10 takeaways from the MLB offseason so far

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Before you go close icon
As the last bits of confetti were swept away following the New England Patriots' thrilling victory in Super Bowl XLIX, baseball fans suddenly realized spring training is just around the corner.

10 mlb offseason takeaways 2015
See Gallery
10 takeaways from the MLB offseason so far

10) The Nationals’ pitching staff is unbelievably deep.

Here’s a classic case of the rich getting richer.

For all the teams that were linked to Max Scherzer, the most expensive pitcher on the free agent market, there probably wasn’t anyone who would have thought the Washington Nationals would pay the steep price to acquire him—considering how talent-laden their pitching staff already was at the time.

The Scherzer signing seemed to indicate the team would soon part ways with free agent-to-be Jordan Zimmermann or possibly even trade away Stephen Strasburg. But those rumors have since died down, and it appears the Nats will head into the 2015 campaign with a rotation that will be the envy of every other club: Zimmermann, Strasburg, Scherzer, Doug Fister and Gio Gonzalez.

The odd man out is likely going to be Tanner Roark, he of 15 wins and a 2.85 ERA in 2014. He’ll be relegated to the bullpen, but he could fill a vital role as the season progresses if the injury bug hits. Washington should have high hopes heading into April.

(Photo by Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post via Getty Images)

9) Rob Manfred is already making his presence felt.

Not long after he was officially appointed as the tenth commissioner in Major League Baseball history, Manfred has made it clear that he doesn’t share the same slow-to-react approach of his predecessor.

The man who replaced Bud Selig has hinted at eliminating defensive shifts. He is not shy to express his feelings on the pace of play, and is also willing to discuss Pete Rose’s overdue eligibility for the Hall of Fame.

Looking back, Selig did a good job of eradicating many significant negative aspects of the sport–the prevalent use of steroids being at the top of the list.

Now that the major issues are out of the way, it’s time to act on the smaller items. Whatever your opinion is about these game alterations, it appears these matters will be discussed more openly under the new regime.

(Photo by Ron Vesely/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

8) New rule change proposals are small steps in the right direction.

Manfred’s suggestion of nixing the defensive shift may have been more speculation than a legitimate proposal. And it didn’t go over well with fans and media members alike.

Nevertheless, potential new rules such as this one are getting far more attention and media coverage then they did in the past. That’s a telling sign that the necessary adjustments are on the horizon.

Traditionalists may enjoy the game in its purest form, but the hard truth is that the game needs to be sped up for the purpose of keeping fans (specifically of the younger variety) engaged. Enforcing a pitch clock, reducing visits to the mound and shortening the time between innings are all solid ideas.

(Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

7) Cuban prospects are continuing to get paid well.

The recent effort to normalize diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba has spread into the baseball world. Last week, the league informed its clubs that they no longer need permission from the Treasury Department before signing Cuban players.

But that won’t stop teams from breaking the bank in order to land the talent available from the nearby island country–especially considering the recent success with Yasiel Puig and Yoenis Cespedes. The latest example is Yasmany Tomas and the Arizona Diamondbacks, who recently agreed to a six-year, $68.5-million deal.

And despite having to deal with a totally foreign environment, in addition to competing against the extraordinary talent MLB features, many have proven that the transition isn’t as difficult as it seems.

(Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

6) Nearly all the new managers are being dealt a tough hand.

It’s no coincidence that the teams that hired rookie skippers are also the ones that are currently in transitional phases.

Chip Hale replaced Kirk Gibson in Arizona–with a Hall of Famer in Tony LaRussa overseeing him. The D-Backs staggered to a 64-98 season after three straight years of .500 or better. With the experienced Dodgers, improved Padres and defending champion Giants all in the NL West, Arizona may be lucky to settle for fourth place.

Like LaRussa, Paul Molitor also has a plaque in Cooperstown. A member of the 3,000-hit club, Molitor supplanted Ron Gardenhire. And like LaRussa’s current team, the Twins are also stuck in a rough division filled with talent.

Joe Maddon’s move to Chicago left the Rays scrambling for a replacement. In comes Kevin Cash–with a task that won’t be easy. He’ll not only be taking over for a proven winner, he’ll be doing it at 37 years of age–making him MLB’s youngest current manager.

