2016-2017 MLB Offseason 'Recruiting' Updates for All 30 Teams
Let's pretend for a moment that each MLB team's offseason was evaluated in a way similar to that of a college football or basketball program. Free-agent signings and trade additions would be assigned a rating from 1-5 on the "star" scale, and the complete class of new additions would be graded from there.
Rather than assessing how well needs were filled, how much money was spent by each team or how much cumulative talent was added compared to who was lost in free agency and trades, the focus would solely be on how much overall talent was added to the roster.
First, we need to decide what constitutes a 5-star player, 4-star player and so on. Here is my take on who belongs in each category:
- 5-Star (10 points): A superstar-caliber position player, front-line starting pitcher or elite closer.
- 4-Star (7 points): An above-average everyday position player, middle-of-the-rotation starting pitcher or plus late-inning reliever.
- 3-Star (3 points): A league-average everyday position player or reserve likely to see extended playing time, No. 5 starting pitcher/swingman or above-average reliever. High-upside bounce-back candidates can be found here.
- 2-Star (1 point): Solid organizational depth likely to be on the big league roster at some point, if not on Opening Day. Rule 5 draft picks can be found here.
- 1-Star (N/A): Everyone else. Players signed to minor league deals and unlikely to make any sort of impact at the big league level this coming season. Not included here; don't count toward a team's overall offseason rating.
From there, points were awarded to each recruit as listed above, and each team's total recruit point total was determined. Players were graded based solely on their expected contributions during the 2017 season, so prospects were evaluated on their expected big league contributions for the upcoming season and not their overall ceiling.
Teams were then ordered from worst to first based on the overall level of talent they've added so far this winter. The tiebreaker in the case of two teams having the same score was which team has added more high-star players.
For example, a team that added one 5-star player (10 points) ranks ahead of a team that added one 4-star player and one 3-star player (10 points).
As with college rosters, returning players are not considered recruits, so anyone re-signing with the team he played for last year was not considered for this. That means no Yoenis Cespedes, Kenley Jansen, Justin Turner, Rich Hill or Carlos Gomez, among others.
The end goal here was simply to put a different and fun spin on evaluating what each MLB team has done so far this offseason. So take this for what it is, and enjoy.
30: New York Mets
2-Star (1): RP Ben Rowen
Total: 1 point
While slugger Yoenis Cespedes is back on a four-year, $110 million deal and second baseman Neil Walker also returns after accepting his qualifying offer, it's been a quiet offseason as far as new additions to the New York Mets roster is concerned.
Sidearm righty Ben Rowen is the only notable name so far, and he'll be in camp as a non-roster invitee after posting a 2.33 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in 45 appearances at the Triple-A level.
The 28-year-old has pitched to a 1.85 ERA and 1.02 WHIP over 270 minor league appearances.
T-28: Detroit Tigers
2-Star (4): IF Omar Infante, RP A.J. Achter, RP William Cuevas, RP Daniel Stumpf (Rule 5)
Total: 4 points
A potential sell-off by the Detroit Tigers was one of the biggest stories at the start of the offseason. Instead, they've been as quiet as any team in the league.
The only notable additions here are non-roster invitees and Rule 5 selection Daniel Stumpf.
Veteran infielder Omar Infante will provide some organizational depth behind trade candidate Ian Kinsler, while right-handed relievers William Cuevas and A.J. Achter both saw the majors in a limited capacity last season.
Stumpf, 25, was selected in the Rule 5 draft for the second consecutive year and he'll get a long look for a bullpen spot. The left-hander has pitched to a 3.22 ERA in 139 minor league appearances, averaging 8.9 strikeouts per nine innings.
T-28: Cincinnati Reds
2-Star (4): C Juan Graterol, C Stuart Turner (Rule 5), UT Arismendy Alcantara, RP Lucas Luetge
Total: 4 points
It's been an expectedly slow offseason for a Cincinnati Reds team that is still in the early stages of rebuilding, with just a handful of under-the-radar additions.
Utility man Arismendy Alcantara showed some intriguing potential as a rookie with the Chicago Cubs in 2014 and he's still just 25 years old. He has the best chance of making the Opening Day roster of the new additions.
Meanwhile, Juan Graterol and Rule 5 pickup Stuart Turner are set to battle for the No. 3 catcher slot, though given the recent injury history of Devin Mesoraco it's not out of the question to think one or both could see time in the majors.
Lefty reliever Lucas Luetge posted a 3.98 ERA with 12 holds in 63 appearances with the Seattle Mariners as a rookie in 2012. He's failed to duplicate that success in subsequent seasons but will get a look this spring.
