Originally published in The Tigers Den Blog | 10 January 2011
Or I didn’t realize I was getting myself into this.
1. The Intro
Say what you want about ridiculous baseball contacts (hello, Jayson Werth), at least they are given to veteran players who have proven themselves at the highest professional level for a number of years (and yes, we’re comparing these ridiculous contracts to the ones those NFL rookies receive).
Furthermore, there are a select few people out there who don’t view players based on their pay scale; granted, when I say few, I mean there are few of them. Most of them tend to be people who graduated back in the seventies like my father and uncles. But, I say that because as we read my daily blogs and columns that dissect the dollar value of each contract and compare player WAR to that of their competition to see who is being overpaid, we must also understand what it means to be a “fan” of baseball, where you just look at teams and players and analyze them based on a simple knowledge of history.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I write this not being ignorant about the impact salaries have on the game. Please, money is all anything is about, but for the sake of this exercise (it really is the way I try to look at baseball as a whole, from an unbiased fan perspective) were going to go with that point of view and leave money out of the equation.
2. The Middle
The Tigers pounced early this offseason because they had an agenda to complete, but also mostly because there wasn’t much of a market for Brandon Inge (signed October 21) and Jhonny Peralta (November 8). However, the signing of Joaquin Benoit (November 18) was a bit of a surprise. They gave him closer money (??whoops??) and a three year deal. That signing spoke of two things. 1) That Dave Dombrowski was serious about signing free agents early and 2) that middle relief is obviously becoming a very sought after occupation in the professional baseball landscape. Then, they got their big fish in Victor Martinez (November 26). All of these transactions happened before the winter meetings even took place.
You could look at those four transactions in a couple of ways. A cynical one would be that they signed everyone too quickly, out of panic, fear that they would get no one if they waited too long. A benevolent one would be that they knew what and who they wanted and went out and got them.
However you want to look at it, in the end the Tigers added one key bat in Martinez, as Inge, Peralta, and Magglio Ordonez (signed December 17) were all on the team last year, and one key arm in Benoit. That’s not much and given how much payroll has fallen off the books this offseason, and I believe they could have pursued Crawford or even Dunn much further than they did seeing as how Mike Illitch is always willing to pull out the checkbook in order to get a deal done.
Regardless, this offseason has been three months of tantalizing moves. What follows is each teams most significant transactions.
Atlanta traded for and signed Dan Uggla to a contract this offseason, but in the process lost Derek Lee, Omar Infante, Takashi Saito and a few forgettable outfielders in Rick Ankiel, Melky Cabrera, and Matt Diaz. They signed quality relievers in George Sherrill and Scott Linebrink.
Up in the Air: Kyle Farnsworth and Troy Glaus.
Arizona made a splash. They signed Xavier Nady, Henry Blanco, Geoff Blum and Melvin Mora to help out the offense. Yet, somehow they lost one of the best power hitters in the game in Mark “K” Reynolds and Adam LaRoche. To aide their loss of Brandon Webb they added David Hernandez, Zach Duke, and J.J. Putz to close games out.
Up in the Air: Kris Benson, Blaine Boyer, Mike Hampton, Aaron Heilman, and Rodrigo Lopez.
Baltimore added Mark Reynolds, Derrek Lee and J.J. Hardy, though they did lose Ty Wigginton, who was their cleanup hitter last year. They also lost Garrett Atkins, who did absolutely nothing for them last year and looks like a one of those Colorado Wonders. They are making the right moves, they just have no pitching to even consider them potential contenders under Buck Showalter this year.
Up in the Air: Kevin Millwood, Julio Lugo, and Mark Hendrickson.
Boston has made a ton of moves this off-season. They added Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez to their lineup but lost Adrian Beltre and Victor Martinez to Texas and Detroit, as well as Bill Hall to Houston. They added Bobby Jenks, Dan Wheeler, and Andrew Miller (remember him?) to their bullpen without really losing anyone.
Up in the Air: None.
The Cubbies just landed Matt Garza and signed Carlos Pena and Kerry Wood earlier this offseason. They didn’t really lose much offense or pitching (although, the two signees could turn into duds like they do every once in a while) other than Xavier Nady to Arizona. Say what you will about the Cubs, but they haven’t lost much.
Up in the Air: None.
The White Sox added Adam Dunn to their offense. They also added Jesse Crain but lost Bobby Jenks and J.J. Putz, so their bullpen will be an interesting group to watch this year, although, is anyone really sure they lost anything in giving both players up?
Up in the Air: Freddy Garcia, Andruw Jones, Mark Kotsay, Manny Ramirez,
Cincinnati hasn’t done much at all this offseason. They made their splash last year, and are perhaps riding too much on their somewhat unexpected success. They lost the ageless wonder, Arthur Rhodes to Texas, and Aaron Harang to San Diego, yet added…Dontrelle Willis and Jeremy Hermedia…
Up in the Air: Jim Edmonds, Mike Lincoln.
