I will examine the 25 most significant transactions from free agent signings to trades to re-signings. These transactions are not ranked based on how good the player(s) involved were, but how much the transaction will affect the team's outcome.
25. Jason Bartlett Trade
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San Diego Padres trade RHP Adam Russell, RHP Brandon Gomes, LHP Cesar Ramos and RHP Cole Figueroa to Tampa Bay Rays for SS Jason Bartlett.
The Padres get a solid shortstop in Jason Bartlett who demonstrated in 2009 that he can compete at an elite level, hitting .320 with 14 home runs and 30 stolen bases. Following the completion of this trade, the Padres went on to sign second baseman Orlando Hudson. While these acquisitions were certainly beneficial for the Padres with regard to the 2011 season, it will not make up for the loss of Adrian Gonzalez. Bartlett will help the Padres stay competitive, but without Gonzalez, the playoffs are no longer a reasonable expectation for the time being.
As for the Rays, this deal is great for them. Entering a rebuilding process, a player like Bartlett is not the type of guy they are looking for. In AA last season, Brandon Gomes went 7-1 with a 1.87 ERA and 93 strikeouts in just 73 1/3 innings. They hauled in a nice return for Jason Bartlett, a player who they did not particularly need at this time.
24. Mark Reynolds Trade
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Baltimore Orioles trade RHP David Hernandez and RHP Kiam Mickolio to Arizona Diamondbacks for 3B Mark Reynolds.
Mark Reynolds was a pretty big disappointment in 2010, hitting a woeful .198. Though, his power will certainly help the Orioles, who ranked 21st in home runs in 2010. Hitting behind players such as Adam Jones and Brian Roberts, Reynolds will have an abundance of RBI opportunities. If he is able to reproduce his 2009 .260 batting average, the Orioles would have gotten a huge bargain. However, the likelihood that Reynolds, the infamous strikeout king, hits over .240 is slim to none.
The Diamondbacks did not receive a whole lot in return for Reynolds. Hernandez, a 25-year-old reliever, had an ERA of 4.32 this past season, converting just two of six save opportunities. On the bright side, Hernandez has shown potential, posting a 2.68 ERA in the minors in 2008, followed by a 3.23 ERA, still in the minors, in 2009.
23. Cubs Sign Carlos Pena
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Chicago Cubs sign 1B Carlos Pena for 1 year/$10 million.
The Cubs have received much criticism for some of their transactions this winter, however, this addition is a fairly low-risk deal. With a length of only one year, the Cubs prevented against a long-term disaster, as they know all too well by the hands of Alfonso Soriano.
It appears as if the Cubs believe they have the talent to win this season. They have been very aggressive this off season, and budding stars such as Starlin Castro have given the Cubs hope. How effective Pena will be is a big question. If Pena hits around his career batting average of .241 and hits 30+ home runs, Pena could be a huge help. However, if he reproduces his .196 batting average of 2010, Pena could end up as a total failure for the Cubs.
Pena certainly gives Cubs fans hope entering 2011, if nothing else.
22. Yankees Resign Derek Jeter
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New York Yankees sign SS Derek Jeter for 3 years/$51 million.
It was inevitable. Was there anyone who really doubted Jeter's return to the Yankees? After a long and unneccessary period of drama, the two sides were finally able to work out a deal. The Yankees may regret this deal down the road, however.
Just imagine down the road, in 2013, when Jeter is entering his final year of his contract at age 39. The odds that Jeter will still be able to hit for power or even steal bases is unlikely. He showed he is on the decline this past season, by posting a mediocre stat line of .270/10/67/18/111. Is that really worth $17 million a year?
Sure, it was nice of the Yankees to give their city hero a nice check, but this one may come back to haunt them down the road. Other options such as JJ Hardy would have been better routes for the Yankees in retrospect.
21. Orioles Sign Derrek Lee
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Baltimore Orioles sign 1B Derrek Lee for 1 years/$7.25 million.
