Most of the top MLB free agents have been signed, and it’s tough to see many (if any), blockbuster trades taking place at this point.
We have a fairly good idea now of what each team’s roster will look like in 2017. The Chicago Cubs, Cleveland Indians and Los Angeles Dodgers all look primed to compete for the World Series after keeping their cores together. The Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros made moves that made them go from playoff contenders to World Series contenders.
We saw some teams like the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles shy away from big moves despite making the playoffs in 2016. There were also a handful of teams that had the chance to rebuild and load up on prospects. Some teams did that, but some foolishly didn’t.
With the season just months away, it’s a good chance to take a look at the eight teams that have enjoyed the offseason and seven teams that have failed it.
15. Passed: Atlanta Braves
It’s been a long and slow rebuilding process for the Braves, who recently opened up a new stadium but had troubles bringing fans to the ball park. Baseball is the one sport where rebuilding is just never fun. It’s hard to watch your team lose 90-100 games a season, knowing that’s going to be the case for many years.
Well, general manager John Coppolella had enough of this mediocrity and landed a pair of quality starting pitchers in veterans Bartolo Colon and R.A. Dickey to one-year contracts, solidifying their rotation.
They also made a package deal with the Seattle Mariners that saw Atlanta bring in Luiz Gohara. The Mariners sixth-ranked prospect and 22-year-old pitcher Thomas Burrows. Atlanta strengthened their farm system and now has a suddenly daunting rotation.
14. Failed: Toronto Blue Jays
With the reported re-signing of Jose Bautista, the Blue Jays avoid moving way down the list. That means this team brought in utility man Steve Pearce, switch-hitting power hitter Kendrys Morales and brought back Bautista. That being said, they lost the team’s best home run hitter in Edwin Encarnacion, relievers Brett Cecil and Joaquin Benoit, and likely Michael Saunders as well.
The Blue Jays front office promised to spend more in the offseason, setting the club’s payroll at $165 million. But it’s been a rather uninspiring offseason that has seen the Jays fail to strengthen one of the league’s worst bullpens in 2016 while failing to add more speedy, left-handed bats.
Dexter Fowler was on their radar, and Josh Reddick would have been an ideal fit. But the Jays lineup is still righty-dominant that lacks speed and relies far too much on home runs. There’s time to add names before the season starts, but the fans were expecting a lot more.
13. Passed: Chicago White Sox
The White Sox haven’t made the playoffs since 2008, and general manager Rick Hahn finally decided to shift from going all-in to full-on rebuilding. They traded Adam Eaton to the Washington Nationals for three pitching prospects, including the Nats’ top-ranked prospect Lucas Giolito.
Chicago then took this rebuild thing even further by trading away franchise pitcher Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox. In the deal, Chicago got Yoan Moncada, baseball’s top-ranked prospect, flame-throwing pitcher Michael Kopech and another pair of prospects.
The White Sox play in the ultra-competitive AL Central that has a new winner every year. Now, they’re locked-and-loaded with prospects that’ll turn them into a contender in a few years down the road. What a marvelous catch of prospects for Mr. Hahn and company.
12. Failed: Chicago Cubs
Don’t get me wrong, the Cubs should be considered the favorites to win the World Series in 2017 and beyond, but this doesn’t mean they had a great offseason.
Though they were probably smart not to overpay Aroldis Chapman in free agency, they still did lose a key piece in their 2016 World Series Championship team. Catcher David Ross retired, and it remains to be seen if Wilson Contreras is the suitable replacement for him.
Furthermore, this team star centre fielder Dexter Fowler, who joined the St. Louis Cardinals in the offseason. Fowler hit .276 and was a huge talent defensively, posting a 4.3 WAR. The Cubs leadoff hitter probably won’t be as reliable as Fowler was in 2016. This was not a nice start for the Cubs offseason, but the talent remains there to win it all again.
11. Passed: Cleveland Indians
The Indians were oh-so-close to winning the World Series, but they blew a 3-1 series lead and just couldn’t withstand the Chicago Cubs’ bats in Game 7. That being said, everyone knows the Indians window is open for many years, and they were able to keep all of their core players in tact for 2017.
Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, Jason Kipnis, Carlos Santana, Lonnie Chisenhall and Michael Brantley were scary enough, along with the AL’s second-best pitching unit by ERA in 2016. But that scary lineup added Edwin Encarnacion on a bargain three-year contract worth $65 million.
Not only did they add one of the league’s premier home-run hitters, but the signing significantly weakened the lineup of the Toronto Blue Jays, who are a threat to Cleveland in the American League. As said earlier, the Indians also kept their entire core in tact this offseason, so they should be considered among the AL favorites once again.
10. Failed: Washington Nationals
It is rather odd to have the Nationals on here, given the fact they did add Adam Eaton to round out one of the National League’s most loaded lineups. But there are concerns mounting that general manager Mike Rizzo didn’t pick up on.
This team almost landed Chris Sale from the White Sox. Imagine a rotation with Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer and Gio Gonzalez, plus Sale. The Nationals need that other impact arm to compete with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago Cubs, and Rizzo didn’t do it.
Secondly, Bryce Harper appears to be on his way out of town with reports saying he wants $400 million that won’t be coming from Washington. It was a prime chance for Rizzo to go out and add some power bats to offset the loss down the road. Washington’s championship window is closing, and it’s tough to see Eaton (despite his talents), being the one piece that gets them through the brutally tough National League.
9. Passed: Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers pushed the superior Chicago Cubs to six games in thew 2016 NLDS. They really didn’t need to make a significant amount of moves. They’re a fairly young team that just has to patiently watch it all come together.
However, this team had a pair of stars set to become free agents in 2016 and potentially sign elsewhere. Instead, the Dodgers re-signed star closer Kenley Jansen to a five-year deal worth $80 million. On top of that, star third basemen Justin Turner was re-upped to a four-year deal worth $64 million.
And standout starter Rich Hill was brought back on a three-year deal worth $48 million after they picked him up at the trade deadline. The Dodgers are locked-and-loaded once again to make a run for the World Series, with their entire core in tact.
8. Failed: Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pirates played in the NL Wild Card game three years in a row from 2013-2015, and finished with just 78 wins and 83 losses in 2016. The Pirates are known for refusing to open up their wallets, and they need to start a rebuild. They are not even close to competing with the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central.
Andrew McCutchen has been a rumored trade candidate, but the Pirates haven’t found the right offer and appear keen on holding onto him. That’s not the right call, given how his offence has been slipping every year. The Pirates do have baseball’s fourth-ranked farm system (according to MLB.com), but they haven’t done a whole lot to add to it. Looks like another long rebuild for the Pirates.
7. Passed: Seattle Mariners
The Mariners missed the playoffs by slim margins in 2016, and they haven’t made the postseason in 2001. But everything points to a playoff year in the Emerald City for 2017, thanks to a marvelous offseason for general manager Jerry Dipoto.
The Mariners traded for Jarrod Dyson from the Kansas City Royals. He stole 39 bases and batted .278, giving them a legitimate leadoff man. That’s kind of scary, given they own a lethal power-hitting trio of Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager and Nelson Cruz. Their rotation is underrated with Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma. But they added Yovani Gallardo from the Baltimore Orioles to shore up the depth.
So Seattle now poses one of baseball’s most feared lineups and they added more to an already reliable rotation. Given the key pieces the Texas Rangers lost (more on that shortly), the Mariners are primed to take a run at the division.
6. Failed: Baltimore Orioles
The Orioles lost a close Wild Card playoff game to the Toronto Blue Jays, and had the chance to add to that. They really needed to upgrade a pitching staff that posted a 4.22 ERA (10th in the American League). They traded the previously mentioned Yovani Gallardo to the Seattle Mariners, so that didn’t do many wonders for them.
Mark Trumbo, who hit 47 home runs in 2016, is a free agent and there aren’t any indications that he’s coming back to Baltimore. The Orioles still have a talented lineup in Manny Machado, Chris Davis and Adam Jones (among others), but their pitching figures to hold them back in the playoffs.
