Grading each team’s offseason

Spring Training is right around the corner – literally. Pitchers and catchers will be reporting on Monday, and the rest of the players will be following later that week and into the next week. What that essentially means is that the offseason is just about over, and we're ready to get the baseball season started.

Of course, with the offseason coming to a close, there's an obligation to determine the winners and losers of the offseason. But instead of breaking teams down into categories, I think it would be easier to just give each team a grade based on what they did (or did not) do this offseason. I'm going to try not to take the transactions from other teams in the division into account when looking at a team, so it will be possible for the majority of a division to have had a good (or bad) offseason.

AL East

Baltimore Orioles: C. The Orioles essentially stood pat this winter after a miraculous 2012 season that saw them go on a stunning playoff run. Their only major additions this winter were Jair Jurrjens, Danny Valencia, and Alexi Casilla, and their only major losses were Joe Saunders, Robert Andino, and Mark Reynolds. I'm not sitting here saying that the Orioles should have flirted with signing players like Nick Swisher or Kyle Lohse, but they're rolling the dice a little bit going into 2013. The team is gambling on Nate McLouth having another good year in 2013 (after being awful for the better part of three seasons before coming to Baltimore), and gambling on another stellar season from their no-name bullpen. Baltimore is still young enough where they can have another good year despite any significant additions, but it was an odd strategy given how their 2012 played out.

Boston Red Sox: C-. Here's the thing about Boston's winter: they improved from where they were at the end of 2012, but they didn't improve enough. Their payroll is still over $150 million despite shedding nine figures worth of contracts last summer in the trade with the Dodgers. I thought the contracts they gave to Ryan Dempster, Shane Victorino, Jonny Gomes, and Stephen Drew were huge overpays, and I think they gave up too much (and are paying too much in arbitration, but there's nothing they can do about that) for Joel Hanrahan. But Boston did make some good moves, including bringing back David Ortiz on a two-year deal, signing David Ross (the best backup catcher in baseball) to a reasonable deal, getting Koji Uehara for a cheap one-year deal, and managing to rework Mike Napoli's contract to the point where if his hip is an issue in 2013, Boston doesn't get screwed over long-term. On the bright side for the Red Sox, while they handed out some bad contracts this winter, none of the deals go past 2015. That's huge.

New York Yankees: B-. In their zeal to get their payroll under $189 million for the 2014 season, the Yankees didn't go crazy on the free agent market this winter. However, they almost exclusively signed older players this winter, including re-signing Ichiro Suzuki, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, and Hiroki Kuroda, while bringing in Travis Hafner and Kevin Youkilis. It reminds me of a last stand for a war-tested platoon, strapping themselves up with ammo before charging into a firefight. Next year, things could look a lot different in the Bronx with potential retirements for all of those older players as well as Derek Jeter, and the impending free agencies for Curtis Granderson, Robinson Cano, Phil Hughes, David Robertson, and Joba Chamberlain. I didn't even mention the Alex Rodriguez saga, which has been a huge distraction for this team this winter and will hover around them until a conclusion is reached about his future. It hasn't necessarily been a bad winter in New York, just an odd one.

Tampa Bay Rays: A-. This was a typical Rays offseason. Yeah, they weakened the pitching staff by trading James Shields and Wade Davis….but it doesn't matter because of Tampa Bay's filthy supply of young pitching, and they actually still have a bit of a logjam in the rotation. In that trade, the Rays picked up their right fielder of the future in Wil Myers, but will start him in AAA after the low-risk signing of Kelly Johnson. The team also upgraded for cheap at shortstop by acquiring the troubled Yunel Escobar from the Marlins (via the Blue Jays), and brought in veterans Luke Scott, Kyle Farnsworth, and Roberto Hernandez on cheap, low-risk contracts. But the highlight of Tampa Bay's offseason was inking superstar third baseman Evan Longoria to a six year contract extension, ensuring he'll be the cornerstone of the franchise until 2022.

Toronto Blue Jays: A+. No team in baseball had a better offseason than the Blue Jays. GM Alex Anthopolous had built an excellent farm system over the past couple of seasons, and instead of waiting years for the lottery tickets to ay off, he converted them into proven major league assets. From the Marlins, Anthopolous brought in Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buerhle, and Emilio Bonifacio. Then, Anthopolous acquired NL Cy Young winner RA Dickey from the Mets and signed him to a two-year extension. It actually all started with the Blue Jays signing Melky Cabrera to a two-year deal for $14 million, much less than people thought he'd get midway through the summer. If this team isn't a contender in 2013, not everything is lost, because nearly the whole team but Johnson will be back for 2014. It's a two-year window for Toronto, and I like their odds.

