This has been a dynamic offseason so far in Major League Baseball. Several of the game’s best players have been up for grabs—some have changed uniforms, while some have returned to their own teams. With one full month left before Spring Training, we can begin to assess some teams’ overall offseason performances. What teams have made themselves contenders over the last few months? What promising squads have deteriorated? It is important that we consider both current Major League and prospect talent, as well as payroll issues, in our assessment of teams.
The Arizona Diamondbacks have emerged as a contender for 2016 over the past few months. They added free agent Zack Greinke, the 2015 NL Cy-Young Award runner-up, and also traded prospects to the Atlanta Braves for starting pitcher Shelby Miller. Although they traded away some very good prospects such as shortstop Dansby Swanson, the first overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft, the D-Backs have made themselves into short-run contenders.
The Baltimore Orioles were successful in that they were able to retain free agent slugger Chris Davis, reliever Darren O’Day, and catcher Matt Wieters. However, the O’s failed to improve on their starting rotation, which was disastrous in the 2015 season. In fact, their rotation suffered a setback with the loss of Wei-Yin Chen to the Miami Marlins.
The Boston Red Sox are yet again projected for a worst-to-first 2016 campaign. The Sox nabbed free agent starter David Price and closer Craig Kimbrel, and acquired relievers Carson Smith and Roenis Elias from the Mariners. Suddenly, the Red Sox have a strong rotation and a solid bullpen, both of which will nicely compliment an offense that should continue to improve in 2016.
The Chicago Cubs have had a similarly successful offseason campaign, supplementing an already outstanding roster with star outfielder Jason Heyward, versatile infielder Ben Zobrist, and former Yankees reliever Adam Warren. The Cubbies may be early World Series favorites for the 2016 season.
The Cleveland Indians, who always seem on the cusp of contending, have failed yet again to make any eye-opening moves in the offseason so far. The additions of first-baseman Mike Napoli, outfielder Rajai Davis, and relievers Ross Detwiler and Tom Gorzelanny only serve to be moderate improvements. In order to contend, the Indians would have been well-advised to spend on a high-level outfielder like Yoenis Cespedes or Justin Upton.
The Detroit Tigers have had a successful offseason, adding starter Jordan Zimmermann, outfielder Justin Upton, reliever Francisco Rodriguez, and several solid utility players. The addition of Zimmermann fills a hole in the rotation that was never filled by the departure of Max Scherzer last offseason. The Tigers hope to return to the postseason in 2016 in what should be a pretty unpredictable AL Central division.
The Houston Astros were able to re-sign outfielder Colby Rasmus, who accepted his qualifying offer, and dominant reliever Tony Sipp. They filled a need by trading for Phillies closer Ken Giles. The Astros hope to contend once again, aided by full seasons from the likes of outfielder George Springer and shortstop Carlos Correa, the 2015 Rookie of the Year.
The Los Angeles Angels have failed to improve their roster, only adding small-impact players, such as Andrelton Simmons (a defensive stud, but an offensive downgrade from Erick Aybar), third-baseman Yunel Escobar, and outfielder Daniel Nava. The Halos’ offense, their strength in recent years, dwindled in 2015, and the team has done little to aid it this offseason.
The Dodgers lost Greinke and a host of other players, including Howie Kendrick and Jimmy Rollins, but they managed to sign Scott Kazmir as well as Japanese superstar pitcher Kenta Maeda. Pending the successful returns of Hyun-jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy to the rotation, the Dodgers will once again contend. The issue lies in the fact that Arizona and San Francisco have both significantly upgraded, so the division will be tougher.
The Minnesota Twins acquired Korean slugger Byung-ho Park, who hit for .341 with 53 homers last year for the Nexen Heroes. Park will be the Twins’ designated hitter, and Miguel Sano will move to left field to man the gap left by retired Torii Hunter. Much of the Twins’ 2016 hopes rest on the shoulders of young superstars like Sano and outfielder Byron Buxton.
The Yankees have had a productive offseason thus far, adding flamethrower Aroldis Chapman to their bullpen. Only three relief pitchers had at least 100 strikeouts in 2015, and now the Yankees have all three of them. Chapman, Dellin Betances, and Andrew Miller will comprise arguably baseball’s strongest bullpen. The Yanks’ other significant move was the addition of second-baseman Starlin Castro from the Cubs.
The San Francisco Giants’ offseason has been similar to that of Arizona and Boston. They added a superstar pitcher in Johnny Cueto, and added another proven pitcher in Jeff Samardzija. Paired with Madison Bumgarner, Cueto and Samardzija find themselves in perhaps the strongest starting rotation in the majors. The Giants also added a sparkplug outfielder in Denard Span.
The Toronto Blue Jays have had a somewhat disappointing offseason campaign. The addition of J.A. Happ to the rotation cannot make up for the loss of David Price, but the bullpen was improved with the addition of successful closer Drew Storen. Although improvements were minimal, the Blue Jays still remain the strongest offensive threat in baseball, and thus should contend again.
So far, the biggest winners of the 2015-2016 offseason are the Arizona Diamondbacks, Boston Red Sox, and San Francisco Giants. Losers include the Baltimore Orioles, Cleveland Indians, and the Los Angeles Angels. In addition to the teams mentioned above, the Colorado Rockies and Miami Marlins both have also had dismal offseasons thus far. However, there is still another month left before Spring Training. It will be interesting to see if any of the offseason “losers” are able to redeem themselves.