Furthermore, their AL East rivals all made big moves to remain at least competitive for a playoff spot in 2016. The Orioles didn’t build off of a trip to the postseason, and it’s hard to see them having enough talent to get that far again.
5. Passed: St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals missed the playoffs for the first time since the 2009 season, and that’s entirely thanks to the rise of the Chicago Cubs. The Cardinals didn’t make a handful of moves, but they made one ultra move that could shift the power in the National League Central.
They signed former Cubs star Dexter Fowler to a five-year deal worth $82.5 million. That gives the Cardinals a bonafide star and it took away a major weapon from the Cubs. Fowler is a major game-changer with his defence in centre field and as a legitimate leadoff man.
St. Louis’ rotation also had a number of injuries plus an uncharacteristic season from Adam Wainwright. Logic points to the Cardinals’ rotation getting back to its original forming and terrorizing the NL once again. They didn’t need to make too many moves, and it’s easy to see St. Louis making the playoffs again in 2017.
4. Failed: Detroit Tigers
The Tigers front office let everyone know before and during the Winter Meetings that just about everybody on their team was available. That included superstar Miguel Cabrera and the likes of J.D. Martinez and Victor Martinez. The Tigers have missed the playoffs the last two seasons and their core is full of fading stars.
It looked like the team was prepared to tear it all down, but then they decided to stick with the current core. The Tigers made no impact moves in the offseason. They’re once again relying on this aging core to take them into the playoffs, but there’s no reason to see them breaking through this time around.
Baseball is one sport where you cannot wait forever to rebuild. The Tigers are refusing to trade their stars while the values are high. By the time they finally trade them (if that happens), they won’t get the return they could have gotten by now.
3. Passed: Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox could have done nothing in the offseason and would have been pegged as one of the World Series favorites, anyway. But they traded for the American League’s top pitcher in Chris Sale, giving up a handful of prospects for him. Now, they have a rotation that consists of AL Cy Young winner Rick Porcello, former Cy Young winner David Price and now Sale.
And even though their offence lost David Ortiz to retirement, veteran Mitch Moreland will replace some of it. Even then, Dustin Pedroia, Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Hanley Ramirez, Xander Bogaerts and Sandy Leon give them the AL’s best lineup – by miles. It’s not even close.
2. Failed: Texas Rangers
Another disappointing playoff exit by the Texas Rangers, who were swept in the ALDS by a team that didn’t make the playoffs until the last day of the regular season (Toronto Blue Jays).
The Rangers lost Carlos Beltran to free agency after he batted .280 with them in 52 games. They also lost Mitch Moreland (who went to Boston), after he hit .233 with 22 home runs. Texas also did nothing to fix a rotation that lacks talent and depth outside of Yu Darvish and Cole Hamels. Those two guys cannot do it on their own.
Texas also saw division rival, the Seattle Mariners, improve vastly. They also saw the Houston Astros go from on-the-rise to a legitimate contender. Texas lost two power bats and didn’t add much to their rotation or bullpen. They should feel lucky if they even make the playoffs in 2017.
1. Passed: Houston Astros
In what was considered a letdown year after making the playoffs in 2015, the Astros managed to win 84 games in a tough AL West. It’s hard not to like a lineup that already has Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, George Springer and Evan Gattis. But that lineup got much scarier with a trio of marquee additions.
They traded for power-hitting catcher Brian McCann from the New York Yankees, giving them a reliable presence behind home plate who can also hit 20-plus homers in a season. They signed defensive standout Josh Reddick to a bargain four-year deal worth $52 million. Reddick plays defence, hits well for contact and power and rarely strikes out. That was a huge win.
They took it a step further by adding the ageless bat of Carlos Beltran. He batted .295 with 29 home runs and makes the Astros lineup that much more dangerous to pitch against.
Their rotation is underrated with Dallas Keuchel, Doug Fister and Collin McHugh. Houston is set to be a legitimate contender in 2017, thanks to the aggressive but financially-friendly offseason additions they made.
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