Every MLB Team's Offseason Report Card Ahead of Spring Training
Baseball is nigh upon us.
Pitchers and catchers reported to spring training last week, and teams began their first workouts this week. The 2021 season is in full swing.
Some notable free agents—such as Jake Odorizzi and Jackie Bradley Jr.—remain unsigned. However, most teams around MLB have made their moves and await another season under the specter of the coronavirus pandemic.
How did each team fare this winter? We assigned grades based on the impact of both offseason additions and departures. Some teams might also be rewarded for being more aggressive in a winter constrained by financial concerns.
The Arizona Diamondbacks might have looked to sell this offseason, especially considering the gap between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres and the rest of the National League West.
Outfielders Kole Calhoun and David Peralta could have garnered interest, and the same can be said for infielder Eduardo Escobar. Ultimately, though, the Diamondbacks made fringe additions and likely hope for some bounce-back seasons.
Arizona signed veteran reliever Joakim Soria to a one-year deal after the 36-year-old had a 2.82 ERA in 2020. It also added former Houston Astros reliever Chris Devenski, who will look to rediscover the form that made him an All-Star in 2017. Right-hander Tyler Clippard had a sub-3.00 ERA in each of the past two seasons, and he reportedly rounds out the bullpen additions.
The D-backs signed veteran Asdrubal Cabrera to give them more positional versatility in the infield with Ketel Marte also capable of playing in center field.
This could have been a good time for Arizona to deal assets and keep building for the future. But the D-backs have a top-10 farm system, per Bleacher Report's Joel Reuter, and most of the pieces from the 85-win club in 2019 are still around. The additions could provide marginal upgrades for an Arizona team that might be competitive in 2021.
Fresh off an NLCS berth, the Atlanta Braves moved to add rotation depth.
Atlanta signed Drew Smyly and Charlie Morton to one-year deals, bolstering a starting group that looks formidable pending the health of Mike Soroka.
Morton struggled a bit and dealt with injuries in 2020, but he went 16-6 with a 3.05 ERA and 2.81 fielding independent pitching (FIP) mark in 2019. Smyly has a history of injuries but flashed his upside with 42 strikeouts in 26.1 innings (14.4 per nine innings) this past season.
The biggest splash was re-signing Marcell Ozuna to a four-year, $65 million deal that could be worth $80 million over five years. Ozuna looked more dangerous than ever in the middle of the Braves lineup, hitting .338 with a 1.067 OPS while leading the NL in homers (18), RBI (56) and total bases (145). While there are questions as to how he will fare in left field, his production was too important to lose.
Most of the other moves were fillers. Atlanta brought back Josh Tomlin, who should fill a middle relief role. Jason Kipnis could give Ozzie Albies—better against left-handed pitching—the odd day off. Jake Lamb has rarely been healthy in recent years but looked decent in a 13-game stretch with the Oakland Athletics last year (.882 OPS) and could provide slugging.
The one question mark is the bullpen. Mark Melancon signed with the San Diego Padres, and Shane Greene remains a free agent. The Braves will probably rely on Will Smith to hold down the closer role, and it is unlikely he'll again allow 3.9 homers per nine innings as he did in 2020. But Atlanta could use more depth in the relief corps.
The Baltimore Orioles mostly cut bait again this offseason.
Baltimore non-tendered Hanser Alberto and Renato Nunez. The Orioles traded shortstop Jose Iglesias to the Los Angeles Angels and dealt left-handed starter Alex Cobb to the Halos as well.
But the O's deserve credit for building prospect depth. They added a pair of arms—Garrett Stallings and Jean Pinto—in the Iglesias trade and acquired the versatile Jahmai Jones in the Cobb deal. Plus, Baltimore shed Cobb's $15 million salary, though they will have to pay over half of it.
The Orioles replaced Iglesias with Freddy Galvis for $1.5 million. Earlier in the offseason, they claimed former Gold Glover Yolmer Sanchez off waivers from the Chicago White Sox. While Galvis and Sanchez are not the sexiest names, they should be decent additions. Baltimore will also give opportunities to a pair of former aces in Felix Hernandez and Matt Harvey.
The reality is the O's are years away from contention. Is it fair to penalize them when MLB does little to discourage tanking? Besides, they got value from veteran players.
Boston Red Sox
Boston Red Sox president of baseball operations Chaim Bloom prioritized versatility this offseason. He also mixed things up in the outfield.
Bloom signed Enrique Hernandez and Marwin Gonzalez, giving the Red Sox a pair of players who can play almost anywhere.
Boston might need that versatility. It sent Andrew Benintendi to the Kansas City Royals as part of a three-team deal that included the New York Mets. That deal netted Franchy Cordero, a toolsy outfielder yet to get an extended look in the bigs.
Bloom also signed Hunter Renfroe after the Tampa Bay Rays let him go. Renfroe hit just .156 in 2020, but he hit at least 26 homers in each season from 2017 to 2019 and could benefit from hitting behind J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers.
