The calendar has flipped from 2013 to 2014. Spring Training is right around the corner. Some solid free agents remain on the market, but for the most part, teams are done with their offseason spending. But which players and teams could be qualified as "winning" the offseason, and which could be qualified as "losing" it? Let's take a look.
WINNER: Masahiro Tanaka. The new Yankees starting pitcher got a massive seven-year, $155 million contract without even throwing a pitch in the States. Expectations for Tanaka will be high in 2014, especially when you consider that he was the only upgrade they made to a shaky pitching staff this winter – but hey, he's getting paid $22 million a year for a reason. Tanaka made out even better than Yu Darvish because of the changes in the Japanese posting system – if the Yankees had to give Rakuten, Tanaka's former team, a $50 million posting fee, would Tanaka have gotten as much money as he did? Of course not.
LOSER: Arizona Diamondbacks. The Diamondbacks were in on Tanaka. They were in on Shin-Soo Choo. They were in on potential trades for Jeff Samardzija and David Price. They ended up with…Mark Trumbo and Addison Reed, at the cost of Adam Eaton, Tyler Skaggs, and Matt Davidson. But hey, they might end up winning the bidding for Bronson Arroyo! When you consider how much the Dodgers steam rolled the rest of the NL West in the second half, the Diamondbacks needed to do more than what they did to contend. Kevin Towers talked a big game this offseason, and wound up with egg on his face and arguably a worse team than they fielded in 2013.
WINNER: Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays had a typical "Rays" offseason. First and foremost, they did not trade ace David Price for a middling return just because they had to – Andrew Friedman isn't taking pennies on the dollar for his most valuable trade chip. The Rays bolstered their bullpen by signing Grant Balfour after his deal with the division rival Orioles fell through, and also acquiring Heath Bell from the Diamondbacks. In the Bell deal, the Rays also picked up catcher Ryan Hanigan from the Reds, making Jose Lobaton expendable after the re-signing of Jose Molina. The Rays also brought back first baseman James Loney and bought low on Juan Carlos Oviedo, Wilson Betemit, and Jayson Nix.
LOSER: Ervin Santana. Santana turned down his qualifying offer from the Royals, setting himself up for a solid payday this winter. Except…that payday never came when the free agent market was ground to a halt during the Tanaka negotiations, and teams shied away from Santana due to his draft pick compensation. His demands have fallen back to Earth, and he may not get more than three years – and it's doubtful that he'll exceed the $14.1 million he could have gotten with a qualifying offer. Santana is in a different situation than fellow free agent Ubaldo Jimenez, for the simple fact that the door has closed on Santana returning to his former team. The Royals signed Jason Vargas to replace Santana in their rotation, and brought back Bruce Chen to put the final nail in the coffin holding Santana's career in Kansas City. Jimenez's Indians didn't do anything in regards to their rotation, and it's still conceivable he could be brought back.
WINNER: Chicago White Sox. If you're a team with an old club and an awful farm system, how do you rebuild your club for the future? Well, Chicago GM Rick Hahn took a giant step towards making the White Sox respectable. He held on to ace Chris Sale (who has an insanely favorable contract), made a huge splash by signing Cuban first baseman Jose Abreu to replace the retiring Paul Konerko, sold high on closer Addison Reed for an intriguing prospect in Matt Davidson, and traded starter Jose Quintana in a three-team deal for outfielder Adam Eaton, who was a top five prospect in Arizona's organization just a year ago. Chicago was also in on the Tanaka bidding, which is a good sign for fans wanting them to loosen up their purse strings a little bit.The White Sox aren't a contender by any stretch of the imagination, but they took a big step towards respectability this winter.
LOSER: Chicago Cubs. Meanwhile on the North Side, the Cubs did…not much. They seemingly based their entire offseason on signing Tanaka, and failed. All the Cubs have to show for the last three months of work is…Jason Hammel, Jose Veras, and a bundle of minor league signings. There was more talk about the Cubs' simmering feud with the rooftop owners surrounding Wrigley Field than the team's moves heading into 2014, which is never a good sign. It's not as if Chicago needed to do much considering they're not going to be contenders in 2014, but the utter failure of the team to make any waves this offseason has killed a lot of goodwill for the rebuilding plan being put together by Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer.
WINNER: Jhonny Peralta. There was this feeling that Peralta may see a diminished market after his 50-game Biogenesis suspension in 2013, but the Cardinals swooped in before November was even in the books and signed the former Tiger to a four-year, $53 million contract. Technically, Peralta's market didn't develop – but only because the Cardinals didn't let it develop, taking all of the drama out of the situation by dramatically upgrading at shortstop and not letting Peralta dangle in the wind.
LOSER: Kendrys Morales. Poor Kendrys turned down Seattle's qualifying offer, and proceeded to see his market never develop. The Mariners moved in another direction by trading for Logan Morrison and signing both Robinson Cano and Corey Hart, nixing a return to Seattle. There's a growing sentiment among analysts that Morales may have to sit out this season until after June's MLB Draft, just so a team won't need to give up a draft pick for him. There hasn't been much of a market for Morales all winter, and he's probably going into Spring Training, and possibly the regular season, without a job.
WINNER: Washington Nationals. The Nationals traded a dime and two nickels to the Tigers for Doug Fister, who might only be their fourth-best starter (which says more about the Nationals than Fister). They picked up some solid complimentary pieces in Jerry Blevins and Nate McLouth. They avoided arbitration drama with both Ian Desmond and Jordan Zimmermann over the next two seasons by buying out each player's last two years of arbitration. I'm not going to crown the Nationals NL champions (like everyone, myself included, did last year), but they did a fantastic job setting themselves up for contention in 2014 and 2015.
LOSER: Baltimore Orioles. The Orioles largely stood pat after their surprising playoff run in 2012. Their win total dropped to 85 in 2013, and this winter they….largely stood pat once again. Baltimore's big moves this winter? Delmon Young, Alfredo Aceves, David Lough, Ryan Webb, and Jemile Weeks, while they lost Scott Feldman, Nate McLouth, Michael Morse, Jason Hammel, and Jim Johnson. In a division that saw the Yankees spend nearly half a billion dollars this winter, the Rays make solid improvements to their team, and the Red Sox win the 2013 World Series, the Orioles haven't done much of anything for the last two offseasons despite the club having plenty of needs. Plus, Baltimore's reputation is getting tarnished after both Grant Balfour and Tyler Colvin had ther deals voided following issues with their physicals – issues that didn't stop the Rays from giving Balouf $12 million.