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!