27: Oakland Athletics
3-Star (1): OF Matt Joyce
2-Star (3): 1B/OF Chris Parmelee, OF Jaff Decker, SP Josh Smith
Total: 6 points
Matt Joyce made good as a non-roster invitee last spring, earning a spot on the Pittsburgh Pirates roster and posting an .866 OPS with 10 doubles, 13 home runs and 42 RBI over 293 plate appearances.
Though he's strictly a platoon player with a .185/.265/.310 career line against left-handed pitching, that impressive showing was enough to land him a two-year, $11 million deal from the Oakland Athletics.
Chris Parmelee will be competing with Mark Canha for a bench spot as a first baseman/outfielder. Even if he doesn't break camp with the team he'll be useful depth in Triple-A.
Outfielder Jaff Decker (52 PA, 8 H, 1 2B) and right-hander Josh Smith (59.2 IP, 4.68 ERA) both saw time in the majors last season but will be long shots for a roster spot.
26: Cleveland Indians
3-Star (1): 1B/OF Chris Colabello
2-Star (4): C Erik Kratz, RP Nick Goody, RP Edwin Escobar, RP Hoby Milner (Rule 5)
Total: 7 points
As the Cleveland Indians continue to search for a right-handed slugger, it's been a slow offseason so far with only a few notable depth pieces added to the mix.
Chris Colabello put together a huge season in 2015, posting an .886 OPS with 19 doubles, 15 home runs and 54 RBI in 360 plate appearances. He spent the bulk of this past season serving an 80-game PED suspension, though, and he was forced to settle for a minor league deal, per Jordan Bastian of MLB.com.
Catcher Erik Kratz will take over as the No. 3 catcher on the organizational depth chart—behind Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez—after Chris Gimenez refused a minor league assignment and elected free agency.
Former top prospect Edwin Escobar, Rule 5 pick Hoby Milner and right-hander Nick Goody—acquired Tuesday in a trade with the New York Yankees, per Zack Meisel of Cleveland.com—will all get a chance to secure a bullpen spot this spring.
Milner, 25, split last season between Double-A and Triple-A in the Philadelphia Phillies organization and posted a 2.49 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 10.5 K/9 over 49 appearances.
25: Kansas City Royals
4-Star (1): OF Jorge Soler
Total: 7 points
The only notable move for the Kansas City Royals so far this offseason was a big one, as they flipped closer Wade Davis to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for outfielder Jorge Soler.
While he has yet to live up to lofty expectations, the 24-year-old Soler comes with four remaining years of team control and the same dynamic physical tools that made him a top prospect.
Staying healthy has been an issue in recent seasons, and a full-time move to DH could help keep him on the field and allow him to tap into his vast offensive potential without worrying about his defensive shortcomings.
It was a smart move for a small-market team like the Royals that needs to get creative when it comes to adding impact pieces.
T-23: San Diego Padres
3-Star (1): SP Jhoulys Chacin
2-Star (5): OF Rafael Ortega, SP Zach Lee, C Luis Torrens (Rule 5), IF Allen Cordoba (Rule 5), RP Miguel Diaz (Rule 5)
Total: 8 points
With little in the way of starting pitching, the San Diego Padres announced on Tuesday that they have re-signed left-hander Clayton Richard and added right-hander Jhoulys Chacin.
Chacin could prove to be a steal on a one-year, $1.75 million deal if he can hold down a rotation spot, and there's reason to believe he can after he closed out the 2016 season with a 0.75 ERA and 0.92 WHIP over his final four starts.
Aside from those signings, the Padres' biggest splash was made during the Rule 5 draft, when they traded for the first two picks in right-hander Miguel Diaz and catcher Luis Torrens and then grabbed infielder Allen Cordoba with the No. 3 pick.
Also worth keeping an eye on is right-hander Zach Lee.
Given a massive $5.25 million bonus by the Los Angeles Dodgers after going No. 28 overall in the 2010 draft, Lee ranked among the top 100 prospects in the league three different times, per Baseball America. He's had little in the way of MLB success, but the 25-year-old is an intriguing lottery ticket.
T-23: Texas Rangers
3-Star (1): SP Andrew Cashner
2-Star (5): 3B Will Middlebrooks, SP Tyrell Jenkins, SP Tyler Wagner, SP Allen Webster, RP Mike Hauschild (Rule 5)
Total: 8 points
The Texas Rangers entered the offseason with several items to check off the to-do list. Finding a viable No. 3 starter to slot behind Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish was chief among them.
In a market that was not exactly overflowing with quality arms, the Rangers settled on signing Andrew Cashner to a one-year, $10 million deal.
The 30-year-old, who was once traded from the Cubs to the Padres in exchange for Anthony Rizzo, has never quite put it all together over a full season but he offers more upside than most of the available options this winter.
Former top prospects Tyrell Jenkins and Allen Webster will be among the more intriguing arms in camp, though it's unlikely they fill anything more than a depth role.
