Early MLB Offseason Grades for All 30 Teams

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistDecember 12, 2018

Early MLB Offseason Grades for All 30 Teams

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    Dylan Buell/Getty Images

    After an unusually busy November, both in free agency and on the trade market, the winter meetings have further stoked the fire of an active MLB offseason.

    There is still a bevy of activity to come. That will include decisions by top free agents such as Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and Dallas Keuchel as well as the promise of at least a few more blockbuster trades.

    It's never too early to hand out some preliminary offseason grades, though.

    We slapped a grade on all 30 teams based on what they've done so far this offseason and how things are shaping up for future moves.

    A "C" means the team has been largely inactive to this point or that the moves it has made have equaled a neutral net gain. Anything higher than a "C" means a club has made positive strides, while anything lower means things are not moving in the right direction.

    Just remember, these grades can and will change before the offseason is over, so don't get yourself in a tizzy if your team didn't grade out well here in the middle of December. There's a lot of offseason left.

AL East

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    Nathan Eovaldi
    Nathan EovaldiBillie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

    Baltimore Orioles

    Missing out on Cuban standouts Victor Victor Mesa, Victor Mesa Jr. and Sandy Gaston—despite having the most international bonus money—was a disappointing start to the offseason for the Orioles.

    On the other hand, the decision to non-tender infielder Tim Beckham ($4.3 million projected salary) and catcher Caleb Joseph ($1.7 million) was a smart one. Those stand as the two biggest roster moves of the offseason.

    With David Hess and Josh Rogers penciled in to rotation spots on the projected roster, the front office should be targeting some veteran starters with upside on one-year deals like the Detroit Tigers have done with Matt Moore and Tyson Ross. Missed opportunity.

    Grade: D

       

    Boston Red Sox

    The Red Sox moved quickly to bring back a pair of postseason heroes, re-signing Nathan Eovaldi (4/$68M) and Steve Pearce (1/$6.3M). Giving that much money to the oft-injured Eovaldi carries risk, but the upside is also clear.

    There's still work to be done, namely at the back of the bullpen with Craig Kimbrel and Joe Kelly possibly to depart in free agency. They can't go into the season with Ryan Brasier or Matt Barnes as the closer.

    Hammering out an extension with Chris Sale, Mookie Betts or Xander Bogaerts would be a major bonus, but as long as they shore up the relief corps, they'll be in a good position to contend again in 2019. So far, so good.

    Grade: B

       

    New York Yankees

    The Yankees have already taken steps to improve their starting rotation, bringing back CC Sabathia (1/$8M) and acquiring James Paxton in a trade with the Seattle Mariners.

    It's a great start, but there's still work to be done. They're looking for one more proven arm to fill out the starting staff around those two and incumbents Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka.

    Whiffing on Patrick Corbin was a bummer, but there are still plenty of impact arms available. Beyond the rotation, they could also use a late-innings reliever to help ease the loss of David Robertson and Zach Britton as well as a middle infielder to bridge the gap to Didi Gregorius' return.

    Grade: A

       

    Tampa Bay Rays

    In order to justify the decision to waive C.J. Cron after he posted a 123 OPS+ with 30 home runs last season, the Rays are going to need to open their wallet for a proven middle-of-the-order slugger like Nelson Cruz. Otherwise, they took an area of weakness and made it even weaker for the sake of saving about $5 million.

    They have some money to spend, but don't expect a huge deviation from their usual offseason approach. They'll wait out the market on some bullpen arms and swoop in late in hopes of finding value. That said, they have been linked to some notable starters—including Charlie Morton and Noah Syndergaard, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times—so that's worth keeping an eye on.

    For now, they're still mulling their options. They have to be careful to not wait around too long.

    Grade: C

       

    Toronto Blue Jays

    It figures to be a quiet offseason for the Blue Jays as their rebuild begins.

    Starting pitching is the No. 1 item on the offseason to-do list, and Jon Morosi of MLB Network listed Mike Fiers and Kendall Graveman as two potential targets. Trading Aaron Sanchez or Marcus Stroman would make bolstering the rotation an even bigger priority, though moving either pitcher would mean selling low.

    In the end, adding a few arms who can eat innings before potentially being flipped at the trade deadline looks like the best move. A youth movement is coming, and there's no reason to overwork the young pitchers.