This was an interesting move for the Orioles. Lee is 35-years-old and coming off a subpar season in which he hit only .260 and hit just 19 home runs. It seems unlikely Lee will bounce back and provide the Orioles with $7.25 million worth of value, but for a short, relatively inexpensive deal, the reward seems to outweigh the risk here.
A former Triple Crown threat, Derrek Lee has the potential to spark the Orioles lineup and lead them to a better finish than 27th in runs in 2010. Although, in the scheme of things, the Orioles won't be making the playoffs this year with or without Lee due to poor pitching, so this deal in not as significant as it may appear.
20. Yankees Sign Rafael Soriano
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New York Yankees sign RP Rafael Soriano for 3 years/$35 million.
This signing is a big deal for the Yankees. Their shortage of quality starting pitching will force them to utilize the bullpen more often than desirable.
Without Soriano, the Yankees pen would likely struggle all year long and cause them problems similar to those the Red Sox suffered in 2010. However, Soriano can provide the Yankees with a good deal of security and consistency. He will not have to be the lead man with all the pressure, as Rivera has that position secured, so Soriano will be able to relax and just pitch. Soriano could be the difference between the Yankees making the playoffs and falling short.
19. Josh Willingham Trade
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Oakland Athletics trade RHP Corey Brown and RHP Henry Rodriguez to Washington Nationals for OF Josh Willingham.
While there may not be any "superstar" or "elite" player in this trade, Josh Willingham may be a game-changer for the Athletics this season. The A's were only nine games away from reaching the playoffs in 2010 despite their 25th ranked offense in slugging percentage.
The A's had a team slugging percentage of .378, whereas Willingham had a .459 slugging percentage last season and a .475 for his career. In just 370 at-bats last season, Willingham hit 16 home runs, while maintaining a .268 batting average.
Given that last year's power hitter for the A's was Jack Cust, who only slugged .438, Willingham should prove to be a major asset for this offense. It's a long shot, but if the A's pitching stays dominant, Willingham could help carry the A's into the postseason.
18. Red Sox Sign Bobby Jenks
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Red Sox sign RP Bobby Jenks for two years/$12 million.
The significance of this deal is very similar to that of the Rafael Soriano signing with the Yankees. The only reason this transaction is ranked more significant is due to the struggles of the Red Sox bullpen in 2010 and the potential issues with the closing duties.
Jenks not only provides the Red Sox with a World Series experienced relief pitcher to help hold leads in late innings, but he also provides the Red Sox with a fallback option if Papelbon explodes, and Daniel Bard disappoints. This transaction is one of many from the Red Sox this season that make them the favorites to win it all in 2011.
17. Marlins Sign Javier Vazquez
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Florida Marlins sign SP Javier Vazquez for one year/$7 million.
Many Yankee fans may be appalled that the Vazquez signing is ranked so high, given his embarrassing 5.32 ERA in 2010 with the Yankees. However, Vazquez may prove to be a huge acquisition for the Marlins.
It was only two years ago that Vazquez pitched a Cy Young-caliber season in the very same division he will be returning to. Vazquez was 15-10 with a 2.87 ERA and 238 strikeouts with the Braves in 2009.
If the problem for Vazquez was the AL East, it is possible that Vazquez could revert back to his 2009 form and have the Marlins vying for a playoff spot. Keep an eye on Vazquez, as he could end up as the steal of the offseason.
16. Rangers Sign Brandon Webb
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Texas Rangers sign SP Brandon Webb for 1 year/$3 million.
It's always nice to sign a previous Cy Young award winner for $3 million. Of course, Webb has suffered from nagging injuries the previous two seasons, however Webb was an elite-caliber pitcher only three years ago.
With the departure of Cliff Lee, the Rangers needed to go out and sign somebody who could give them a boost in their starting rotation; Brandon Webb was the perfect candidate. Sure, there is the potential Webb manages to injure himself again, or being two seasons out of experience may affect his dominance, however, there is a possibility Webb ends up as the ace for the Rangers staff this season.