The most important additions, however, were in the pitching staff. Boston traded for right-handed reliever Adam Ottavino. Aside from a clunker (six earned runs) against the Toronto Blue Jays on Sept. 7, he had another strong season in 2020. Boston also added depth by signing Japanese right-hander Hirokazu Sawamura and 31-year-old Matt Andriese.
Garrett Richards will be the guy to watch in 2021. Richards has dealt with numerous health issues but pitched to a 4.03 ERA this past season. He also has good velocity and tremendous spin rates, which could bode well should he maintain decent health. The 32-year-old is of vital importance for a Red Sox rotation that ranked last in fWAR last season, especially as Chris Sale continues to recover from Tommy John surgery.
Martin Perez is back in Boston's rotation after posting a 4.50 ERA in 12 starts last year, but he is more of a back-end guy.
Bloom and the Red Sox did some repositioning this offseason. The versatility of guys like Hernandez and Gonzalez will be important both at second base and in the outfield, and Cordero has good upside. But the question is whether the Red Sox added enough quality pitching, even with the return of Eduardo Rodriguez and (eventually) Sale.
Additionally, might Boston have been better off re-signing Jackie Bradley Jr. given some of the question marks regarding Renfroe (can he hit righties?) and Cordero (experience and health)?
Chicago Cubs fans will remember this offseason for the Yu Darvish trade.
President of baseball operations Jed Hoyer made a big move in his first year taking over for Theo Epstein, sending Darvish and backup catcher Victor Caratini to the San Diego Padres in exchange for right-hander Zach Davies and four prospects. The deal could pay dividends. But Cubs fans won't know for years to come, which might not be an easy pill to swallow in a winnable NL Central.
Instead, the Cubs will turn to the soft-tossing Davies and a pair of reclamation projects in Trevor Williams and Jake Arrieta to fill out the rotation.
The Arrieta signing looks positive early. The former Cub is saying all the right things and has seemingly taken a special interest in right-hander Adbert Alzolay. But his velocity is down, and he has dealt with injuries in the last couple of years. At $6 million, might the Cubs have opted for cheaper arms like Rich Hill or Brett Anderson, or could they have paid extra money for someone like James Paxton?
Chicago's other moves could be good ones, though. Joc Pederson had a rough regular season in 2020 but still boasts an .806 OPS and dominated this past October. He might exude even more confidence with the chance to play every day in left field.
Andrew Chafin will be a vital left-handed relief asset who generates a lot of whiffs and induces soft contact. Brandon Workman could be a steal at $1 million (escalators can take it to $3 million) if he can recapture his 2019 form. Both Jonathan Holder and Pedro Strop might provide intrigue in the bullpen as well.
There is some stuff to like. But the rotation looks shaky, so the Darvish trade stings if the Cubs still hope to win now with Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Anthony Rizzo headed for free agency in 2022.
Chicago White Sox
One Chicago team moves its ace, while the other trades for a front-line starter.
The White Sox acquired right-hander Lance Lynn from the Texas Rangers in exchange for Dane Dunning and Avery Weems, giving the South Siders a top arm alongside Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel. Lynn ranks fifth among starters in fWAR since 2019. He is a workhorse who led MLB innings pitched (84.0) in 2020 while posting the second-highest rate of strikeouts per nine innings in his career.
Lynn lends more legitimacy to Chicago's rotation. Liam Hendriks does the same at the back end of the bullpen. Chicago signed Hendriks to a three-year, $54 million deal, nabbing the winner of the 2020 American League Reliever of the Year Award, who dwarfs all other relievers in fWAR in the past two seasons.
Those two moves alone could be huge in terms of Chicago's potential to win the AL Central. But the White Sox also signed veteran outfielder Adam Eaton for a second stint in the Windy City. He could serve in a platoon arrangement with Adam Engel.
The White Sox could probably use a left-handed power bat, at least until top prospect Andrew Vaughn emerges. But adding Lynn to the rotation is significant, and Hendriks can throw multiple innings (if necessary) and excelled in high-leverage situations in 2020.
Plus, Chicago has the flexibility and the farm system to make a deadline splash.
The Cincinnati Reds did not hold a sell-off, choosing to retain starters Sonny Gray and Luis Castillo while (for now) also keeping infielders Eugenio Suarez and Mike Moustakas.
However, choosing not to sell makes some of Cincy’s other moves—and lack thereof—look all the more odd.
The Reds got rid of both their closers, non-tendering Archie Bradley and trading Raisel Iglesias to the Los Angeles Angels. They added little starting depth after losing Trevor Bauer and Anthony DeSclafani to free agency.
What's more, the Reds barely added at other positions of need. Cincy seemed destined to pursue a shortstop, but the only move at that spot was acquiring minor leaguer Kyle Holder from the Philadelphia Phillies.
The Cam Bedrosian signing could be a nice under-the-radar move. Veteran left-hander Sean Doolittle might be the go-to closing option, if healthy.
But the Reds were guilty of cost-cutting, which is confusing considering they made the playoffs in 2020 and still seemed to have the pieces to make a run in a weak NL Central this season.
Everything starts with the Francisco Lindor blockbuster.