    Grade: C

AL Central

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    Carlos Carrasco
    Carlos CarrascoJason Miller/Getty Images

    Chicago White Sox

    Will the White Sox be serious players for Bryce Harper and Manny Machado? General manager Rick Hahn offered up the following to reporters:

    "There are top of the market premium type players that we've made no secret about potentially fitting our long-term vision for this organization. However, if for whatever reason anyone along those lines doesn't wind up in the White Sox organization, that doesn't mean then we are going to scurry around and look for short-term fixes to get modest improvements."

    In other words, the team is ready to add significant long-term pieces but is also aware it's unlikely to contend in the short-term. That's the right approach.

    Grade: C

       

    Cleveland Indians

    Carlos Carrasco's team-friendly four-year extension was enough to make the Indians one of the biggest winners of the early offseason. It could also serve as a precursor to a major move.

    Trading Corey Kluber or Trevor Bauer in an effort to free up some salary and upgrade the outfield is still on the table, and the resolution to that situation will have a major impact on their final grade. Using a thin starting pitchers market to their advantage is smart, but it will take a substantial return to justify moving one of those Cy Young Award-caliber arms.

    Meanwhile, the decision to trade Yan Gomes after he rebuilt some value in 2018 could prove to be a wise one. The 31-year-old recorded a brutal 67 OPS+ in the three seasons prior to last year's resurgence, and he's getting expensive.

    Grade: A

       

    Detroit Tigers

    The Tigers did well on the secondary market last offseason, signing Mike Fiers and Leonys Martin and then flipping them for prospects at the trade deadline.

    They're taking a similar approach this offseason with the additions of Matt Moore and Tyson Ross to the starting rotation, and that's exactly what they should be doing on the free-agent market as the rebuild continues.

    Finding a suitable trade partner for Nicholas Castellanos ahead of his final year of team control should top the to-do list. That said, they might have to wait until guys like A.J. Pollock, Andrew McCutchen and Michael Brantley find new homes for a serious suitor to emerge.

    Grade: A

       

    Kansas City Royals

    The Royals are another rebuilding team that has made some solid under-the-radar additions. They scooped up Billy Hamilton (1/$5.3M) and Chris Owings (1/$3M) after they were non-tendered, and with a change of scenery and regular playing time, both could be trade chips come July.

    The front office struck gold in the Rule 5 draft last year with the addition of Brad Keller (140.1 IP, 3.08 ERA, 3.5 WAR), and it'll likely wade into that water again Thursday, so keep an eye out.

    Not selling high on Whit Merrifield looks like a huge mistake. There's still time for them to come to their senses, though.

    Grade: B

       

    Minnesota Twins

    Upgrading the starting rotation will be the key to the offseason. The secondary moves the Twins have made thus far have a chance to pay major dividends.

    They claimed C.J. Cron off waivers from the Rays on the heels of his 30-homer season. The Twins got a combined 32 home runs from first basemen and designated hitters last year, so he looks like a clear upgrade, and he's a safe bet to outperform his $4.8 million salary.

    Rolling the dice on a one-year, $7.5 million deal for Jonathan Schoop to play second base could also pay off in a big way. He's just a year removed from a 5.2 WAR season, and the Twins can turn to prospect Nick Gordon if Schoop struggles again.

    Grade: B

AL West

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    Jurickson Profar and Nomar Mazara
    Jurickson Profar and Nomar MazaraJayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

    Houston Astros

    So far, the Astros have done nothing to replace Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton and the injured Lance McCullers Jr. in the starting rotation.

    There are in-house options in the form of Josh James and Framber Valdez as well as relievers Collin McHugh and Brad Peacock, who both have significant experience starting. Still, it feels like they need to add at least one proven starter on a short-term deal.

    What they have done is sign Robinson Chirinos (1/$5.8M) to fill the void at catcher and acquired Aledmys Diaz to replace Marwin Gonzalez in the utility role. They're not the sexiest moves, but they're at least being proactive while they kick the tires on some bigger names.

    Grade: B

       

    Los Angeles Angels

    The Angels can't feel confident with a rotation of Andrew Heaney, Tyler Skaggs, Jaime Barria, Felix Pena and Nick Tropeano, can they?