AL Central

Chicago White Sox: B. What *did* the White Sox do this winter? Well, not a whole lot…but it's not as if they needed to after winning 85 games in 2012. The team only lost four significant free agents (Brett Myers, Kevin Youkilis, Francisco Liriano, AJ Pierzynski), and just two of those were major contributors to the 2012 team (Youkilis, Pierzynski). Youkilis was replaced by Jeff Keppinger, who will make the same salary over three years as Youkilis will make in one year. Pierzynski had a career year and will be replaced by prospect Tyler Flowers, who has been on the cusp of breaking through to a full-time position for awhile now. The rotation loses nothing with Liriano's departure due to the return of John Danks (who will hopefully be healthy), and Myers will be replaced in the bullpen by free agent Matt Lindstrom. New GM Rick Hahn also signed starter Jake Peavy to an affordable two-year extension to begin the offseason for the White Sox, and I'll give him credit for not tinkering with his team too much this winter.

Cleveland Indians: B+. I like to poke fun at the Indians for their personnel decisions, but they had a pretty solid winter. However, it could have been so much better if they were able to trade overpriced closer Chris Perez for anything of value (much like the Pirates did with Hanrahan). People are trashing the Nick Swisher signing, but he'll give the team some solid offense in right field. I love the team's acquisition of Trevor Bauer (among others) in the Shin-Soo Choo trade, because this team needs high upside pitchers like him in the system. I also like the Mark Reynolds signing after Casey Kotchman was a disaster at first base for the team last year. The only questionable move the Indians made was giving Brett Myers $7 million, but maybe he can perform better in the rotation than token veteran Derek Lowe did last season. Cleveland had a good winter…but it could have been a great one if Perez (or even Asdrubal Cabrera if you're feeling froggy) was dealt.

Detroit Tigers: A-. The Tigers didn't need to do much after winning the AL pennant in 2012 and losing not much of significance in the way of free agency this winter. But they re-signed starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez to lock in their rotation as one of the best in baseball, signed Torii Hunter to take over in right field for Brennan Boesch, and refused to pay millions to bring back closer Jose Valverde. Combine all of that with the return of Victor Martinez at DH (replacing the brutal Delmon Young), and you've got all the makings of another strong Tigers team. I am a little skeptical (as are many others) about the team rolling with rookie Bruce Rondon in the closer's position, but he's a better option than paying Valverde a bucketload of money or going with another mediocre veteran that will earn more money than he's worth.

Kansas City Royals: B. Did you know that despite losing 90 games last season, the Royals actually finished third in the AL Central? Yeah, that happened. Despite having a 90 loss team last year, GM Dayton Moore panicked heading into the 2013 season and beefed up his starting rotation by acquiring Ervin Santana, James Shields, and Wade Davis, while re-signing Jeremy Guthrie. Kansas City's rotation will definitely be better than it was a year ago, but will it be good enough, and futhermore, will the price Moore paid to acquire Shields and Davis end up being worth it? But aside from the rotation upgrades, the Royals really didn't do a whole lot this winter. Moore is really banking on his pitching acquisitions paying off for his squad, and that his young hitters continue to progress into one of the best offenses in the league.

Minnesota Twins: C+. The Twins traded 2/3 of their starting outfield for three pitchers, two of which won't sniff the majors this year, and the third of which is similar to every other pitcher the team has in their rotation. Minnesota also signed Kevin Correia to a bizarre two-year contract and rolled the dice with a post-Tommy John Mike Pelfrey. I think we all know that the Twins probably won't be too good in 2013, and that they're once again building for the future, but I just find myself a little confused about their strategy this winter. You'd think they could have gotten more for Denard Span and Ben Revere than Vance Worley, Trevor May, and Alex Meyer…but who knows?

