Each MLB Team's Big Offseason Regret Being Exposed in 2018
Now that the 2018 Major League Baseball season is just about halfway over, hindsight about what happened over the offseason is now available in glorious 20-20.
The mistakes teams made stick out like so many sore thumbs.
We're going to pinpoint the biggest regret each MLB team should have about its hot-stove wheelings and dealings. In some cases, these involve players who were or were not signed or traded for. In others, it involves larger miscalculations.
We'll go in alphabetical order by city.
Note: Records and stats are accurate through play on Wednesday, June 20.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Not Re-Signing J.D. Martinez
The Arizona Diamondbacks' trade for J.D. Martinez in July 2017 turned out to be one of the best in-season deals of all time. All he did in 62 games with them was rack up a 1.107 OPS and launch 29 home runs.
Naturally, re-signing Martinez as a free agent was an offseason priority for the Snakes. Even as late as February, Jon Heyman of FRS Sports reported that the team was trying to get "creative" to make it happen.
Evidently, they didn't get creative enough. Martinez signed with the Boston Red Sox on a reasonable five-year, $110 million contract. He's since picked up where he left off with a 1.004 OPS and 22 homers.
Meanwhile, there's a huge offensive black hole where he used to be in Arizona. Diamondbacks right fielders have a National League-low .556 OPS. That hasn't kept the team out of first place in the NL West, but it's definitely not making life easier for it.
Atlanta Braves: Not Signing Mike Moustakas
In light of how drastically he's come back to life, it looks like a mistake that the Atlanta Braves let Matt Kemp go in a salary-dump trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
However, it's doubtful Kemp would have been energized like he has been if he had stayed with Atlanta. Besides, the Braves weren't wrong to open up left field for top prospect Ronald Acuna Jr.
Where the Braves really erred was in not acting on their desire (per MLB.com's Mark Bowman) to bring in a third baseman. Specifically, Mike Moustakas. Although he was supposedly never a priority, they easily could have beaten the one-year, $6.5 million offer that brought him back to the Kansas City Royals.
As it is, the Braves have risen to the top of the NL East on the strength of the NL's best offense. If that offense had Moustakas' .800 OPS and 14 homers at third base, it would be even stronger.
Baltimore Orioles: Not Blowing It Up
Judging from all the Manny Machado rumors, the Baltimore Orioles at least considered going into a rebuild after a 75-87 flop in 2017.
Instead, they ultimately leaned in the opposite direction. They kept all their stars, padded out their depth and even spent $73 million on multiyear contracts for Alex Cobb and Andrew Cashner.
Alas, it's all been for a whole lot of naught. The O's have MLB's worst record at 21-51.
The only bright side is that the Orioles didn't miss their shot at a rebuild. They can still deal Machado, as well as Adam Jones and Zach Britton. If they do, their farm system will get a much-needed boost.
However, Baltimore's trade chips are all a half-season less valuable now than they were over the winter. The O's can't step into a rebuild so much as stumble into one.
Boston Red Sox: Not Adding a LH Reliever
Thanks in no small part to their massive score on J.D. Martinez, the Red Sox are tied for second in MLB with 49 wins.
That makes it hard to take issue with how they approached their offseason. And as tempting as it is to say they should have brought in a better Plan B for Dustin Pedroia than Eduardo Nunez, he was arguably the best of an underwhelming array of second basemen.
Ultimately, there's only one nit to pick: The Red Sox neglected to add a reliable left-hander.
The most oft-used lefty in a bullpen that skews heavily to the right is Brian Johnson, who has a 4.86 ERA and a good-not-great .608 OPS allowed versus lefty batters. In his place, the Red Sox might have gotten more out of a Tony Watson or a Zach Duke.
Chicago Cubs: Choosing Yu Darvish over Jake Arrieta
It was inevitable that the Chicago Cubs were going to sign one of the top starting pitchers on the free-agent market. It was only a question of whether it would be Yu Darvish or Jake Arrieta.
In the end, it was Darvish on a six-year, $126 million contract. But rather than the boon the Cubs were hoping for, he's been a bust. He put up a 4.95 ERA through his first eight starts and then went on the disabled list with triceps tendinitis.
Arrieta left the Cubs to join the Philadelphia Phillies on a three-year, $75 million deal. And he's been well worth it in putting up a 3.42 ERA over 14 starts.
Arrieta did get one last call from the Cubs before Darvish signed, according to Heyman, so it's not for lack of trying that they whiffed on bringing back the 2015 NL Cy Young Award winner. But in retrospect, maybe they should have tried harder.
Chicago White Sox: Not Trading Avisail Garcia
Contrary to when they traded Chris Sale and Adam Eaton following the 2016 season and Jose Quintana during the 2017 season, the Chicago White Sox didn't have much left to deal this past winter.
They might have traded Avisail Garcia, though.
The right fielder was coming off an All-Star breakout in which he finished with a .330 average, an .885 OPS and 18 homers. A good guy for most teams to keep around, to be sure. But the White Sox knew they were rebuilding and also knew that Garcia was controlled only through 2019.
Instead, the White Sox kept him. And after he managed only a .565 OPS through 18 games before landing on the DL with a hamstring strain, his value is now all but kaput. Whatever chance the White Sox had of getting a haul for him in a trade may be gone for good.
Cincinnati Reds: Not Trading Billy Hamilton
Like the White Sox, the Cincinnati Reds entered the 2017-2018 offseason as a rebuilder with little left to trade.
There was some interest in Billy Hamilton, however. At least from the San Francisco Giants, who were in talks with the Reds about the speedster in December, per Jon Morosi of MLB.com.
Perhaps because the Reds wanted too much, nothing came of those talks and Hamilton took his usual place in center field on Opening Day. In the weeks and months since, a bat that was already weak has refused to get stronger. Per the metrics, even Hamilton's defense has slipped a bit.
At this point, it's hard to imagine any team being interested in Hamilton as an everyday player. That ship has sailed and potentially taken a nice trade haul for the Reds with it.
Cleveland Indians: Neglecting Their Bullpen
The Cleveland Indians lost a lot more than they gained over the winter.
They said goodbye to Carlos Santana, Jay Bruce, Austin Jackson, Bryan Shaw, Joe Smith and Boone Logan, and Yonder Alonso was one of the few players they said hello to. As a result, they entered 2018 with a thinner roster than the one that produced 102 wins in 2017.
Nowhere has this hurt the Indians more than in their bullpen.
Although things have been getting better lately, Cleveland relievers still own an ugly 5.42 ERA. Even Cody Allen and Andrew Miller haven't been immune to the struggle. The former has underperformed, and the latter has underperformed and missed time with injuries.
For now, this isn't costing the Indians leadership of the AL Central. But unless it's fixed, their bullpen will be a problem in the postseason.
Colorado Rockies: Betting It All on Their Bullpen
Then there are the Colorado Rockies, who added too much to their pen over the winter.
When the dust settled, they had spent $106 million on Wade Davis, Jake McGee and Bryan Shaw. According to manager Bud Black, such an aggressive play was needed to combat Coors Field.
"In our park, especially, run-prevention can be very uplifting late in the game," Black said. "On the other hand, the lack of run-prevention late can be very demoralizing."
While this wasn't the worst idea in theory, it hasn't taken long to implode. Davis, McGee and Shaw have a 5.75 ERA in 103 collective appearances, and Colorado's bullpen has an MLB-worst 5.65 ERA overall.
Such is the peril of expecting so much from a notoriously fickle breed like relief pitchers. Rather than betting it all on them, the Rockies might have been better off spreading the wealth around.
Detroit Tigers: Not Trading Michael Fulmer
Given how much better than expected they've been, it's fair to wonder if the Detroit Tigers should have done more over the winter.