Cleveland has signed Adam Everett and Austin Kearns. Yup.
Up in the Air: None.
Colorado has done a nice job locking up Jorge De La Rosa, Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez for years. It’s nice to see a mid-market team exercise their ability to keep their talent around long enough to make a major impact. The team also added some depth to their bench by obtaining Jose Lopez and Ty Wigginton.
Up in the Air: Joe Beimel, Jason Giambi, Jeff Francis, Jay Payton.
Florida dumped Dan Uggla for some scraps (Omar Infante being one of them), signed Javier Vazquez (he who cannot pitch in a big market), shipped the two final pieces they received for Miguel Cabrera out and continued to frustrate anyone who cares about the well being of major league franchises. They did manage to sign John Buck and Randy Choate.
Up in the Air: Chad Tracy, Jorge Sosa.
Houston made a couple of small moves during the last few months. They signed Casey Fein, Bill Hall, Ryan Roland-Smith and Ross Wolf and only sent off Geoff Blum.
Up in the Air: Gustavo Chacin, Brian Moeller.
Kansas City is an interesting team to watch. Not because of what is on the field, but what will be on the field in a few years. I don’t like how they play the money game with their minor league players, nor do I like how they complain about being such a small organization when across the highway the St. Louis Cardinals play in the “best baseball city in America”. Seems to me like a level of commitment. They lost Zack Greinke and Yuniesky Betancourt but gained a trio of outfielders and prospects too extensive to name but you can look at their roster here.
Up in the Air: Bruce Chen
Stock: Up. Yes, up.
The Los Angeles Angels have had pretty much the worst offseason a major market team could imagine, other than the Yankees, that is. They got shafted on Crawford, Werth, Beltre, and anyone else that you could name. Go ahead, name someone, they didn’t get them (except for Scott Downs, they signed him for 4 years). They lost Hideki Matsui as well.
Up in the Air: Scot Shields
The Los Angeles Dodgers, in the midst of all their legal issues, have had made a splash this offseason just like they did at the trade deadline. They’ve signed Jon Garland, Matt Guerrier, Tony Gwynn, Dioner Navarro, and Juan Uribe. They lost Russell Martine and George Sherrill, but honestly, they didn’t lose much.
Up in the Air: Jeff Weaver
Milwaukee obviously made the biggest trade for shock value of the year. From the way it unfolded on Twitter, to the way it was accepted by the main stream media, the Greinke trade was a fun event to witness. The Brewers also traded for Shaun Marcum, which gives them a decent three member rotation to go along with that dynamic offense.
Up in the Air: Dave Bush, Todd Coffey, Doug Davis, Trevor Hoffman, David Riske, Greg Zaun.
Minnesota has been extremely quite this year. They are in the process of resigning Carl Pavano, but that’s the only move they have made since exercising Jason Kubel’s option before October even ended. Hmmmm. They lost J.J. Hardy, Orlando Hudson, and Matt Guerrier to other teams as well.
Up in the Air: Brian Fuentes, Carl Pavano, Nick Punto, Jon Rauch, Jim Thome.
The Mets have also been a quiet team this winter. They signed Chris Capuano and lost Pedro Feliciano and that’s it. Every other move has been minor league related.
Up in the Air: John Maine, Fernando Tatis.
The Yankees signed Russell Martin as their big free agent find this year. Cliff Lee, Carl Crawford, Jayson Werth, etc, they spurned the King George-less Yankees who had a hard enough time resigning Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. They lost Javier Vazquez (although “lost” may be an inappropriate word), Lance Berkman, Austin Kearns, Dustin Moseley, and Kerry Wood. It’s honestly surprising this organization has let so many players go and has signed so few in return.
Up in the Air: Marcus Thames, Andy Pettitte, Chad Moeller, Nick Johnson.
Oakland has made their usual moves; sending off low price talent for lower price talent. They acquired David DeJesus, Rich Harden, Hideki Matsui, Brandon McCarthy, and Josh Willingham while giving up Jack Cust, Edwin Encarnacion, Jeremy Hermida, and Vin Mazzaro.
Up in the Air: Travis Buck, Eric Chavez, Justin Duchscherer, Gabe Gross, Ben Sheets.
Philadelphia. They lost Jayson Werth, but since Dominic Brown is waiting in the wings, that was expected. So, how do they lose? They nabbed Cliff Lee and now have one of the best four rotational arms in the league. Take that New York. There is no loss here.
Up in the Air: Mike Sweeney, Chad Durbin, Greg Dobbs, Jamie Moyer
Pittsburgh continues its act as the league laughingstock, and it’s not like I’m just jumping on the bandwagon of common sense either. The biggest sign in a couple seasons occurred this winter when the Pirates acquired Lyle Overbay. Their entire lineup with the exception of three position players and a pair of pitchers belong in Triple-A, and not a good Triple-A team either.
