MLB Free Agency: Picking All 30 Teams' Best and Worst Moves of the Offseason
With Spring Training in full swing and only three weeks until the season begins, this offseason can now be put to rest, and what an offseason it was.
Some moves were expected, such as Derek Jeter staying with the Yankees. Others seem to come out of nowhere, such as Cliff Lee signing with the Phillies. A few even left us scratching our heads, such as Jayson Werth signing with the Washington Nationals.
Perhaps a good thing about offseason signings is that no team is perfect, and no team does anything nonredeemable. Here are the best and worst moves done by each team this past offseason.
Best: Signing Derrek Lee
The move to sign Lee was only a one-year deal, and he had a down year in 2010, but remember that he played most of the year with a wrist injury. His power should return and he should be great in an Orioles uniform. Even if he's not, he will provide excellent veteran leadership in the clubhouse.
The price tag was a bit high, but if he is near his stats through most of the 2000s it will be worth it.
Worst: Trading for Mark Reynolds
This trade actually was not too bad; that's a testament to how well the Orioles did this offseason. However, they got power bats elsewhere this offseason in Vladimir Guerrero and Derrek Lee, and now their bullpen is in even worse shape.
Reynolds, meanwhile, will be good for 35 home runs and 200 strikeouts every year. David Hernandez was starting to show some promise, but time will tell whether or not this is a good move.
Boston Red Sox
Best: Signing Carl Crawford
Bringing in both Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford makes the Red Sox the team to beat in the American League, no question. When looked at closely, the question of what was the better deal is easy.
Everyone expected Adrian Gonzalez to come to the Sox, and they gave up three prospects for a guy whose contract is only through 2011 right now. They gave up nothing to sign Crawford, whose deal is through 2017.
Worst: Signing Bobby Jenks
The Red Sox are paying $12 million over two years for a 7th inning relief man behind Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon. bullpen help is good, but that's a steep price. Not a bad move, but there's little to choose from here.
New York Yankees
Best: Signing Andruw Jones
The Yankees making an under the radar move never happens, yet they did so when signing Andruw Jones to a one-year deal worth only $2 million. This gives them a big bat and glove at center field, which they need. More importantly, where else can a player find his power touch other than Coors Field?
The answer is, of course, new Yankee Stadium.
Worst: Signing Rafael Soriano
Soriano is a great reliever, and he will help bolster the Yankees' bullpen. Having said that, Paying eight figures for a setup man is absolutely absurd. I don't care how good Soriano is, that's just silly.
The second worst would be not signing a premier starter, which the Yankees needed to do. They always pull those moves off, yet couldn't this year.
Tampa Bay Rays
Best: Trading Matt Garza for Prospects
The Matt Garza trade was one that, on the surface, looked like it would be good for both teams. The Rays received five players, namely Chris Archer and Brandon Guyer, who should be able to replace Carl Crawford and Rafael soriano in due time; they are also in the Cubs' top ten prospects list.
Worst: Signing Johnny Damon
I'm entirely fine with the Rays signing Damon and Manny Ramirez. What I'm not fine with is making Damon the most expensive player on the team. He's the only one making over $5 million in 2011, and at this stage of his career he's not worth that much.
Toronto Blue Jays
Best: Dumping Vernon Wells' Contract
Trading Vernon Wells to the Angels for Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera was good to begin with, and the Blue Jays then traded Napoli for Frank Francisco. What makes this the best is that the Angels took on all of Wells' contract. How the Jays pulled that off I'll never know.
Worst: Trading Shaun Marcum for Brett Lawrie
I get that Lawrie has a lot of upside and could be a good bat for a long time. However, with Roy Halladay gone the Jays needed to find their new top guys. They had Marcum and Ricky Romero, and they just went and shipped one off.
Jose Bautista's contract would get a mention as too large, but that was not the Blue Jays' fault.
