Checking up on moves from Music City and beyond
Acquisitions from last winter yielding varying results, but can't yet be fully judged
Two months into the season and six months removed from the Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tenn., the jury is still out on offseason moves made in preparation for the 2013 campaign. But the verdicts are starting to reveal themselves a bit.
The ultimate verdict comes at the end of the season, when we find out if all the big trades and signings made last winter turn into October gold. But, day by day, the case for each team's plan for success is presented for all to see.
Just look at the standings. The standings never lie, tell only the truth of the moment, and they'll continue to show just how well plans for the 2013 season are going until it's over.
Two months in and six months removed from the hubbub of Nashville, there's enough evidence in those standings to see where things might be headed for last offseason's biggest movers and shakers.
With the standings as a backdrop, here's a division-by-division glance at how offseason moves have gone so far:
American League East
The Blue Jays shook things up the most in this division, and they're not getting nearly the results they'd sought. Trading with the Marlins for Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle and with the Mets for R.A. Dickey, Toronto is already in a deep hole at 7 1/2 games -- behind the fourth-place Rays, that is.
Reyes is hoping for a return from a severe ankle sprain before the All-Star break, Johnson is back this week from a triceps injury, but Dickey and Buehrle both have ERAs north of 5.00. This is not how the Blue Jays mapped it out when they dealt several prospects to make a run this year.
Atop that division, the Red Sox are making the most of their roster/attitude adjustment over the winter, with John Farrell's arrival and an influx of veteran hands meshing well with a solid foundation of talent. Mike Napoli leads the newcomers with team highs in doubles and RBIs, but holdovers like Clay Buchholz and David Ortiz have been key to the team's success as well.
Two teams in this division went all in this winter -- the Indians and the Royals. At this juncture, Cleveland is benefiting the most in its quest to topple defending AL champion Detroit, getting more production out of Mark Reynolds than more highly touted free-agent acquisitions Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn.
Kansas City actually has accomplished what it hoped out of its rotation redo, and early results were intriguing. As advertised, James Shields leads a group of starters on pace to pitch 1,000 innings, the team's stated goal. But the foundation of offense the rotation was supposed to support has been shaky of late, leading to George Brett's arrival as a hitting coach with Hall of Fame credentials. So consider the early results mixed.
What can you say about the Angels that wasn't said a year ago? Once again, the arrival of a big free-agent bat hasn't rung up early victories, with Josh Hamilton yet to find any sort of groove. Losing Jered Weaver for a few weeks didn't help, and the Halos once again are needing to find a way to climb up the standings in 2013.
The Rangers, on the other hand, have plugged the holes left by Hamilton and Napoli, bringing in Lance Berkman and A.J. Pierzynski and cruising to the top of the division standings. The A's have used every bit of their outfield depth, and the Mariners haven't quite gotten the boost in the standings they hoped for when Mike Morse, Kendrys Morales and Raul Ibanez came to town.
National League East
Bringing in the Upton Brothers seemed like such a natural for the Braves, and the season couldn't have started out much better. Justin Upton broke out with a bunch of homers but has since cooled down, and B.J. hasn't found himself at the plate yet, striking out in bunches. Bottom line: They're a big part of a first-place team.
The defending division champions, the Nationals, upgraded the back of their bullpen with veteran Rafael Soriano, and he's 15-for-18 in save opportunities for a team that is hovering around .500.
The team that did next to nothing in the winter is the one that is off to the best start: the Cardinals. The Reds have a different dimension with Shin-Soo Choo part of an already hefty lineup, and the Pirates like what they're getting out of catcher Russell Martin and the addition of Francisco Liriano to the rotation.
When the D-backs were moving Upton and making other significant moves this winter, many people were scratching their heads. But Arizona has surged to the head of the class in the always entertaining NL West, and the D-backs haven't yet seen the best of Martin Prado. They have seen, however, some of what shortstop Didi Gregorius can do, and he's looking like a good pickup from the three-way deal with the Indians and Reds. All in all, whatever Arizona did is working so far. The Giants, who along with the Rockies are duking it out with the D-backs atop the division standings, are feeling content with bringing back free agents Angel Pagan and Marco Scutaro. For the Dodgers to enter into the fray, a few good starts from Zack Greinke -- now that he's back from a broken collarbone -- wouldn't hurt. But injuries continue to decimate their roster.
Two months in and six months removed from the Winter Meetings, time remains for teams to change the perception of their winter moves, one way or the other.
All you have to do is look to the standings to find out how it's going.
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.