Updated MLB Team-by-Team Offseason Report Cards for Free Agency, Trades

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistJanuary 24, 2019

Updated MLB Team-by-Team Offseason Report Cards for Free Agency, Trades

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    Technically, we could give every MLB team an "incomplete" on their 2018-19 offseason report cards. The two most notable free agents, Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, remain unsigned. An array of other impact players are dangling on the market.

    But, with spring training right around the corner, let's issue grades for the moves that have been made.

    Things will change when the various free-agent shoes drop and any eleventh-hour blockbuster trades are consummated.

    In the meantime, consider this a progress report for all 30 clubs, with grades based on teams' needs entering the winter and their objectives (rebuilding, retooling, going all-in etc.).

American League East

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    Baltimore Orioles

    After a disastrous, 115-loss effort, the Baltimore Orioles limped into the offseason with an unambiguous directive: Blow it up and start over. 

    The O's haven't added any albatross contracts (duh), but they didn't have many tradable assets, either. They shed a little salary by not tendering contracts to infielder Tim Beckham and catcher Caleb Joseph and have made a few other minor moves, but mostly this winter has been about treading water and preparing for another 100-defeat campaign. 

    Grade: D


    Boston Red Sox

    The Boston Red Sox wasted no time in re-signing right-hander Nathan Eovaldi (four years, $68 million) and slugger Steve Pearce (one year, $6.3 million). That's a pricey commitment for Eovaldi given his injury issues (which include a pair of Tommy John surgeries), but both players were key contributors to the Sox's 2018 title run.

    Boston has work to do—especially in the back end of the bullpen. Closer Craig Kimbrel continues to languish in free agency, and while there's risk in inking an expensive bullpen arm on the wrong side of 30, Boston should monitor his market closely.

    Counting on in-house ninth-inning options such as Ryan Brasier or Matt Barnes won't do it for the defending champs.

    Grade: C


    New York Yankees

    The New York Yankees added infield depth by signing veterans DJ LeMahieu (two years, $24 million) and Troy Tulowitzki (league minimum, with the rest of his $20 million paid by the Toronto Blue Jays). That may put them out on Manny Machado, but when shortstop Didi Gregorius returns from Tommy John surgery at some point in 2019, their depth chart will be crowded either way.

    The Yanks also addressed a suspect starting rotation when they acquired lefty James Paxton from the Seattle Mariners and re-upped southpaws CC Sabathia (one year, $8 million) and J.A. Happ (two years, $34 million).

    In addition, they brought back outfielder Brett Gardner (one year, $9.5 million) and ended the failed Sonny Gray era by shipping the right-hander to the Cincinnati Reds and netting a mid-level prospect and competitive-balance draft pick. 

    Oh, and they gilded their bullpen by bringing back Zach Britton (three years, $39 million) and signing Adam Ottavino (three years, $27 million). Even with the loss of David Robertson to free agency, this will be a dominant relief corps.

    Grade: A-


    Tampa Bay Rays

    The Tampa Bay Rays were part of a three-team deal with the Seattle Mariners and Cleveland Indians that involved Edwin Encarnacion and Carlos Santana, but they didn't come away with an instant-impact power bat. They also waived first baseman C.J. Cron, who clubbed 30 homers last season on a team that finished 27th in that category with 150.

    They signed veteran right-hander Charlie Morton (two years, $30 million) to upgrade the rotation, but their biggest deficiency is power.

    Expect the cost-conscious Rays to hang back and hunt for bargains via trade or free agency. But they can't wait too long if they want to build on last season's 90-win effort.

    Grade: C+


    Toronto Blue Jays

    The Toronto Blue Jays, like the Orioles, must face the reality that they're no longer competitive in the top-heavy American League East.

    They cut ties with Tulowitzki but have to eat most of the $20 million remaining on his contract for 2019. They traded veteran catcher Russell Martin to the Los Angeles Dodgers for a couple of interesting but not highly rated prospects (Ronny Brito and Andrew Sopko).

    Other than that and a few minor moves, they're heading into 2019 with only the O's to cushion them from a cellar-dwelling season.

    Grade: D-

American League Central

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    Chicago White Sox

    The Chicago White Sox are in a head-scratching place. They have burgeoning young talent at the MLB and MiLB levels and could soon contend in the winnable AL Central. They also lost 100 games in 2018 and lost top pitching prospect Michael Kopech to Tommy John surgery.