Cleveland and its star shortstop were headed for a breakup as soon as the offseason started. Instead of judging the notion of dealing Lindor, we have to evaluate the return.
Andres Gimenez is a versatile defender who can hit for average and steal bases. He might not have the highest ceiling, but he should be a productive major league player. Amed Rosario's upside might be higher as someone who can hit for power, but he has a career .705 OPS and has produced unsavory defensive results.
Josh Wolf is a future arm to watch, and Isaiah Greene—drafted in the second round in 2020—might also develop into an outfield asset. But those guys are a ways off.
Does this seem like a suitable return, especially given Cleveland also dealt Carlos Carrasco? It feels as though the Mets got one over on Cleveland.
Remember, Lindor and Carrasco are not the only two holdovers to depart this offseason. Gone also are Carlos Santana and closer Brad Hand.
Cleveland re-signed Gold Glover Cesar Hernandez after a strong 2020. Eddie Rosario gives the team much-needed outfield production, and Ben Gamel could provide outfield versatility.
Cleveland should still fight for a playoff spot in 2021, but the losses outweigh the gains.
Where do we begin with the Colorado Rockies? With Nolan Arenado, of course.
It was always plausible the Rockies would trade the star third baseman with his opt-out looming in 2022. Still, couldn't they have found a way to avoid eating such a sizable chunk of his deal?
The Rockies are paying up to $51 million of Arenado's salary. Not only are they sending a bunch of money to the St. Louis Cardinals, but they also failed to use that element to leverage a greater prospect return.
Left-hander Austin Gomber has potential. He had a 1.86 ERA in 29 innings in 2020 and is not eligible for arbitration until 2023. Colorado also acquired four prospects, though just one of those (Elehuris Montero) was a top-10 guy. Is this the best return general manager Jeff Bridich could obtain while also paying $51 million?
Moreover, with Arenado in St. Louis and Colorado's intent to contend all but gone, do the Rockies have any incentive to retain shortstop Trevor Story? On the surface, the answer is yes. Story is a five-tool star at a premium position. But he might not have any interest in signing an extension when he is on the cusp of free agency and the Rockies look like cellar-dwellers in the NL West.
This offseason has been a mess for the Rockies, who hardly added to the roster aside from handing out minor league deals to guys like Chris Owings and C.J. Cron. In fact, Colorado is the only team yet to sign anyone to an MLB deal.
The Detroit Tigers have quietly been busy this offseason.
Detroit signed former Oakland Athletics outfielder Robbie Grossman to a two-year deal, giving the lineup a switch-hitter who can hit for some power and play the corner spots well. Nomar Mazara had a down 2020 but could also provide some pop from a corner outfield position. The Tigers also re-signed infielder Jonathan Schoop (.799 OPS in 2020) and replaced Austin Romine with Wilson Ramos behind the dish.
This organization will eventually rely on young arms like Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal and Matt Manning as the foundation. But Detroit also added starting depth with Jose Urena and Julio Teheran, giving the youngsters incentive to push harder to earn their spots in spring training.
The Tigers deserve credit for trying to make tangible upgrades to the roster even though they are going nowhere in the AL Central.
The Houston Astros lost a bona fide franchise staple in George Springer, and they might not be able to replace him in center field.
Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported the Astros are unlikely to sign Jackie Bradley Jr. because of payroll concerns. Houston may either ride with Myles Straw in center field or pursue a continued partnership with Josh Reddick (maybe another corner outfielder) while dabbling with Kyle Tucker in center.
But while Springer is departing, Michael Brantley is coming back to H-Town. The decision to withhold the qualifying offer from Brantley is puzzling given he got two years and $32 million. Still, the four-time All-Star has an .867 OPS in two seasons with the Astros and gives the club a professional hitter from the left side.
Perhaps more importantly, Houston added to the bullpen. The Astros will hope their ability to cultivate quality pitching rubs off on Ryne Stanek. Houston also inked Pedro Baez to a two-year deal after the veteran had a 3.03 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in seven years with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Steve Cishek has struggled with command issues as of late, but he had a solid two-year run with the Chicago Cubs prior to a 2020 stinker.
Rounding things out, catcher Jason Castro returns to Houston to be the backstop to form a platoon tandem with Martin Maldonado behind the dish.
Losing Springer is tough, but the Astros would certainly have surpassed the luxury-tax threshold had they re-signed him and made the other necessary upgrades in the bullpen. One item to watch is Carlos Correa's status after the shortstop—who is a free agent in 2022—implied an Opening Day deadline for an extension.
Kansas City Royals
The Kansas City Royals are a small-market club playing in a top-heavy AL Central.
However, Kansas City went against the grain by getting busy this offseason. It's a credit to general manager Dayton Moore and ideally an approach more small-market teams will embrace—as unlikely as that seems. Besides, the Royals made quality additions.
Carlos Santana didn't hit very well in 2020, but he gets on base at a steady clip (AL-best 47 walks) and is one season removed from an All-Star berth with a 120 career OPS+. Left-hander Mike Minor looked great in 2020 spring training but had a hard time ramping things back up last summer. The Royals will bank on him to regain fastball velocity and be more effective.
