MLB Free Agency 2020: Each Team's Offseason Report Card
With spring training nearly upon us and the long winter winding down, let's hand out report cards for each MLB club.
Grades are based on any big moves teams made but also on expectations heading into the winter.
Was the franchise in question hoping to load up for a postseason run, acquire prospects in the midst of a rebuild or simply tinker with an already strong roster? Clubs that were expected to do very little and met expectations earned a C grade.
Grades could shift a bit between now and Opening Day depending on any last-minute signings or blockbuster trades. For now, here's where things stand.
American League West
It's been a tough offseason for the Houston Astros, who were slapped hard by Major League Baseball for their sign-stealing scheme. They fired general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch and lost their top two draft picks in 2020 and 2021. Plus, ace starter Gerrit Cole signed with the New York Yankees.
They hired veteran manager Dusty Baker to a one-year contract with a second-year club option to steady the ship. And outside of Cole, they retained a championship-caliber core. But it's tough to sell this as anything other than a tough winter for the 'Stros.
Los Angeles Angels
The Los Angeles Angels signed star third baseman Anthony Rendon to join reigning American League MVP Mike Trout in the heart of their lineup. There's no question that made them better.
Did the Halos do enough to improve a pitching staff that ranked 25th in the game with a 5.12 ERA by adding Dylan Bundy and Julio Teheran? That's an open question as Los Angeles tries to get Trout back onto the postseason stage.
The Oakland Athletics did little to improve this offseason and lost a few pieces in Blake Treinen, Jurickson Profar and Tanner Roark.
They're coming off a 97-win season and retain much of the core that got them there. Nor can they be expected to make huge free-agent splashes with their limited budget. But overall, it's been an underwhelming winter in the East Bay.
The Texas Rangers added Corey Kluber in a major trade with the Cleveland Indians. Assuming the Klubot rebounds from injuries and regains something close to his Cy Young-caliber form, that'd be a big boost for Texas as it seeks to gain traction in a deep division.
The addition of third baseman Todd Frazier could boost the offense as well. Overall, the Rangers are far from favorites in the American League West, but credit them for being active as they seek to retool.
The Seattle Mariners have had a largely uneventful offseason. General manager Jerry Dipoto, who is known for his wheeling-and-dealing tendencies, hasn't swung any big trades.
The M's have a strong farm system and ample hope for the future. But for now, they appear to be treading water.
American League Central
Chicago White Sox
The Chicago White Sox are a team on the rise, with multiple young players on the big league roster and in the minor leagues who could propel them to contention.
The additions of catcher Yasmani Grandal, designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion and left-handers Dallas Keuchel and Gio Gonzalez strengthened the roster, as did re-upping first baseman and clubhouse leader Jose Abreu to a three-year deal. In a relatively soft division, the ChiSox have positioned themselves to take the next step and compete for the playoffs.
The Cleveland Indians shipped Corey Kluber to Texas for a decent return, as they netted right-handed reliever Emmanuel Clase and outfielder Delino DeShields. So far, they've hung on to star shortstop Francisco Lindor despite persistent trade rumors.
Lindor could still be moved this winter or at the July 31 trade deadline. For now, the Tribe appear to be straddling the line between rebuilding and contending.
The Detroit Tigers haven't made any major offseason moves. They didn't have any obvious high-profile trade chips, and it wouldn't have made sense to sign any top-tier free agents at this stage of their rebuild.
They've brought in the likes of Ivan Nova, C.J. Cron and Jonathan Schoop.
So, you know, meh.
Kansas City Royals
The Kansas City Royals haven't made any major offseason moves. They didn't have any obvious trade chips, and it wouldn't have made sense to sign any top-tier free agents at this stage of their rebuild.
They re-signed outfielder Alex Gordon for one year and $4 million and reeled in third baseman Maikel Franco via trade.
So, you know...is there an echo in here?
The Minnesota Twins made a big splash by signing third baseman Josh Donaldson to boost an offense that bashed an MLB-record 307 home runs in 2019.