The same goes for Will Middlebrooks, who joins his fourth team in the past four seasons after looking like a star in the making early on in his career with the Boston Red Sox. He did post an .816 OPS with 22 doubles and 10 home runs in 264 plate appearances in Triple-A last season.
22: Los Angeles Dodgers
3-Star (2): 1B/OF Darin Ruf, RP Vidal Nuno
2-Star (2): OF Tyler Holt, UT Darnell Sweeney
Total: 8 points
The return of closer Kenley Jansen was obviously a boon to the Los Angeles Dodgers bullpen, but they also added left-hander Vidal Nuno in a significantly less-heralded move.
Nuno made a career-high 55 appearances last season with the Seattle Mariners, posting a 3.53 ERA, 1.33 WHIP and a strong 51-to-11 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 58.2 innings.
In what was the first notable trade of the offseason, the team sent veteran Howie Kendrick to the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for Darin Ruf and Darnell Sweeney.
Ruf has crushed left-handed pitching to the tune of a .921 OPS over the course of his career and he'll battle Scott Van Slyke for a bench spot and pinch-hit role.
Sweeney began his career in the Dodgers organization before he was traded to the Phillies in the deal that brought Chase Utley to Los Angeles. His versatility could earn him time in a utility role at some point.
Outfielder Tyler Holt saw significant playing time with the Reds last season and provides useful depth after hitting .235/.327/.296 over 208 plate appearances.
21: Pittsburgh Pirates
4-Star (1): RP Daniel Hudson
2-Star (2): RP Lisalverto Bonilla, RP Tyler Webb (Rule 5)
Total: 9 points
The Pittsburgh Pirates finally made their first big addition of the offseason on Tuesday, signing reliever Daniel Hudson to a two-year, $11 million deal, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.
Passan points to the impending free agency of Tony Watson and his status as a trade candidate as one reason the Pirates were an attractive landing spot, giving him a potential path to the closer's role.
A former starter who won 16 games in 2011, Hudson was derailed by injuries before resurrecting his career in a bullpen role.
In 134 appearances over the past two seasons, he's posted a 4.50 ERA, 1.38 WHIP and 9.1 K/9 while recording nine saves and 38 holds.
His 3.64 FIP during that time is a big reason why he was such a hot commodity on the free-agent market, as he could benefit greatly from a change of scenery.
Lisalverto Bonilla and Rule 5 pick Tyler Webb will all be looking to join Hudson in a new-look bullpen.
T-19: Tampa Bay Rays
4-Star (1): C Wilson Ramos
2-Star (3): C Michael McKenry, OF Shane Peterson, RP Kevin Gadea (Rule 5)
Total: 10 points
The Tampa Bay Rays finally made a significant addition at the catcher position, signing Wilson Ramos to a two-year, $12.5 million deal.
Ramos was positioning himself for a significantly larger payday when he suffered a torn ACL on Sept. 26 that effectively ended his season.
The 29-year-old was hitting .307/.354/.496 with 25 doubles, 22 home runs and 80 RBI at the time of the injury. It's unclear exactly when he'll return, with an original estimated recovery time of six to eight months, per Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post.
Michael McKenry and Shane Peterson both have a fair amount of MLB experience under their belts and provide solid organizational depth, while Rule 5 pick Kevin Gadea will be one of the most intriguing arms in camp.
The 22-year-old posted a 2.36 ERA and a 95-to-14 K/BB ratio over 68.2 innings last season, but he's made just 10 appearances above rookie ball.
T-19: Minnesota Twins
4-Star (1): C Jason Castro
2-Star (3): 1B Ben Paulsen, OF J.B. Shuck, RP Justin Haley (Rule 5)
Total: 10 points
While Jason Castro may not jump off the page as a clear "4-star"-caliber player, his value is clear after he inked a three-year, $24.5 million deal.
"Catching was a focus of ours and Jason was a target early on, and not just from a player's standpoint," chief baseball officer Derek Falvey told Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com. "A lot has been made about his defense, but we really look into the background of these guys. It's important for the culture of our team. He checked every box and then some."
The 29-year-old has never matched his breakout 2013 season, but he's tallied at least 10 home runs and 30 RBI each of the past four years and ranks as one of the best pitch-framers in baseball, per StatCorner.
Ben Paulsen is an interesting non-roster invitee. He's just a year removed from posting a .787 OPS with 19 doubles, 11 home runs and 49 RBI as the starting first baseman for the Colorado Rockies.
Outfielder J.B. Shuck has also seen significant playing time in the majors the past two seasons while suiting up with the Chicago White Sox, hitting .229/.285/.319 over 406 plate appearances and manning all three outfield spots.
