Which teams fared the best this offseason with their moves and expected changes going into 2012? Here's a brief look.
Pros: Went all in by adding Trevor Cahill to starting rotation. Re-signed Aaron Hill for two years, both cheaper than his previous option years. Re-signed John McDonald and Willie Bloomquist for two years each to solidify their bench. Brought in a top-notch set-up man in Takashi Saito, along with bringing in Craig Breslow in the Cahill deal.
Cons: The Jason Kubel signing seems just bizarre with the presence of the defensively elite Gerardo Parra in left field.
Pros: Dealt away the perenially underachieving Derek Lowe, and will replace him in the rotation with the young and impressive Mike Minor. Will be getting much younger in the bullpen with the departures of George Sherrill and Scott Linebrink.
Cons: The team could really miss Alex Gonzalez's glove at short, and replacing him with rookie Tyler Pastornicky and light-hitting veteran Jack Wilson could end very poorly for the team. The team was unable to move Jair Jurrjens or Martin Prado after dangling both in trade talks.
Pros: Wilson Betemit should be a solid and affordable bench bat. Camden Yards didn't burn to the ground.
Cons: The team dealt one of their most valuable assets, starter Jeremy Guthrie, for a fifth starter and an erratic reliever. Dan Duqette was hired as GM. A botched signing in Korea led to the team being barred from scouting in the country, and the deal was voided too. No less than four relievers were signed as free agents, two of whom were Asian imports who got multi-year deals.
Boston Red Sox
Pros: Andrew Bailey was brought in from Oakland to replace departed closer Jonathan Papelbon, and the package Boston gave up to get him wasn't too grand. Nick Punto should be a good utility man for the team.
Cons: The salary dump of starting shortstop Marco Scutaro still looks bizarre, especially given that Boston hasn't spent a ton of money this offseason. The Red Sox haven't done much to fill out the back-end of its rotation aside from signing a bunch of also-rans to minor league deals with invitations to spring training.
Pros: Carlos Zambrano was finally excised from the team, and the Cubs actually got a useful piece in Chris Volstad in return. David DeJesus, signed to start in the outfield, was a sneaky good, under the radar signing. The acquisition of Ian Stewart from Colorado should help fill in for the departed Aramis Ramirez at third base. Bringing in former Epstein/Hoyer prospect Anthony Rizzo was another good move that should shore up first base for the Cubs once he gets the keys to the castle. Travis Wood is another useful piece that the team was able to bring in for Sean Marshall.
Cons: Alfonso Soriano's contract didn't get moved.
Chicago White Sox
Pros: Got a bargain basement deal on Kosuke Fukudome. Pared payroll by 25%.
Cons: Got a very weak return for a young, cost-controlled closer in Sergio Santos. The John Danks extension seems odd for a team in rebuilding mode, though the actual deal is fair. Alex Rios is still on the team.
Pros: Signed the top closer on the market, Ryan Madson, and didn't give him a long-term deal or a ton of money. Traded for a legitimate ace pitcher in Mat Latos, only giving up blocked prospects in the process. Gave Ryan Ludwick a small contract to be in a platoon role in the outfield. Picked up a dominant set-up man in Sean Marshall.
Cons: Bronson Arroyo is still in their rotation. Turning over a young pitching staff to a rookie catcher in Devin Mesoraco could be a huge gamble.
Pros: Acquired a veteran starter in Derek Lowe for a non-prospect, and will only be paying him $5 million. Picked up another veteran arm that can start or relieve in Kevin Slowey. A bargain deal for Casey Kotchman at first base should be an upgrade over Matt LaPorta. No one on the team has a guaranteed contract past this season.
Cons: The Fausto Carmona identity crisis has thrown their rotation out of wack.
Pros: At worst, Jeremy Guthrie will eat innings in a young Rockies rotation. Marco Scutaro will be a huge upgrade at second bases as well. Michael Cuddyer should be an upgrade, wherever he may end up playing on the diamond.
Cons: Ramon Hernandez is a downgrade over the younger, better Chris Iannetta behind the plate. The team is still without a veteran closer after dealing Huston Street.
Pros: Prince Fielder is an awesome hitter. Octavio Dotel should be a nice bullpen option in front of closer Jose Valverde.
Cons: Victor Martinez's injury won't hurt the team too much this year with Fielder's presence, but will create a hell of a logjam next season. The team will be awful defensively with Miguel Cabrera playing third base.
Pros: Hacked close to $25 million off payroll. Only have Wandy Rodriguez under contract for next season. Got a great return (Jed Lowrie and Kyle Wieland) for a relatively unproven closer in Mark Melancon. Chris Snyder for $750,000 is a bargain, provided he can stay healthy.