The defending AL Central champs are well positioned to defend their division crown, though it's worth wondering if they did enough to bolster a pitching staff that lacks a proven ace and has questions in the bullpen, even after re-signing Jake Odorizzi and Michael Pineda and bringing in Rich Hill and Homer Bailey.
American League East
Coming off a 108-loss season with no shiny trade chips, the Baltimore Orioles were expected to be a non-factor this offseason.
Lo and behold, they've been...a non-factor. They've got intriguing talent in a farm system Bleacher Report's Joel Reuter ranked No. 12 in the game, but their winter has been exactly as boring as you'd expect.
Boston Red Sox
It's been a tough winter for the Boston Red Sox, who fired manager Alex Cora because of the sign-stealing scandal and have done little to improve a team that finished a distant third in the AL East.
Trade rumors have swirled around star right fielder Mookie Betts, who will be a free agent after the 2020 season. So far, nothing has happened, though a deal with either the San Diego Padres or Los Angeles Dodgers may be pending, according to Alex Speier of the Boston Globe.
If Boston can flip Betts for a cache of top prospects and/or package him with fading left-hander David Price's albatross contract, it could salvage its offseason. For now, the Sox have earned an ugly report card.
New York Yankees
The New York Yankees acted like the New York Yankees by busting out the checkbook and signing Gerrit Cole to a nine-year, $324 million pact, a record for a pitcher.
They threw their weight around. They addressed their biggest need. And they announced to the rest of the league that they intend to hoist their 28th championship banner in 2020.
It'll require health from key players, especially outfielder Giancarlo Stanton. But the Yanks are once again the big-spending bullies of baseball.
Tampa Bay Rays
The Tampa Bay Rays added thump to an offense that ranked 21st in home runs last season with 217 by acquiring Jose Martinez from the St. Louis Cardinals and Hunter Renfroe from the San Diego Padres and signing Japanese slugger Yoshitomo Tsutsugo.
They boast a pitching staff that led the Junior Circuit with a 3.65 ERA. Considering their small-market status, the Rays did everything required to enter 2020 as repeat postseason hopefuls.
Toronto Blue Jays
Signing 2019 MLB ERA leader Hyun-Jin Ryu (2.32), Japanese righty Shun Yamaguchi and veteran Tanner Roark improved the Toronto Blue Jays pitching staff.
They've got emerging stars, including third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and shortstop Bo Bichette, and could make noise sooner than expected.
Give Toronto props for being aggressive and expediting their competitive window.
National League West
The Arizona Diamondbacks answered any questions about their intention to contend by signing postseason legend and ace southpaw Madison Bumgarner away from division rival San Francisco and acquiring center fielder Starling Marte from the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The D-backs are staring up at the Los Angeles Dodgers in the division, but credit the Snakes for making bold moves in an effort to stay in the NL playoff chase.
Coming off a dispiriting fourth-place finish, the Colorado Rockies have done nothing to significantly improve the roster.
More damningly, they seemed to frustrate franchise third baseman Nolan Arenado by failing to either trade him or do what it would take to make a postseason push.
Granted, Arenado pledged to "play hard and play for my teammates," per MLB.com's Thomas Harding. Whether he wants to keep playing for the Rockies after 2021 when he has an opt-out clause is another matter.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Los Angeles Dodgers lost top names, including Hyun-Jin Ryu, and didn't ink any high-profile free agents. They've been tied to Mookie Betts, so don't discount a late bombshell for a squad looking to win its first World Series in 32 years.
At the moment, the Dodgers have largely kept the band together. That's not a bad thing; they won 106 games last season. And they did add to the pitching staff by bringing back Alex Wood and signing Jimmy Nelson.
But with their deep farm system and massive budget, they could have done more.
San Diego Padres
The San Diego Padres made some ancillary additions, including outfielder Tommy Pham and infielder Jurickson Profar via trade.