Kansas City brought back Greg Holland back after he had a 1.91 ERA in 2020, and perhaps Wade Davis will feel more comfortable away from Coors Field and back at his old stomping grounds.
The Andrew Benintendi deal is the most notable acquisition. Benintendi had a brutal 2020 (.442 OPS in 14 games), but he is only 26 and will not be a free agent until 2023. For all his defensive deficiencies, he can drive the ball and steal some bases. A change of scenery might be what he needs.
None of these moves will blow people's socks off. But it is evident the Royals intend to be better in 2021, which is commendable considering a host of contending teams made cost-cutting moves this offseason.
Los Angeles Angels
No, the Los Angeles Angels did not sign a front-line starter. That said, the Halos did add plenty of veteran depth, and general manager Perry Minasian revamped the bullpen.
Minasian pulled off a gem in getting Raisel Iglesias from the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for Noe Ramirez and Leonardo Rivas. Iglesias gives the Angels a legitimate fireballer and closer at the back end of the bullpen, one they have not had for some time.
The Angels jumped on acquiring Aaron Slegers after the 28-year-old proved himself an effective member of the Tampa Bay Rays bullpen in 2020. Minasian also signed left-hander Alex Claudio to toss some innings from that side of the rubber. Junior Guerra is another former Milwaukee Brewer headed to L.A. and has had decent success since being converted to a reliever in 2019.
Los Angeles opted for starting depth over one big splash. Jose Quintana should be a solid mid-rotation guy, and Alex Cobb (acquired from the Baltimore Orioles) had decent results with better health in 2020, pitching to a 4.30 ERA.
The Halos replace Andrelton Simmons with Jose Iglesias at short. Even if the .956 OPS in 2020 is an aberration, he has a solid hit tool and a tremendous glove. Finally, Dexter Fowler can be a bridge for Jo Adell as he gets more seasoning, and the offensive-minded Kurt Suzuki takes over behind the dish.
Los Angeles should be better in 2021, which is good news considering the AL West looks as bad as it has in a few years. Whether that means playoffs for Mike Trout and Co. remains to be seen, but Minasian did well in his first offseason in charge.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Whether Trevor Bauer will be worth over $40 million per year remains to be seen. Still, he is a reigning Cy Young fresh off a dominant 2020 season, thanks in part to advanced spin rates.
Plus, Bauer's arrival gives the Los Angeles Dodgers options in the bullpen. The Dodgers re-signed Blake Treinen and acquired bounce-back candidate Corey Knebel, and Tommy Kahnle will be an option once he recovers from Tommy John surgery. But L.A. can flex at least two of Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin and Julio Urias as relief arms. Maybe all three will rotate between the No. 5 spot in the rotation and relief roles.
The bullpen was one of the lone areas of need this winter. Bauer's addition could explain why president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman—who always has an eye for the future—felt comfortable dealing Adam Kolarek and Dylan Floro for young players like infielder Sheldon Neuse (from Oakland) and reliever Alex Vesia (Miami). Those two players in their mid-20s could loom large in the future of the organization.
Re-signing Justin Turner was the cherry on top for the defending World Series champions. The 36-year-old remains one of the toughest outs in baseball and maintains a sense of veteran leadership in the clubhouse.
Those convinced Bauer will not replicate his 2020 results might be hesitant to give the Dodgers a winning winter grade. But L.A.'s roster looks every bit as strong as it was last season, if not stronger. Mission accomplished.
The Miami Marlins were intent on adding bullpen help this winter. General manager Kim Ng maneuvered to acquire multiple relievers.
Miami acquired Adam Cimber from Cleveland in November. The Marlins also pried youngster Zach Pop from the Arizona Diamondbacks. Pop made it all the way to Double-A in his first professional season in 2018 and might rapidly make his way through the system.
But Ng wasn't done. She orchestrated the deal to land Dylan Floro from the Dodgers, giving the Marlins a reliever under club control through 2023 and fresh off a 2.59 ERA in 2020. Most recently, the Marlins acquired another controllable arm in John Curtiss from the Tampa Bay Rays. Curtiss has yet to reach arbitration and had a 1.80 ERA and 0.96 WHIP in his first extended look at major league hitters.
Miami managed to circumvent the lack of spending potential by being active in the trade market. But the Marlins added arms in free agency too, signing both right-hander Anthony Bass and veteran lefty Ross Detwiler.
The Marlins ranked 13th in the NL in slugging in 2020, and they signed Adam Duvall to add pop from one of the corner outfield spots. Miami might otherwise have looked to sign another power bat, but Ng did the best she could with the budget she had, especially given the Marlins are still rebuilding in spite of last year's playoff appearance.
The bulk of the Milwaukee Brewers' offseason work has come in the last few weeks.
Infielder Travis Shaw returns to Milwaukee, where he had 30-homer seasons in 2017 and 2018. Shaw has not been able to find the success he had in those two seasons, but in 2020 he set career highs in average exit velocity and hard-hit rate. That could yield better results in a hitter-friendly park in Milwaukee. If nothing else, he should be an upgrade over Eric Sogard.
