With the football season concluding and baseball’s spring training merely a week away, it’s safe to say the offseason is winding down.
After one of the more active offseasons in recent history, let’s take a look at who prevailed at improving their team.
Without a doubt, the Orioles improved significantly this season. They ranked near the bottom of the league in almost every offensive category in 2010—hence their offseason approach.
The Orioles added power to their lineup in 3B Mark Reynolds, 1B Derrek Lee and DH Vladimir Guerrero. However, with that come more strikeouts. In the 2010 season alone, Reynolds whiffed 211 times, while Lee countered with 134.
Still, adding three 30-plus home run bats to their lineup can only help. With Brian Roberts returning for a full season and the young bats of OF Adam Jones and C Matt Wieters hopefully improving, the Orioles lineup could strike fear into AL East pitchers.
Additionally, they signed SP Justin Duchscherer to upgrade their starting rotation and closer Kevin Gregg to mend the back of their bullpen.
The wild card here is the signing of Duchscherer. The last time he served as a starter was in 2008 with the Oakland A’s, where he posted a 10-8 record with a 2.54 ERA. Even though it’s unlikely he will duplicate that given his recent injuries and the division he’s pitching in, Duchscherer could still be an effective starter.
Who had the best offseason?
Although they are not equipped for the playoffs, don’t be surprised to see the Orioles above .500 this year. They will be one of the more interesting teams to watch this season.
Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox are the clear-cut winners of this offseason. Adding 1B Adrian Gonzalez alone may have them considered among the top teams in the American League. But the additional signing of OF Carl Crawford may have made them favorites in baseball.
Sure, they took a page out of the Yankees' offseason bible to spend, spend and spend some more. But given the plummeting television ratings and disinterest in the team, the front office had to take action—and action they took.
Let’s not forget the improvement the Red Sox made to their bullpen in adding RP Dan Wheeler and former White Sox closer Bobby Jenks. If Jenks, Jonathan Papelbon and Daniel Bard can collaborate, the Red Sox may have the best bullpen in baseball when it’s all said and done.
In an underrated move, the Cubs' acquisition of Rays SP Matt Garza makes their starting rotation one of the best in the National League. They don’t quite have a solid ace, but one thing the Cubs rotation does have is balance.
The addition of 1B Carlos Pena should give the Cubbies lineup a much-needed boost of power. Plus, RP Kerry Wood returning to Chicago helps their bullpen, although they still may need help down the line.
The Brewers instantly struck gold when they acquired SP Zack Greinke. Coming off of a dismal 2010 (10-14, 4.14 ERA), Greinke clearly needed a change of scenery from the Royals and the American League itself. He is capable of amazing numbers, as evidenced by his Cy Young-winning 2009 season (16-8, 2.16 ERA).
The Greinke trade seems to overshadow the acquisition of former Blue Jays SP Shaun Marcum. If you think a 3.64 ERA is impressive in the AL East, imagine what he can do in the National League.
With one year remaining on slugger Prince Fielder’s contract, look for the Brewers to push all of their chips in and go for it all this year. They could be the "Cinderella story" of the 2011 season.
The Phillies didn't make a lot of moves, but quite frankly, they didn't need to.
Who is the favorite to win it all?
In one of the biggest surprises of the offseason, SP Cliff Lee agreed to return to Philadelphia for a five-year, $120 million deal. Speculation pointed toward Lee re-signing with the Rangers or signing a $150 million deal with the Yankees.
The Phillies' current starting rotation speaks volumes:
Roy Halladay (21-10, 2.44 ERA, 219 SO)
Lee (12-9, 3.19 ERA, 185 SO)
Cole Hamels (12-11, 3.06 ERA, 211 SO)
Roy Oswalt (13-13, 2.76 ERA, 193 SO)
Joe Blanton (9-6, 4.82 ERA, 134 SO)
With the likes of 2B Chase Utley, SS Jimmy Rollins, 3B Placido Polanco and OF Shane Victorino returning at full health to go along with their lights-out rotation, the Phillies are flat-out scary.
Check back next week to find out the losers of the 2011 MLB offseason. Be sure to leave comments below; they may be addressed in the next article.