Biggest Disappointments of the 2019-20 MLB Offseason Thus Far
Not everything goes according to plan during the MLB offseason.
For some teams, it's time to make a free-agent splash and fill roster holes ahead of a push toward contention; for others, it's a source of disappointment.
Whether it's because a club whiffed on a top free-agent target, failed to address a glaring need or simply didn't do anything at all, the hot stove can be a letdown for a multitude of reasons.
Ahead we've highlighted the biggest disappointments of the 2019-20 MLB offseason.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Fail to Embrace a Rebuild
After the Pittsburgh Pirates' disastrous second half resulted in a 25-48 record on the field and in-fighting by the players off it, the organization gutted its management team.
The club fired president Frank Coonelly, general manager Neal Huntington and manager Clint Hurdle, and brought in former Boston Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington to spearhead what appeared to be an organization-wide reset.
Instead, it's been a quiet offseason.
Pittsburgh hired Minnesota Twins bench coach Derek Shelton as the new manager at the end of November and signed catcher Luke Maile (one year, $900,000) and outfielder Guillermo Heredia (one year, $1 million) in under-the-radar moves.
Meanwhile, center fielder Starling Marte, first baseman Josh Bell, right fielder Gregory Polanco, starting pitcher Chris Archer, and relief pitchers Keone Kela and Kyle Crick have all stayed put despite holding legitimate trade value.
With the Cincinnati Reds improving, the Chicago Cubs still boasting a solid roster despite an inactive offseason, and both the St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers coming off postseason appearances, the Pirates look destined for a last-place finish in the NL Central.
It's time to blow it up, and an offseason of inactivity is only prolonging the inevitable.
Atlanta Braves: Fail to Re-Sign/Replace Josh Donaldson
The Atlanta Braves signed Josh Donaldson to a one-year, $23 million deal last offseason, the largest one-year contract ever given to a position player.
On the heels of that performance, the 34-year-old was one of this year's most sought-after free agents, and he joined the Minnesota Twins on a four-year, $92 million contract.
The addition of Marcell Ozuna on a one-year, $18 million deal Tuesday, according to Jeff Passan of ESPN, helps ease the blow a bit offensively. However, there is still a glaring hole at the hot corner.
A platoon of Austin Riley and Johan Camargo is currently projected to take over at third base, according to Roster Resource.
Unfortunately, that duo fell well short of the level of production Donaldson provided in 2019:
- Riley: 297 PA, 86 OPS+, 18 HR, 0 DRS in 38.0 INN at 3B
- Camargo: 248 PA, 67 OPS+, 7 HR, -2 DRS in 103.2 INN at 3B
There is still an opportunity for a blockbuster deal to acquire someone like Kris Bryant, and they certainly have the prospect capital to get such a deal done.
For now, the failure to re-sign or replace Donaldson is a colossal disappointment.
Boston Red Sox: Content with Mediocrity?
After winning 108 games and a World Series title in 2018, the Boston Red Sox entered the 2019 season with lofty expectations, only to finish 84-78 and miss the postseason.
That mediocre record came with a $228 million payroll, which cost the Red Sox a record $13.4 million in luxury-tax penalties.
Boston's projected competitive-balance payroll of $230.4 million for the 2020 season has been a considerable limiting factor in the team's offseason plans.
When J.D. Martinez opted into the remaining three years of his contract and a $23.75 million salary for the upcoming season, many expected that to be the final straw that led to a trade of superstar Mookie Betts ahead of his final year of club control.
Instead, the team has stood pat.
Starting pitcher Martin Perez (one year, $6 million), infielder Jose Peraza (one year, $3 million) and catcher Kevin Plawecki (one year, $900,000) signed as complementary pieces, while the team acquired Jeffrey Springs (via Texas), Chris Mazza (via the Mets), Matt Hall (via Detroit) and Austin Brice (via Miami) to compete for bullpen spots.