Chicago White Sox
Best: Signing Adam Dunn
When the White Sox originally signed Adam Dunn, I thought long and hard about whether this was a great move or a bad move. In the end, I went with great. Yes, he was expensive, but he not only guarantees 40 HR and 100 RBI, but he has some of the best plate discipline of any power hitter today.
Worst: Re-Signing Omar Vizquel
In my mind, Vizquel is a Hall of Famer, and one of the great shortstops of the 90s. However, most of the season he will be 44. Unless it was for the veteran minimum, which it wasn't, the White Sox overpaid here.
Either way, the White Sox didn't really make any bad moves.
Best: Signing Austin Kearns
The Indians signed Kearns in 2010 to a low deal, then traded him to the Yankees for prospect Zach McAllister. In 2011, the Indians again re-signed him. If he plays well again, then there's another player the Indians can nab, and if not then it's no big deal.
As an honorable mention, Andy Marte is finally gone.
Worst: Not Signing a third baseman
Until Lonnie Chisenhall is ready to join the team full-time, the Indians needed to find a third baseman to use who could actually keep a fielding percentage over .900. Instead, they are just going with what they have. No wonder they're losing 90 games a year.
Best: Signing Victor Martinez
There is no question that while Victor Martinez is not a great fielding catcher, he is easily one of the best hitting catchers in the game today, if not the best. Putting him into the Tigers lineup alongside Miguel Cabrera gives them a very strong middle of the order.
Worst: Signing Joaquin Benoit
The Tigers needed to shore up their bullpen, and Joaquin Benoit was one of the best ones on the market. That being said, it's a risk to sign a reliever to a multi-year deal. It's a bigger risk when 2010 was Benoit's first great year and he spent all of 2009 out. I question if he can stay healthy throughout his contract.
Kansas City Royals
Best: Trading Zack Greinke for prospects
The Royals had to get what they could while Greinke still had value, and the ace needed a change of scenery. The Royals got Alcides Escobar, Lorenzo Cain, Jeremy Jeffress, and one other minor leaguer, all of whom have the potential to be very good everyday players.
Worst: Not trading Joakim Soria
By selling off Zack Greinke, the Royals pretty much admitted that they were starting over and rebuilding again. If you're going to do that though, then you might as well sell all the parts and get something for Joakim Soria. Instead, they're holding on to the closer, whose value is only going to go down as his contract gets closer to expiring.
Best: Not making any huge moves
The Twins won the AL Central with a 94-68 record despite losing Joe Nathan and Justin Morneau to injury. They could have made a big move like the White Sox or Tigers did, but instead they simply kept their pieces in place.
They re-signed Jim Thome and Carl Pavano, and they also acquired Tsuyoshi Nishioka from Japan to bolster the infield; he should fill in just fine for J.J. Hardy.
Worst: Not improving the bullpen
The Twins lost Jesse Crain and Matt Guerrier to free agency, and lost newly-acquired Brian Fuentes as well, and to stay competitive in the AL Central they needed to address the bullpen. Instead,the focus was on re-signing players and bringing in Tsuyoshi Nishioka.
While keeping the current greats is not a bad thing, despite Joe Nathan's return I'm concerned about the bullpen in 2011.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Best: Signing Scott Downs
Yes, I often attack multiyear deals for relievers, but Downs has proven himself to be one of the most consistent relievers on the market in his five relief years with the Blue Jays.
Worst: Taking on the whole Vernon Wells contract
Vernon Wells will bring a powerful bat to the lineup, but how do you agree to take on the whole deal? That's mind-boggling. Failing to land Carl Crawford is a close second on this list.
Best: Acquiring David DeJesus for Vin Mazzaro
The Athlet's made a few quiet trades in the offseason, and the best one was one they made with the Royals, giving up Vin Mazzaro and Justin Marks for DeJesus. While he only has one year on his deal, DeJesus is a great defensive center fielder and can hit very well on top of that.
Worst: Signing Grant Balfour
The A's did not have any bad moves; the Balfour signing was simply the least great because he has not put up consecutive good years. He was great in 2010 and 2008, but only okay in 2009, for example.
