In today's day and age, there are many different ways for teams to build a baseball team.
There's the good ol' Billy Beane style that was depicted in the film, Moneyball. You can simply scout the earth for overlooked and talented assets. You don't need to throw boatloads of money at big-named superstars; something the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and San Francisco Giants have done for years and years.
Teams like the Athletics, Cleveland Indians, Kansas City Royals and Tampa Bay Rays were able to develop their own talent from within the farm system. Or, they simply found hidden gems that other teams overlooked, and turned them into superstars.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox and Yankees have not only decided to throw money at big players, but they've built up great prospect pools to eventually trade for top-tier talent. There's no way Boston gets Chris Sale from the Chicago White Sox if they didn't own two generational talents in Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech.
As is the case with any era in any sport, some teams have made great trades and top free agent signings. But all of them wish they had mulligans on some big time transactions, including wasteful free agent signings and brutally bad trades that cost them dearly.
The 2018 MLB postseason is drawing closer and closer, and as we prepare to watch another great year of October baseball, it's important to note how the five AL playoff teams got here. They did so by making these genius moves, while other teams in the AL changed up the landscape by making these regretful moves.
20 Regret: Angels Sign Josh Hamilton
Hamilton was a five-time All-Star, 2010 AL MVP and led the Texas Rangers to World Series appearances in 2010 and 2011. Following a dismal end to the 2012 season, however, Hamilton burned the Rangers and signed with the rival Angels on a five-year deal worth $125 million.
J-Ham was joining a team that already had Mark Trumbo, Albert Pujols and Mike Trout in its lineup. Rather than deliver the best offense in baseball, Hamilton simply flopped on the west coast.
Hamilton's days as a 30 home run/100 RBI hitter were long gone when he joined the Angels, and his overall numbers went way down. Looking to get rid of his contract, the Angels somehow managed to unload it to the Rangers in 2015.
19 Smart: Oakland Athletics Acquire Khris Davis
As seen in the movie Moneyball, Billy Beane and the Oakland Athletics have set the golden standard for building a winning ream without throwing large amounts of cash to the superstar players.
Khris Davis is the latest example of that. Oakland acquired him in a trade with the Milwaukee Brewers before the 2016 season began giving up Bubba Derby and Jacob Nottingham in return.
Davis has now hit 40-plus homers and 100-plus RBI for the third consecutive season in Oakland. His OPS has gone up each year, and his batting average is consistently close to the .250 mark. Davis has a chance to lead the AL in home runs this year. Who could have guessed that when he was traded here?
18 Regret: Angels Sign Albert Pujols
When the Angels signed Albert Pujols to a 10-year contract worth $210 million, he and Mike Trout were supposed to have led this team to a World Series championship. Or two. Mind you, even consistent AL West division titles would have worked.
Nope. As Pujols finishes up his seventh year in Angels uniform, the organization is wishing they didn't pay the former Cardinals star so much cash. They've made the playoffs once under Pujols and Trout, which resulted in being swept by the Kansas City Royals in the 2014 ALDS.
Pujols hasn't been a horrible player by any means; he's done a lot at the plate. But the Angels should have used that money to shore up other weaknesses, rather than invest in a slugger well past his prime.
17 Smart: Oakland Athletics Sign Jed Lowrie
Oakland acquired Lowrie from the Houston Astros in a 2015 offseason trade in exchange for prospect Brendan McCurry. Lowrie's stats have gotten much better every year since joining the Athletics for a second stint, and he's a key reason why they're headed to the 2018 MLB playoffs.
Lowrie was named to his first All-Star Game this year, as he's already set career highs in home runs and RBIs.
Lowrie's OPS and batting average numbers are better than they've been in past years, and he's getting paid a modest $6 million to produce in 2018.
Just another money ball move from Billy Beane.
16 Regret: Yankees Sign Jacoby Ellsbury
After winning a World Series ring with the Red Sox, Jacoby Ellsbury agreed to a lucrative seven-year contract worth $153 million with the arch rival Yankees. The Pinstripes weren't happy about missing the playoffs in 2013, so they threw money around and hoped Ellsbury would give them a powerful bat and fine replacement for Derek Jeter when he retired.
Ellsbury was a .297 hitter in Boston with an OPS of .789 and slugging percentage of .439. In New York? Ellsbury has hit .264 with a .716 OPS and .386 slugging percentage.
The Yankees have a stacked outfield, consisting of Judge, Stanton and Brett Gardner. Ellsbury needed surgery to fix a torn labrum and has missed all of 2018. They're pretty much stuck with this contract until it expires, or if they want to swap it for another bad deal.
15 Smart: Rays Get Mallex Smith From Braves
Nobody is talking about the Rays in 2018, even though they're going to finish at least 10 games above .500 in a stacked AL East that features the powerhouse Red Sox and Yankees.
Because people aren't talking about the Rays, the baseball world is overlooking Mallex Smith, whom the Rays acquired in a trade with the Seattle Mariners in 2017. Smith has become Tampa's top hitter, and he's only 25 years of age. Seattle's loss has been the Rays' gain, to say the least.