However, those moves do little to bridge the gap to the New York Yankees, who added Gerrit Cole, and the Tampa Bay Rays, who look just as strong as last year's 96-win club—not to mention a vastly improved Toronto Blue Jays squad.
Now the focus has shifted to finding a new manager in the wake of Alex Cora's firing—while the team awaits the league's findings from its investigation into sign-stealing allegations. Whoever fills Cora's seat will be tasked with turning things around using largely the same roster that faltered in 2019.
Chicago Cubs: Content with Mediocrity?
Speaking of a quiet offseason: Amid swirling rumors surrounding a number of the team's core players, the Chicago Cubs have done nothing to move the needle.
Relievers Ryan Tepera (23 G, 4.98 ERA, 5.8 K/9) and Casey Sadler (33 G, 2.14 ERA, 6.0 K/9) are the only additions to the 40-man roster who are projected to earn an Opening Day berth, according to Roster Resource, alongside non-roster invitee Hernan Perez (246 PA, 64 OPS+, 19 XBH).
Is that enough to get the team back on track after a disappointing 84-78 finish on the heels of four straight postseason trips?
The front office is either relying on in-house improvement under the leadership of new manager David Ross, or there is still a blockbuster deal in the making before the offseason ends.
Clarity regarding the grievance Kris Bryant filed against the team for service-time manipulation, which could trim his remaining years of club control from two to one, could be what the team is waiting on to make a move.
Still, it's been a wildly disappointing offseason on the North Side, and a fourth-place finish in the NL Central seems just as likely as a return to the playoffs.
Los Angeles Angels: Fail to Land an Impact Starting Pitcher
With all due respect to Julio Teheran and Dylan Bundy—who can be solid MLB starters—neither pitcher belongs anywhere near the top of a contender's rotation.
Based on the massive seven-year, $245 million contract they handed to third baseman Anthony Rendon this offseason, the Los Angeles Angels view themselves as a playoff threat.
Can a team contend for a title with this projected six-man rotation (via Roster Resource), though?:
- RHP Julio Teheran: 33 GS, 3.81 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 162 K, 174.2 IP
- LHP Andrew Heaney: 18 GS, 4.91 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 118 K, 95.1 IP
- RHP Dylan Bundy: 30 GS, 4.79 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 162 K, 161.2 IP
- RHP Griffin Canning: 17 GS, 4.58 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 96 K, 90.1 IP
- LHP Patrick Sandoval: 9 GS, 5.03 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 42 K, 39.1 IP
- RHP Shohei Ohtani: Injured, did not pitch
It was no secret that Cole was the club's No. 1 target, but when he signed with the Yankees, there did not appear to be a backup plan.
Guys such as the Blue Jays' Hyun-Jin Ryu, White Sox's Dallas Keuchel and Reds' Wade Miley were all still available, yet the team settled for a similar approach to last offseason when it signed Trevor Cahill and Matt Harvey to one-year deals in a failed attempt to throw a Band-Aid on the starting staff.
Spending big on Rendon created big expectations, and the Angels could have a hard time living up to them on the pitching side.
Major League Baseball: Sign-Stealing Scandal Gives League a Black Eye
No disappointment this offseason holds a candle to the sport's sign-stealing scandal.
Major League Baseball's investigation resulted in the firings of Houston Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch, while Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora and New York Mets manager Carlos Beltran also lost their jobs for the roles they played with Houston in 2017.
On top of that, the Astros were fined $5 million and stripped of their first- and second-round picks in 2020 and 2021.
None of that compares to the blow that the sport's integrity has taken.
The Astros cheated and won a World Series.
That's a fact.
There's no going back and replaying those playoffs, and the league was never going to strip them of their title, so there will forever be an unofficial asterisk next to the 2017 season.
When the legitimacy of the on-field product is called into question, the entire sport suffers, and the 2020 campaign will be an important one for baseball's future.