Cons: I don't know where the hell Jack Cust is going to be playing. Brett Wallace could be involved in a numbers crunch too
Kansas City Royals
Pros: Acquired a guy with top of the rotation talent (and perhaps bottom of the rotation makeup) in Jonathan Sanchez for the low cost of Melky Cabrera, coming off a career best season. Picked up a dominant reliever in Jonathan Broxton (if healthy) for a low price. Extended Bruce Chen on the cheap.
Cons: I don't know why they brought back Yuinesky Betancourt when they have just as capable of a shortstop in Alcides Escobar.
Los Angeles Angels
Pros: Signed the two biggest free agents of the offseason, Albert Pujols and CJ Wilson. Acquired a legitimate starting catching in Chris Iannetta for rotation filler (Tyler Chatwood). Gave Howard Kendrick a four year extension that will pay him less than $10 million a season. LaTroy Hawkins should be a solid bullpen arm.
Cons: Mark Trumbo at third base could be an adventure. There's still nowhere for Kendrys Morales to play, assuming he's healthy. Vernon Wells is still under contract until 2014.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Pros: Got payroll under $100 million. Inked reigning NL Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw for two years as a good faith measure. Signed a pair of half-decent back-end starters in Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang for relatively cheap
Cons: Are still paying Manny Ramirez and Andruw Jones. Seemingly cornered the market on bench bats this offseason, signing three middle infielders this offseason. Signed Juan Rivera, who was nontendered last season, for $4.5 million guaranteed.
Pros: Made a splash before moving into their new ballpark, signing Jose Reyes, Mark Buerhle, and Heath Bell. Traded for Carlos Zambrano, and will only pay him $2.55 million this year.
Cons: Struck out on Albert Pujols, which could make incumbent first baseman Gaby Sanchez feel unwanted. Will be moving shortstop Hanley Ramirez to third base, which he doesn't seem overly keen on. If Zambrano isn't on his best behavior, the team could go absolutely nuclear.
Pros: As bad as he was offensively last year, new starting shortstop Alex Gonzalez will provide roughly the same offensive value as former starter Yuinesky Betancourt, and will be much better defensively. Japanese import Norichika Aoki should be a cheap, yet solid, bench outfielder who could potentially get some playing time in center field. Aramis Ramirez will be a massive upgrade at third over Casey McGahee, even if he is aging.
Cons: The team really did nothing to replace the departed Prince Fielder at first base, and I guess Mat Gamel will get every chance to start. Ryan Braun could miss the first 50 games after a positive PED test that's currently being appealed.
Pros: I think Josh Willingham will be an upgrade over Jason Kubel in the outfield. Ryan Doumit can play a variety of positions, and should give Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer ample resting time. Jamey Carroll will be an upgrade at short over Alexi Casilla. Joel Zumaya could be a solid bullpen arm if healthy.
Cons: Guaranteed money for Matt Capps is just silly.
New York Mets
Pros: Chopped payroll by an near unheard of $55 million. Solidified the bullpen with a trio of veterans in Frank Francisco, Jon Rauch, and Ramon Ramirez. If healthy, Andres Torres could be an excellent center fielder.
Cons: Jose Reyes is going to be replaced at shortstop by a replacement-level player in Ruben Tejada. The team has a lot of injury questions (Santana, Bay, Wright) that they did nothing about.
New York Yankees
Pros: Traded for a young, cost-controlled potential ace of a starter in Michael Pineda. Signed a solid mid-rotation starter in Hiroki Kuroda that many didn't think would end up leaving LA. Managed to deal AJ Burnett to the Pirates while picking up about 2/3 of his contract.
Cons: Traded their DH of the future, Jesus Montero, for Pineda, and filled the role with washed up veterans like Raul Ibanez and Eric Chavez. Pineda reportedly showed up to camp at 290 pounds.
Pros: Had possibly the biggest steal of the offseason by signing coveted Cuban refugee Yoenis Cespedes to a four-year deal. Got fantastic returns for veteran starters Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez. Bartolo Colon at $2 million is an absolute steal for the middle of the rotation.
Cons: Managed to acquire a host of platoon outfielders that seemingly have no spot with the team. They've got three or four possible starters at first base, none of whom scream "star".
Pros: Ty Wigginton is a solid utility bat, and they're only paying half of his salary. Jim Thome should be a great bench bat, but will probably be wasted in the NL due to his relative inability to play the field anymore. Dontrelle Willis should be a great relief arm, if the team lets him thrive in that role.