AL West

Houston Astros: B. People are going to crap all over the Astros for what they've done this offseason, but Jeff Luhnow has a plan, and he's sticking to it. Houston only has four players making at least one million dollars this season, and one of those four (Bud Norris) is also on the trade block right now. The team got decent returns for reliever Wilton Lopez and shortstop Jed Lowrie to futher bolster their crop of young players, and they're on the right path. But after acquiring Chris Carter in the Lowrie trade, I have to question the signing of Carlos Pena a little bit considering that Pena, Carter, and Brett Wallace all play the same positions. But hey, whatever…the Astros and their fans would rather have a plan like this in place than to continue floating around the 70 win plateau while going nowhere fast.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: B. Yeah, Josh Hamilton is awesome. Yeah, the trade of Kendrys Morales that shifts Mark Trumbo to the DH position helps out a ton. But I'm not sold on the additions that the Angels made to their starting rotation. They struck out on all of the major free agents on the market, and are rolling with a back-end of the rotation featuring Jason Vargas, Joe Blanton, and Tommy Hanson, all of whom are extremely homer-prone. Their improved outfield defense will help out with those flyball-happy pitchers, but I'm not sure if those three are simply good enough to push the Angels to the next level. But hey, the team is going to be awesome on offense and has the best oufield in baseball on both defense and offense. Jerry DiPoto also improved his team's bullpen by bringing in Ryan Madson and Sean Burnett, but it all comes back to that rotation for me.

Oakland Athletics: A-. I like what the A's did this winter. They dealt light hitting shortstop Cliff Pennington for talented center fielder Chris Young, replacing the departed Jonny Gomes in their offense. Starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy left as a free agent, but that will allow Dan Straily to slide into the rotation. Bartolo Colon was re-signed, and will hop back into the rotation after his PED suspension is completed. The A's also picked up their dream catcher in John Jaso for prospect AJ Cole, and traded a handful of players that didn't have a spot in Oakland for shortstop Jed Lowrie. Combine all of that with bringing in Japanese shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima, and the A's are looking like a better team in 2013 with nearly the same payroll. Another great job completed by Billy Beane and his staff.

Seattle Mariners: C. Seattle's offseason was…bizarre. They have something like five DHs on the roster after trading for Kendrys Morales and Michael Morse, and signing Raul Ibanez. They also signed Jason Bay, who probably shouldn't be touching a glove at all either. Yet, some of these guys are going to be getting regular playing time in the field, which is a scary thought. Joe Saunders is an interesting signing, but not really a necessary one for a team like the Mariners. The contract extension given to Felix Hernandez is also a sign of good faith going forward for the franchise, even if it ends terribly for them. A lot of how this offseason ends up will be based on what happens with the fences being moved in at Safeco Field.

Texas Rangers: C. Josh Hamilton is gone. Mike Napoli is gone. Zack Greinke is a Dodger. Justin Upton is a Brave. And at the end of the winter, all the Rangers have to show for all of their misses in free agency is…AJ Pierzynski and Lance Berkman. If Berkman is healthy and hits like he did in 2011 with the Cardinals, his signing could end up being the biggest bargain of the winter, but that's a big "if". Pierzynski also needs to have a season like he did in 2012 to adequately fill a hole on Texas's offense, which is doubtful considering his age and how great he was last season. I thought the Joakim Soria signing was a coup, but he won't be ready until the end of May. With Neftali Feliz and Colby Lewis also both missing a huge chunk of 2013 (if not the entire season), the Rangers are going into the year with a shaky rotation and a depleted offense, two things the team hasn't had to worry about for years.

NL East

Atlanta Braves: A-. The Braves kept their payroll at the same level in 2013 as it was in 2012, and they appear to be a much better team. The team brought in both BJ and Justin Upton to take up residence in their outfield, replacing Michael Bourn and Martin Prado. Gerald Laird is the team's new backup catcher, replacing David Ross. Chipper Jones has retired, and a platoon of Chris Johnson and Juan Francisco will take over at third base. Aside from all of that, the Braves nontendered the disappointing Jair Jurrjens anddealt the underwhelming Tommy Hanson to the Angels for potentially dominant Jordan Walden. This is a young, talented team that improved for the next three years despite trading a standout player in Prado to Arizona for Justin Upton.

Miami Marlins: D+. You know, I understand what the Marlins did this winter. They had an awful 2012 season after spending cash like drunken sailors last winter, so why not blow it up and start all over? It was the way they went about it that pissed a lot of people off, and killed a lot of goodwill towards the team. And it's not as if the Marlins made some sort of giant effort to improve their team after trading away Jose Reyes, Emilio Bonifacio, Mark Buerhle, and Josh Johnson either, signing washed up former Phillies Juan Pierre and Placido Polanco and handing them starting spots for this season. Giancarlo Stanton and possibly Rob Brantly are the only capable hitters projected to start in 2013. This is going to be another ugly year in Miami, and the venom being slung at Jeffrey Loria is much-deserved.