Smith will finish this season with a batting average of over. 300, and he's among the league leaders in stolen bases. Smith just needed his chance to be a full-time player. The Rays have give it to him, and now they have a young star to build around.
14 Regret: Royals Re-Sign Alex Gordon
After finally winning the World Series in 2015 (ending a 30-year drought), the Royals had to decide which players were worth keeping long-term. Despite having a limited budget, the Royals gave outfielder Alex Gordon a four-year extension worth $72 million. Unfortunately, they did not attach a receipt to the deal.
Gordon's defense and batting average has dipped tremendously since the Royals re-signed him.
He batted .270 with an .OPS of .809 the year the Royals won the World Series. His batting average was .220 and .208 in 2016 and 2018, respectively.
Gordon is now an overpaid commodity in KC, doing little to produce both defensively and at the plate. They could have used that money to retain a player like Lorenzo Cain or Eric Hosmer instead.
13 Smart: Mariners Sign Nelson Cruz
The Mariners haven't made the playoffs since 2001, but that doesn't mean they regret giving slugger Nelson Cruz a four-year deal worth $57 million four years ago. The six-time All-Star has given the Mariners a dangerous cleanup hitter, something they lacked for a decade following the retirement of Edgar Martinez.
Cruz has now hit 30 homers in four straight years as a Mariner, and he may reach 100 RBI for the third time on the west coast. Cruz Continues to bat well for both power and average, as he and Robinson Cano have formed quite the 1-2 punch in the middle of the lineup.
Even if the Mariners don't re-sign Cruz this winter, he'll be remembered as one of the best pickups in franchise history.
12 Regret: Red Sox Sign Pablo Sandoval
A cornerstone piece of the San Francisco Giants' three World Series championships (2010, 2012 and 2014), Sandoval signed a five-year contract worth $90 million during the 2014 offseason. The money-throwing Red Sox really do regret it.
Injuries and awful production at the plate led to a terrible tenure in Boston for Sandoval. The $90 million wound up giving Boston just 161 games from Sandoval, a .237 batting average, 14 home runs and 101 strikeouts.
The Red Sox finished as the worst team in the AL East in 2015. Sandoval barely played in 2016 and '17. The front office decided to cut ties with Sandoval, who wound up rejoining the Giants in July of 2017.
11 Smart: Athletics Trade For Stephen Piscotty
After three seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals, Stephen Piscotty asked for a trade so that he could be closer to his mother, Gretchen. Sadly, she would pass away from her illness, and Piscotty has played the 2018 season with a heavy heart.
Piscotty has been instrumental in helping Oakland go on a hot second half run, one that will get them into the 2018 postseason.
He's already set a career high in home runs and has a WAR of 2.3. Piscotty has found a long-term home in Oakland, and this team is built to contend over the next several years.
10 Regret: Blue Jays Sign Russell Martin
The Blue Jays aren't a team that spends a lot in free agency, but ownership let former GM Alex Anthopolous sign catcher Russell Martin to a five-year contract worth $82 million in the 2014 offseason.
Though Martin has provided strong leadership and defense behind home plate, his bat has been woeful in Toronto. He used to bat around the .250 mark, but he's batting just .225 as a Blue Jay, all while making $20 million in 2018 and 2019.
The Jays simply haven't gotten their money's worth from Martin, who also failed to come up clutch during their trips to the 2015 and 2016 ALCS. The good news is they can be free of his contract when it expires after 2019. But for now, you can't help but wonder why they didn't just use $82 million on other impact players.
9 Smart: Red Sox Acquire Chris Sale
Looking to bolster a rotation that was already solid, Dave Dombrowski sacrificed four prospects - including two big talents in Yoan Moncada and flame-throwing pitcher Michael Kopech - for five-time All-Star Chris Sale.
So far, the risk has been completely worth it for Boston. Sale won 17 games in his first year with the Red Sox, with a 2.90 ERA and 308 strikeouts in 214.1 innings pitched. A shoulder injury has held him back from what could have been a Cy Young season in 2018, though.
Nonetheless, Sale has been perhaps the best pitcher in the AL since moving to Boston. He's guiding this team to yet another AL East title. Even if Moncada and Kopech shine as stars for the White Sox, Boston has to be happy with that Sale has given them.
8 Regret: Orioles Give Chris Davis $161 Million Extension
It's hard to believe it's been five years since Chris Davis hit 53 home runs for Baltimore. The former star slugger was among the AL's home run leaders from 2012 to '17. He hit 30-plus in three different seasons, and never hit less than 26 over that time frame.
Before the 2016 season took place, Davis signed a seven-year extension worth $161 million.
Since signing that deal, however, Davis has seen his batting average and OPS numbers go way, way down.
He's having literally one of the worst batting seasons in MLB history. As of this writing, he was batting .177 with a .562 OPS, with 175 strikeouts and a WAR of -2.3. Seriously, this could go down as the worst statistical season for a full-time player.