Cons: Will continue to hold Domonic Brown down in AAA by dictating their plans to start a platoon of John Mayberry Jr and Laynce Nix in left field. Signed Jonathan Papelbon, an aging closer, to the largest contract for a reliever in MLB history.
Pros: Picked up a starter who should thrive in the AL Central in AJ Burnett for peanuts. Erik Bedard should be a damn good starter for them as well, assuming he stays healthy. Nate McLouth might not even be a bad bench bat for them. Rod Barajas is a largely cheap backstop, and will be an upgrade over Michael McKenry, Chris Snyder, and Ryan Doumit. If healthy, Casey McGahee should be a huge upgrade over Brandon Wood at third base.
Cons: Andrew McCutchen still hasn't been locked up long-term. They jumped the gun by signing Clint Barmes early in the offseason, and overpaid. The team is doing some odd things with their young players, by seemingly blocking them with veterans at key positions.
St Louis Cardinals
Pros: Lance Berkman will be shifting to third base, and Carlos Beltran will be starting in right field, which makes the defense a lot better. This also really dampens the blow of losing Albert Pujols, and won't cripple the offense. Re-signed Rafael Furcal, who is a second tier shortstop when healthy. Adam Wainwright should be ready to go for Opening Day after Tommy John surgery during spring training last year.
Cons: Lost Albert Pujols, the face of the franchise for the last decade. Postseason hero Allen Craig will miss the first couple months of the season following knee surgery. All things considered, the defending champs didn't do bad at all considering that they lost their franchise icon.
San Diego Padres
Pros: Replaced the departed Heath Bell with a damn good closer in Huston Street. Picked up a solid outfielder in Carlos Quentin. Traded ace Mat Latos, and got a great return that will help the team for years, which should include Yonder Alonso starting at first base this year.
Cons: Didn't get a lot in the return for Anthony Rizzo, a potential top-tier first baseman.
San Francisco Giants
Pros: Bought out Tim Lincecum's final two arbitration years for goodwill purposes, and are paying him slightly lower than comparable elite pitchers. Angel Pagan could be a great option for the team in AT&T Park's spacious outfield.
Cons: Pagan is going to need to cover a ton of ground in the outfield with Melky Cabrera out there with him. The team ate all of Aaron Rowand's contract just to get him the hell out of town. There still isn't an every day spot for Brandon Belt, unless you force either him or Aubrey Huff to play out of position in the outfield. Couldn't get Matt Cain locked up long-term before spring camps opened.
Pros: Slashed payroll by $20 million. Finally got a legitimate stud hitter in Jesus Montero.
Cons: Chone Figgins is still under contract for the next two seasons. Losing Michael Pineda could really hurt, but Seattle's young pitching depth could make that not an issue in a year. They really didn't do a lot aside from the Montero-Pineda swap.
Tampa Bay Rays
Pros: Brought back former fan favorite Carlos Pena after a year in Chicago. Signed Matt Moore to a Longoria-like extension after single digit innings in the majors. Luke Scott could be a solid DH for them, a huge upgrade over Johnny Damon last season.
Cons: Fernando Rodney and Kyle Farnsworth as your back-end of the bullpen horrifies me.
Pros: Replaced CJ Wilson in the rotation with Yu Darvish, who is younger and probably better.
Cons: Joe Nathan looks like an overpay at two years, $14 million, especially looking at the deal Ryan Madson (a superior pitcher) got.
Toronto Blue Jays
Pros: Picked up a young, cheap closer in Sergio Santos for a B-level prospect. Got a good deal on Kelly Johnson, who will be reunited for a full season with his former double play partner in Yunel Escobar. Locked up Brandon Morrow to an affordable three-year extension. In addition to Santos, continued to completely reconfigured their bullpen with Francisco Cordero and Darren Oliver, and by bringing back Jason Frasor.
Cons: They play in the toughest division in baseball, and what they did might not be enough to get past fourth place.
Pros: Traded a handful of prospects for Gio Gonzalez to solidify their rotation. Continued to bulk up their rotation by signing Edwin Jackson to a steal of a deal. Stephen Strasburg will be fully recovered from Tommy John, and able to throw 160 innings for the team this year. Jordan Zimmermann will also have his innings limit extended following his recovery from TJ that's just about complete.
Cons: They still have that pesky Jayson Werth contract, that is creating some issues when it comes to giving Ryan Zimmerman another extension. The team whiffed on Prince Fielder, and instead will have to make do with Adam LaRoche at first this season.
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