Best: Trading Brendan Ryan
The Mariners acquired Ryan from the St. Louis Cardinals for Maikel Cleto. While he doesn't have much in the bat, he is a great fielder, and should be able to make an immediate impact. Yes, he'll probably only hit .230, but nearly everyone else did for Seattle last year anyway.
Worst: Not making any moves for a hitter
The Mariners lineup, hitting-wise, was just awful last year, and they lost Jose Lopez in the offseason. They did not do anything to fix that. Adam Kennedy does not have much left in the tank, Jack Cust is your run of the mill 3TO player, and while Miguel Olivo was hitting decently in Colorado, I can't see that carrying over.
Hitting was the problem in 2010, and it's going to be the problem again in 2011.
Best: Signing Adrian Beltre
The Rangers are going into 2011 without Cliff Lee or Vladimir Guerrero. By acquiring Beltre, they have greatly upgraded their lineup, and pose one of the most powerful ones in the league.
Worst: Handling the Mike Young situation
I was tempted to put Beltre again here because they overpaid big time for him, but after how they handled the face of their franchise for a long time, Michael Young, that has to be put here. The whole situation left a bad taste in everyone's mouths, he's still in Texas, and many bitter feelings likely remain.
Best: Trading for Dan Uggla
With Chipper Jones going for one final year in 2011, Jason Heyward a couple years away from hitting his prime, and some issues in the lineup, theBraves needed a big time hitter in the middle of the lineup.
They got just that with Dan Uggla, signing him long-term in the process, and from a rival in the NL East on top of that. It was a great pickup that will help keep the Braves competitive with the Phillies.
Worst: Failing to improve defense
The Braves committed 126 errors in 2010, most in the NL. By comparison, the Phillies had 83, so the Braves needed to close that gap. Dan Uggla is not a very good fielder (though Infante wasn't very good in the field either), and the Braves did not make any moves that might fix that problem.
Best: Trading Cameron Maybin
I was conflicted as to whether this is the best move the Marlins made or the worst, as it can be either depending on how you look at it. Maybin's the reason that they traded Miguel Cabrera to the Tigers, and that trade now looks awful since this was a failure.
Having said that, Edward Mujica and Ryan Webb are solid relievers, and their bullpen should be far better this year. Beyond that, they got quite a bit given the fact that Maybin hasn't panned out in the slightest.
Worst: Signing Javier Vazquez
If you're going to sign a pitcher who had a 5.32 ERA in 2010 to a one-year deal, why would you pay the pitcher $7 million? More to the point, the Marlins doing something like that is even more shocking, as they never toss money out like that. Big brain fart there.
New York Mets
Best: Signing Chris Young
I love seeing the low-risk high-reward deals being made, since it could always end up great. The Mets did exactly that by signing Chris Young, who was very good for the Padres but is battling back from shoulder problems. If that's behind him then this could be an excellent pickup. Even if it's not, no big deal.
Worst: Inability to ship dead weight
The Mets need to have a fire sale with all the problems they are having. Unfortunately for them, no one wants their stuff even at bargains, let alone at their full contract value. Oliver Perez is a bust yet the Mets still have to pay his contract in full since no one wanted him, and the same was true of Luis Castillo.
At least they only have one year left on their deals, but at the same time that should have made them tradeable.
Best: Signing Cliff Lee
No one saw that move coming, it's an amazing fit, and the 2011 Phillies could potentially have one of the greatest rotations ever.
Worst: Not re-signing Chad Durbin
The Phillies' bullpen was very good in 2010, and they signed many of those pieces back. However, the one who pitched the most innings was let go. Chad Durbin has been a consistently decent pitcher for three years in Philadelphia, and while he won't scare hitters, at least you know he won't be awful.
Filling his spot in with a young gun could work well, but it's also risky, especially since the team is ready to win now. It's nitpicky, but the Phillies had a great offseason otherwise; only issues are that spot in the bullpen for the relief innings eater or a potential infield depth issue with Utley's latest injury.