    This sure looks like a team that needs a top-tier starter if it's serious about contending during the final two years of Mike Trout's contract. But some of those dominos have already fallen with Patrick Corbin, Nathan Eovaldi and James Paxton off the market.

    The bullpen could also use a few proven late-innings arms, and while they did acquire an intriguing bounce-back candidate in Luis Garcia, there's still a lot of work to be done. Time to get moving.

    Grade: D

       

    Oakland Athletics

    The Athletics cobbled together a competitive starting rotation with the likes of Edwin Jackson, Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson last season, and they'll need to pull off some similar magic this offseason. The projected rotation is Daniel Mengden, Frankie Montas, Chris Bassitt, Aaron Brooks and Paul Blackburn.

    Yes, top prospects Jesus Luzardo and A.J. Puk should be ready for the majors at some point in 2019, but if this team wants to play in October again, it needs to make at least a couple of outside additions.

    Re-signing Jed Lowrie and extending Khris Davis could also be on the to-do list along with a bargain addition or two in the bullpen. A quiet offseason is no surprise, with small-market constraints often necessitating a strategy of waiting out the market.

    Grade: C

       

    Seattle Mariners

    After another season on the fringe of wild-card contention ended with an 89-73 record and a seat on the couch in October, general manager Jerry Dipoto has set to work overhauling the Mariners roster. It's a necessary step backward for a team with a postseason drought that stretches to 2001.

    Trading James Paxton, Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz has already changed the complexion of the farm system. Justus Sheffield (No. 1), Jarred Kelenic (2), Justin Dunn (3), Erik Swanson (11) and Dom Thompson-Williams (16) now occupy spots among the team's top 20 prospects, according to MLB.com.

    They might not be finished, but it's already been a proactive offseason for a team switching gears.

    Grade: A

       

    Texas Rangers

    The Rangers are rebuilding, and they're taking an opportunistic approach to the offseason.

    Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reported they are willing to listen on Jurickson Profar and Nomar Mazara, while "most MLB teams" have inquired about reliever Jose Leclerc, per Jeff Wilson of the Star-Telegram. Left-hander Mike Minor stands out as another valuable trade chip.

    The other side is that the pitching staff needs to be filled out for 2019. The team already did well to acquire a healthy Drew Smyly from the Chicago Cubs in a salary dump. Likewise, reliever Jesse Chavez signed a team-friendly two-year, $8 million deal, and he could emerge as a valuable trade chip.

    Grade: B

NL East

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    J.T. Realmuto
    J.T. RealmutoKiyoshi Ota/Getty Images

    Atlanta Braves

    The Braves feel like the sleeping giant on the offseason market.

    They're fresh off an NL East title, have money to spend and have obvious holes to fill in right field, atop the starting rotation and at the back of the bullpen.

    As it stands, they've already made a pair of excellent short-term additions in Josh Donaldson (1/$23M) and Brian McCann (1/$2M), which should add a veteran presence and some punch to the lineup. If Donaldson is back to 100 percent, he could be a transformative addition in the middle of the lineup. If not, third base prospect Austin Riley is expected to be ready by 2020 anyway.

    Grade: A

         

    Miami Marlins

    Winning the Victor Mesa sweepstakes was a great start to the offseason for the Marlins. With that said, the success of their winter hinges almost entirely on what sort of return they secure for All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto.

    Buster Olney of ESPN provided an update on the team's mindset: "The sense among some other teams is that the Marlins have begun to push to make a Realmuto trade, which is a major change in their past approach. For a year, they set a very high price and challenged anyone to meet it, and waited. Now they seem to be looking to finish a deal."

    For now, the Mesa signing is enough to prop up their grade.

    Grade: B

         

    New York Mets

    The Mets have been busy, but have they been productive?

    The trade that brought Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz over from the Mariners cost them two of their top prospects in Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn, which effectively means they're all-in on contending in 2019.

    But if the season started today, the Mets wouldn't be the favorites to win the NL East. They still have a lot of work to do between now and Opening Day, starting with shoring up the catcher position, and their interest in Realmuto has been widely reported.

    In a bubble, the Cano/Diaz trade looks like an ill-advised move from a new general manager looking to make a splash. If they keep adding, it will make more sense and their final offseason grade will reflect as much.

    Grade: C

         

    Philadelphia Phillies

    Phillies owner John Middleton began the offseason by telling reporters: "We're going into this expecting to spend money and maybe even be a little bit stupid about it. We just prefer not to be completely stupid."

