Monday, March 3, 2014

MLB Offseason Winners and Losers

With Spring Training under way, many teams have their 40-man rosters set, and ready to decide who will get the nod for the Opening Day team, and who will have to work their way through the minors. This offseason, not many teams were to shy when it came to opening their wallets, and shelling out the big bucks to get what they need. The trade front was rather quiet this deadline, with big names like David Price not being moved. Here is my list of some of this off-season's winners, losers, and surprises.


Seattle Mariners: Seattle was arguably the biggest winner this offseason. They needed to make a monumental move to compete with the Angels, Rangers, and A’s, and they did that in the form of signing former-Yankee slugger Robinson Cano a 10-year, $240 million contract. Cano has been one of the premier second basemen in the MLB over the past eight years, on both sides of the ball. The Mariners were also able to bring in Lloyd McClendon as their manager. McClendon had previously served as the hitting coach of the Tigers since 2007, leading an offense that is arguably the most feared in the league. The Mariners have ranked very low in most offensive categories in recent years, so having a manager that has great offensive experience is going to be a very welcomed change. For their rotation, besides “King” Felix Hernandez leading the way, they have Japanese-superstar Hisashi Iwakuma at number 2, who most recently finished third in the Cy Young voting. They also have top pitching prospects Taijuan Walker and James Paxton working their way into the team’s rotation, with chances of gaining spots coming out of Spring Training. The team also signed free-agent closer Fernando Rodney to a two-year deal, solidifying the position for the next couple years, until they have a homegrown player that will be ready to take over. Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik had the large task on his hands of putting a team together that could compete in the AL West, and he did an amazing job doing it.

Arizona Diamondbacks: In a division most recently dominated by the Giants’ scrappy ball play and the Dodgers’ huge wallet, the Diamondbacks had previously done as much as they can to just stay afloat. Their offseason moves now put them in a position to take control. The DBacks were lacking the power hitter who could give them 30+ homeruns after the trade of Justin Upton a year ago, so they stepped up and traded promising prospect Tyler Skaggs and Hector Santiago to the Angels for first baseman Mark Trumbo, who is coming off of a 34 homerun, 100 RBI season. Also, after having back-to-back years of shaky closing from Heath Bell and JJ Putz respectively, the DBacks traded third base prospect Matt Davidson to the White Sox for closer Addison Reed. Extensions would be given to manger Kirk Gibson and GM Kevin Towers, showing faith that the two will succeed together. About two weeks before the start of Spring Training, the DBacks would shore up their rotation with the addition of Bronson Arroyo on a two-year deal. The Diamondbacks may not have the wallet of the Dodgers, but expect them to give them a run for their money in the NL West this year, and years to come.


Pittsburgh Pirates: Coming off of their first winning season since 1992, the Pirates had a team that had a wining attitude and all complemented each other, which is no longer together. They still have reigning-MVP Andrew McCutchen and slugger Pedro Alvarez in the lineup, along with former number one overall pick Gerrit Cole in the rotation, but the depth does not reach far past those two. Starling Marte is a base-stealing threat, but besides that a liability at the plate. The Pirates in-state rival Philadelphia Phillies robbed two of the Pirates leading veterans in AJ Burnett and Marlon Byrd. Burnett led the team in strikeouts and innings pitched. Byrd came over from the Mets in a post deadline trade, with John Buck (who also left as a free agent), and led the team in average during his time in the black and gold. They also lost depth at the backstop position, with catch Michael McKenry going to the Rockies. The Pirates are forced to turn to Francisco Liriano as their number one starter, who even after a very successful 2013 campaign, has yet to show any consistency from season-to-season over his eight-year career. Pittsburgh retained their three prized possessions in McCutchen, Alvarez, and Cole, but lost their veteran presence in the clubhouse. And without any major acquisitions this offseason, I think it will be hard for the Pirates to compete in the Central with the Reds and Cardinals.

Toronto Blue Jays: Bad offseason after bad offseason, and yet GM Alex Anthopoulos continues to hold his position. After doing two blockbuster trades in the 2012 offseason, the Jays were out seven of their top prospects in trades that brought back aging veterans who were past their prime. And after most of them to injury last year, and losing pitcher Josh Johnson to the Padres in free agency this year; the Jays are in critical condition. The Jays still retain the power-hitting duo of Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, but even they are question marks after dealing with injuries in 2013. The Jays biggest need is in the rotation. They are lead by R.A. Dickey, who after winning the 2012 NL Cy Young Award, did not transition well back to the American League, posting an ERA of almost 1.5 runs more, and striking out 50 less batters. The Jays best move would be to sign Ervin Santana to give their rotation a must needed boost, but he supposedly wants too much money, and has a draft pick compensation attached to him from the qualifying offer the Royals gave him. Unfortunately for Anthopoulos, tanking in the MLB is not equivalent to tanking in the NBA, and fans of the Blue Jays are sure to have to deal with another season of the Blue Jays being in the basement of the AL East.


Chicago Cubs: The only people who probably understand what the Cubs are doing except GM Jed Hoyer and President of Baseball Operations, Theo Epstein. After firing Dale Sveum, the Cubs hired the highly sought out bench coach of the Padres, Rick Renteria to take over the helm. They have many promising prospects in Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler, and Javier Báez, all who are a couple of years away from being ready for the majors. The biggest surprise to me is that the Cubs did not move Jeff Samardzija over the offseason. They still have plenty of time to move him before the deadline, but his value was high this offseason, and may not reach that level until closer to the deadline, where an injury is possible. The Cubs are not a team that will be in contention this year, but I believe they do not plan to either. When they Cubs acquired Theo Epstein from the Red Sox before the 2012 season, they signed him to a five-year contract to rebuild the franchise, a process that may not be done before that contract expires.
Bennett Schiff is a freshman in the Drexel Sport Management program, and one of the few members of the major from the powerful state of Rhode Island. He has volunteered for the U.S. Open of Squash held at Drexel as well as becoming a member of the Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity. Prior to arriving on Drexel's campus, Schiff was very active in his local community with his synagogue.

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