The Brewers lost Alex Claudio but signed Brad Boxberger, who they'll hope can still be effective. Milwaukee also agreed to terms with left-handed starter Brett Anderson, keeping things mostly intact in the rotation behind Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes.
Kolten Wong gives the Brewers more than a decent hit tool. The two-time Gold Glover is an enormous defensive upgrade over Keston Hiura at second base and will allow Hiura to move to first. Milwaukee might be looking to add more run prevention up the middle, as FanSided's Robert Murray reported the Brew Crew have interest in Jackie Bradley Jr.
Some Brewers fans might lament not signing Justin Turner. But Wong's defensive impact and some fringe moves could make all the difference in a weaker NL Central.
The Minnesota Twins are trying to hold off the upstart Chicago White Sox in the AL Central. Did they do enough this offseason to maintain their status as favorites in the division?
Bringing back Nelson Cruz helps. Cruz mashed in his first two seasons with the Twins, hitting .308 with 57 homers and a 1.020 OPS in 173 games. Nelly holds the lineup together, and it was vital Minnesota bring him back.
Minnesota should also have an improved infield defense with the addition of Andrelton Simmons, which will shift Jorge Polanco to second base and allow Luis Arraez to play some outfield after the Twins non-tendered Eddie Rosario. "Simba" can hit for average and play excellent defense. He should be a strong two-way asset.
The most intriguing additions, however, are in the pitching staff. Minnesota signed left-hander J.A. Happ, who had a 3.28 expected ERA in 2020 and whose fly-ball rates might not be as detrimental at Target Field as they could be at Yankee Stadium. It also signed right-hander Matt Shoemaker for rotation depth.
The bullpen will look quite a bit different. Gone are Trevor May, Tyler Clippard, Sergio Romo and Matt Wisler. In come Hansel Robles and Alex Colome.
Robles walked 10 in 16.2 innings in 2020 but is one year removed from a 2.48 ERA in 2019 and had a 3.58 combined ERA from 2015 to 2019.
Colome fared much better in 2020 with a 0.81 ERA and 12 saves. His strikeout rate fell to 6.4 per nine innings, but the 32-year-old has tremendous success with the cutter and still ranked in the 77th percentile in whiff rate this past season.
The Twins had to do a bit of moving and shaking this winter, and the bullpen might still be thin. But Minnesota made the necessary moves to vie for its third straight AL Central crown.
New York Mets
The New York Mets made a splash this winter, if not in the way fans expected. Though they did not land a star in free agency, they landed the top star in the trade market.
It cannot be overstated how much of an improvement Francisco Lindor is over Amed Rosario. Aside from Lindor's advanced hit tool and power potential, he is miles ahead of Rosario in terms of glove work. Moreover, he has a much better success rate stealing bases.
Lindor is a huge upgrade at a premium position. For the Mets to get Carlos Carrasco in the same deal is enormous. Carrasco ranked seventh among starters in fWAR between 2015 and 2018. A cancer diagnosis interrupted his 2019 campaign, but "Cookie" got right back to business in 2020, posting a 2.91 ERA in 12 starts.
The 33-year-old is under control through next season with a club option in 2023. That's huge for a Mets team that will see both Noah Syndergaard and Marcus Stroman—whom they brought back on the qualifying offer—become free agents in 2022.
New York also signed right-hander Taijuan Walker and acquired Joey Lucchesi in the Joe Musgrove deal, giving the rotation tremendous depth once Syndergaard returns.
Trevor May headlines the bullpen additions and has legitimate strikeout stuff with 38 punchouts in 23.1 innings last season. Aaron Loup has evolved into a command guy, but he induces soft contact and replaces Justin Wilson in the team’s lefty role.
James McCann takes over behind the plate. McCann's framing has been inconsistent through the years, but he made gains in that department in 2020 and has also increased both his average exit velocity and hard-hit rates in each of the last two seasons. The 30-year-old is a strong game-caller with slugging upside, and he can throw runners out behind the dish with a 36 percent career caught-stealing rate.
The Mets made strong additions to fill needs. No, New York did not end up with George Springer or Trevor Bauer. But the Lindor-Carrasco trade alone would have made this winter a win for the Mets, and they made substantive moves around that blockbuster.
New York Yankees
General manager Brian Cashman and the New York Yankees had two straightforward goals this winter: re-sign DJ LeMahieu and add starting pitching. They satisfied both objectives.
New York not only re-signed LeMahieu but also brought him back way under market value at a $15 million annual average. Granted, the deal will take the two-time batting champion through his age-38 season. Still, it feels like a bargain given LeMahieu's productivity and ability to play multiple positions.
Injuries have ruined the last two years of Corey Kluber's career, but the two-time Cy Young garnered plenty of attention after his January throwing session. The one-year, $11 million contract he signed with New York could flop if he cannot stay healthy, but it could also be the steal of the offseason if he resembles his Cleveland self.