Up in the Air: Lastings Milledge, Brian Burres.
Stock: Uh, Down
San Diego’s trading of Adrian Gonzalez may seem like the beginning of a fire sale, especially since only weeks after there was talk of Heath Bell being traded as well. They also lost Miguel Tejada, Yorvit Torrealba, Matt Stairs, Tony Gwynn, Jon Garland, and Kevin Correia. They did acquire Jason Bartlett, Aaron Harang, Brad Hawpe, Orlando Hudson, Cameron Maybin, and Dustin Moseley.
Up in the Air: David Eckstein, Jody Gerut, Jerry and Scott Hairston, Chris Young
San Francisco has had an extremely quite offseason up to this point, although they did re-sign Pat Burrell, Aubrey Huff and inked Miguel Tejada while only losing Dontrelle (losing?) Willis, Juan Uribe, and Denny Bautista. I think it’s too early to give them a fair grade, but what they’ve done so is rather boring.
Up in the Air: Jose Guillen, Guillermo Mota, Chris Ray, Edgar Renteria, Todd Wellemeyer.
We find it funny how everyone was up on Seattle at the beginning of last year because they had Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez to start at the top of the rotation. Well, many people forgot the offense and defense was atrocious and therefore they finished in an abysmal last place. This year, they have, so far, obtained Jack Cust, Miguel Olivo and lost Jose Lopez, and Ryan Roland-Smyth.
Up in the Air: Russell Branyan, Casey Kotchman, Ian Snell.
St. Louis has one more guaranteed year with Albert Pujols batting cleanup, so to help the cause they signed Lance Berkman…and…Gerald Laird. They haven’t made very many moves, most likely saving payroll for next year.
Up in the Air: Pedro Feliz, Aaron Miles, Brad Penny, Jeff Suppan, Randy Winn
I think that the most interesting team to watch next year will be Tampa Bay for the sole reason that after losing Carl Crawford, Rafael Soriano (he won’t be back), Carlos Pena, Matt Garza, Jason Bartlett, Joaquin Benoit, Brad Hawpe, Dan Wheeler, and even Dioner Navarro, this team can be still very talented. No one has any idea what to expect, but if you’re a fan of baseball, you’ll be paying attention to Tampa in 2011.
Up in the Air: Chad Qualls, Gabe Kapler, Hank Blalock, Grant Balfour, Rocco Baldelli, Willy Aybar
Texas is suddenly an extremely dangerous team given their ascent into baseball greatness during the postseason and although they missed out on Cliff Lee they are easily the favorites in the AL West given Los Angeles’ failure to add any sort of talent. Texas lost players, but they added others right back. Brandon Webb seems like a perfect fit for a Nolan Ryan staff, Adrian Beltre will do nicely at third base, and Michael Young will slide nicely into the vacancy Vladimir Guerrero leaves given that it doesn’t appear they will re-sign him. Of course, that could change too.
Up in the Air: Vladimir Guerrero, Jorge Cantu, Alex Cora, Christian Guzman, Bengie Molina
Toronto hasn’t been afraid to make their share of moves either this winter (or last for that matter) and while in the packed AL East there doesn’t seem to be much wiggle room, I see Boston taking the division and the Wild Card up for grabs. The Yankees haven’t improved, the Rays are a question mark, and the Orioles are in a rebuilding mode. Toronto could surprise people if they stay healthy.
Up in the Air: Kevin Gregg, Shawn Hill, Mike Jacobs, Fred Lewis, DeWayne Wise
Washington landed Jayson Werth when they offered $126 million to a player who has never had over 100 RBI and isn’t fast. Given the rest of their current team, it could look to some like they extended seven years to a 31 year old outfielder simply to have a veteran presence when they are a relevant team four or five years from now. They lost Adam Dunn but signed Adam LaRoche in the process. Washington simply added this offseason. Now, to see where they take it.
Up in the Air: Miguel Batista, Adam Kennedy, Kevin Mench
3. The Finish
The biggest thing you can take from this list is that two teams (the Yankees and the Angels) missed big. While New York is New York and you’ll expect them to hit big next year, the Angels are quite a bit of a surprise. With an owner who claims he’s dedicated to winning, having missed on Adrian Beltre, Carl Crawford, and Jayson Werth, it leads some to believe there is an ulterior motive behind the team’s failure to get their Free Agent prize this year is that they’re going after a specific one in the winter of 2011.
The Red Sox, White Sox, Nationals, Phillies, and Tigers all signed their targeted Free Agents, at least you would think they did. Settled may be a more appropriate word for some members of the select group, but that is, what they say, the season is for.