    The ChiSox have resisted trading first baseman Jose Abreu, who's entering his contract year, and have featured in countless rumors regarding both Machado and Harper. Maybe they're ready to go all-in and compete. 

    Thus far, they've made ancillary additions by acquiring right-hander Ivan Nova from the Pittsburgh Pirates and signing reliever Kelvin Herrera (two years, $18 million) and outfielder Jon Jay (one year, $4 million).

    Now, we return you to your regularly scheduled Machado-Harper watch.

    Grade: C+


    Cleveland Indians

    Inking Carlos Carrasco to a team-friendly extension that could go as many as four years was a nice gambit for the Cleveland Indians and set off speculation that they might trade either right-hander Corey Kluber, fellow righty Trevor Bauer or both.

    So far, Kluber and Bauer remain in the Tribe's employ. One way or another, the Indians need to upgrade a thin outfield depth chart after Michael Brantley signed with the Houston Astros.

    Re-acquiring Santana while shedding Encarnacion in a three-team trade with the Seattle Mariners and Tampa Bay Rays probably wasn't a net gain talentwise. The Indians can skate on their strong starting rotation in a weak division, but if they want to compete for an AL pennant, they need to do more.

    Grade: C-


    Detroit Tigers

    Like a gaggle of AL teams, the Detroit Tigers are rebuilding but don't have a lot of obvious high-end trade assets. Right fielder Nick Castellanos is a notable exception, but so far the chatter surrounding him has been more of a whisper. 

    Mostly, the Tigers have focused on adding mid- or lower-tier veterans such as starting pitchers Matt Moore and Tyson Ross and infielder Jordy Mercer on one-year deals. The hope is they can perform well enough to fill roles in 2019 while young players develop and possibly flex value at the July 31 non-waiver deadline.

    It isn't especially exciting, but rebuilds rarely are.

    Grade: C


    Kansas City Royals

    Like a gaggle of AL teams, the Kansas City Royals are rebuilding but don't have a lot of obvious high-end trade chips...OK, you get the parallel.

    The Royals have signed speedy, light-hitting center fielder Billy Hamilton (one year, $5.3 million) and utility man Chris Owings (one year, $3 million), both of whom could be flipped at the trade deadline if they perform up to or above their career averages.

    K.C. should be shopping second baseman Whit Merrifield as he comes off a career year, but it appears the Royals plan to keep him heading into his age-30 season. For a team that's years away from contending, that would be a missed sell-high opportunity and a grave mistake. 

    Grade: C-


    Minnesota Twins

    The Minnesota Twins have made some under-the-radar moves to upgrade their offense after a disappointing sub-.500 season.

    They claimed Cron and his 30 homers off waivers from the Tampa Bay Rays. They inked Jonathan Schoop (one year, $7.5 million) in the hopes he'd rebound and regain the form that earned him an All-Star nod and down-ballot MVP votes in 2017. And they signed veteran slugger Nelson Cruz (one year, $14 million with a $12 million club option for 2020).

    But they need to buttress a starting rotation that finished 22nd with a 4.54 ERA in 2018 or add major pieces to a bullpen that finished 22nd with a 4.45 ERA...and time is running out. 

    Grade: C-

American League West

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    Houston Astros

    The Houston Astros signed outfielder Michael Brantley (two years, $32 million). If he can stay healthy, the 31-year-old will improve an already deep lineup. Elsewhere, the Astros acquired Aledmys Diaz from the Toronto Blue Jays and signed catcher Robinson Chirinos (one year, $5.8 million).

    They need to address the starting five with Morton in Tampa Bay, Dallas Keuchel on the market and Lance McCullers Jr. lost to Tommy John surgery. Plus, Chirinos (.222 average in 2018) won't solve their offensive issues behind the dish.

    A bold play such as a trade for Miami Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto and a signing or trade for at least a middle-tier starting arm should be in the offing if Houston is serious about winning a second World Series in three years.

    Grade: C+


    Los Angeles Angels

    Mike Trout is under contract with the Los Angeles Angels through 2020. After that, he can and almost certainly will become the most coveted free agent in MLB history. If the Halos hope to retain the best baseball player on the planet, they need to build a winner. Now.

    So what have they done this winter? They've signed the likes of reliever Cody Allen (one year, $8.5 million), catcher Jonathan Lucroy (one year, $3.4 million), right-hander Trevor Cahill (one year, $9 million) and first baseman Justin Bour (one year, $2.5 million).