New York Mets: B. A lot of people are obliterating the Mets for not going hog wild and spending on free agents this winter, but I like a lot of what the Mets did. They got a solid return for RA Dickey, including a potential franchise catcher for the first time since Mike Piazza left town in Travis d'Arnaud. I think Shaun Marcum is a solid fit in a talented rotation if he's able to stay healthy, and I like the Brandon Lyon signing in the bullpen a lot more than the Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco signings last winter. There's also the matter of David Wright's contract extension, which will send a lot of goodwill toward the team in the future. Next season is when the Mets can really make a splash in free agency, with Johan Santana and Jason Bay coming off the books aside from buyouts.

Philadelphia Phillies: C. A lot of the Phillies philosophy this winter has been "low risk, high reward". The only problem with that is the odds of the high reward are quite low, considering how dreadful Michael Young and Delmon Young have been over the past couple of seasons. Both players are terrible defensively, and will probably make the blood pressure of the Phillies pitching staff rise. The team also got another shot in the kneecap with the suspension of Carlos Ruiz for the first 25 games of the 2013 season. But all isn't awful in Philadelphia, as the trade for Ben Revere at least gives the team a capable defensive center fielder (even if his offense is pathetic), and Mike Adams will stabilize a bullpen that was wretched at times in 2012. The Phillies are still talented enough to win the NL East, but they're an older team with a lot of disaster potential, and this offseason did nothing to dispell that aura around the team.

Washington Nationals: A. After a 98 win 2012 with a young squad, the Nationals didn't need to do much this winter. Sure enough…they managed to get even better. After re-signing first baseman Adam LaRoche, the team banished Michael Morse to Seattle and brought back prospect AJ Cole (dealt last winter in the Gio Gonzalez trade). They shifted Bryce Harper to left field after acquiring center fielder Denard Span, and replaced one veteran in the rotation, Edwin Jackson, with another, Dan Haren. The team also essentially said "screw it", and signed closer Rafael Soriano to make their bullpen that much more filthy. All in all, the Nationals made one real change on offense (going from Morse to Span in the outfield), one change in the rotation (going from Jackson to Haren), and essentially switched everyone's roles in the bullpen after signing Soriano and letting Sean Burnett and Michael Gonzalez walk as free agents. That's a pretty successful offseason in my eyes.

NL Central

Chicago Cubs: A-. The Cubs whiffed on Anibal Sanchez, but ended up signing Edwin Jackson to a more favorable deal to bolster their rotation a bit. Combine the Jackson signing with one-year deals for Scott Baker and Scott Feldman, and two-year deals for Scott Hairston, Kyuji Fujikawa and Carlos Villanueva, and you have the Cubs offseason in a nutshell.  Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are doing a great job at building for the future in Chicago by signing assets that could potentially be traded at the deadline for young talent while giving the Cubs solid production at a low cost in the first half.

Cincinnati Reds: B+. The Reds didn't do much, but then again, they didn't need to. Cincinnati's biggest splash this offseason was picking up Shin-Soo Choo from the cross-state rival Indians to replace Drew Stubbs in center field. Choo will be a definite offensive boost for the Reds, but it remains to be seen how he'll fare defensively in center. With the shift of Aroldis Chapman to the rotation, the Reds also re-signed Jonathon Broxton (acquired in July from the Royals) to serve as their closer. Aside from those two moves, the Reds re-signed left fielder Ryan Ludwick, brought in reliever Manny Parra, and added Jack Hannahan to their bench. They also bid farewell to Scott Rolen (assuming he doesn't re-sign after doing an about face on his desire to retire) and handed the third base job to 2012 rookie Todd Frazier. Not necessarily a bad offseason for the Reds, just not a real momentum changer overall.

Milwaukee Brewers: B. The "B" is for "boring". Milwaukee's only significant free agent loss was Shaun Marcum, who the team showed no desire to bring back anyway. Their only significant free agent signings were Tom Gorzelanny and Michael Gonzalez, along with bringing in Burke Badenhop via trade. Considering how putrid the Brewers bullpen was last year, those moves could end up improving the team a good bit in 2013.

