30 teams, 30 grades: Rating every MLB team’s offseason
Hello, everyone. It is I, your esteemed, honorable and credible teacher, Professor Dr. Joe Rivera, D.M.D.
Class is in session, and not just for you, but for Major League Baseball: The season is about six weeks?away, and pitchers and catchers are about to enter?the Cactus and Grapefruit Leagues in, indubitably, the best shape of their lives.?But before that, it’s time to take a look at how each team fared during the offseason.
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Of course, not every team is in the same boat when it comes to roster building. Spending capabilities, current roster construction and other things play into how a team approaches its offseason.
So, with spring training underway,?it’s time to hand out offseason report cards.
Key acquisitions:?3B Anthony Rendon, P Julio Teheran, SP Dylan Bundy (via trade from Orioles)
Signing Rendon is awesome, but pitching, pitching, pitching is still the deficiency with the Angels they?couldn’t afford to lose the Gerrit Cole sweepstakes, but the contract was just too rich for Arte Moreno’s blood. Griffin Canning could be a long-term answer for the rotation, and Dylan Bundy could be a fun project for new pitching coach Mickey Callaway, but until they have a true No. 1 guy at the top of that rotation, it’ll be tough to see how they compete in that division.
Joe Maddon has a chance to work his black magic, though, so we’ll see how it all unfolds, but they should be improved regardless.
Key acquisitions:?C Martin Maldonado (re-signed), RP Joe Smith (re-signed)
Where to start?
With George Springer, Jos Altuve and Alex Bregman, the Astros still have a core they believe in, as they should, with or without trash cans involved. So there’s that.
Gerrit Cole leaving in free agency was expected, but the curious part of their offseason is letting Will Harris walk and not doing much to reinforce their bullpen. It’s not necessarily a weakness, but Houston could have done more both there and the rest of the team this offseason.
Key acquisitions:?C Austin Allen, OF Tony Kemp, RP Jake Diekman (re-signed)
As per usual, it’s unrealistic to expect the A’s to play big in free agency. They probably should have done more to fix up the bullpen, but the A’s will find a way to work Oakland magic and get the most out of what they’ve got. It’s par for the course.
It’s not to absolve them: The A’s should be spending more money. But this is what they are.
Key acquisitions:?SP Hyun-Jin Ryu, IF Travis Shaw, SP Tanner Roark
A low-risk, high-reward signing with Travis Shaw is a really good signing for the Blue Jays. There’s a decent chance Shaw can bounce back and be the ascending bat he was before his injury-laden and?rough 2019 season, and could seamlessly?replace Justin Smoak in the Toronto lineup. Also, adding Ryu to the rotation even if he’s dealt with injuries the past few years? should help give them a top arm and a stabilizer in the rotation.
Key acquisitions:?RP Will Smith, OF Marcell Ozuna, SP Cole Hamels
The Braves letting Josh Donaldson walk is curious, but maybe the team feels confident that Austin Riley can play third base. Signing Marcell Ozuna on a one-year, prove-it deal is smart, but at some point?they’re going to have to spend money on?a big bopper to?keep them around for more than a season. Also, inking?Felix Hernandez to a minor?league deal is a great low-risk, high-reward signing.
The Braves were a little lucky that Cole Hamels doesn’t seem to mind being a hired gun in the twilight of his career, and he should provide some veteran oomph to a rotation that could use it.
Key acquisitions:?1B Justin Smoak, C Omar Narvaez, RP David Phelps, IF Luis Urias, P Eric Lauer
You know it’s suboptimal when the biggest news to come from your organization in the winter is your stylish, slick new uniforms and the new name of your ballpark.
The Brewers haven’t been quiet, but they also haven’t really made winning moves, with their best transactions the trades for Mariners catcher Omar Narvaez and Padres infielder Luis Urias. Urias still has decent upside offensively despite a poor 2019 debut, and Narvaez is one of the better hitting catchers in baseball.
The most intriguing piece of the Brewers’ offseason, though, might be starter Eric Lauer, who they also acquired in the Urias trade. Lauer, a lefty, will never light up the radar gun, but could be solid middle-of-the-rotation pitcher should he keep building.