    Those moves, to varying degrees, address needs. But the Halos still don't have a championship-caliber roster, and their efforts to ink only short-term deals while seemingly saving money for a big Trout extension might, ironically, be the strategy that nudges Trout out the door.

    Grade: D+


    Oakland Athletics

    Oakland offseasons usually go one of two ways: Either the A's sell any and all bankable assets, or they shop from the high-upside, low-cost bargain shelf.

    After winning 97 games in 2018, the A's are taking the latter approach. They signed reliever Joakim Soria (two years, $15 million) to bolster an already stout bullpen. They re-signed veteran Mike Fiers (two years, $14.1 million) to stabilize a young rotation.

    Perhaps most intriguingly, they acquired infielder Jurickson Profar from the Texas Rangers in a three-team trade after he clubbed 20 homers with 35 doubles, six triples and 10 stolen bases in his age-25 season. Is the former top prospect ready to break out further? Given Oakland's diamond-in-the-rough track record, don't bet against it.

    Grade: B


    Seattle Mariners

    General manager Jerry Dipoto loves to wheel and deal, and he's done exactly that this winter. Just ask Santana, who was traded from the Philadelphia Phillies to Seattle and promptly flipped to the Cleveland Indians in a three-team trade. In that deal, the M's took on Encarnacion, but don't assume he'll wear a Mariners jersey come Opening Day.

    Dipoto also dealt Paxton to the New York Yankees and second baseman Robinson Cano and closer Edwin Diaz to the New York Mets, among other swaps. 

    The Mariners have netted some intriguing prospects and accelerated the reconstruction of a farm system Bleacher Report's Joel Reuter ranks No. 10. It's a painful but necessary process as Seattle tries to break a playoff drought that stretches back to 2001.

    Grade: B+


    Texas Rangers

    The Texas Rangers are rebuilding, and they've unloaded some assets, including Profar. In that three-team deal that also involved the Tampa Bay Rays, the Rangers gained four prospects and $750,000 in international slot money. 

    For a Texas fanbase that was used to annual contention not so long ago, such machinations won't sound thrilling. But it's the type of methodical, build-it-back-up approach teams like the Rangers must take.

    At the same time, Texas has brought in pitchers Lance Lynn (three years, $30 million) and Shelby Miller (one year, $2 million plus incentives) in the hope they can build value and either eat quality innings or get flipped at the trade deadline. Lynn, it should be noted, seems like a bit of an overpay after he posted a 4.77 ERA in 2018, though his peripherals (3.84 FIP, for example) tell a better story.

    Grade: C+

National League East

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    Atlanta Braves

    The Atlanta Braves are oozing young talent in the MLB and MiLB ranks and are fresh off a National League East crown. They can't rest on their laurels, however, as they play in a tough division and could use help in the rotation and at the back end of the bullpen.

    They've made some noise by signing third baseman Josh Donaldson (one year, $23 million), re-upping right fielder Nick Markakis (one year, $6 million with a team option for 2020) and inking catcher Brian McCann (one year, $2 million). Donaldson is a high-risk, high-reward gamble. He was an MVP as recently as 2015 but has battled injuries and decline since and is entering his age-33 season.

    The Braves shouldn't be rash and spend for the sake of spending, nor should they trade any of their budding stars. Notably, they did well to bring back Markakis at a bargain price.

    Grade: B


    Miami Marlins

    The Miami Marlins opened their offseason with a bang by signing budding 22-year-old Cuban star Victor Victor Mesa and his younger brother, 17-year-old Victor Mesa Jr.

    "We want Miami to be the destination for top international talent," executive Derek Jeter said at the time, per ESPN.com's Cameron Wolfe. "This organization should reflect the diversity of the South Florida community."

    It was a rare golden moment from a public-relations and baseball standpoint for an organization that shipped out multiple stars, including Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton, last winter.

    They still need to figure out what to do with Realmuto, and they could easily lose 100 games in 2019. But at least they've got a glimmer of hope to hang their redesigned hats on.

    Grade: C+


    New York Mets

    The New York Mets were at a crossroads after another losing season. Rather than blowing up the roster, they're going for it in 2019.

    The biggest deal was the trade with the Seattle Mariners that netted Cano and Diaz. They also plugged their hole behind the plate by signing All-Star Wilson Ramos to an affordable two-year, $19 million contract. In addition, they inked veteran infielder Jed Lowrie (two years, $20 million) and brought back former closer Jeurys Familia (three years, $30 million).