18. Baltimore Orioles
4-Star (1): C Welington Castillo
2-Star (5): OF Logan Schafer, OF Adam Brett Walker, SP/RP Logan Verrett, OF Aneury Tavarez (Rule 5), OF Anthony Santander (Rule 5)
Total: 12 points
The Baltimore Orioles have had a relatively quiet offseason to this point, failing to address their need for a corner outfielder as well as a power bat to replace the departing duo of Mark Trumbo and Pedro Alvarez.
They have found a new starting catcher, though, signing Welington Castillo to a one-year, $6 million deal that includes a $7 million player option for 2018.
A surprise non-tender by the Arizona Diamondbacks, Castillo gets low marks for his pitch-framing and he allowed an NL-high 10 passed balls last season. However, he has some of the best power at the catcher position and he did a good job controlling the running game last year, catching 38 percent of base stealers.
As it stands, there's a good chance one of Aneury Tavarez and Anthony Santander will follow in the footsteps of Joey Rickard and stick as a Rule 5 outfielder. That could always change depending on what the team does the rest of the offseason.
Keep an eye on slugger Adam Brett Walker, a former Minnesota Twins prospect who has big-time power and strikes out a ton. If there's one team that can fully utilize his skill set, it's the Orioles.
17. Milwaukee Brewers
3-Star (2): 1B Eric Thames, 3B Travis Shaw
2-Star (7): C Jett Bandy, 2B Eric Sogard, UT Ivan De Jesus Jr., SP Tommy Milone, RP Steven Geltz, RP Blake Parker, RP Ryan Webb
Total: 13 points
The Milwaukee Brewers picked up perhaps the most intriguing lottery ticket on the market when they signed Eric Thames to a three-year, $16 million deal.
A .250/.296/.431 career hitter over 684 career MLB plate appearances, Thames has spent the past three seasons absolutely raking in the Korean Baseball Organization:
- 2014: .343 BA, 1.111 OPS, 30 2B, 37 HR, 121 RBI, 95 R, 11 SB
- 2015: .381 BA, 1.288 OPS, 42 2B, 47 HR, 140 RBI, 130 R, 40 SB
- 2016: .317 BA, 1.101 OPS, 29 2B, 40 HR, 118 RBI, 117 R, 13 SB
Granted the KBO is a notoriously hitter-friendly league, but those numbers are impossible to ignore. Heck, he was the first 40/40 player in KBO history in 2015.
Joining him in the Brewers' infield will be Travis Shaw, who was acquired from the Boston Red Sox in exchange for reliever Tyler Thornburg.
Shaw has five years of team control left, making him a terrific addition for the rebuilding Brewers even after an up-and-down campaign.
All seven players listed in the "2-star" category could see the majors at some point in 2017, with Tommy Milone an intriguing swingman option and bounce-back candidate.
16: Chicago White Sox
3-Star (4): IF Yoan Moncada, SP Derek Holland, SP Lucas Giolito, SP Reynaldo Lopez
2-Star (3): OF Rymer Liriano, RP Dylan Covey (Rule 5), RP Giovanni Soto
Total: 15 points
This seems like a good time for a reminder on this sentence from the introduction:
"Players were graded based solely on their expected contributions during the 2017 season, so prospects were evaluated on their expected big league contributions for the upcoming season and not their overall ceiling."
That's important for the Chicago White Sox, as Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez—as well as pitcher Michael Kopech—all have a chance to develop into 5-star-caliber players when all is said and done.
For the time being, though, it would be wise to temper expectations for what kind of impact those prospects might make in 2017.
Trading one of Brett Lawrie or Todd Frazier would clear a path for Moncada to immediate playing time, while Giolito and Lopez would both benefit from the team moving Jose Quintana.
For now, it's hard to slot them above a 3-star, though.
Meanwhile, as the team starts to rebuild, left-hander Derek Holland is a good addition on a one-year, $6 million deal.
Provided he can stay healthy, he'll eat innings and provide a veteran presence while potentially emerging as a viable trade chip come July.
15: Colorado Rockies
4-Star (2): 1B/OF Ian Desmond, RP Mike Dunn
2-Star (1): IF Daniel Castro
Total: 15 points
The Colorado Rockies' decision to sign Ian Desmond to a five-year, $70 million deal was viewed by many as a precursor to another move to come.
Charlie Blackmon and Carlos Gonzalez have been popular names on the trade market for the better part of two years, and signing Desmond appeared to give them the freedom to finally pull the trigger on moving one of them.
However, it's looking more and more like the front office was serious when they said that Desmond—who played shortstop his entire career before moving to center field last season—will be the team's primary first baseman in 2017.
"There's never been any desire for us to trade Carlos (Gonzalez) or Charlie (Blackmon)," general manager Jeff Bridich told MLB Network Radio.