Pittsburgh Pirates: B-. The Pirates needed to improve their rotation this winter, and they really didn't at all. They had a deal with Francisco Liriano that *just* became official after a song and dance regarding his physical. They signed Jonathan Sanchez, who was terrible last season, to a minor league deal. The team also brought back Jeff Karstens to battle for a rotation spot. However, Neal Huntington did some good this winter, including vastly upgrading the team's catching with Russell Martin and re-signing reliever Jason Grilli for two years at a lower cost than traded former closer Joel Hanrahan will make in one with Boston. They didn't do anything terrible, yet it almost feels like they're running in place and shooting for another season with between 76 and 78 wins.

St Louis Cardinals: B. The name of the game in the NL Central this year was "stand pat", and no team did less than the Cardinals. Lance Berkman (injured for nearly all of 2012) and Kyle Lohse departed as free agents, and the team signed no one to replace either after the emergence of Allen Craig in 2012 as Berkman's replacement and the team's glut of young pitching. The Cardinals signed three significant free agents: Randy Choate, Ty Wigginton, and Ronny Cedeno, a reliever and a pair of bench players. The news that Chris Carpenter probably won't pitch at all in 2013 might send them back into the tortoise race to sign Lohse, but I'd assume that the Cardinals would just use one of their youngsters to replace Carpenter and continue their transition to a new era. They didn't need to drastically change anything, and they didn't.

NL West

Arizona Diamondbacks: C-. I've been driving the Kevin Towers hate train this winter, and the Diamondbacks haven't done a great job at cultivating young talent under their GM. They traded Justin Upton for a package highlighted by 29-year old third baseman Martin Prado, who the team gave a four-year contract extension. Aaron Hill, who will turn 31 in March, was given a three-year contract extension. 32-year old Cody Ross was given a three-year contract for no real reason. Chris Young was traded for 35-year old Heath Bell and slap-hitting shortstop Cliff Pennington. I mean, what the hell is going on in Arizona? They've still got a nice young staff of pitchers, which makes the two-year deal given to Brandon McCarthy a little bizarre, and the average age of the offense took a major tick up this winter for little to no upgrade or salary relief. But hey, at least Towers gave up Trevor Bauer to get his dream shortstop in Didi Gregorius…who isn't even the top-ranked shortstop in the organization.

Colorado Rockies: D. If you lose 98 games in 2012, what should you do going into 2013? Well, if you're the Rockies…you trade for a reliever and sign a bunch of bench players, and hope the team that got you to 98 losses a year ago improves dramatically. A healthy Troy Tulowitzki will help the team out a lot this season, but I think that Josh Rutledge and Dexter Fowler will take steps back offensively this year. The Rockies are also banking on a healthy Jorge de la Rosa turning their rotation around, along with solid contributions from Drew Pomeranz, Jhoulys Chacin, and Juan Nicasio. There's a huge difference between standing pat with a good team (like the Cardinals did) and standing pat with a bad team (like the Rockies did).

Los Angeles Dodgers: A-. The Dodgers actually didn't do a lot this winter, despite what you might think. Most of their chaos came over the summer when they traded for Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Josh Beckett (and their contracts). However, the major move the Dodgers did make this winter is one that will move the needle: Zack Greinke. Greinke and Clayton Kershaw will combine to be perhaps the most dominant starting pitcher duo in the game, and LA is definitely a better team with Greinke in the fold. The Dodgers also won the bidding for Korean starter Hyun-Jin Ryu, solidifying their rotation even more. The only reason that they didn't get a better grade is for the horrible, terrible three-year contract that Brandon League got at the beginning of the offseason. 

San Diego Padres: C+. The Padres didn't do a whole lot this winter, as you'd expect. The team signed a trio of starting pitchers, Jason Marquis, Freddy Garcia, and Tim Stauffer…and that's about it. This is a young team with a lot of players under control past next season, so it's not as if the Padres needed to make a splash…but it was just an underwhelming offseason overall. The suspension of catcher Yasmani Grandal didn't help matters, and pitcher Andrew Cashner hurting himself could set a disappointing tone for the 2013 season in San Diego.

San Francisco Giants: B. The Giants brought back many players from their 2012 World Championship team that were free agents, including Angel Pagan, Jeremy Affeldt, and Marco Scutaro, while relievers Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla got multi-year deals. But the Giants did nothing to fill their hole in left field after Melky Cabrera departed and will roll with career backup Gregor Blanco, and I'm not sold on his ability to put together a solid performance for a full year. Considering they're the defending champs, I can't criticize too much about what the Giants did, but they didn't blow me away this winter like other teams have.

About Joe Lucia

I hate your favorite team. I also sort of hate most of my favorite teams.