Picking the Most Improved Teams in the 2013-14 MLB Offseason so Far
Even though it is still early in the offseason, there have already been a few MLB teams that have taken big steps forward for the 2014 season.
Some franchises have looked to the trade market to fill a pressing need, while others have been able to pick up impact free agents.
There is still a lot of time left this winter, and there are many big-name players on the market. Thus far, there are some clear early winners of the 2014 MLB offseason.
St. Louis Cardinals
The St. Louis Cardinals have turned to both the free-agent market as well as the trade market to improve their team this offseason.
With a glaring hole at shortstop, the Cardinals were willing to spend to pick up the best one on the market. Jhonny Peralta may have had his issues with PEDs last season, but his .303 average and 11 home runs were much better than the .222 batting average and four home runs that Cardinals shortstops had last season.
After realizing that Carlos Beltran would be leaving via free agency, the Cardinals made a move to replace him. They sent David Freese and Fernando Salas to the Los Angeles Angels for Peter Bourjos and Randal Grichuk.
While this move does have some risk, Bourjos is a strong defensive player with a career 4.2 dWAR, and his speed makes him a threat at the top of a batting order.
Based on the first few weeks of the 2014 MLB offseason, the Texas Rangers are the big winner. With Ian Kinsler, Jurickson Profar and Elvis Andrus, the Rangers had a glut of middle infielders.
Texas was able to deal Kinsler and bring in a huge bat. By picking up Prince Fielder, the team's lineup gets even stronger while also giving Profar a chance to play every day. Fielder's 40-home run potential adds another dimension to an already-intimidating Rangers starting nine.
Additionally, Fielder serves as a big upgrade offensively over last year's first baseman, Mitch Moreland, who hit just .232 on the year.
In addition to Fielder, the Rangers were also able to retain Geovany Soto. While this is not as big of a move, it does give the Rangers a good option for the starting catcher role.
Ricky Nolasco showed promise in his early days with the Florida Marlins, but he failed to deliver on it in many cases. Nolasco finally figured things out in his final season before free agency.
The Minnesota Twins are a team that needs to rebuild its rotation, and the Twins saw Nolasco as a great option, per Matt Snyder of CBSSports.com. Considering the fact that Twins starters had an MLB-worst 5.26 ERA last season, it is safe to say that Nolasco was greatly needed.
Nolasco, who had a 3.70 ERA between the Miami Marlins and the Los Angeles Dodgers, will likely serve as the ace of the Twins staff.
San Francisco Giants
Just one year after winning the World Series, the San Francisco Giants struggled to contend in the National League West. They have a strong core, but they need to bring in some players this winter who can push them back to where they were a few years ago.
The Giants made a shrewd move by signing Tim Hudson to a two-year deal this offseason. While Hudson may be getting up there in age, he has proved to be a very consistent pitcher throughout his career. The last time his ERA was over 4.00 was during the 2006 season. He will also provide a strong veteran presence in the Giants locker room.
In addition to Hudson, the Giants also re-signed Ryan Vogelsong, via Mike Axisa of CBSSports.com. While Vogelsong struggled mightily in 2013, this is a good low-risk move by the Giants. He will be a steal even at $6.5 million if he is able to pitch as well as he did in 2011 and 2012.