This deal is very significant because if Webb succeeds, the Rangers may be a shoo-in for the postseason. Though if he gets shelled from the start, the Rangers may fall short.
15. Matt Garza Trade
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Chicago Cubs trade RHP Chris Archer, OF Brandon Guyer, C Robinson Chirinos, SS Hak-Ju Lee, an OF Sam Fuld to Tampa Bay Rays for SP Matt Garza and OF Fernando Perez.
This trade was huge for the Rays. They are in a position where they need to have only players who they like and are relatively cheap. The Rays did not want Garza, and they succeeded in not only getting rid of him but in receiving a huge return value. Many of the players the Rays acquired will be part of the next generation of Tampa Bay Rays.
Highly touted prospect Chris Archer went 15-2 with a 2.34 ERA in the minors this season, while Hak-Ju Lee, just 20-years-old, hit .282 and stole 32 bases in the minors in 2010. This move will be very beneficial to the Rays in the future, and it also gives them the opportunity to put prospects such as Jeremy Hellickson on the mound as early as 2011.
As for the Cubs, this trade could go either way. The Cubs desperately needed pitching help last season, ranking 21st in ERA, and Garza could be the piece they are looking for. On the other hand, if the Cubs aren't able to get it together in 2011, they might rue giving away some impressive prospects down the road.
14. White Sox Resign Paul Konerko
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Chicago White Sox resign 1B Paul Konerko for three years/$37.5 million.
Konerko's career year in 2010 was a huge part of Chicago's 88-win season. Bringing Konerko back may prove to be a great decision or a very poor one.
It's unlikely Konerko's .326 BABIP or his 19.5 percent home run to fly ball ratio will prove his case, however Konerko could still be very productive in 2011. His power was critical for the White Sox, whose offense ranked 10th in runs scored in 2010. Had the White Sox let Konerko go, it is unlikely they would have any playoff hopes, so this move may not improve them per say, though it will keep them in the playoff race.
13. Twins Sign Tsuyoshi Nishioka
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Minnesota Twins sign SS Tsuyoshi Nishioka for three years/$10 million.
The Twins lost JJ Hardy, Orlando Hudson and Nick Punto last season. If they wanted to remain playoff contenders, they needed to make a move to make up for losing most of their infield.
The Twins got a very talented player in Nishioka. In Japan, he hit .346 with 11 home runs and stole 22 bases. He has a career high of 41 stolen bases, showing he has the potential to be a difference maker in the AL in 2011.
At just 25, Nishioka could be a valuable asset for the Twins for years to come. His low salary is just another reason for Twins fans to be excited.
12. Rajai Davis Trade
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Toronto Blue Jays trade RHP Danny Farquahar and RHP Trystan Magnuson to Oakland Athletics for OF Rajai Davis.
The Blue Jays had one of the most dangerous lineups in 2010 in terms of power, and it should remain near, if not at, the top of the rankings in 2011. However, they only ranked ninth in runs in part due to their lack of a true leadoff hitter or base stealer. The Jays have not had a player steal 40+ bases in this decade, so Davis' 50 stolen bases should be a monumental difference for the Jays in 2011.
In an incredibly strong division, it would take a lot for the Jays to make the playoffs in 2011. The Jays were just three games behind New York in 2008 and four games behind Boston last season, so a playoff berth, while unlikely, is a remote possibility.
In three seasons in the minors, Farquahar has had an 8-9 record with a 2.62 ERA. He may not be an elite reliever ever, though he has potential to be a reliable late inning pitcher for the A's down the road.
11. Yankees Resign Mariano Rivera
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New York Yankees resign RP Mariano Rivera for 2 years/$30 million.
Could you imagine Rivera is a Red Sox jersey closing games against the Yankees this year? Neither could the Yankees. So they went ahead and gave Rivera $15 million a year.
This was a good move for the Yankees, who are going to need their bullpen more than ever due to their lack of starting pitching depth. Having the best closer in the history of the MLB is a very reassuring thought for the Yankees.
