02/02/12 4:34 PM EST
Eventful offseason has clear winner
Angels made biggest splash, but Marlins were big players, too
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
The Marlins made a play for almost everybody, the Angels established themselves as title contenders in one day, the Rangers answered back, the Yankees fortified their only weakness and the Tigers went above and beyond to address a catastrophic injury.
As we wait for Roy Oswalt, Yoenis Cespedes, Johnny Damon and a few other notable free agents to come off the board, here's a look at the top 10 offseasons by team:
10. Reds: Cincinnati gave up a lot for frontline starter Mat Latos, sending promising slugger Yonder Alonso, starter Edinson Volquez, highly touted catching prospect Yasmani Grandal and a solid young reliever in Brad Boxberger to San Diego. But general manager Walt Jocketty also got Madson for $8.5 million, added outfielder Ryan Ludwick for $2.5 million, signed innings-eater Jeff Francis to a Minor League contract and gave up little for solid lefty reliever Sean Marshall. Now, with a deep pitching staff and a solid club all around, the Reds are legit contenders in a wide-open National League Central.
9. Rays: The best thing about Tampa Bay's offseason is what it didn't do -- part ways with starter James Shields and talented center fielder B.J. Upton. That may change later this season, but with both of them still on board, the Rays have a chance in the tough American League East. Supplementing that with the return of Carlos Pena -- who gives the club some much-needed pop and keeps their defense solid -- and the signing of Jose Molina -- an upgrade behind the plate -- could make Tampa Bay a major player.
8. Rockies: Quietly and efficiently, Colorado bolstered its club. The Rockies used corner outfielder Seth Smith and veteran catcher Chris Iannetta to add three cost-controlled starting pitchers with some upside -- Tyler Chatwood, Guillermo Moscoso and Josh Outman. Then, they replaced Smith and Iannetta with Michael Cuddyer and Ramon Hernandez, respectively. They also fortified their infield with third baseman Casey Blake and Marco Scutaro -- who will move to second -- and acquired young outfielder Tyler Colvin for flexibility off the bench. Over the past six months, Ubaldo Jimenez, Ty Wigginton, Huston Street, Ian Stewart, Ryan Spilborghs, Aaron Cook, Smith and Iannetta have all departed Colorado. But overall, it has been change for the better.
7. D-backs: Coming off a surprising division title, Arizona took it a step further this offseason, trading for proven starter Trevor Cahill to add to a rotation that already included Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson and Josh Collmenter. GM Kevin Towers also picked up a new left fielder by signing Jason Kubel to a two-year deal, adding even more punch to a lineup that was fourth in the Majors in runs last season.
6. Nationals: A full year of Stephen Strasburg is enough to get excited about Washington heading into this season. But trading for young standout left-hander Gio Gonzalez -- eventually signed to what could be a seven-year extension -- and then adding Jackson make the club a contender in what could be the deepest division in baseball. The Nats may have missed out on Fielder, but Bryce Harper could be up soon.
5. Tigers: With one signing, Detroit went from having one of the worst offseasons to one of the best. On Jan. 17, the club announced Victor Martinez suffered a torn ACL and would miss the entire season. On Jan. 25, the Tigers signed Fielder to a nine-year, $214 million contract. A lot of doubt surrounds Miguel Cabrera's transition to third base, which is required with the new Prince at first. But in the end, Detroit lost a player who hit .330 and drove in 103 and still improved a team that was two wins away from the World Series last year.
4. Rangers: Texas took some risks this offseason. The Rangers made Joe Nathan, who struggled in his first season removed from Tommy John surgery, their new closer; transitioned Neftali Feliz, who hasn't had a full year as a starter since 2008 in the Minors, to the rotation; and signed Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish (nearly $110 million total) to more money than departing ace C.J. Wilson got from the Angels ($77.5 million). But if all these moves work out, then the back-to-back AL champs will have become even better. Scary.
3. Yankees: The Yanks have long had one of the best offenses in baseball, and last year, they committed to improving the bullpen. The only thing they needed more of was starting pitching. Hello, Michael Pineda. One of the top young arms in the game now teams up with CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova to give New York a rotation trio that can match up with the best of them. Add Hiroki Kuroda to the No. 4 spot, and the best of a ragtag group that includes Phil Hughes, A.J. Burnett and Freddy Garcia at No. 5, and the Yankees' rotation is once again formidable. Trading Jesus Montero hurts, but Pineda is what they needed.
2. Marlins: Miami was aggressive as promised, committing $191 million to shortstop Jose Reyes (who improves the top of its lineup and its defense by moving Hanley Ramirez to third base), starter Mark Buehrle (who gives the rotation balance as a proven lefty) and closer Heath Bell (who, declining strikeout rate aside, has put up a 2.36 ERA and 132 saves over the past three years). Carlos Zambrano, believe it or not, is a low-risk signing. The Marlins will only pay $2.55 million of his 2012 salary. And since Zambrano will be a free agent next year, is only 30, is best buds with Ozzie Guillen and still has some talent, he may just pitch well this year.
1. Angels: They got a new GM in the raved-about Jerry Dipoto, and then, in one fell swoop on Dec. 8, signed Pujols (the best hitter of his generation) and Wilson (the former ace of the division rivals). Say what you want about giving a 32-year-old a 10-year deal, or locking up a starting pitcher long-term, but the Pujols and Wilson signings instantly made them championship contenders for the foreseeable future -- and both players accepted severely back-loaded contracts to boot. The Halos also acquired Iannetta, an upgrade at a position that ranked 28th in the Majors in on-base percentage last year. And while the bullpen still leaves some to be desired, the Angels should be the undisputed champs of the offseason.
Whatever that means.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.