Key acquisitions: P Matt Liberatore (via trade from Rays), C Matt Weiters, Adam Wainwright (re-signed)
A quiet offseason for a team that reached the NLCS sweep aside ?is head-scratching, but the Cardinals are seldom big free-agent spenders. They were rumored to be hot after Nolan Arenado, but to this point?a deal hasn’t been made, and likely won’t be.
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Key acquisitions:?IF Zack Cozart?OF Hunter Pence, IF Wilmer Flores, uh, SP Drew Smyly?
Hiring Gabe Kapler certainly made waves this offseason. More than the Giants have done in the free-agent market, at least.
The Giants’ farm system is far improved from what?it was a few years ago, mainly because of the work they’ve done on the international market. They’ll be competitive in a few years’ time, so the quietness in free agency is by design. Still, some low-cost moves could put them in a position to be at least a bit competitive on the field.?The Zack Cozart Era really could have been something.
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Key acquisitions:?RP Emmanuel Clase
Money or “no money,” Cleveland owes its fans more than a World Series appearance in 2016 and regression ever since. A better-than-expected 2019 season should?mean?that the window remains?open?at least a little bit?in the AL Central and for another run at the World Series. Luckily, Shane Bieber looks like he could be Cleveland’s next ace, and the pitching largely held up in 2019. That should be the case for 2020, and we should be talking Indians challenging the Twins for the central.
Instead, there’s Francisco Lindor trade talk, Corey Kluber actually?was?traded to Texas (for not much) and the team looks like it’s going to be average offensively once again in 2020. (We’ll see whether?a full season of Franmil Reyes can help that.)?Cleveland fans deserve more, Terry Francona deserves more. Just another fruitless offseason for the Indians.
Key acquisitions:?RP Carl Edwards Jr.
Is Jerry Dipoto OK? Has anyone knocked on his door recently?
This has been one of the quietest offseasons for the Mariners in years, but that’s likely because they’ve finally solidified a direction for their future. They now have a top-10 farm system? some would say top five and could be good in a few years should their young talent keep developing.
It’s understandable why the Mariners traded Omar Narvaez the team wants to put a premium on defense behind the dish ?but the return seemed so light for a solid hitting catcher with three years of team control left.
Key acquisitions:?IF Jonathan Villar, OF Corey Dickerson, RP Brandon Kintzler
At the major?league level, the Marlins don’t really have much of anything as far as building blocks for the future. They did swing a trade for Jonathan Villar, who, shockingly, the Orioles decided to give up on after one of his best seasons in the majors. They also signed Corey Dickerson, who is coming off another solid year in the outfield.
The Marlins’ rotation got off to a good start in 2019, pitching to a 3.92 ERA in the first half before faltering?down the stretch (and trading Zac Gallen to the Diamondbacks). A little more experience and?a little added offense will aid them, in theory.?A lot of their farm talent is slated for 2021 ETAs, so the Marlins are still a little bit away from really competing, but better days are ahead.
Key acquisitions:?RP Dellin Betances, SP Michael Wacha, SP Rick Porcello,?OF Jake Marisnick (via trade with Astros)
It’s been an interesting offseason for the Mets, to say the least. First?Carlos Beltran was hired, then he was fired. Then the Mets were sold, then they weren’t. Starling Marte was?almost?a Met on a few different occasions, and we’re back to Square 1.
In between that, the team signed Michael Wacha and Rick Porcello for cheap, lengthening their rotation. They also signed Dellin Betances, who should help their bullpen immensely if he stays?healthy in 2020. They also added some decent outfield depth with Jake Marisnick, an all-world defender but a light hitter. The Mets are?an enigmatic squad with potential that should be much better than?in 2019 if?Yoenis Cespedes, Brandon Nimmo and others stay off the injured list.
Key acquisitions:?P Stephen Strasburg (re-signed), RP Will Harris, RP Daniel Hudson (re-signed)
The Nationals were faced with the difficult decision of choosing between Strasburg and Anthony Rendon, and they chose to lock?down Strasburg. It’s hard to find quality pitching, after all, and that’s what wins come October. They kept the band together for the most part outside of Rendon, re-signing Strasburg, Ryan Zimmerman, Howie Kendrick, Daniel Hudson and Yan Gomes.