Best: Signing Adam LaRoche
The Nats didn't really make any moves I was crazy about, but they needed to sign a first baseman who had good power and could play some defense since they were losing Adam Dunn. They did that by signing LaRoche, and since his contract is less than Dunn's, I'll count that as a win.
Worst: Signing Jayson Werth
Not only did the Nationals sign Jayson Werth to far more money than any team would have, but he has not proven himself to be deserving of such a deal. It's one of the most confusing deals of the offseason, since that doesn't suddenly make the Nats competitive.
Best: Trading for Matt Garza
This trade was a win-win for both teams. By trading a few prospects, the Cubs acquired a solid starter in Matt Garza, who should fit in just fine. This trade also makes the rotation a strength for the Cubs, so long as Zambrano doesn't have a meltdown during midseason again.
Worst: Signing Carlos Pena
The Cubs paid $10 million for a guy who hit .196 last year. Yes, he can hit for power, but in a market loaded with discount power hitters there's no excuse to overpay for one.
Best: Re-signing core talent
Sometimes the best play a team can make is holding on to what they have, particularly when they just won a division. The Reds did just that this offseason, re-signing Jay Bruce, Joey Votto, and Johnny Cueto to long-term deals. Bruce in particular now has a contract through the 2016 season.
The Reds may not have made any big signings in the offseason, but they may not have needed to.
Worst: Signing Edgar Renteria
This wasn't necessarily a bad signing, since Renteria is a solid piece and always seems to be at his best in the World Series. However, I think it's time to give Paul Janish an everyday opportunity to play shortstop to see if he can actually do so. This could end up being a good free agency move in the end, we'll see.
Best: Re-signing Wandy Rodriguez
While I think the Astros overpaid for him a bit, it was nonetheless a good move, giving him a contract through his arbitration years. They need some depth in the rotation behind Brett Myers, and Myers and Rodriguez give them a decent one-two punch moving forward.
Worst: Pretty much all their free agent signings
The Astros had a pretty bad offseason. The CEO, Drayton McLane, put the team up for sale, and they lost Roy Oswalt in the middle of last season to a trade.
Their big signings were Bill Hall, who hasn't been good since 2006, and Ryan Rowland-Smith, who was terrible last year. That's not a group I have high hopes for. Take your pick on which was worse. On the plus side, they acquired Clint Barmes for Felipe Paulino, who has been going nowhere in Houston. Granted, when Barmes is your "plus side" situation, that's not good.
Best: Trading for Zack Greinke
While the Brewers had to give up quite a bit to get Greinke in the farm system, they are ready to win now. Greinke should not have any anxiety issues pitching for a much better team, and if he can return to Cy form, it's one of the best pickups of the offseason.
Worst: Bringing Yuniesky Betancourt in with Greinke
I would rather have gone with Greinke for all the prospects than Greinke and Betancourt. If the Brewers are actually going to use him as an everyday shortstop, then that will be a glaring weakness of their team throughout the year. He should not be a starter on any team hoping to contend.
Best: Signing Lyle Overbay
The Pirates made two solid moves to make their lineup better. First, they signed former Atlanta Brave Matt Diaz, who had an off year but is usually a very productive hitter; he should be able to contribute immediately.
The Pirates also signed Lyle Overbay, who will provide some much needed power. As long as Garrett Jones can make a smooth transition to right field, this should all work out.
Worst: Not improving their rotation
How hard can it be to improve the Pirates' rotation? Despite the lack of difficulty, it was not done. The Pirates traded Zach Duke and acquired Kevin Correia and Scott Olsen who were the weak links on the Padres and Nationals. Neither have really been successful as a starter, so the Pirates have to be hoping their farm pitching talent gets really good really fast.
St. Louis Cardinals
Best: Re-signing Jake Westbrook.
There's surprisingly not much to choose from here. They traded defense for offense in the Brendan Ryan-Ryan Theriot trade, they made a high-risk high-reward move in giving Lance Berkman an $8 million deal for one, and most of the other moves were small ones.