The Orioles must regret giving him that money, rather than spend it towards keeping Manny Machado, whom they traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
7 Smart: Indians Trade For Andrew Miller
Looking to bolster their chances at the 2016 AL pennant, Cleveland acquired reliever Andrew Miller from the Yankees in exchange for four prospects, headlined by Justus Sheffield and Clint Frazier.
Miller has been lights out since joining Cleveland, and he was easily the team's MVP during their run to the 2016 World Series. Miller posted an impressive 1.40 ERA during the postseason, though the Indians fell just one game short of winning the World Series, losing to the Cubs.
Through his first three years with the Indians, Miller owns a 1.87 ERA and has been the ultimate strikeout machine. Miller has been an absolute weapon for Cleveland, and they wouldn't be the same AL super team without him.
6 Regret: Yankees Trade For Sonny Gray
Looking to bolster their rotation before the 2017 playoffs began, the Yankees had their eyes set on Oakland Athletics ace Sonny Gray. So BM Brian Cashman gave up three prospects to acquire Gray at last year's deadline, but it's been a complete flop for the Pinstripes thus far.
As of this writing, Gray had a 10-8 record with a horrible 4.96 ERA and 1.492 WHIP. He had a 3.42 ERA in five seasons with Oakland, but Gray has been absolutely rocked in the hitter-friendly Yankee stadium.
New York already has fine rotation depth, led by C.C. Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka and Luis Severino. If Gray doesn't figure it out by 2019, the Yankees could decide to move on from him and look elsewhere. The Yankees can't afford to keep an unreliable arm in the rotation as they chase a World Series.
5 Smart: Yankees Get Giancarlo Stanton
Even though Stanton led the NL in home runs twice and captured the MVP award in 2017, Miami was desperate to cut payroll, and that meant moving out his contract.
Last winter, the Marlins shipped Stanton to the Yankees in exchange for Starlin Castro and prospects Jorge Guzman and Jose Devers. So far, so good.
Stanton has a chance to reach 40 homers and 100 RBIs by the time 2018 ends. His batting average is above .260.
It's hard to imagine where the Yankees would be if Stanton wasn't here to carry them while Judge continues to miss time with a wrist injury.
Stanton's first season in New York has been just fine, and it's safe to assume he'll only get better as he continues to experience the life of playing for America's most iconic baseball team.
4 Regret: Jays Wait Too Long To Trade Josh Donaldson
Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson told reporters before the season began that contract talks weren't in the "same ballpark." So logic suggested GM Ross Atkins would look to trade Donaldson and get a big return for the 2015 AL MVP.
Instead, the Jays did the one thing they couldn't afford to do: Wait too long. Rather than get good prospects for him during winter, they waited until the Aug. 31 deadline.
A calf injury cut into Donaldson's trade value. He was sent to the Indians for a player to be named later. That's all the Jays are getting for an elite slugger and major talent on defense. Imagine what that farm system would look like if they traded him to a contender last offseason.
3 Smart: Boston Red Sox Sign J.D. Martinez
Signing J.D. Martinez to a five-year deal worth $110 million seemed quite risky for the Boston Red Sox, but Dave Dombrowski was desperate to fill the void left by David Ortiz when he retired in 2016.
But Martinez has emerged as the best slugger in the AL this year.
He's already reached 40 homers and 120 RBI, and he's challenging teammate Mookie Betts for the league lead in batting average. Martinez's WAR could finish right around the 6.0 mark, too.
Martinez is the key reason why Boston is the best team in baseball, and why they're about to set a franchise record in regular season wins. Martinez is by far the best all-around hitter in the AL this year, and Boston couldn't be happier with how it's panned out.
2 Regret: Tigers Sign Jordan Zimmerman
A two-time All-Star pitcher with the Nationals, Zimmerman landed a whopping five-year deal worth $110 million from Detroit in 2015. The front office didn't want to accept that it was time for a rebuild, and giving Zimmerman that much money was a sign of desperation.
But the Tigers haven't gotten any good production from Zimmerman, and probably never will.
He has an 5.13 ERA over 5.00 (it was 6.08 in 2017), and an S09 of 6.4. The Tigers have been one of the worst teams in the AL since signing Zimmerman, and it's inexcusable for a rebuilding club to be carrying a player with this much money.
1 Smart: Astros Pick Up Justin Verlander
The Tigers were in the AL Central basement during the 2017 season. Ace pitcher Justin Verlander was 34 and cost them too much money. Trading him seemed like a pipe dream.
But before the Aug. 31 deadline, the Astros took a chance on Verlander and surrendered three prospects to get the 2011 AL Cy Young and MVP. It's only perhaps the greatest trade this franchise has ever made.
Verlander went 4-1 in the 2017 postseason for Houston, striking out 38 batters in 36.2 innings pitched and finishing with an ERA of 2.21. Most importantly, he led Houston to their first World Series, beating Dodgers in seven games.
So far in 2018, Verlander is having another Cy Young-caliber season. What a trade it's turned out to be for Houston.