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Biggest Winners and Losers of 2016 MLB Spring Training

Danny KnoblerMLB Lead WriterApril 2, 2016

Chicago Cubs' Dexter Fowler is greeted by teammates during a spring training baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds Tuesday, March 22, 2016, in Goodyear, Ariz. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

Spring training is never about wins and losses, but it can still be about winning and losing.

No one remembers the score of the St. Louis Cardinals' May 5 game against the Miami Marlins (I looked it up; they won 3-2). But the Cardinals won't forget losing shortstop Jhonny Peralta that day to a thumb injury that required surgery.

No one cares that the Washington Nationals and Toronto Blue Jays had the best records in the Grapefruit League—or that the New York Mets and Pittsburgh Pirates had two of the worst. But if what the Blue Jays have seen from young starter Aaron Sanchez this spring is real, it could have a major impact on the ultra-competitive American League East.

As for the Mets, who didn't win any of their final 13 games in Florida, it was easy for manager Terry Collins to remind Kevin Kernan of the New York Post that in "three more days, we are zero and zero, and that's all I'm worried about."

The Mets are tough to categorize on the winners/losers scale, because despite some worrisome signs, nothing that happened is guaranteed to impact the regular season.

The same can't be said for the Los Angeles Dodgers, who lost starting pitcher Brett Anderson and outfielder Andre Ethier to injuries that will cost them significant regular-season time.

Much of what occurred over the last six weeks will be quickly forgotten, almost as soon as Francisco Liriano delivers the first real pitch of the season Sunday afternoon in Pittsburgh. In a matter of days, we'll have actual wins and losses to talk about.

For now, though, we have spring training winners and losers, based on the stories and moments (but not scores) that did matter.

Winners

Chicago Cubs: Manager Joe Maddon told his team to "embrace the target" when the spring began, and the target on the Cubs' backs only keeps getting bigger. They had a great winter and followed it up with a great spring, and now far too many (including yours truly) are saying they're finally going to win the World Series. They haven't won that yet, but they did win spring training.

Toronto Blue Jays: It wasn't a perfectly smooth spring because it began with Jose Bautista supposedly asking the Blue Jays for $150 million in a new contract, according to TSN's Rick Westhead. By the end of spring, though, the focus seemed to have shifted to the young and talented Toronto pitchers, especially Sanchez (who won the job as the fifth starter) and Roberto Osuna (who held on to the job as closer). That's a win.

Washington Nationals: They won a lot of games, which might mean something for a team that is coming off an awful 2015. Jonathan Papelbon apologized for choking Bryce Harper at the end of that awful season, which might mean something. They showed off a lot of young talent and a talented old manager, which should mean something.

Who's the real Robinson Cano? He says it's the successful guy you saw this spring.
Who's the real Robinson Cano? He says it's the successful guy you saw this spring.Ted S. Warren/Associated Press/Associated Press

Robinson Cano: Normally, you'd pay little attention to anything a six-time All-Star did in the spring, but Cano had a little reputation rebuilding to do after last year. He can't get it all back in games that don't count, but he did what he could this spring, which is why he told Bob Nightengale of USA Today, "Everyone will see the real me this year."

Nolan Arenado: Normally, you'd pay little attention to Arenado's spring numbers. But the guy hit .544 with nearly half of his knocks going for extra bases (16 of 31). How do you ignore that, and how do you ignore Arenado—even on a Colorado Rockies team that again doesn't figure to be very good?

Jeff Francoeur: Not a big story, just a nice one, with the popular Francoeur going back to the Atlanta Braves and winning a spot on the Opening Day roster.

Losers

Los Angeles Dodgers: They'd make this list even without any on-field problems, simply because of this week's Los Angeles Times report that negotiations to get the team's games on more Southern California television sets broke down again. In Vin Scully's final season, too many fans will have no way to hear him. Speaking of broken down, the Dodgers lost the $15.8 million Anderson to back surgery and the $18 million Ethier to a fractured tibia.

Chicago White Sox: There was plenty wrong on both sides of the Camelback Ranch complex the White Sox share with the Dodgers. The Sox might have been in the right with their decision to limit clubhouse and field time for Adam LaRoche's son, but the way they handled it left them looking like an organization in turmoil. It's just not good when your star pitcher accuses the club vice president of "derail[ing]" the team's steam engine, as Chris Sale did of Kenny Williams.

Boston Red Sox: They should have had a spring like the Cubs did after adding ace David Price and closer Craig Kimbrel to fill their biggest needs. Instead, the rotation behind Price was far too shaky, Pablo Sandoval looked far too bulky, and spring training ended with the news that two players who cost the Sox a combined $167.5 million (Sandoval and Rusney Castillo) wouldn't even crack the Opening Day lineup.

Pablo Sandoval and the Red Sox had a tough spring.
Pablo Sandoval and the Red Sox had a tough spring.Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

Pablo Sandoval: He gets an entry of his own, because beyond what he did to the Red Sox, it's shocking what he has done to his career. In a spring for which he had every reason to be motivated, he came to camp overweight, got hurt and ended up losing his third base job to Travis Shaw. Not only that, but the Shaw-over-Sandoval selection was such an easy one to make that even Sandoval called it "the right decision to help the team win," according to Scott Lauber of ESPN.com.

New York Yankees: Closer Andrew Miller told reporters Thursday he intends to keep pitching with a chip fracture in his right wrist. Starter CC Sabathia rallied late in spring to likely hold on to his rotation spot. All that means is the Yankees' spring wasn't as bad as it could have been. Still, they'll open the season without two significant parts of their important bullpen (Aroldis Chapman and Bryan Mitchell)—and with questions about Miller. The season is far from ruined, but the spring could have gone much better.

Baltimore Orioles: The spring began with various reports the Orioles were going to sign Dexter Fowler, including from Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun—and then with the reality they didn't. It ended with Baltimore telling Korean first baseman Hyun Soo Kim (who cost $7 million) it wanted him to go to the minor leagues—and Kim telling the O's he's not going, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.

St. Louis Cardinals: The spring began with the Cardinals losing starting shortstop Peralta to thumb surgery, and it ended with them losing replacement starter Ruben Tejada to a quad strain. No reports on how Ozzie Smith is doing.

Mets

New York Mets: They get a category all their own, because by all rights they should be losers, with questions about Jacob deGrom's velocity, Jeurys Familia's performance, David Wright's back and Matt Harvey's bathroom habits. But they go into the season healthy and seemingly confident, and that doesn't sound like a loser to me.

Danny Knobler covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report. Spring statistics courtesy of MLB.com.

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