MLB: Winners and losers from the winter meetings
The amount of players who changed teams via free agency or trade at the annual Winter Meetings -- if you include the Rule Five draft -- neared 80. It started with the Jon Lester announcement and culminated in the 3 a.m. EST press conference the Dodgers gave to discuss trades for Jimmy Rollins, Howie Kendrick and that was even before Matt Kemp was dealt.
When the dust settled, the meetings in San Diego will go down as among the more memorable ones. They will be recalled for the names that changed teams in what were several baseball trades and not ones for the sole purpose of shedding salaries.
It's tough to say who actually won and lost. That won't be known until the conclusion of the 2015 season but we might as well as attempt to piece it together.
The city of Chicago:
Both the Cubs and White Sox were aggressive in their pursuits and actually landed players who will fill significant needs.
When the meetings started on Sunday, the White Sox had Adam LaRoche and Zach Duke plus a handful of minor league signings. When the meetings ended, White Sox GM Rick Hahn addressed the needs of a team that had the third-worst ERA in the AL by adding Jeff Samardzija in a trade from Oakland and signing David Robertson to be the closer on a team that had a 4.38 ERA and struck out 7.2 per nine innings. Besides adding Robertson, the White Sox also added Dan Jennings, who had a 1.34 ERA in 47 relief appearances for the Marlins.
As for the Cubs, going into the meetings their lone offseason signing had been Jonathan Herrera to a minor league deal. They head back to Chicago having signed Jon Lester, Jason Hammel and acquiring Miguel Montero. The Cubs haven't sniffed the playoffs since 2008 and Theo Epstein has done a slow and painful tear down of an antiquated roster. The Cubs have a bunch of hitting prospects with the idea of 2016 and 2017 being their year, but perhaps the results of rebuilding the farm system and the aggressive approach this week will pay off into something special like the Grey's Sports Almanac in Back to the Future Two predicted. They've gone from 40-1 to 12-1 odds so perhaps it will be the Cubs year.
A few weeks ago we wrote that it was the Marlins directive to use the reduced money that Giancarlo Stanton is taking in his first few years of that 13-year deal to invest into the team. So far, they've put their money where their mouth is by adding Dee Gordon and Mat Latos and there is likely more coming. Perhaps they get involved in James Shields and if Dan Haren selects $10 million over retirement, then they could be even better.
New York City baseball:
The Yankees made their noise last week with the signing of Andrew Miller and the acquisition of Didi Gregorius. Two days later, they lost David Robertson to the White Sox after not even making an offer to the closer. That means the second year in a row, they lost a homegrown free agent in his prime, something unheard of in previous years. They also lost Brandon McCarthy, though it's hard to find fault with not willing to shell out four years, $48 million for someone who only once has made more than 30 starts.
As for the Mets, there has been a lot of buzz about their pitching and for fans who have watched Ruben Tejada struggle at shortstop, it was obvious where their need was. They were unable to obtain a proven shortstop and their only move was signing John Mayberry Jr.
Every time a rumor about an Oakland A's trade popped up, the initial question was "What is Billy Beane doing?" Before the meetings started, he had already dealt away Josh Donaldson to Toronto. Then he traded Samardzija and Brandon Moss. As of now, Oakland is missing 54 home runs and 179 RBI from last year's team. Beane may still add something but he likely will lose Jed Lowrie in addition to the departures of Lester, Hammel and Luke Gregerson. Beane has acquired nine players between 18 and 26 and eight of them do not have significant major league experience. Perhaps some of those will pan out but until they do, it's hard to view Oakland's winter as a success so far.
The Orioles won the AL East by 12 games last season. Then they lost Nelson Cruz, Nick Markakis and Andrew Miller in rapid succession. Last year they signed Cruz to a one-year deal in February. The odds of finding another 40 home runs that late is slim, so Dan Duquette has his work cut out for him.
San Francisco Giants:
Spurned by Jon Lester, who told them he liked the money but didn't like it enough, the Giants have two holes in their rotation. They may lose Jake Peavy and Ryan Vogelsong, though they could be in the mix for Shields. They also have a hole at third base with Pablo Sandoval in Boston, though that could be filled by Chase Headley. The defending champions have one of the most savvy front offices and it'd be an upset if they were still in the loser's bracket for offseason moves when spring training starts.
Jury's still out:
Boston Red Sox:
They were not able to convince Jon Lester to take $135 million, which is $65 million more than their initial offer. Instead they landed three younger starters in Wade Miley, Justin Masterson and Rick Porcello. That trio was a combined 32-34 last season with Miley pitching on a 64-win team and Masterson experiencing a drop in fastball velocity. The Red Sox are likely not finished in their search for starting pitching with a possible trade for Cole Hamels. They did not give up any major prospects in the Porcello and Miley deals and would still have the pieces for Hamels.
Los Angeles Dodgers:
When you're a team that won 94 games and has the best pitcher in the game, it's hard to say they need to do much. Still they did, adding a veteran double play combination in Jimmy Rollins and Howie Kendrick. However, instead of joining Matt Kemp, Dodger pitchers will face him 19 times a year. Kemp was very good in the second half and those 25 home runs and 89 RBI have to come from somewhere. And as much as Brandon McCarthy's ability to pitch well and quickly in 14 starts were appreciated by Yankee fans, giving him $48 million might seem risky, but hey it's not our money.
What does this mean:
We like to write winners and losers pieces to have fun but very few teams win the offseason and the actual season. The Yankees were thought to win last offseason by outlaying nearly $500 million to Masahiro Tanaka, Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann and Jacoby Ellsbury. Instead they got 84 wins, which is actually pretty good compared to 2012 offseason winners Toronto (73 wins) and 2011 offseason winners Miami (69 wins).
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