There should be a good deal of intrigue with respect to Jameson Taillon as well. Taillon had a 3.20 ERA in 2018 and looked well on his way to stardom before injuries (including a second Tommy John surgery) cost him most of 2019 and all of 2020. Reunited with former teammate Gerrit Cole in New York, Taillon has top-of-the-rotation upside if he can get back to form.
Brett Gardner returns to the fold on a one-year deal, though the Yankees might prefer to give Clint Frazier a longer look as the full-time starter. Either way, "Gardy" provides pop and speed.
One of the less heralded moves could be the arrival of veteran reliever Darren O'Day. The Yankees traded Adam Ottavino to dump salary and also lost Jonathan Holder and Tommy Kahnle to free agency. But O'Day, who had a 1.10 ERA and 0.80 WHIP in 2020, might well be a lynchpin for New York in the middle innings.
New York also added Justin Wilson to the relief corps. Wilson had a 2.91 ERA and struck out 10.3 per nine innings in his two seasons with the Yankees' crosstown rival. He gets swings-and-misses and avoids the long ball, which is what New York needs from the left side of the rubber.
The Yankees are better on paper, vastly so if Kluber gets back to his old tricks. Cashman upgraded the roster, and he did so while also staying under the luxury-tax threshold.
The Oakland Athletics were going to be up against it this winter given the number of free agents they had.
However, the A's managed to make a number of moves to bolster the roster, and the trade market played an important role.
Oakland replaced shortstop Marcus Semien with Elvis Andrus, whom the A's acquired from the Texas Rangers in exchange for Khris Davis. A depleted bullpen led Oakland to trade for former Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Adam Kolarek, who had a 0.95 ERA in 2020.
Liam Hendriks is gone. However, Trevor Rosenthal will replace him. Rosenthal had a 1.90 ERA in 2020, striking out 38 opponents in 23.2 innings and converting 11 of 12 save chances. Although Hendriks' dominance would be hard to replicate, Rosenthal might come close if he can stretch his 2020 success out over the course of a full season.
Meanwhile, the A's accounted for other bullpen losses by re-signing Yusmeiro Petit and coming to terms with veteran Sergio Romo. Oakland's rotation could rely mostly on the growth of young left-handers Jesus Luzardo and A.J. Puk, but the A's also brought back Mike Fiers to provide some quality innings.
Do not sleep on the Mitch Moreland signing. Moreland fits seamlessly into Oakland's lineup as the new designated hitter and a much-needed power bat. He ended the 2020 season on a sour note in San Diego but hit .328 with eight homers and a 1.177 OPS in his first 22 games with the Boston Red Sox. Not to mention, Moreland had an .835 OPS in 2019.
This was a quality offseason for the A's, especially considering all the free agents and the fact that they couldn't re-sign guys like Semien or Hendriks.
Remember December, when there was talk of a Zack Wheeler trade and J.T. Realmuto seemed all but gone from the City of Brotherly Love? Quite the 180 there, "Dealin' Dave."
The Philadelphia Phillies' hiring of Dave Dombrowski as president of baseball operations changed the course of the offseason. Philly made moves to increase bullpen depth, acquiring left-hander Jose Alvarado from the Tampa Bay Rays and righty Sam Coonrod from the San Francisco Giants. The bigger bullpen splash came when the Phillies signed Archie Bradley.
But Dombrowski was not done adding to the bullpen. The Phillies have since signed veterans Brandon Kintzler and Tony Watson (among others) to minor league deals, giving Joe Girardi more relief options to choose from.
One other pitching acquisition of note came in the rotation. Chase Anderson struggled in Toronto and has been susceptible to the home run ball in the past few years, but the 33-year-old has a history of mitigating hard contact with the use of a plus changeup. He has upside as a No. 4 or No. 5 arm.
However, Philly's offseason revolves around two players, and one in particular. The Phillies re-signed Didi Gregorius to play shortstop after he hit .284 with 10 homers and an .827 OPS in 2020. The 31-year-old should continue to give Philadelphia solid production.
J.T. Realmuto is the bigger splash. The Phillies re-signed the All-Star catcher to a five-year, $115.5 million deal, which broke Joe Mauer's previous record for highest annual average salary for a catcher. It was a move the Phillies needed to make.
Realmuto leads catchers in fWAR since 2017. He has posted an OPS of .820 or higher in each of the last three years and can drive the ball out of the yard. The 29-year-old is even more impressive defensively with a career 36 percent caught-stealing rate. Realmuto also ranked eighth in framing in 2019 before ranking second in that same category in 2020.
Although Realmuto will be out about a month with a broken thumb, he will be ready in time for the regular season. He is also a building block for a Phillies team hungry for a playoff run after a fruitful offseason.
Give Pittsburgh Pirates general manager Ben Cherington his due.
Cherington came into a wretched situation in Pittsburgh. But he is wasting little time jump-starting the rebuild and going in a new direction.
The Pirates got decent value from first baseman Josh Bell even after a down year, nabbing two of the Washington Nationals' top five prospects in right-handers Wil Crowe and Eddy Yean. Pittsburgh also got multiple prospects—including Canaan Smith—from the New York Yankees in exchange for Jameson Taillon.