They've got burgeoning stars on the MLB roster and a solid farm system, but they failed to make any big free-agent additions in line with last year's signing of third baseman Manny Machado. A late-splash add such as Betts could tip the scales, but for now...eh.
San Francisco Giants
The San Francisco Giants are in a rebuild phase under president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi, who has made a bunch of moves this offseason, none of them especially notable.
The big loss for the Giants is Bumgarner's defection to Arizona. Re-signing him might not have made sense from a practical standpoint, but he's an all-time franchise icon and the optics aren't great.
National League Central
The Chicago Cubs did little to improve a team that finished third in the National League Central in 2019. Sure, you can argue they're saving money to re-sign key members of the core who won a title in 2016 and are approaching free agency.
At the moment, however, the Cubbies look like an also-ran in a fairly deep division and have not acted like a franchise intent on winning.
The Cincinnati Reds clearly want to become a factor in the NL Central, as they showed by signing infielder Mike Moustakas away from the Milwaukee Brewers and inking versatile veteran Nick Castellanos and Japanese outfielder Shogo Akiyama.
They also added Pedro Strop to help the bullpen and netted Wade Miley to shore up the back end of the rotation.
Look for the Reds to compete for the postseason in 2020.
Losing catcher Yasmani Grandal and seeing Moustakas bolt within the division stings. So does the Brewers' failure to significantly upgrade a suspect pitching staff, though they did sign Brett Anderson.
They have enough pieces to compete in 2020, especially after girding the middle of the lineup with Avisail Garcia, Justin Smoak and Ryon Healy.
But they could have used a top-shelf starting pitcher and a late-inning bullpen arm, neither of which they've acquired.
After losing 93 games in 2019, the only significant move the Pittsburgh Pirates made this offseason was flipping Starling Marte to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Other than that, the Bucs have mostly stood pat and appear headed for another basement-dwelling finish as they lurch toward an inevitable rebuild.
St. Louis Cardinals
The St. Louis Cardinals lost outfielder Marcell Ozuna to free agency and haven't added any significant pieces to a club that won the division last season but could have used an infusion of pitching. Instead, all they've really done is bring back 38-year-old franchise lifer Adam Wainwright.
They're contenders, no question, but haven't done anything close to last winter's acquisition of first baseman Paul Goldschmidt.
National League East
The Atlanta Braves lost third baseman Josh Donaldson but added outfielder Marcell Ozuna. They also signed closer Will Smith to buttress the bullpen and veterans Cole Hamels and Felix Hernandez to boost the starting rotation.
With tons of talent in the MiLB pipeline, the Braves are in line to win a third consecutive division title and try to advance past the division series.
The Miami Marlins tinkered around the edges of their roster, making additions such as Jonathan Villar, Corey Dickerson and Matt Kemp befitting a club in rebuild mode.
No one expected the Fish to make any big offseason splashes, and they didn't. They won't be a contender. But they didn't whiff on the winter.
New York Mets
The New York Mets lost right-hander Zack Wheeler within the division to the Philadelphia Phillies. That stings.
They also added a formidable late-inning arm by signing free-agent Dellin Betances away from the New York Yankees and 2016 AL Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello, who posted a 5.52 ERA in 2019 with the Red Sox.
Could the Mets have done more to buttress their lineup and pitching staff? Yes. But even with the loss of Wheeler, they're positioned to build on their 86-win campaign.
The additions of infielder Didi Gregorius and Wheeler show that the Philadelphia Phillies are intent on competing for an NL East title and taking Bryce Harper deep into the postseason.
They could still use more pitching, but the Phils were active this winter and added an arm in Wheeler that makes them measurably better.
Losing Anthony Rendon via free agency hurts the Washington Nationals. Period.
Credit the Nats for bringing in guys such as Eric Thames and Starlin Castro and for extending right-hander Stephen Strasburg for seven years and $245 million.
The defending champs lost a team leader and offensive force, but they did enough to remain a contender in 2020.
All statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference.