Saturday, February 12, 2011

Biggest Winners of the Offseason

Since nothing of great magnitude is going on in the baseball world, except for the ongoing Michael Young situation and the Albert Pujols contract negotation -- both of which may be worth writing a blog about if they ever develop into anything, I figured I'd use this week's post to talk the teams who I feel are the top 5 winners of the offseason.

It should be noted that I consider a team "winners" if they see needs on their team and effectively address them, this may lead to my results being a little bit different than you would expect. For instance, up front I am going to state that I did not include the Philadelphia Phillies as "winners", for the fact that they lost an important part of their line-up in Jayson Werth, and now have a left-handed heavy lineup with absolutely no right-handed pop -- Cliff Lee or no Cliff Lee. Also, it's important to note that whoever the "winners" are of the offseason may not be the winners of the regular season. Things on paper frequently appear better than the real thing.

Top 5 Winners
5. Chicago White Sox
Biggest Offseason moves:
-Signed Adam Dunn 1B/OF/DH to 4 year/$56 million contract.
-Signed 1B Paul Konerko to a 3 year/$37 million contract
-Signed 2B/SS Alexei Ramirez to a 4 year/$32.5 million extension.

Why they are winners: While it's true alot of what the White Sox did tihs off-season was simply make sure a couple of their cornerstone players were locked up for a while, that in itself can be a big move. Ramirez is one of the better infielders in baseball, and has the ability to play 2B or SS. While he has not quite had a 20-20 season, there seems to be one in his near future. It's true that Konerko is aging, but chances are he will outperform a countract that really does not overpay him. He is essentially a lock for 28+ homers, and is a force in the middle of that line-up, and he will probably benefit to some degree from the addition of Adam Dunn. Dunn is the type of power threat that is becoming increasingly rare in major league baseball, being a lock for homers in the upper 30s. While Dunn is certainly a liability in the field, he will benefit from playing the majority of his games at DH. In short, the White Sox have not lost anyone from their fairly effective team last year, and have strengthened their line-up greatly with the addition of Dunn.

4. Detroit Tigers
Biggest Offseason Moves:
-Signed C/1B Victor Martinez to a 4 year/$50m contract.
-Signed RP Joaquin Benoit to a 3 year/$15m contract.
-Signed SP Brad Penny to a 1 year/$3m contract

Why they are winners: The Tigers were in desperate need of someone in the line-up who can hit who is not named Miguel Cabrera, some depth in their bullpen, and some depth in their starting rotation. Clearly, these three signings address those issues. Martinez is one of the best hitting catchers in baseball -- though it seems likely the Tigers will have him spend at least one-third of his time at DH or first base. The addition of Martinez takes some pressure off of Miguel Cabrera (not that he doesn't thrive under it), and also gives him at least some degree of protection in the line-up. On the whole, the Tigers line-up will be much better with the Switch-hitting Martinez in the line-up. While I kind of feel like the Tigers gave Benoit more years than they should given, given the volatility of relief pitchers, Benoit has for the most part been an effective relief pitcher in his career, and will help their bullpen. Brad Penny is clearly a low-risk high-reward type of player given his recent injury history and ineffectiveness at times, but while he was healthy last year, he pitched very well for the Cardinals. If he can make 30 starts this year, he will be a big help to the rotation.

3. Oakland Athletics
Biggest Offseason Moves:
-Traded for OF Josh Willingham
-Signed DH Hideki Matsui to a 1 year/4.25m contract.
-Traded for OF David DeJesus.
-Signed Brian Fuentes to a 2 year/$10.5m contract.

Why they are winners: The Oakland Athletics, believe it or not, had the best starting rotation in baseball last year as far as ERA goes, but they still didn't come close to making the postseason. It seems that Billy Beane has responded by adding some undervalued players that could really contribute to their extremely weak line-up from last year. Willingham, Matsui, and DeJesus all represent significant upgrades to their line-up. Willingham and Matsui's power may suffer a little bit given the dimensions that theyw ill now be playing in, but despite that, they should contribute a fair percentage of the home runs that this team has come season's end. DeJesus is a classic example of a player who does everything well, but is not outstanding in any aspect of his game, and his numbers should not suffer at all from moving.
Brian Fuentes strengthens their bullpen with a veteran pitcher, and he could also close if the situation calls for it, something that is not completely out of the question given Andrew Bailey's injuries last year.
Given their upgrades, the Oakland Athletics stand to be this year's San Francisco Giants.

2. Milwaukee Brewers
Biggest Offseason Moves:
-Trading Prospects for SP Zack Greinke.
-Trading Prospects for SP Shaun Marcum

Why they are winners: The Brewers have gotten a lot of criticism for not extening Prince Fielder this offseason, but to some degree I feel it is a good move on their part. Fielder is goign to ask for a Ryan Howard-sized deal, and the Brewers can simply not afford that. Additionally, Fielder is not a player who projects to be great for a long period of time.
So, the Brewers, knowing they cannot afford to extend Fielder, decided to try to contend this year in the last year that Fielder will be no the team. The Brewers had an awful starting rotation last year, so they have added a legitimate number 1 and number 2 starter to the mix. Both Marcum and Greinke have good track records, and should perform well for the Brewers. The Brewers stand to have an excellent bounceback year if their line-up performs as it did last year and their revamped rotation pitches up to expectations.

1. Boston Red Sox
-Traded for 1B Adrian Gonzalez, with a long-term extension all but signed according to reports.
-Signed Carl Crawford to a 7 year/$142m contract.
-Signed Bobby Jenks to a 2 year/$12m contract.

Why they are winners: Almost everyone agrees the Red Sox won the offseason, so this should come as no surprise. The Red Sox had to fill the voids left by Adrian Beltre and Victor Martinez, and they did so admirably. Talks of the Red Sox trading for Adrian Gonzalez had been literally going on for two years, and it finally happened. The Red Sox also shocked everyone by signing Carl Crawford. The Red Sox line-up should be at least as good as it was last year, despite the losses of Beltre and Martinez. The Red Sox, in addition to Bobby Jenks, signed a number of bullpen arms (Dan Wheeler, etc,.) having effectively reconstructed what was one of the worst bullpens in the major leagues last year. Jenks can also close if Papelbon gets injured or continues to slide towards ineffectiveness, though it seems likely the Red Sox would give Daniel Bard a shot at closing first.

On paper, it is arguable that the Red Sox are the best team in the American League. But as I stated at the beginning of this, there are still 162 games for the Red Sox, and all of these other offseason "winners" to play.

I figure I will also post my list of offseason "losers", albeit without analysis. Leave a comment if you are interested as to why certain teams made the list:

5. San Francisco Giants
4. Seattle Mariners
3. Cleveland Indians
2. New York Yankees
1. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Have a good week everyone, Spring Training is almost here!


Matt said...

I agree with most of your arguments. I'm especially excited for the Brewers given the moves you've highlighted plus the extension given to Ricky Weeks they stand to have an excellent season so long as everyone stays healthy of course. NL Central is going to be interesting this year given that most of them are evenly matched.

I have to disagree that picking up Matsui was a good move by the A's. He's like Posada his knees are shot and his stats are steadily declining. This is one gamble the A's shouldn't have taken.

You also list the Yankees as losers of the offseason. They failed in thier mission of brining in Lee. But I do have respect for Lee I like that its not about the money. Like the players of the deadball era he represents what really matters.

I can't consider the Yankees to be losers due to the creativity they've shown. Signing Colon and Prior is certainly a huge gamble. Best case scenario they'll be excellent long relievers.

I agree with Cashman signing Soriano was a mistake we overpaid and he can opt out every season. Expect Chamberlin to be back to his old form of the spitting, snorting, lights out set up man of 2007. If we're carrying the lead into the 7th the game is over.

Catching is going to be excellent this season given the many excellent options available. If Martin is able to stay healthy I expect him to give the all star performance exhibited in the 06 and 07 seasons. Ceravelli has always been a great back up especially with Burnett. Should either of those two get injured there's no need to worry Jesus Montero is one of the best prospects in the farm system. If worst comes to worst we can always rely on Posada.

Andruw Jones was a good pickup. His role will be like Giambi and the Rockies. Jones will be a great power resource off the bench and his ability to take on any role in the outfield will ensure that Gardner, Swisher, and Granderson will not be overworked.

Starting pitching may not be as intimidating as 2009 but it will be solid. Sabathia lost alot of weight. There's absolutely no reason as to why Hughes shouldn't have another good year. Sure he wasn't great midseason but near the end he bounced back. I'm confident that the Burnett rollercoaster is closed. He spent the winter not rebuilding his delivery but rather ironing out the kinks with Rothschild. Plus he got a new tattoo. The quest for the 4th and 5th starter reminds me of the situation a few years ago when Ian Kennedy, Phil Coke, and Hughes were billed to be the heart of the rotation and they all failed miserably. Mitre, and Nova have already proven themselves effective long relievers. Perhaps that all we need someone who can give us 6 innings and then let proven relief like Logan, Marte, Feliciano, Robertson, and Chamberlin mop up. But of course there's always the risk of overworking the pen as was the problem in 08. Look to Colon to be a possibility should he deliver the same stuff he did in Venezuelan ball this winter.

I also agree that the Angels are the losers of the offseason. The Orioles could be a sleeper pick they'll be interesting to watch. Tampa Bay is finished given their losses topped off by signing aging prima donnas guarantees failure. As has been the case over recent seasons the NL West will be perhaps the most exciting division to watch this season. I'm picking the Rockies to take the division. Their bullpen has improved dramatically and locking up Tulo and Cargo almost guarantees their offense will be one of the best in the NL. It'd be amazing to see Young go to the Mile High City but I honestly don't see that happening given they can't afford his contract and the Rangers aren't interested in the talent the Rockies are willing to part with.

The only way this coming season could be better is the Twins giving me the opportunity to buy a 20 game ticket plan.

Matt said...

Oh yeah I forgot to add that Yankee "fans" who are calling for getting Young now and then Pujols next winter are freaking idiots. We don't need them You cannot improve on Texeria, Cano, Jeter, and Rodriugez. Sure you could make Young or Pujols DH but 50-300 million for DH work is a very stupid buy. Its fairweathers like them that give true Yankee fans a bad name.

Jacob said...

You make a good argument that the Yankees are not as big of losers as I indicated, but I have to disagree that they are not still big losers this offseason.
It's true the Yankees added a lot of low-risk, high-reward guys like Russel Martin, Bartolo Colon, Freddie Garcia, and Andruw Jones. But the Yankees had major needs to address this offseason when it comes to pitching, and it's a big stretch to say they did a good job of addressing them. They missed out on Cliff Lee, and they missed out on Zack Greinke, so they signed two older injury-prone starters.

And yes, if you get best-case scenarios out of those guys, the Yankees will be in better shape than they look to be on paper. But this post is really about how they look on paper. There's a chance all of those low-risk signings end up being great but the probability of all three of those guys, or even one of those three guys, shaking out as an effective signing is fairly low.

It is MOST likely that Martin is a solid catcher for the Yankees, but nothing spectacular, and that the two older injury-prone starters make a combined 20 starts. Andruw Jones will be a solid fourth outfielder if he can just keep hitting homers at a decent rate, but not much more than that.

Jacob said...

Oh, and on the topic of Matsui, it's true his knees are out and he is declining, but he is still a major upgrade to an extraordinarily weak Oakland Athletics line-up. Think of him as analogous to Pat Burrel for the Giants last year. It is not a stretch to say Matsui is a lock for 20+ home runs, .280 average, and 85+ RBI -- all of which will be a major boost to that offense.