    If the starting rotation stays healthy—always a hold-your-breath "if" in Queens—the Mets could be a factor in the NL East. It might backfire, but credit new general manager Brodie Van Wagenen for intestinal fortitude. 

    Grade: B-


    Philadelphia Phillies

    Is any team playing the free-agent waiting game with more urgency than the Philadelphia Phillies?

    The Phils have been connected to virtually every top-ticket free agent this winter: Machado, Harper, Kimbrel, Keuchel. You name him, he's featured in a Phillies-related rumor

    To be fair, the Phils haven't sat on their hands. They acquired shortstop Jean Segura from the Seattle Mariners, signed outfielder Andrew McCutchen (three years, $50 million) and inked Robertson (two years, $23 million) for the pen.

    What they've yet to do is "spend money and maybe be a little bit stupid about it," as owner John Middleton phrased it to reporters in November. Until then, we're tempted to issue them an incomplete, but we'll go with a placeholder "C" average.

    Grade: C


    Washington Nationals

    The Washington Nationals boldly issued the first blockbuster check of the 2018-19 offseason when they signed left-hander Patrick Corbin (six years, $140 million). He joins ace Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg atop a mighty rotation in the nation's capital.

    They inked Kurt Suzuki (two years, $10 million) and acquired Yan Gomes from the Cleveland Indians to address an obvious need behind the dish.

    Other signings such as right-hander Anibal Sanchez (two years, $19 million), second baseman Brian Dozier (one year, $9 million) and bench bat Matt Adams (one year, $4 million) will plug holes and make the Nats plausible contenders even in the (maybe...probably...definitely?) post-Harper era.

    Grade: B+

National League Central

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    Chicago Cubs

    The Chicago Cubs opened the offseason on a borderline reckless note by exercising Cole Hamels' $20 million option. Sure, the veteran lefty pitched well for Chicago in 76.1 innings after he came over from the Texas Rangers at the 2018 trade deadline.

    Before his brief Windy City resurgence, however, Hamels had been on the downslope. He turned 35 in December. If the Cubs were willing to commit that kind of coin to a pitcher of his profile, surely there were larger moves on deck.

    So far...nope. 

    The Cubs have made no other major trades or signings since then and might enter 2019 with essentially the same roster that lost to the Colorado Rockies in the NL Wild Card Game last season. If so, that won't sit well with the North Side faithful. 

    Grade: D-


    Cincinnati Reds

    The Cincinnati Reds entered the offseason as presumed sellers. To the contrary, they added veteran outfielders Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp along with lefty Alex Wood in a trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

    Then, they acquired right-hander Sonny Gray from the New York Yankees and signed him to a three-year, $30.5 million extension on top of the $7.5 million he's owed in 2019 with a $12 million club option for 2023, per ESPN.com's Jeff Passan

    Add the trade earlier in the winter that brought right-hander Tanner Roark over from Washington, and Cincinnati intends to compete in the only MLB division that doesn't feature any blatantly tanking teams. It's a bold strategy for a franchise that's lost 94 games or more every season since 2015. 

    Grade: C+ (with extra credit for chutzpah)


    Milwaukee Brewers

    The Milwaukee Brewers marched to Game 7 of the National League Championship Series in 2018. They play in a tough division, but that's the kind of success you aggressively build upon regardless of market size. 

    Yes, they get points for signing catcher Yasmani Grandal (one year, $16 million with a mutual $16 million option for 2020 or a $2.25 million buyout).

    Their most glaring need, however, is an undisputed rotation ace they can ride come October. Despite rumors they've engaged on names such as San Francisco Giants lefty Madison Bumgarner, per MLB Network's Jon Morosi, there's been no fire with that smoke.

    The Brew Crew will never spend with the big boys, but Milwaukee ought to consider a blowout trade or signing to send a message.

    Grade: C-


    Pittsburgh Pirates

    The Pittsburgh Pirates shed some coin by shipping Nova and his $9.2 million salary to the Chicago White Sox and picked up an interesting piece when they signed skilled but injury-prone outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall (one-year, $2.8 million).

    Last season at the trade deadline, the Bucs acquired Chris Archer in a surprisingly splashy deal. It seems obvious they're not ready to trade their skull-and-crossbones banner for a white flag just yet.

    Can they compete in what looks like baseball's most competitive division after a typically low-key offseason, or would they be better off embracing a full-blown rebuild?

    Grade: C


    St. Louis Cardinals

    The St. Louis Cardinals sent notice when they acquired Paul Goldschmidt from the Arizona Diamondbacks in early December. They understandably gave up a significant package for the best first baseman and one of the best overall players in baseball.

    Now comes word, via MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch, that the Cardinals have designs on signing Goldy to an extension before he hits free agency after 2019. If they can pull that off, this will go from a good move to a potentially great one.

    Elsewhere, the Cardinals are hoping lefty reliever Andrew Miller (two years, $25 million) can regain the form that earned him top-10 AL Cy Young Award finishes in 2015 and 2016 before injuries undermined his dominance. In all, it's been an active offseason for the Red Birds—chock-full of risk, upside and intrigue. 

    Grade: B+

National League West

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    Arizona Diamondbacks

    We mentioned the deal that sent Goldschmidt from the desert to St. Louis. In return, the Arizona Diamondbacks netted a package headlined by starting pitcher Luke Weaver and catcher Carson Kelly, both of whom should contribute in 2019.

    So what now? The D-backs are sitting on other trade pieces, including left-hander Robbie Ray, outfielder David Peralta and third baseman Jake Lamb. They probably can't unload right-hander Zack Greinke without eating a large portion of the $104.5 million he's owed through 2021. Still, it can't hurt to try, right?

    That is, unless the Diamondbacks are going for it. But if they are, why trade Goldschmidt without at least making overtures about an extension and waiting to see if they're contending at the July 31 trade deadline?

    For now, the Snakes appear to be caught between contention, a retool and a rebuild...and that's no place to be.

    Grade: D-


    Colorado Rockies

    After making a second straight wild-card appearance in 2018 and advancing to the NLDS, the Colorado Rockies have been too timid this offseason.

    Yeah, they replaced free-agent second baseman DJ LeMahieu with veteran Daniel Murphy (two years, $24 million), who might enjoy an offensive resurgence at Coors Field. 

    They also bid adieu to reliever Ottavino, who signed with the New York Yankees, and desperately need an upgrade behind the plate after their catchers slashed an anemic .206/.307/.349 last season.

    The Rockies play in a relatively soft division. If they want to compete with the Los Angeles Dodgers, however, they need to do more than this.



    Los Angeles Dodgers

    Speaking of the Dodgers, they kicked off the winter by signing ace Clayton Kershaw to a three-year, $93 million extension and neutralizing an opt-out clause that could have made him a free agent.

    Say all you want about Kershaw's rocky playoff history and recent injury issues. He's a ludicrously decorated franchise icon who posted a 2.73 ERA in 2018. 

    If that was L.A.'s opening act, however, it needed more fireworks. So far, the team's subsequent moves have been about shedding salary (the deal that sent Puig, Kemp and Wood to Cincinnati) and adding minor pieces (the trade that brought back catcher and old friend Russell Martin from the Toronto Blue Jays).

    After losing two straight World Series, the Dodgers need to push all their chips in. It could mean signing Harper. It could mean shipping out top prospects and more for an ace such as Kluber, to whom they've been connected, per Morosi

    No matter what, it's all-or-nothing time in SoCal.

    Grade: D


    San Diego Padres

    The San Diego Padres have a loaded farm system and are ready to push their rebuild forward...but probably not this year.

    After unwisely splurging on a nine-figure deal for first baseman Eric Hosmer last winter, the Friars have stuck to secondary additions such as second baseman Ian Kinsler (two years, $8 million) and a bet on right-hander and former rising star Garrett Richards (two years, $15 million), who is recovering from Tommy John surgery and likely won't pitch until 2020. 

    Credit San Diego for hanging on to its cache of budding prospects and avoiding more ill-advised long-term contracts. 

    Grade: C+


    San Francisco Giants

    It's unclear what the San Francisco Giants are doing under new president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi. They're not officially rebuilding as long as Bumgarner remains in their employ in his eminently affordable ($12 million) contract year. 

    They're also not retooling as long as they leave gaping holes in the outfield and their biggest offseason "splash" is the one-year, $7 million deal they gave left-hander Derek Holland (with a team option for 2020). 

    To be fair, Zaidi is in a tough spot. The Giants employ multiple veterans (Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt, etc.) who played key roles in the team's recent, even-year championship troika. They're also signed, to varying degrees, to prohibitively expensive pacts. Trading them would be difficult from a PR perspective and from a business perspective. 

    The Giants have had one of the quietest, most perplexing winters of any club...and we must grade accordingly.

    Grade: D-


    All statistics and contract information courtesy of Baseball Reference unless other noted or linked.