After the Adam Wainwright injury, re-signing Jake Westbrook turned into a great move. The Cardinals have a deep rotation with him holding the back, and while losing Wainwright and Brad Penny creates holes, you could do far worse than having Westbrook as your third pitcher.
Worst: Not extending contract of Albert Pujols
Whether the Cardinals admit it or not, the fate of Albert Pujols at season's end is going to weigh heavy on everyone in the clubhouse.
Best: Signing J.J. Putz
The Diamondbacks had a lousy bullpen last year, and by bringing in Kevin Towers as the GM, you knew that was going to change. He revitalized the bullpen was several moves, the best of which was signing Putz.
With the exception of 2009, Puts has had a great career as a reliever, and bringing him in was an underrated move this season. The one-year contract was also smart, even though he is one of those relievers that I would actually be fine with giving a multi-year deal.
Worst: Failing to replace Mark Reynolds, Adam LaRoche
The Diamondbacks traded Mark Reynolds to gain some bullpen help. This trade in and of itself was fine. That being said, they did not sign any power hitters despite losing Reynolds and LaRoche. There were more than enough out there, so there's no excuse for now having a sudden lack of power in the lineup (I don't know if Kelly Johnson can have another year like he did yet).
Best: Long-term deals for Tulowitzki and Gonzalez
One of the things that the Rockies do well is they take their great hitters in the lineup and wrap them up for the long haul. They signed Troy Tulowitzki to a deal through 2020, and Carlos Gonzalez to a deal through 2017. Both should be great in Colorado for many years, and it's a great move for them.
Worst: Letting Miguel Olivo go
Miguel Olivo was one of the better catchers in the NL last year, and now it looks like the Rockies will be relying on Chris Iannetta. He hit .197 in 61 games last year, and I'm very concerned with making him the everyday catcher. Maybe it will work out well, but right now I'm not sure.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Best: Signing Jon Garland
As noticed, I'm big on making sure you have depth in the starting rotation. The Dodgers have a solid front end with Ted Lilly and Hiroki Kuroda, and by signing Jon Garland, they have their innings eater who should be solid for them.
He likely won't have a sub-3.00 ERA again, but he'll get 14 wins or so and keep the Dodgers competitive. His one-year contract was also a bargain.
Worst: Signing Juan Uribe
While Uribe was a nice pickup for the Dodgers, I felt that the three-year, $21 million deal was in hindsight a bit much. Yes, he has power and is a good fielder, but his plate discipline is rather poor, and as he gets older that could become a bigger problem. He's more than welcome to prove me wrong though.
San Diego Padres
Best: Trading for Cameron Maybin
On the surface, this may seem like a bad move, giving up two relievers for this guy. However, the Padres can find new relievers, and Maybin still has a lot of upside since he's only 23. I was going to put the Jason Bartlett trade here, but the Padres gave up a lot more on that one and have a larger contract to handle.
Worst: Not addressing the lack of hitting
The Padres were a bad hitting team in 2010, with Adrian Gonzalez being the bright spot. With Gonzalez gone, there's now no one to step up. I looked through the roster, and no one makes me think "at least he'll be able to carry the team in the lineup." The only one I might be okay on is Chase Headley, but he strikes out an awful lot.
Yes, the Padres always have good pitching, but this is going to be a very anemic lineup.
San Francisco Giants
Best: Getting Pablo Sandoval Into Shape
The Giants won the World Series last year, so they did not have to make too many moves. One that they needed to make sure of, however, is that Pablo Sandoval came to Spring Training in shape. He did just that, looking far better this year, and his performance should ideally reflect his new look.
Worst: Signing Miguel Tejada
I know that the infield was pretty weak in this year's free agent market, but to replace Juan Uribe, the Giants signed Miguel Tejada for $6.5 million. In his split time in Baltimore and San Diego, Tejada wasn't very good, and he is clearly past his prime. It's a downgrade at that position, and it makes them less likely to repeat as champions.