Rafael Soriano and Rivera will be a great combination in late innings next season. Without this bullpen talent, the Yankees would likely end up like the 2010 Red Sox, who missed the playoffs despite the No. 2 ranked offense.
Similarly to the Derek Jeter deal, it was inevitable Rivera would be back in New York this season.
10. White Sox Sign Adam Dunn
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White Sox sign 1B Adam Dunn for four years/$56 million.
On its own, this deal may not have been too significant, however, when paired with the resigning of Paul Konerko, the White Sox are immediately bumped up to playoff contenders.
Dunn is as reliable as you can ask for, hitting 38+ home runs since 2004. In an already powerful lineup, Dunn may put the White Sox over the top. Juan Pierre should have no difficulty scoring runs in 2011.
There is not much concern with Dunn in a four-year deal, despite the fact he will be 35 at the end of this contract. He has shown no signs of slowing down, and he is signed at a relatively cheap price.
9. Nationals Sign Jayson Werth
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Washington Nationals sign OF Jayson Werth for 7 years/$126 million.
Many people may contend this deal should be much higher. However, I ask you this: are the Nationals really going to the playoffs this season? No.
Werth may have been one of the most talented players in this year's free-agent pool with his 27 home runs and .296 batting average in 2010, however at least for 2011, he will not have a huge impact on the Nationals finish.
Although this move could be very significant down the road, as Bryce Harper develops and Strasburg comes back, the Nationals could end up being playoff contenders with a powerful bat such as Werth's.
8. Zack Greinke Trade
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Milwaukee Brewers trade SS Alcides Escobar, OF Lorenzo Cain, RHP Jake Odorizzi and RHP Jeremy Jeffress to Kansas City Royals for SP Zack Greinke and SS Yuneski Betancourt.
Going to the NL could turn Greinke into the elite pitcher he was in 2009 when he had a 2.16 ERA. The Brewers had a subpar 77-85 finish in 2010, however the addition of an elite starter immediately makes the Brewers threats to win the wild card as long as they do not move Fielder.
The Brewers ranked 26th in ERA in 2010, so Greinke's addition is extremely significant.
As for the Royals, it was clear Greinke was not a fit for them. Whether it was his lack of motivation to play for them or something else, they needed him out. Overall, the Royals should be content with their haul. Escobar is a very talented shortstop, though his 2010 .235 batting average was extremely disappointing. Cain is another talented player, who has stolen 124 bases in six minor league season, while maintaining a .291 average.
This trade should work out nicely for both sides.
7. Giants Resign Aubrey Huff
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San Francisco Giants resign 1B Aubrey Huff for 2 years/$22 million.
It may be surprising to see Aubrey Huff's resigning this high, however this deal was imperative for the Giants to get done. Their offense is mediocre at best, and Huff was a key component of the Giants' World Series victory in 2010. Without Huff, this offense would be one of the worst in the league.
With a .290 batting average and 26 home runs in 2010, Huff will allow the Giants to remain threats to win the NL West in 2011.Their pitching is obviously phenomenal, and Huff will hold their offense together.
While Huff may not have been the most talented free agent this winter, he was one of the most valuable.
6. Tigers Sign Victor Martinez
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Detroit Tigers sign C Victor Martinez for four years/$50 million.
The Tigers' 81-81 finish was very disappointing in 2010, however with Martinez, the Tigers are immediate threats to win the AL Central in 2011.
The Tigers should be better overall this season, especially with the development of starter Rick Porcello. Throw Martinez into the mix, and their offense goes from good to great. Martinez displayed his ability to hold an offense together with the Red Sox in 2010. Despite injuries to just about everybody (including Martinez), Martinez still played 127 games and was extremely productive. His .302 average and 20 home runs were indispensable for the Red Sox.
AL Central teams should be worried about this loaded Tigers offense in 2011.
5. Braves Sign Dan Uggla
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Atlanta Braves sign 2B Dan Uggla for five years/$62 million.