While they’re still going into the season with questionable third base depth, they’re the reigning?champs, so they deserve some benefit of the doubt. They also added some?depth to the bullpen,?which is an area that they’ve struggled with for years, and likely won’t have to scramble to assemble one come the trade deadline.
Key acquisitions:?SS Jose Iglesias
It would be unfair to give the Orioles a real grade?because of where they’re at as a franchise. Still in the middle of a rebuild, there probably won’t be pretty baseball coming out of Baltimore anytime soon.?But at least their farm system is on the up-and-up.
It’s quite possible Baltimore could be worse yes, worse than its?54-win 2019, especially with the trades?of Dylan Bundy and Jonathan Villar. But the bright days are coming, O’s fans. Hang in there.
Key acquisitions:?SP Zach Davies, RP Drew Pomeranz, OF Tommy Pham
Most of the heavy lifting in the Padres’ rebuild is already done, so they weren’t expected to be big players in the free-agent market again?a year after signing Manny Machado to a massive contract. But swinging a trade for Tommy Pham is a good deal, bringing in Zach Davies offers some stability at the back end of the rotation and Drew Pomeranz seems to have?found himself while pitching out of the bullpen. A sneaky-good offseason for the Dads, who could take the next step in 2020 and be real wild-card threats.
Key acquisitions:?SP Zack Wheeler, SS Didi Gregorius
It’s really about time the Phillies did?something?to help Aaron Nola at the top of the rotation. Yeah, Jake Arrieta was a good signing for leadership, but he’s exiting his prime and Nola needed a real running mate in the Phillies rotation.
Wheeler is a good signing for the Phils. He’s been frustratingly inconsistent,?but he’s got?ace stuff when he’s on. At worst, he’s a No. 3 pitcher, though, but the upside he’s now entering his true prime is absolutely there.
The Phillies also signed Neil Walker to a minor?league deal, which could end up being a sneaky-good deal for Philadelphia, if he’s got anything left to offer.
Key acquisitions:?RHP Brennan Malone (has yet to make MLB debut)
Eh. I mean, eh. Does anyone ever expect Pittsburgh owner Bob Nutting to be a big player in free agency? Not really, and that’s a shame.?Not to mention,?the Gerrit Cole-to-Houston trade is starting to look like a complete loss at this point.
Derek Shelton is going to have his hands full as the Pirates continue their total churn of not ever being good, now without Starling Marte.
Key acquisitions:?SP Corey Kluber, SP Kyle Gibson, 3B Todd Frazier
The Rangers pulled off a highway robbery with the Kluber trade. That’s really all you need to know. They’re opening a new ballpark in 2020 and were probably the most surprising team in the AL last season, even if their record vs. teams over .500 wasn’t great.
It probably would have been unwise relying on Mike Minor and Lance Lynn to have the same sort of seasons they had in 2019, so grabbing Kluber for cheap and signing Kyle Gibson were shrewd moves for Texas. Other than that, it’s been quiet, but they’re not non-competitive to begin with.
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Key acquisitions:?IF Jose Martinez (via trade with Cardinals), OF Hunter Renfroe, OF Manuel Margot (via trade with Padres)
Expecting the Rays to shock the world like they did last season with the Charlie Morton signing is unreasonable. Trading Tommy Pham for Hunter Renfroe seems like a lateral move, even if Renfroe is younger and has more power.
The strength of the Rays comes?from their youth and their farm system, which is going to be good for a long time. They’ll definitely be in the wild-card race this year, and if things break their way, they could give the Yankees problems in the AL East.
Key acquisitions:?OF Alex Verdugo (via trade with Dodgers)
The Red Sox were over the luxury tax, which, I guess, is an excuse to not improve a team. With Mookie Betts traded to the Dodgers, the Red Sox seemingly decided they’ll give minimum effort for 2020.
They still have talented players Rafael Devers, Andrew Benintendi, J.D. Martinez so competing for a wild card spot might not be out of the question. But for a team that won the World Series in 2018, being scared of paying money to keep and improve your team is just a?bad look.