The biggest move came when the Bucs sent Joe Musgrove to the San Diego Padres, a swap that netted outfield prospects Hudson Head and Endy Rodriguez, among others.
No disrespect to guys like Tyler Anderson, Brian Goodwin and Todd Frazier, but the big league roster matters little. Pittsburgh is nowhere close to contention. If nothing else, Cherington did well to stockpile prospects and capitalize on the team's top assets.
San Diego Padres
There is no question which team had the best offseason in baseball.
The San Diego Padres traded for a pair of aces in Yu Darvish and Blake Snell and also acquired Joe Musgrove from Pittsburgh. President of baseball operations A.J. Preller manifested one of the best rotations in baseball, even though Mike Clevinger will miss the season following Tommy John surgery.
Ha-Seong Kim and Jurickson Profar give the Friars versatility. Kim can play multiple infield spots, and Profar can play at second base and in the outfield.
While Kirby Yates and Trevor Rosenthal are gone, the Padres signed reliable right-hander Mark Melancon, and 27-year-old Keone Kela is a bounce-back candidate. Kela has an 11.0 career K/9 rate and 3.30 career FIP. He could be an asset if healthy.
To top it all off, the Padres signed shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. to a 14-year contract extension. Sure, Tatis has only played 143 games. But he is a five-tool megastar and one of the most marketable players in the sport.
With controllable arms and a young and talented group of position players, the Padres could be building something special in San Diego.
San Francisco Giants
The San Francisco Giants quietly made a number of quality moves this winter, particularly in the bullpen.
San Francisco signed John Brebbia, Matt Wisler and Jake McGee while adding Shun Yamaguchi and Zack Littell on minor league deals.
Brebbia had a 3.14 ERA in three seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals before missing 2020 because of Tommy John surgery. He has strong peripherals and can be a staple as a middle reliever. Wisler had a career-best 1.07 ERA in 2020 and has discovered his strikeout stuff in the last two seasons. McGee experienced a rebirth in L.A., posting a 2.66 ERA and striking out 33 in 20.1 innings.
The Giants addressed starting needs by signing left-hander Alex Wood and former Cincinnati Reds starter Anthony DeSclafani. Neither is an exceptional addition, but both have had success in the past. Maybe Aaron Sanchez can also cash in on his upside after years of injuries. Oh, and Kevin Gausman accepted the qualifying offer.
As for position players, Curt Casali will split some of the catching duties with Buster Posey, and Tommy La Stella is coming off a career-high 127 OPS+ in 2020.
Next winter will be the Giants' best chance at making a splash given all the money they have coming off the books. But president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi still plugged holes and made San Francisco better this offseason.
The Seattle Mariners brought back left-hander James Paxton, who should be an interesting fixture in a young and promising M's rotation.
Aside from the "Big Maple," however, there wasn't much to Seattle's offseason.
The Mariners signed free-agent closer Ken Giles, though he will likely miss all of 2021 after undergoing Tommy John surgery in October. Other bullpen additions included Chris Flexen and Keynan Middleton, plus Rafael Montero and a number of other relievers on minor league deals. None of those guys move the needle, though.
Seattle did nothing to improve an offense that ranked 14th in the AL in both slugging and OPS. The Mariners did not have much incentive to spend big this winter, but it would have been nice to see them add a bat.
St. Louis Cardinals
The St. Louis Cardinals' offseason grade would look a whole lot different had they merely re-signed Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina.
But the Nolan Arenado deal elevates the grade. The Redbirds are getting over $50 million from the Colorado Rockies to pay down the contract of a guy who has stated he intends to be with the franchise for a long time.
Arenado is a superstar. There are questions about his success away from Coors Field (.793 career road OPS), but he can still produce at a high level. The eight-time Gold Glover is one of the best defenders in baseball, giving the Cards elite glove work at the hot corner opposite Paul Goldschmidt.
This was the kind of move the Cardinals (14th in the NL in OPS last year) had to make. But will it be enough?
St. Louis did not do much else besides bringing back franchise icons Wainwright and Molina. The 39-year-old Wainwright is still a quality starter who keeps hitters off balance by throwing the curveball in any count, and Molina has long been a rock behind the plate.
That said, it was surprising to see the Redbirds rest on their laurels. This is especially true in the rotation with Dakota Hudson likely out for 2021 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. There will be a lot of pressure on guys like Daniel Ponce de Leon and Carlos Martinez.
However, the lack of activity does not negate the fact that the Cardinals have a cornerstone player in Arenado. The franchise can build around him for years to come.
Tampa Bay Rays
The Tampa Bay Rays are banking on their deep stable of arms in 2021.
To cut payroll, Tampa Bay declined Charlie Morton's club option and traded Blake Snell to the San Diego Padres, robbing the Rays of their two best starters of the past three years. At least the Snell return is encouraging.
Luis Patino was a highly touted prospect in San Diego and will have the chance to shine in Tampa. He had some command issues in his first big league showing, but he has good life on the fastball to go with a hard-biting slider and a strong changeup. Cole Wilcox will take some development, but he has a large frame (6'5" and 232 lbs) and strikeout stuff.