An interesting move for a team that is overflowing with offense and still in serious need of pitching help.
They did land one quality arm in left-hander Mike Dunn, who signed a three-year, $19 million deal.
He'll replace free agent Boone Logan and join Jake McGee as the primary lefty options out of what was the league's worst bullpen.
14: Toronto Blue Jays
4-Star (1): DH Kendrys Morales
3-Star (1): IF/OF Steve Pearce
2-Star (6): SP T.J. House, SP Brett Oberholtzer, RP Jeff Beliveau, RP Leonel Campos, RP Dominic Leone, RP Glenn Sparkman (Rule 5)
Total: 16 points
The Toronto Blue Jays began the offseason with significant holes to fill on the offensive side of things as Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista and Michael Saunders all reached free agency.
There's still work to be done on that front, but they have added a pair of quality bats in Kendrys Morales and Steve Pearce.
Morales, 33, landed a three-year, $33 million deal after back-to-back strong seasons with the Kansas City Royals. He posted an .821 OPS while averaging 32 doubles, 26 home runs and 100 RBI.
He's played just 16 games at first base over the past two seasons, though, so he'll likely DH on an everyday basis.
That's where the versatility of Pearce becomes valuable.
He'll serve as a platoon partner for Justin Smoak at first base, while also seeing time at both corner outfield spots and serving as depth at second and third base.
A two-year, $12.5 million deal looks like a steal after he posted an .867 OPS with 13 doubles and 13 home runs over 302 plate appearances in 2016.
After hitting on Rule 5 pick Joe Biagini a year ago, they'll be hoping for similar luck with right-hander Glenn Sparkman, who had a 65-to-10 K/BB ratio over 60.1 innings.
13. San Francisco Giants
5-Star (1): RP Mark Melancon
2-Star (6): C Tim Federowicz, IF Jimmy Rollins, SP Josh Johnson, RP Jose Dominguez, RP Bryan Morris, RP Neil Ramirez
Total: 16 points
The San Francisco Giants' desire to add a top-tier closer was the worst-kept secret of the offseason.
Mark Melancon looked like the team's top target from the get-go and they eventually got their man with a four-year, $62 million deal.
That's considerably less than it cost to sign Aroldis Chapman (five years and $86 million) or Kenley Jansen (five years and $80 million), but Melancon has been every bit as effective when it comes to closing out games.
Here's how the three stack up since the start of 2013:
- Chapman: 143/156 SV, 91.7 SV%, 1.93 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 15.8 K/9
- Jansen: 155/172 SV, 90.1 SV%, 2.19 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 13.6 K/9
- Melancon: 147/162 SV, 90.1 SV%, 1.80 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 8.3 K/9
As for non-roster invitees, veteran infielder Jimmy Rollins will compete for the utility infield job with Ehire Adrianza and right-hander Bryan Morris should have a real shot at landing the last spot in the bullpen.
12. Washington Nationals
5-Star (1): CF Adam Eaton
3-Star (1): C Derek Norris
2-Star (5): IF Emmanuel Burriss, SP Jacob Turner, RP Austin Adams, RP Tim Collins, RP Jimmy Cordero
Total: 18 points
The Washington Nationals gave up a ton to acquire Adam Eaton from the Chicago White Sox during the winter meetings, but he earns the 5-star distinction after posting a 6.2 WAR last season.
Much of that value was tied to his defense in right field and that will likely take a hit with his move to center, but he contributed plenty on the offensive side as well with a .284/.362/.428 line that included 52 extra-base hits, 14 stolen bases and 91 runs scored.
The 28-year-old also has an incredibly team-friendly contract as he'll earn $38.4 million over the next five seasons, assuming his two option years are exercised.
Catcher Derek Norris was acquired from the San Diego Padres to replace the departing Wilson Ramos behind the plate, though there's no guarantee he'll be the team's starting catcher by the time spring training rolls around.
There has been "rampant speculation" around the league that Matt Wieters will eventually land with the Nationals, according to Buster Olney of ESPN.
Left-hander Tim Collins is an interesting non-roster flier as he tries to make his way back from a pair of Tommy John surgeries.
11. New York Yankees
5-Star (1): RP Aroldis Chapman
4-Star (1): DH Matt Holliday
2-Star (2): IF Ruben Tejada, RP Jason Gurka
Total: 19 points
After a memorable three-month stint with the Chicago Cubs, Aroldis Chapman returned to the New York Yankees on a five-year, $86 million deal.
That stands as the new record for the largest contract given to a relief pitcher and it gives the Yankees a dominant anchor in a bullpen that also features Tyler Clippard and Dellin Betances.
Aside from Chapman, the Yankees' focus this winter has been on adding veteran talent on short-term deals as they continue to work toward a bright future.
Matt Holliday has been the one notable addition on that front, agreeing to a one-year, $13 million deal to serve as the team's primary DH.
The 36-year-old missed time last season with a thumb injury and has battled quad issues as well in recent seasons, but he remains a potent bat when healthy.
Over 426 plate appearances in 2016, he posted a .782 OPS with 20 doubles, 20 home runs and 62 RBI and he's tallied at least 20 home runs in 10 of the past 11 seasons.
Ruben Tejada will compete with Ronald Torreyes for the utility infield job.
10. Arizona Diamondbacks
4-Star (1): SP Taijuan Walker
3-Star (3): C Jeff Mathis, SS Ketel Marte, RP Fernando Rodney
2-Star (4): OF Oswaldo Arcia, OF Jeremy Hazelbaker, RP Keyvius Sampson, RP Tyler Jones (Rule 5)
Total: 20 points
The Arizona Diamondbacks have had a busy offseason, albeit nowhere near as splashy as a year ago when they broke the bank to sign Zack Greinke and sold the farm to acquire Shelby Miller.
The big move so far has been the trade that sent Jean Segura to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for right-hander Taijuan Walker and shortstop Ketel Marte.
Walker, 24, still has as much potential as any young pitcher in the game and he's capable of dominating on any given night. It's simply a matter of finding some level of consistency every fifth day.
As for Marte, he burst onto the scene with a .283/.351/.402 line over 247 plate appearances as a rookie but struggled to duplicate that success this past season and found himself back in the minors as a result.
If nothing else, the 23-year-old was an attractive buy-low candidate and he should get a chance to win a middle infield job this spring.
Catcher Jeff Mathis will bring a steadying presence to the clubhouse and pitching staff, while Fernando Rodney will get the first crack at filling the vacant closer's role.
Keep an eye on Rule 5 pick Tyler Jones, who posted a 2.17 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and 13.2 K/9 while saving 11 games in a full season at the Double-A level. He might be the most MLB-ready among the Rule 5 arms.
9. Atlanta Braves
4-Star (1): SP Bartolo Colon
3-Star (3): IF Sean Rodriguez, SP R.A. Dickey, SP Jaime Garcia
2-Star (5): C Tuffy Gosewisch, SP John Danks, RP Luke Jackson, RP Armando Rivero (R5), RP Jordan Walden
Total: 21 points
In a matter of hours, the Atlanta Braves raised the average age of their starting rotation by roughly a decade with the additions of Bartolo Colon and R.A. Dickey on one-year deals.
Those signings make perfect sense for a rebuilding team looking to take some pressure off a young starting rotation as both are durable veterans capable of stepping into a leadership role while eating innings in the process.
The Braves also picked up left-hander Jaime Garcia, who finally managed to stay healthy in 2016.
That good health didn't translate to on-field results, though, as he posted a 4.67 ERA over 171.2 innings. That said, he's just a year removed from going 10-6 with a 2.43 ERA and 1.05 WHIP over 20 starts and was a great buy-low pickup.
Sean Rodriguez is as versatile as any player in baseball and fresh off the best offensive season of his career, so he was well worth the two-year, $11.5 million investment.
John Danks and Jordan Walden will be two comeback stories to track this spring, while hard-throwing Luke Jackson could benefit from the change of scenery after failing to live up to his top-prospect billing with the Rangers.
8. St. Louis Cardinals
5-Star (1): CF Dexter Fowler
4-Star (1): RP Brett Cecil
2-Star (5): C Eric Fryer, OF Todd Cunningham, SP Kendry Flores, RP John Gant, RP Zach Phillips
Total: 22 points
The market was slow to develop for Dexter Fowler a year ago and he wound up back with the Chicago Cubs on what was essentially a one-year, $13 million deal.
A standout season offensively (.840 OPS, 45 XBH, 84 R) and marked improvement in his defense (-12 defensive runs saved in 2015, 1 DRS in 2016) made him a hot commodity this time around and he ended up landing a five-year, $82.5 million contract.
"From Day 1, this was always someone that we were hoping to sign," GM John Mozeliak told reporters. "When we talked a couple of nights ago on the phone, we explained to him how excited we are for how well we believe he's going to fit into our lineup and fit into our clubhouse."
The other big signing this offseason was lefty reliever Brett Cecil, who inked a four-year, $30.5 million deal to round out the relief corps.
Southpaw setup man Kevin Siegrist is more effective against righties than lefties and Zach Duke is expected to miss the entire season following Tommy John surgery, so there was a clear need for a left-hander and they got a good one in Cecil.
Eric Fryer returns to provide some catching depth and he may very well wind up being the backup, assuming the team prefers to return prospect Carson Kelly to the minors where he can play regularly.