But, nah. Despite their respectable 36-39 record, they're still playing the long game with a full-on rebuild.
Trading young righty Michael Fulmer would seem to be at odds with this goal, but the Tigers were right to make him available. He had plenty of value coming off an AL Rookie of the Year win in 2016 and an All-Star selection in 2017, and he's controlled through 2022.
According to Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Tigers could have gotten Miguel Andujar and Clint Frazier from the Yankees in a trade for Fulmer. If that's true, the Tigers ought to be second-guessing their decision to say no.
After all, Andujar has turned into a budding MLB star while Frazier has dominated in the minors. Fulmer, meanwhile, has come back to earth with a 4.17 ERA through 15 starts.
Kansas City Royals: Not Trading Danny Duffy
The Kansas City Royals punted on leaning into a rebuild over the winter. They let Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain go but brought back Mike Moustakas and kept all their major trade chips.
At least as far as Danny Duffy is concerned, that was a mistake.
If not a true No. 1, then Duffy was at least a solid No. 2 starter going into the offseason. Between that and the four years and $60 million remaining on his contract, it's no surprise he attracted interest from pitching-needy contenders.
But Duffy himself insisted on staying a Royal, and a Royal he stayed. And after all that, he's fallen off of a cliff with a 5.55 ERA through 15 starts.
Suddenly, neither his arm nor his contract looks so attractive anymore. Not trading him while his value was high will prove costly for a farm system that badly needs a boost.
Houston Astros: Not Trading for J.T. Realmuto
The Houston Astros scored a huge victory in their trade for Gerrit Cole, as well as a smaller victory in their signing of Hector Rondon.
Factor in how the team was already coming off a 101-win regular season and a World Series championship, and it's not surprising to see them leading MLB with 50 wins. This is a damn good team that had a good offseason.
The only way it could have been better is if they had followed through on a trade for Miami Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto. A deal was in the works, according to Craig Mish of SiriusXM. And had it gone through, the Astros would be the ones benefiting from Realmuto's rise to stardom. He leads all catchers with 2.6 wins above replacement.
Still, this doesn't make the grade as a tragedy. All that was lost was a chance for a great team to become greater.
Los Angeles Angels: Signing Zack Cozart
It wasn't just because they won the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes that the Los Angeles Angels arguably won the offseason. They also added Zack Cozart and Ian Kinsler and extended Justin Upton.
If they could have one of those back, however, it would probably be the three-year, $38 million contract they gave to Cozart.
He hasn't lived up to the .933 OPS he posted for the Reds in 2017, as his OPS is all the way down to .658. Per the metrics, he's also had a tough time with the transition from shortstop to third base. More recently, he landed on the DL with a shoulder subluxation.
The Angels would have been better sticking with their early interest (per Heyman) in Mike Moustakas. Beyond being a steady presence at third base, he would have been the lefty bat their lineup has been missing this season.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Not Doing More, Period
The Dodgers lucked out in their trade for Matt Kemp. Although that deal wasn't made for baseball reasons, they gave him a chance and they've been rewarded with All-Star-caliber play.
If only the Dodgers had taken more chances like that.
Amid losing Yu Darvish, Tony Watson, Brandon Morrow, Curtis Granderson and others to free agency, the Dodgers spent just $4 million (per Spotrac) on the open market and added little else to their payroll through the trade market. The master plan was clear: Cut costs at all costs.
Given that they were coming off a 104-win regular season and a trip to the World Series, the Dodgers could have chosen worse timing for such a strategy. But because of injuries to Corey Seager, Clayton Kershaw and many more, they've paid a heavy price for refusing to stock up on depth.
At the rate they're going, it could result in their first missed postseason since 2012.
Miami Marlins: Having Nothing to Show for Their Fire Sale
Although they didn't trade J.T. Realmuto, the Marlins did trade Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Dee Gordon over the winter. Even by their standards, it was a hell of a fire sale.
What do they have to show for it so far? Not much.
Lewis Brinson, allegedly the best prospect sent to Miami, has struggled mightily with a .561 OPS. Apart from him, outfielder Monte Harrison and right-hander Sandy Alcantara are the only other top-100 prospects who landed in Miami's system, according to MLB.com. And neither is having a great season in the minors.
Then there are the Marlins themselves. At 29-46, they're about as bad as anyone could have anticipated.
It's far too early to render final judgment on how the Marlins fared in their fire sale. But so far, it looks like they didn't gain much besides payroll relief.
Milwaukee Brewers: Not Adding More Starting Pitching
How are the Milwaukee Brewers in first place in the NL Central?
It helps that they've gotten everything they could have asked for out of their two big offseason acquisitions: Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain. Jhoulys Chacin and Matt Albers have also proved to be good pickups.
But if there's a complaint to be made about the Brewers' offseason, it would be about their approach to the starting pitching market.
They were linked to everyone from Yu Darvish to Jake Arrieta to Alex Cobb to Lance Lynn yet came away with none of them. That hasn't yet sunk their mission to win their first division title since 2011, but it's no secret that the team's starting pitching is a relative weakness that could upend it.
That is, of course, assuming they don't fix it first. If they do, all will be forgiven.
Minnesota Twins: Not Hanging on to Anibal Sanchez
In the wake of their surprise entry into the American League Wild Card Game, the Minnesota Twins aimed higher by spending $54.4 million on free agents and trading for Jake Odorizzi.
As evidenced by their 33-37 record, this isn't working out. But given that it didn't require any major commitments or sacrifices, it's still hard to fault the effort.
What the Twins can be faulted for, however, is not holding on to Anibal Sanchez.
They were optimistic when they signed the veteran righty to a non-guaranteed $2.5 million contract in February, as they believed that an altered pitch mix could get him back on track. Instead, they let him go after they signed Lance Lynn.
Sure enough, Sanchez caught on with the Braves and has benefited from a new pitch mix to the tune of a 2.55 ERA in 42.1 innings. As the saying goes: Oops.
New York Mets: Betting Big on Age
The New York Mets are another team that seemed to do well in an active offseason. Following a 70-92 flop in 2017, they loaded up with Jay Bruce, Todd Frazier, Adrian Gonzalez, Jose Reyes, Jason Vargas and Anthony Swarzak.
And yet, these guys did have one not-so-awesome thing in common: age.
Not one of them would be younger than 31 in 2018, with Gonzalez being the oldest at 36. That amounted to a high probability of injuries and ineffectiveness, otherwise known as the forces that had just sunk the Mets in the preceding season.
Well, go figure that none of the players listed above has had a healthy and/or productive season in 2018. The Mets have already cut ties with Gonzalez. Reyes will probably go next, and others may follow.
In the meantime, the Mets are on track for yet another 90-loss season.
New York Yankees: Missing out on Gerrit Cole
In the end, the Yankees committed to just one starting pitcher over the winter: CC Sabathia, whom they brought back on a one-year, $10 million contract.
But seemingly every other day, the Yankees were rumored to be nearing a trade for this ace or that ace. And just about all the signs said they were most likely to get Gerrit Cole in a trade with the Pirates.
"I think it's inevitable they'll get together on a deal," one executive told John Harper of the New York Daily News in January. "The Yankees have the pieces and Pittsburgh needs to tear it down. They'll find common ground."
Except, they didn't. Cole went to the Astros for what felt like a modest package that the Yankees should have been able to beat. Now, all they can do is daydream about Cole being the co-ace that Luis Severino has been missing.
Oakland Athletics: Trading Ryon Healy
To be fair, the Oakland A's had good reasons to trade Ryon Healy.
The best place for him was at first base, which the A's weren't wrong to commit to 2017 breakout star Matt Olson. And for his part, Healy hadn't offered them much more than power in 2017. He hit 25 homers but tacked on just a .302 OBP and played merely passable defense.
The problem is the A's didn't get much for Healy when they dealt him to the Seattle Mariners. The main draw was Emilio Pagan, who was and still is a merely serviceable bullpen arm.
Meanwhile in Seattle, Healy has turned into one of the hottest hitters on one of baseball's hottest teams. Overall, he has a solid .767 OPS and a solid chance at the first 30-homer season of his career.
Even if the A's had good excuses to trade Healy, they're paying the price for selling low on him.
Philadelphia Phillies: Not Spending More
The Phillies spent plenty of money, of course. In addition to $75 million on Jake Arrieta, they dropped $60 million on Carlos Santana, $18 million on Tommy Hunter and $16.25 million on Pat Neshek. They even pre-empted Scott Kingery's major league debut with a $24 million extension.
And yet, they still opened 2018 with just a $95.3 million payroll. That's well below their 2014 peak of $177.7 million, so they certainly could have spent more if they'd felt like being even bolder.
Imagine, for example, if the Phillies had been the team to splurge on J.D. Martinez. They could just as easily have gone for Lorenzo Cain or simply for Mike Moustakas.
The moves the Phillies did make were good enough to get them back into the NL East race. With a few more, they might be leading it right now.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Trading Shane Carle
The Pirates have been better than expected after trading both Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen over the winter. But they'd be even better if their bullpen wasn't struggling to the tune of a 4.43 ERA.
It's too bad they didn't hold on to Shane Carle while they had the chance.
Carle wasn't a known commodity when the Pirates claimed him off waivers from the Rockies in January or when the Pirates subsequently flipped him to Atlanta for a player to be named later.
Flash-forward several months, and Carle suddenly looks like a more than capable major league reliever. Although his periphery numbers don't jump off the page, he's still put up a 2.21 ERA in 36.2 innings for the Braves.
Sounds like the kind of guy Pittsburgh's bullpen could use.
San Diego Padres: Believing in Bryan Mitchell
The biggest move the San Diego Padres made was signing Eric Hosmer to a $144 million contract.
Arguably the most interesting move the Padres made, however, was when they reacquired old friend Chase Headley in a trade with the Yankees. Although the cost was taking on most of Headley's remaining contract, the supposed reward was right-hander Bryan Mitchell.
Mitchell didn't have any results to get excited about, but he did come with a mid-90s fastball and four years of club control. These things made him a solid upside play.
Instead, the Padres have seen nothing but downside. Mitchell struggled with a 6.47 ERA out of the gate and then got moved to San Diego's bullpen and, most recently, got put on the DL with an elbow impingement.
Mitchell was worth a shot, but whatever hope the Padres had of him becoming something may already be shot.
San Francisco Giants: Their Entire Approach to the Offseason
If it was easy to second-guess the Giants' offseason activity at the time it was unfolding, it's even easier now.
Their trades for Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria were worthy of headline space, but anyone with a pair of eyes could see the Giants were getting two guys whose name value had surpassed their actual value.
In the meantime, the Giants have needs in center field, their rotation and, thanks to Hunter Strickland's ill-advised punch, their bullpen. Money would help solve these things. But as a result of the weight they added to their payroll during the winter, the Giants don't appear to have any luxury-tax space to play with.
In short, the Giants spent the winter building a team that was doomed to be mediocre.
Seattle Mariners: Letting Jarrod Dyson Go
It's only fair to note that the Mariners didn't know they would need Jarrod Dyson in 2018.
Their first big move of the offseason was acquiring Dee Gordon in a deal with the Marlins, with the idea in mind to move him from second base to center field. Because they had Robinson Cano at second and Gordon had speed to burn in the outfield, that made a lot of sense.
But then Cano got suspended. That prompted Gordon to move back to second, leaving a hole in center field. That hole has especially hurt the Mariners on defense, as center field has thus far swallowed 18 defensive runs saved.
Dyson could have been the guy to fix that if the Mariners had thought to bring him back as a fourth outfielder. Alas, he's putting his speed and defensive chops to work for Arizona instead.
St. Louis Cardinals: Their Bullpen Signings
The clearest need that the St. Louis Cardinals had going into the offseason was for bullpen help. Their relievers weren't outright terrible in 2017, but they did have a habit of melting down under high pressure.
To address this need, the Cardinals shopped in the bargain bin by signing Bud Norris, Luke Gregerson and Greg Holland and trading for Dominic Leone.
The potential reward was arguably worth the risk, but the baseball gods have thus far deemed St. Louis' gamble to be a failure. Of their four new additions, only Norris had paid dividends. And the Cardinals bullpen as a whole has struggled with a 4.33 ERA.
It's hard not to consider the parallel universe in which the Cardinals made good on their interest in Wade Davis (per Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports) and Alex Colome (per Bob Nightengale of USA Today) instead. Surely, that Cardinals team is faring better in the NL Central race.
Tampa Bay Rays: Not Trading Chris Archer
The Tampa Bay Rays did plenty of trading during the offseason, but Chris Archer got to stay.
It wasn't for a lack of interest in the hard-throwing righty. According to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, Archer drew interest from the Brewers, Braves, Cubs, Twins, Cardinals and "others." He had the same appeal as Danny Duffy, except with a cheaper contract.
But like with Duffy, the appeal that Archer had over the winter isn't the same anymore. He began the season on track for a third straight year with an ERA north of 4.00. Then, his durability finally gave out when he went on the DL with an abdominal strain.
The Rays may not be able to move Archer this summer and could later be disappointed in offers for him this winter. Ultimately, they may be wishing they dealt him when the dealing was good.
Texas Rangers: Their Starting Rotation Additions
The writing on the wall in front of the Texas Rangers after 2017 was pretty clear: "Time to rebuild."
Instead, they loaded up for another run...sort of.
Texas' solution to a dire need for starting pitching was to sign Doug Fister and Mike Minor and trade for Matt Moore. A solid idea circa 2012 but not in 2018. Fister had been just OK with Boston in 2017. Moore had been downright bad for San Francisco. Minor hadn't even started a game since 2014.
So, it's not exactly the surprise to end all surprises that Rangers starters are working on an MLB-worst 5.46 ERA. The further bad news is that none of the three pitchers mentioned above is likely to be cashed in on the trade market. Each has had a rough season, and Fister is on the shelf with a knee strain.
This is what the Rangers get for trying.
Toronto Blue Jays: Not Trading Josh Donaldson
The Toronto Blue Jays are another team on the fringe that declined to rebuild over the winter. And they seemed to do well in filling out their depth with undervalued players.
The effort isn't paying off, however. And while the Blue Jays should be able to take a good first step into a rebuild with a summer fire sale, there's one player in particular whom they must be wishing they had already traded: Josh Donaldson.
The 2015 AL MVP was drawing plenty of interest this winter, and the man himself made it quite clear he wasn't interested in an extension that would keep him in Toronto beyond 2018.
The Blue Jays kept Donaldson instead, only to watch him become a ruined husk of a star. He's played in only 36 games because of injuries, and he's managed just a .757 OPS to boot.
He may still be tradeable but not for any sort of haul.
Washington Nationals: Not Trading for J.T. Realmuto
The Washington Nationals might have entered the winter with a shorter to-do list than any team in MLB. All they needed was depth, which they secured easily enough.
But like the Astros, it's hard not to imagine if the Nats had followed through on their interest in J.T. Realmuto.
According to Morosi, the Marlins were asking for Victor Robles or Juan Soto in a deal for the backstop. The Nats did the right thing in saying no to Soto, who's turned into a teenage phenomenon.
Trading Robles for Realmuto, on the other hand, wouldn't have been the worst outcome for Washington. Robles has since suffered a serious elbow injury, while Realmuto has emerged as the best catcher in baseball.
According to FanGraphs WAR, Nats catchers have been the worst in the NL this year. So, they could certainly use a guy like Realmuto behind the plate.