The Rays also look to have solidified the future at catcher by acquiring prospect Blake Hunt as well as Francisco Mejia in the Snell deal. They also brought in some interesting rotation arms.
Chris Archer returns to Tampa after a forgettable stint in Pittsburgh. The Rays traded for Chris Mazza and signed veterans Collin McHugh and Michael Wacha. They also added left-hander Rich Hill on a one-year, $2.5 million deal, which is good value for a pitcher who has experienced a late-career renaissance.
None of the moves are splashy, but adding those guys to a group that includes Tyler Glasnow and Ryan Yarbrough provides ample depth. Shane Baz, Shane McClanahan, Brendan McKay and Brent Honeywell are also possibly ready to make an impact.
It is disappointing for the Rays to be a seller fresh off a World Series berth. Still, they got an interesting prospect return for Snell, and buying into depth could yield results. If anything, the lineup may not have enough juice after many of Tampa's left-handed hitters wilted in October.
The Texas Rangers did well to get Dane Dunning for one year of Lance Lynn.
Dunning had a strong debut with the Chicago White Sox, posting a 3.97 ERA in seven starts. The 26-year-old does not overpower hitters, instead using a barrage of sinkers and movement to get outs. He will be one to keep an eye on in Texas.
Elvis Andrus is gone, replaced by Khris Davis. The move made sense for both Oakland and Texas, given the Rangers declared Isiah Kiner-Falefa was moving to shortstop. Davis has had a sub-.700 OPS in the past two seasons but showed last October (three homers in 24 at-bats) he can still go deep. Catcher Jonah Heim also came back in the Andrus deal.
Texas filled out the rotation by signing Japanese right-hander Kohei Arihara and former Atlanta Braves right-hander Mike Foltynewicz. Most of the other moves were bullpen filler, including veteran right-hander Ian Kennedy.
Nate Lowe could be an interesting piece, though. The Rangers have lacked production at first base, and Lowe can hit for power from the left side of the plate.
The Rangers were stuck between wanting to field a competitive team and needing to rebuild. The result was more of a retool.
Toronto Blue Jays
The Toronto Blue Jays got their guy by signing center fielder George Springer, a tone-setter at the top of a dangerous lineup.
Springer gets on base at a high level and hits for power. He also plays plus defense in center, making him a big upgrade over Randal Grichuk.
While Springer gives the Blue Jays added production in the outfield, Marcus Semien will add defensive versatility in the infield. Semien will play second base but could move all over the infield. Toronto will also hope he is healthier and more productive at the plate.
Speaking of health, Kirby Yates is penciled in as the new closer. Yates missed nearly all of 2020 with an elbow issue. But he has been dominant when healthy, leading relievers in fWAR and FIP between 2018 and 2019.
The rotation has a lot of questions behind Hyun Jin Ryu. The Blue Jays brought back Robbie Ray and will see if his ability to generate whiffs will outlast his command issues. Steven Matz (acquired from the Mets) and Tyler Chatwood are two other additions who have produced inconsistent results.
The rotation could be fluid. Top arm Nate Pearson will likely get a spot, and Ross Stripling is probably in the mix. But there are not a lot of assurances for a team that wants to compete in the AL East.
Toronto's lineup is dangerous with Springer at the top, and the Blue Jays improved the defense up the middle with Springer in center and Semien at second. However, the lack of starting pitching moves could prove costly.
The Washington Nationals could be back in the thick of things in the NL East, and they might even be the favorite if certain players bounce back. They acquired two of those guys—Josh Bell and Kyle Schwarber—this offseason.
Bell had a .669 OPS in 2020, though he posted a more respectable .753 OPS in the final month and is a season removed from hitting 37 homers with a .936 OPS. Schwarber hit .188 in 2020, in part because of a massive spike in ground-ball rate. However, he is an exit-velocity darling and maintains a high walk rate, plus he can hit for power.
Both Bell and Schwarber have the potential to be major run producers in Washington's lineup. Brad Hand's production at the back end of the bullpen will be every bit as crucial.
Hand is one of the best closers in baseball. He was a perfect 16-of-16 in save opportunities last season with a 2.05 ERA and 1.37 FIP. Hand gives the Nats a closing presence they've missed since Sean Doolittle’s All-Star 2018 season, which is vital in a crowded NL East.
General manager Mike Rizzo added some veterans as well. Washington's first-ever draft pick, Ryan Zimmerman, is back. Alex Avila should platoon behind the plate with Yan Gomes.
Jon Lester had a 5.16 ERA in 2020 but gives Washington an innings eater and gritty leader at the back of the rotation. Jeremy Jeffress is another former Chicago Cub en route to The District. He changed up a bit in 2020, using his splitter and sinker to pound opponents into the ground. Jeffress could be an effective ground-ball machine in the later innings.
The Nats will place a lot of stock in the development of young infielders Luis Garcia and Carter Kieboom, which could be a risk in a loaded division. But guys like Bell and Schwarber have upside, and Hand will be a difference-maker in the bullpen.