    That led to speculation they might try to sign both Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. While that could still happen, things have been relatively quiet on that front thus far. They did trade Carlos Santana to the Mariners in exchange for shortstop Jean Segura, and they have reportedly signed Andrew McCutchen (3/$50M, per Jon Heyman of Fancred), according to Matt Gelb of The Athletic.

    However, they whiffed on signing Patrick Corbin when they were unwilling to go to a sixth year, which would seem to run counter to their "stupid spending" mentality. As a result, upgrading the rotation remains a need.

    This is a critical offseason in the Phillies' climb toward contention, and it will be scrutinized regardless of what moves they do and don't make. Segura and McCutchen are a nice start, but they can do more.

    Grade: B

         

    Washington Nationals

    It took $140 million over six years to get a deal done, but the Nationals essentially replaced Gio Gonzalez with Patrick Corbin in a rotation that should once again be one of the best in baseball.

    If they're ready to close the door on the Bryce Harper era, this is an excellent use of their available funds. Rising prospect Victor Robles now has a clear path to a starting job in the outfield, and the team can explore an extension with Anthony Rendon, who is a free agent next winter.

    A catching platoon of Yan Gomes and Kurt Suzuki should also be a significant upgrade over a group that posted a brutal .214/.304/.320 line last season. Their $11.1 million combined salary is not much more than the $10.5 million that Matt Wieters earned last season while posting a 0.5 WAR in 76 games.

    Grade: A

NL Central

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    Scooter Gennett
    Scooter GennettMark Brown/Getty Images

    Chicago Cubs

    The Cubs have yet to make a significant move this offseason, aside from exercising their $20 million option on Cole Hamels.

    The decision to tender a contract to Addison Russell was met with obvious skepticism. The series of events that started with a trade of Tommy La Stella—who led the majors with 24 pinch hits—and ended with a non-tender of Ronald Torreyes just days after he was claimed off waivers is still a bit of a head-scratcher.

    But based on the comments team president Theo Epstein made at the start of the offseason, there's no way the Cubs sit on their hands all winter. Until they make a move, they get a "C" grade and an anxious fanbase.

    Grade: C

         

    Cincinnati Reds

    The Reds are in a tough spot as the lone rebuilding team in a loaded NL Central division. That might not preclude them from making a splash on the pitching market.

    They've been linked to almost every notable arm both in free agency and on the trade block at one point or another this offseason, and their dialogue with the Indians regarding Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer has continued at the winter meetings, according to Jon Morosi of MLB Network.

    They're also wisely fielding offers on Scooter Gennett, per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. He's been a revelation the past two seasons in Cincinnati, but he's also a year away from free agency and is blocking the path of top prospect Nick Senzel. So while the Reds have been quiet to this point, they have a lot of irons in the fire.

    Grade: B

         

    Milwaukee Brewers

    Despite their impressive run to the NL Central title, the Brewers are working under some "financial constraints" this winter, according to Jon Heyman of Fancred. That likely led to the decision to non-tender Jonathan Schoop.

    Though Schoop disappointed in his brief time with the team, he cost a good deal to acquire and is only a year removed from a 5.2 WAR season. Paying him looked like a risk worth taking.

    There's also the matter of shoring up the starting rotation. Even if the Brewers intend to take a bullpen-heavy approach again in 2019, adding at least one quality starter to the mix is a must following the departures of Wade Miley and Gio Gonzalez. If ever there was a time for ownership to loosen the purse strings, it's now, but that doesn't seem likely to happen.

    Grade: D

         

    Pittsburgh Pirates

    The Pirates have made some nice under-the-radar moves this offseason. They signed the talented but oft-injured Lonnie Chisenhall (1/$2.8M) to man right field while Gregory Polanco recovers from shoulder surgery, and they acquired infielder Erik Gonzalez in a trade with the Indians.

    The Pirates also shipped Ivan Nova and his $9.2 million salary to the White Sox on Tuesday, which will open up a spot for one of the team's young starters at the back of the rotation and open up some money to use in free agency.

    These are the kinds of moves the Pirates make, and finding a taker for catcher Francisco Cervelli in the final year of his deal to open up a starting spot for Elias Diaz could be their next deal.