7. Miami Marlins
4-Star (1): RP Brad Ziegler
3-Star (4): C A.J. Ellis, SP Jeff Locke, SP Edinson Volquez, RP Junichi Tazawa
2-Star (3): OF Matt den Dekker, SP Kyle Lobstein, RP Elvis Araujo, RP Javy Guerra
Total: 23 points
The Miami Marlins set out this offseason with a plan to bolster the bullpen, in hopes the relief corps could prop up a suspect starting rotation.
While they whiffed on top target Kenley Jansen, they did pick up a pair of quality late-inning arms in Brad Ziegler and Junichi Tazawa to join incumbents David Phelps, Kyle Barraclough and A.J. Ramos.
Ziegler is a ground-ball machine who provides some insurance for Ramos with ample closing experience, while Tazawa has averaged 64 appearances with a 3.53 ERA and 9.2 K/9 over the past four seasons with the Red Sox.
Catcher A.J. Ellis will serve as backup to incumbent J.T. Realmuto as he's reunited with manager Don Mattingly. He should have a positive impact on both the development of Realmuto and the young pitching staff.
Edinson Volquez ($9 million) and Jeff Locke ($3.025 million) were signed to one-year deals to fill out the starting rotation and both offer some decent upside relative to their price tag.
Outfielder Matt den Dekker joins his third NL East team in the past four years.
6. Los Angeles Angels
4-Star (2): 2B Danny Espinosa, OF Cameron Maybin
3-Star (2): C Martin Maldonado, SP Jesse Chavez
2-Star (3): OF Ryan LaMarre, RP Brooks Pounders, RP Kirby Yates
Total: 23 points
The additions of Danny Espinosa and Cameron Maybin fill two positions—second base and left field—that were absolute black holes offensively for the Los Angeles Angels a year ago:
- 2B: .235/.275/.345, 10 HR, 47 RBI
- LF: .204/.271/.313, 11 HR, 59 RBI
Espinosa doesn't provide much in the way of batting average, but he's a slick fielder with 20-homer power. He'll be fun to watch up the middle with Andrelton Simmons.
Maybin has enjoyed a career resurrection in recent seasons and he's coming off a terrific year with the Tigers that saw him hit .315/.383/.418 over 391 plate appearances.
Catcher Martin Maldonado was acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for fellow backstop Jett Bandy, with his appealing coming from his defense and pitch-framing abilities.
Swingman Jesse Chavez was also added to the pitching staff on a one-year, $5.75 million deal and he'll have a chance to win the No. 5 starter job this spring after pitching exclusively in relief last season.
5. Philadelphia Phillies
4-Star (2): IF/OF Howie Kendrick, RP Joaquin Benoit
3-Star (2): SP Clay Buchholz, RP Pat Neshek
2-Star (5): C Bryan Holaday, IF Pedro Florimon, OF Daniel Nava, RP Sean Burnett, RP David Rollins
Total: 25 points
As the Philadelphia Phillies continue rebuilding, they've done a nice job filling out the roster with veteran talent this offseason.
Howie Kendrick will likely be the team's everyday left fielder after serving in a super utility role of sorts last season with the Dodgers. His OPS dipped to a career-low .691 last season, but some defensive stability could lead to a bounce-back season at the plate.
Relievers Joaquin Benoit and Pat Neshek bring experience to a relatively young bullpen and Benoit will get a chance to compete with Jeanmar Gomez and Hector Neris for the closer's job this spring.
Perhaps the most intriguing addition is Clay Buchholz, who was acquired from the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday, according to Scott Lauber of ESPN.com.
The 32-year-old struggled mightily to open the 2016 season, going 2-5 with a 6.35 ERA over his first 10 starts to lose his spot in the starting rotation.
However, he was 5-1 with a 3.22 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in 58.2 innings after the All-Star break, including a strong month of September in which he rejoined the rotation and went 3-0 with a 3.14 ERA and four quality starts in five games.
He's in the final season of his contract and could turn into this year's Jeremy Hellickson if everything breaks right.
4. Chicago Cubs
5-Star (1): RP Wade Davis
4-Star (2): OF Jon Jay, RP Koji Uehara
2-Star (2): RP Brian Duensing, RP Caleb Smith (R5)
Total: 26 points
Despite losing center fielder Dexter Fowler, starter Jason Hammel, closer Aroldis Chapman and fellow reliever Travis Wood, the Chicago Cubs really didn't need to do anything drastic this offseason.
That hasn't stopped them from making a splash, though.
All-Star closer Wade Davis was acquired from the Royals in exchange for Jorge Soler, who appeared to be the odd-man out in a crowded outfield.
The team closed the door on a potential reunion with Fowler when Jon Jay agreed to a one-year, $8 million deal to serve as a platoon partner for Albert Almora Jr. in center field.