The flub of the Betts-to-Dodgers trade was rectified and the Red Sox got a more acceptable package back in return on the second try, but trading your best player and one of the best in all of baseball in a salary dump is?still unforgivable.
Oh, and they still don’t have a manager.
Key acquisitions:?IF Mike Moustakas, OF Nick Castellanos, OF Shogo Akiyama
The Reds get a ton of credit for, like, actually trying to win in a division that doesn’t seem all that interested in getting better at the moment. With added offensive firepower between Mike Moustakas and Nick Castellanos, the team should be markedly improved at the dish in 2020. Should the pitching hold up, the Reds are going to be a sleeper team in the Senior Circuit, and you’ll be able to point to their offseason as a big reason why.
Key acquisitions:?Uh Ubaldo Jimenez?
The Rockies have done nothing of note this offseason, aside from, well, pissing off Nolan Arenado. Here’s a guy who’s one of the best third baseman in?baseball, yet you want to shop him just?a year after paying him. The strategy makes little to no sense. Do you believe in the player or not?
The Rockies have signed one player to a major?league deal this offseason, pitcher Jose Mujica, who has yet to pitch in the majors. And that will be that.
Oh, but welcome back, Ubaldo!
Key acquisitions:?P Chance Adams (trade via Yankees); OF Alex Gordon (re-signed)
The Royals’ farm system is on the come-up, which is good for Kansas City’s future.?Their quiet offseason is unsurprising, but picking up a once-promising pitching prospect from the Yankees is a good low-risk move. We’ll see how the system continues to develop, but we all know it’s not about 2020 for the boys in blue.
Key acquisitions:?C Austin Romine, SP Ivan Nova
Oof, the Tigers. Good days are coming if Detroit’s farm talent can keep developing, but their offseason was lacking with any kind of pertinent moves. Austin Romine is a good clubhouse guy and Ivan Nova is a serviceable starter when healthy.
Hopefully next offseason we’ll be talking about the Tigers as players in free agency again to help bolster the potential debut of Casey Mize.
Key acquisitions:?SP Kenta Maeda (via trade with Dodgers), 3B Josh Donaldson
The Twins desperately needed to fix the rotation, and they made some headway.?Zack Wheeler and Madison Bumgarner were both really good fits for an otherwise OK rotation, but both signed elsewhere. Jake Odorizzi did sign the qualifying offer, which helped them solve at least one spot. Overall, the Twins had a good rotation last year, but not a championship-caliber one.
Minnesota is?going to bank on bludgeoning teams to losses again this year, and with the addition of Josh Donaldson, that could certainly be the case.?It was an effective strategy in 2019, but they’ll still need pitching this year. If they’re in the thick of the race, look for the Twins to ship off some of their farm system to get pitching help at the deadline.
The trade for Maeda, though, is a very good one. While Brusdar Graterol likely slots into the bullpen in the future and could be a very good relief arm, at that getting Maeda on the cheap and under contract for the next three years is a win, knowing they won’t have to scramble to piece together at least one pitcher in the rotation moving forward.
Key acquisitions:?SP Dallas Keuchel, C Yasmani Grandal, 1B/DH Edwin Encarnacion, OF Nomar Mazara
The White Sox arguably had the best offseason of any team in baseball. Adding a veteran catcher like Grandal to a young, budding rotation is a perfect fit. Dallas Keuchel can be the guiding veteran hand of the staff. Nomar Mazara might not be a flashy addition given his career production, but he’s a consistent 20-home run threat and will slot nicely in the lineup alongside Edwin Encarnacion.
The South Side?might not have had a flashy, splashy offseason, but the Sox?made lots of upgrades to a young, ascending roster, and that should get fans happy.
Key acquisitions: SP Gerrit Cole, OF Brett Gardner (re-signed)
The Yankees went big-game hunting and came back with the biggest buck there was Cole’s a safe bet as an ace for the foreseeable future. The Yankees were one of the more complete teams in 2019, so outside of Cole?they likely weren’t going to overhaul the?roster. They deserve some credit for getting back to big-spending ways and diving in on a much sought-after free agent.