    Grade: B

         

    St. Louis Cardinals

    The Cardinals dealt from an area of strength to acquire slugger Paul Goldschmidt from the Arizona Diamondbacks.

    Starter Luke Weaver and catcher Carson Kelly were the main pieces that went the other way in the deal. While both young players have intriguing upside, the Cardinals are loaded with rotation options and have another promising backstop in the pipeline—23-year-old Andrew Knizner—who now looks like the catcher of the future.

    They still need to do something about their bullpen, and they have some redundant pieces on the roster like Jedd Gyorko and Jose Martinez who they could trade. They got their big bat, though, and they did so at a price that was easy to stomach.

    Grade: A

NL West

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    Madison Bumgarner
    Madison BumgarnerJason O. Watson/Getty Images

    Arizona Diamondbacks

    The D-backs pulled the trigger on trading superstar Paul Goldschmidt ahead of his final year of team control. What's next?

    If the Goldschmidt trade winds up being their only significant seller move of the offseason, the D-backs risk settling into the gray area between contention and rebuilding.

    Guys like Robbie Ray, David Peralta and Jake Lamb could all be of interest if properly shopped. Arizona would also love to move Zack Greinke and the final three years of his contract, and it still might be able to in a thin pitching market, but his no-trade clause is a hurdle.

    Right now, the D-backs look like a team without a clear direction, at least from an outside perspective. The return for Goldschmidt was slanted more toward MLB-ready talent than high-upside prospects, which indicates they're still holding onto hope of contending in 2019. Toeing the line between selling and contending is a dangerous game that can often set a franchise back a few years.

    Grade: C

         

    Colorado Rockies

    Why aren't the Rockies all-in on J.T. Realmuto?

    The 27-year-old is arguably the best catcher in baseball, so he'll make an impact anywhere he goes, but Colorado would be an especially dynamite fit. Rockies catchers hit a pitiful .206/.307/.349 last season, and some stability behind the plate would go a long way for the team's young pitching staff.

    They're also set to lose their best reliever in Adam Ottavino. Just because they spent big on Wade Davis, Jake McGee and Bryan Shaw last winter with disappointing results doesn't mean they can turn a blind eye to the reliever market this winter. The window of contention is open, and the Rockies should be more aggressive.

    Grade: C

         

    Los Angeles Dodgers

    The Dodgers moved quickly to lock up Clayton Kershaw at the start of the offseason, and they also had Hyun-Jin Ryu return after he accepted his qualifying offer.

    A big trade now might be brewing, with Buster Olney of ESPN.com reporting that the Dodgers are looking to "re-shape payroll" by trading two outfielders from the group of Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig, Joc Pederson and Cody Bellinger. They're also apparently open to moving pitchers Rich Hill and Alex Wood.

    The Indians look like an obvious trade partner, given their need for outfield help and the Dodgers' ongoing interest in Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer.

    While the Dogers haven't made a major move yet, they don't seem to be resting on the laurels. That's the right mentality to have after back-to-back World Series losses.

    Grade: B

         

    San Diego Padres

    The Padres are ready to take the next step in their rebuild, and that means finding a proven top-tier starter to front their rotation. Whether they find the right deal on the trade market this winter remains an open question, and with contention likely still out of reach in 2019 regardless, it isn't a make-or-break offseason by any means.

    Last year's signing of Eric Hosmer made it clear they're capable of swinging with the big fish in free agency, and the same is true on the trade market thanks to their loaded farm system.

    The 2019 season will be a youth movement, and any veteran additions they make will have to be part of the bigger picture of short-term stopgaps. Stay tuned: They could be the dark horses in the Harper/Machado market.

    Grade: C

         

    San Francisco Giants

    Until the Giants give some indication that they're actually going to rebuild, it's hard not to expect a repeat of last year's oblivious approach to the offseason.

    Despite an obvious competitive gap and a thin farm system, they opted to trade for aging stars Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria last winter rather than taking a necessary step backward. The result was a distant fourth-place finish in the NL West and several lost prospects.

    With recent reports that they're "not close" to trading Madison Bumgarner, per Jon Morosi of MLB Network, it looks like another season of treading water could be forthcoming. Giants fans can only hope new GM Farhan Zaidi can convince ownership it's time to blow it up.

    Grade: D

         

    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs, unless otherwise noted.