While the Phillies have spent this winter putting together one of the most dominant pitching staffs in history, the Braves have quietly improved their team to the point where we have to consider them legitimate threats to win it all. One of the big reasons why is Dan Uggla.
The Braves ranked 13th in runs scored and 20th in home runs. Those are not potential World Series winning numbers. However, the addition of Dan Uggla should provide the Braves with some much-needed pop. His 33 home runs were no surprise, but his .287 batting average was shocking given that Uggla's career average before 2010 wasn't even .260.
Uggla is still only 30-years-old, so this deal will not be one the Braves will be kicking themselves over in a few years. This signing could alter the outcome of the NL East for years to come.
4. Rangers Sign Adrian Beltre
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Texas Rangers sign 3B Adrian Beltre for six years/$96 million.
The defending American League pennant-winning Texas Rangers appeared to be in some trouble this offseason with the departure of Cliff Lee. They solved that problem by going out and signing Brandon Webb.
The Adrian Beltre signing, however, is why the Rangers may actually improve on their 2010 record. His phenomenal season with the Red Sox last season in which he batted .321 and hit 28 home runs provides the Rangers with a huge advantage. The Rangers were a top offensive team in 2010, and with Beltre, their offense grows even more potent.
However, this may be a deal the Rangers regret in a few years. Beltre is notorious for his steep decline in progress after signing his last big contract with Seattle. That signing hurt Seattle for years, which is why Seattle fans may be gitty about this deal.
3. Adrian Gonzalez Trade
Red Sox trade RHP Casey Kelley, 1B Anthony Rizzo and OF Reymond Fuentes to San Diego Padres for 1B Adrian Gonzalez.
This is the huge deal the Red Sox had been trying to accomplish for years now. When the Red Sox lost out on Teixeira to the Yankees, the power in AL East shifted in favor of the Yankees. Now, the Red Sox have their Mark Teixeira; in fact, Gonzalez out-produced Teixeira in a weak lineup in 2010. In Boston, Gonzalez should be a monster.
With all the injuries the Red Sox suffered in 2010, they really could have used a consistent player such as Gonzalez. In 2011, they will have this player, and it is hard not to make the favorites to win it all.
On the other side of this trade, the Padres give up all hope of contending this season. They finished surprisingly well last season at 90-72, missing the playoffs by just one game. However, without Gonzalez, the Padres are no longer a threat to contending National League teams. Though, the Padres do get a highly regarded prospect in Casey Kelley, and in Rizzo, they get a guy who hit 25-of-100 in the minors last season.
2. Phillies Sign Cliff Lee
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Philadelphia Phillies sign SP Cliff Lee for 5 years/$100 million.
What a surprise this signing was. Just when everyone expected the Yankees to lure Lee with their huge wallet, the Phillies stole Lee right under their noses.
With Lee coming to Philadelphia to an already dominant pitching staff, it is hard not to call the Phillies favorites in the National League. In 2009 with the Phillies, Lee went 7-4 with a 3.39 ERA, leading the Phillies to a World Series appearance.
If Lee produces as expected, this deal may have the Phillies winning the NL East for the next few years.
Now for the No. 1 transaction this offseason...
1. Red Sox Sign Carl Crawford
Red Sox sign OF Carl Crawford for seven years/$142 million.
The Red Sox had an incredible offseason this winter, and Carl Crawford is one of the reasons why. The Red Sox were miserable last season in the speed category, stealing only 68 bases. Crawford is expected to pair up with Jacoby Ellsbury in Boston and wreak havoc on the base paths.
For a long time now, Crawford has been the centerpiece of the Rays franchise; now in Boston for seven years, Crawford could become the face of this organization. With this signing, it is difficult to say the Red Sox are not the favorites. Their already second best offense now soars in value with Crawford and Gonzalez coming in.
This transaction is the most significant of the 2010-2011 offseason because it is what will win the Red Sox the World Series in 2011.
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