Jay missed time last season with a broken forearm, posting a .728 OPS with 26 doubles in 374 plate appearances as one of the more productive hitters on the Padres roster.
Looking to further bolster the relief corps and provide some insurance for Davis, who made a pair of trips to the disabled list last season with forearm injury, the Cubs also added Koji Uehara on a one-year, $6 million deal.
The 41-year-old has 93 career saves. As long as his splitter is still splitting he should be an effective late-inning option.
With Wood likely to sign elsewhere and Mike Montgomery expected to move to the rotation, Brian Duensing and Rule 5 pick Caleb Smith join Rob Zastryzny as the top lefty relief options in the pen.
3. Boston Red Sox
5-Star (1): SP Chris Sale
4-Star (2): 1B Mitch Moreland, RP Tyler Thornburg
2-Star (3): IF Josh Rutledge (Rule 5), 3B Matt Dominguez, OF Junior Lake
Total: 27 points
No one has added a bigger piece of the puzzle this offseason than the Boston Red Sox with the addition of left-hander Chris Sale.
While it cost a king's ransom in prospects, Sale is unquestionably one of the best pitchers in the game. The fact that he's owed a comically reasonable $38 million over the next three years only adds to his value.
The bullpen also picked up a key arm in Tyler Thornburg, one of the most underrated setup men in baseball this past season while pitching for the Brewers.
The 28-year-old tallied 13 saves and 20 holds while pitching to a 2.15 ERA, 0.94 WHIP and 12.1 K/9 and he too comes with team control for the next three seasons.
Mitch Moreland has been the biggest free-agent signing to this point and he'll supplant Hanley Ramirez as the starting first baseman, with HanRam taking over as the primary DH.
Moreland has at least 20 home runs and 60 RBI in three of the past four seasons, is undoubtedly an upgrade defensively at first base and comes at the very economic price of $5.5 million on a one-year deal.
Infielder Josh Rutledge elected free agency after being outrighted by the Red Sox earlier this offseason, then signed a minor league deal with the Colorado Rockies, only to be brought back as one of the stranger Rule 5 selections in recent memory.
2. Houston Astros
4-Star (3): C Brian McCann, OF Josh Reddick, DH Carlos Beltran
3-Star (2): OF Nori Aoki, SP Charlie Morton
2-Star (3): IF Reid Brignac, RP C.J. Riefenhauser, RP Ashur Tolliver
Total: 30 points
No one was busier in the early stages of the offseason than the Houston Astros.
Depending on your opinion of all three players, catcher Brian McCann and outfielders Josh Reddick and Carlos Beltran are all fringe 5-star players, so some may prefer to pencil the Astros into the No. 1 spot in these rankings.
That being said, McCann has declined both offensively and defensively, Reddick has had a hard time staying healthy and Beltran is entering his age-40 season, so all three received a 4-star distinction.
That's not to say the Astros have not improved dramatically this offseason, as all three are welcome additions to a lineup that already features the likes of Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, George Springer, Evan Gattis and a budding star in Alex Bregman.
Charlie Morton was a nice buy-low reclamation project on a two-year, $14 million deal and he could certainly help the rotation situation if healthy.
Outfielder Nori Aoki was also a nice under-the-radar pickup claimed off waivers from the division-rival Seattle Mariners.
The 34-year-old had an up-and-down season in 2016 but finished strong with a .371/.429/.600 line in September.
1. Seattle Mariners
5-Star (1): SS Jean Segura
3-Star (5): C Carlos Ruiz, IF/OF Danny Valencia, OF Mitch Haniger, RP Casey Fien, RP Marc Rzepczynski
2-Star (7): IF/OF Taylor Motter, SP Chris Heston, SP Rob Whalen, RP Zac Curtis, RP Dean Kiekhefer, RP James Pazos, RP Ryan Weber
Total: 32 points
It's been another busy offseason for Seattle Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto.
Jean Segura is the big addition after a phenomenal season with the Diamondbacks, and the team gave up a good deal to acquire him with Taijuan Walker and Ketel Marte heading the other way.
The 26-year-old led the NL with 203 hits, posting a .319/.368/.499 line that included 41 doubles, 20 home runs, 64 RBI, 102 runs and 33 stolen bases for a 5.7 WAR.
Also acquired in that deal was outfielder Mitch Haniger, who will have a real shot at winning the starting left field job after posting a .999 OPS with 34 doubles, 25 home runs and 94 RBI between Double-A and Triple-A.
Veterans Carlos Ruiz and Danny Valencia will fill important bench roles, while Casey Fien and Marc Rzepczynski are steady arms to bolster the relief corps.
The team is still searching for another starting pitcher after trading Walker, but Chris Heston was a nice buy-low pickup from the San Francisco Giants.