MLB Winter Recap
Maybe you were paying attention to college football, the NFL, NBA and the return of the NHL and missed out on all the action during the MLB offseason. This is a whip-around recap of what happened between the end of October and now.
The World Series runner-up Tigers got off to a fast start and signed Torii Hunter to a 2-year contract to sure up their outfield. He joins a lineup with Prince Fielder and Triple-Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, not to mention Victor Martinez who is coming back after missing all of last year. After losing Hunter, the Angels needed to make a move to fill a void in right field. Enter Josh Hamilton. The Angels created one of the best outfields in the league with Hamilton, Mark Trumbo and super-rookie Mike Trout. While the Angels offense improved drastically, the pitching staff was weakened by a series of head-scratching moves. The Angels declined an option on Dan Haren and traded Ervin Santana to the Royals. The Royals continued to strengthen their pitching staff by trading top prospect Wil Myers and other prospects to Tampa Bay for James Shields and Wade Davis. The Royals now have a solid starting rotation and a lineup filled with young players such as Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas who will keep improving.
The Rays traded Shields and Davis for Myers because BJ Upton became a free agent and signed with Atlanta. Upton brings a solid glove and 30/30 potential back to Atlanta where they have needed a centerfielder ever since Andruw Jones left in 2007. But after signing BJ Upton, the Braves were not done. Atlanta continued its off-season long pursuit of BJ’s brother, Justin Upton, and finally got the deal done in late January. The Upton Brothers join Jason Heyward to create the best outfield in the league not just for this year, but also for years to come. The Diamondbacks no longer needed Upton because of a surplus of outfielders caused by the signing of Cody Ross. Amid all the chaos in Boston last year, Ross had a career year with 22 home runs and 80 RBI. The Red Sox, looking to get back to their winning ways this year, signed Johnny Gomes, Ryan Dempster, Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli. Boston also traded for closer Joel Hanrahan and hired a new manager. The Sox hired former pitching coach John Farrell as their manager. Farrell left the organization for two years to become the manager of the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Jays had the biggest offseason of any team in the league this year. First, they robbed the Marlins. GM Alex Anthropolus acquired José Reyes, Mark Buehrle, and Josh Johnson for mostly unproven prospects. Then just a few weeks later, Anthropolus traded for NL Cy Young winner RA Dickey. Unlike the Marlins trade, the Dickey trade cost the Jays. Toronto was forced to part with top catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud and pitcher Noah Syndergaard. The Mets biggest move this offseason was locking up franchise player David Wright. The third baseman agreed to an 8-year contract likely making him a Met his entire career. Another New York third baseman with a long contract created a stir this offseason. A report just a few weeks ago named Alex Rodriguez, Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun and a few others as patients of the Biogenesis Lab in Miami. The MLB is continuing to investigate the situation but it does not look like any of the named players will be suspended. As far as the Yankees go, they have been very quiet this offseason. The normally free-spending Yanks have chosen to watch where they spend money under Hal Steinbrenner’s $189 million mandate for 2014. They made small moves, mostly resigning their own players.
As for the new “Yankees of the West,” the Los Angeles Dodgers, Magic Johnson and the new Dodger ownership continued their free spending by signing unproven Korean pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin and former Cy Young winner Zack Greinke. The Greinke signing is a great one because he does not need to be the main guy in the rotation and will slide in behind Clayton Kershaw. The Dodgers have the potential to be the most dangerous team in recent memory. With Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier in the outfield, and Hanley Ramirez and Adrian Gonzalez in the infield, the Dodgers have one of the best lineups in the NL. But in the Dodgers’ division are the defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants. The Giants have not made a big move but they have resigned most of their key parts. San Fran agreed to contracts with Angel Pagan and Marco Scutaro and extended the contracts of manager Bruce Bochy and general manager Brian Sabean.
Further up the West Coast we go up to the Pacific Northwest and the Seattle Mariners. Just this week, Seattle agreed with Felix Hernandez on a contract extension. Not just any extension, but a 7-year, $175 million making him the highest paid pitcher in MLB history. Seattle also improved their offense making a trade for Mike Morse who spent the last four years in Washington DC. Morse was out of a position in the Nationals’ lineup after DC traded for Twins outfielder Denard Span. The new Nat will man centerfield with last year’s rookie sensation Bryce Harper in left field and Jayson Werth in right field. The Nationals resigned Adam LaRoche, Drew Storen, Ian Desmond and many others. Also, Washington dropped in late and signed Rafael Soriano to a 2-year deal. Soriano had 42 saves last year after stepping in when Mariano Rivera tore his ACL. Soriano’s former team decided not to resign outfielder/first basemen Nick Swisher, so he went home to Cleveland. Just last week, the Indians also signed outfielder Michael Bourne. And a few weeks ago, they traded with in state “rivals” the Cincinnati Reds. The Indians sent Shin-Soo Choo to the Reds for outfielder Drew Stubbs.
As teams begin Spring Training, the offseason is now basically over. But some familiar names have not yet found their next employers. Kyle Lohse came into the offseason as the second best starting pitcher. Francisco Rodriguez and Jose Valverde are still both unsigned despite their success as closers. Despite his versatility as a closer, middle reliever and starter Derek Lowe remains a free agent. He could wait and sign with a team mid-season. After many great years with the Astros and Phillies, Roy Oswalt is looking for a new team following a sub-par year with the Texas Rangers. He could retire or look to sign mid-season. Carl Pavano is looking for work after a solid few years with the Twins. Outfielder Grady Sizemore is still a free agent because of health worries. Third basemen Scott Rolen just decided that he wants to play again next year and is now looking for a team to sign with. Johnny Damon and Bobby Abreu remain free agents all though it is unlikely anyone will sign them at this point.
So maybe you were hibernating for the winter or you just don’t care about the MLB offseason. But now you can get ready for the season and your fantasy baseball leagues and know where everyone is playing next year.