And regarding the Rangers, Ron Washington’s decision to resign came as quite a shock. That leaves it up to Jeff Banister. The former Pirates bench coach played just one game in the majors, and he now gets his most important job yet as he takes the reins for a club that lost 95 games in 2014.

(Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)

5) How do we make sense of the Oakland A’s and their mysterious ways?

In a six-month span, the Oakland Athletics went from “all in” on a World Series run to “all out” with a complete overhaul of the roster. Such is the life of a general manager operating with a tight budget. But being strapped for cash can’t be the main excuse for some of Billy Beane’s latest moves.

Seeing rentals Jeff Samardzija and Jon Lester move on wasn’t a surprise. Shipping All-Star Josh Donaldson to Toronto in exchange for oft-injured Brett Lowrie is a head-scratcher and a significant offensive downgrade.

With Brandon Moss now in Cleveland (dealt for a minor-leaguer), in addition to trading away Cespedes at last year’s trade deadline, the A’s have officially bid farewell to the heart of a batting order that helped the club reach elite status in 2014.

Beane may chalk this up to his “Moneyball” philosophy, but that term is becoming more and more overrated with each failed postseason outing. It’s time to hold Beane accountable for his questionable decisions.

(Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images)

4) The AL East is no longer a power division.

The Baltimore Orioles’ hopes for their first World Series win in 34 years vanished in just four ALCS games last season–as they were done in by “Royals Magic.”

The hopes of returning took a hit when main power source Nelson Cruz signed with the Mariners. Nick Markakis also left, and the team has failed to find adequate replacements. The O’s do have the reigning Executive of the Year (Dan Duquette) and the AL Manager of the Year (Buck Showalter). But each can only do so much with a roster that’s lost some punch.

It’s a bit darker for the Tampa Bay Rays, who are now without the GM and manager that helped turn this franchise into an annual contender, in addition to the departures of Ben Zobrist and Wil Myers.

Boston is set to be more like the title-winning team of 2013 than the last-place squad of 2014, but it’s still unknown as to how all the new parts will mesh. That said, with the aging Yankees and the mediocre Blue Jays not currently in dominant form, the Sox are the clear favorites in the East.

(Photo by Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images)

3) Andrew Friedman has already put his stamp on the Dodgers.

The former Rays general manager is baseball’s newest equivalent to a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon–as he attempts to upgrade a Dodgers team with few flaws in hopes of perfecting it. Friedman was quick to the trigger on many deals–most notably shipping off disgruntled Matt Kemp down to San Diego.

Using methods learned from his days in Tampa—which include valuing on-base percentage and the ability to stay on the field—Los Angeles also sent speedy infielder Dee Gordon to Miami along with pitcher Dan Haren. In return, the Dodgers acquired one of the Marlins’ top prospects—Andrew Heaney—who was quickly moved to the Angels just hours later for Howie Kendrick.

The Dodgers then traded for shortstop Jimmy Rollins, who had spent the entirety of his 15-year career in Philadelphia up to that point. They also signed Brandon McCarthy to help replace Dan Haren in the pitching rotation. For a club that has won the last two NL West titles (and averaged 93 victories during that time), Friedman’s master plan can only be deemed a success with a trip to the World Series.

(AP Photo/Steve Nesius)

2) A long-awaited overhaul is finally taking place in San Diego.

It appears Friedman is trying to revamp his team’s roster, and Padres new GM A.J. Preller is attempting to rebuild–quickly.

With a large crop of prospects, Preller dealt some in order to land a trio of outfielders that could immediately boost a staggering offense that was dead last in runs, batting average and on-base percentage last season.

The Padres first acquired Matt Kemp (who had been relegated to a part-time role in L.A.). Next were Justin Upton and Wil Myers. The additions of Derek Norris and Will Middlebrooks further amplified Preller’s desire to end an eight-year playoff drought. And when we finally thought the spending was over, they signed James Shields early Monday morning.

Of course, no team wins anything in the offseason. But the Padres made the biggest improvements. For a franchise that has a history of being perpetual sellers, this aggressiveness should come as a refreshing change to the fans in San Diego.

(AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

1) Both Chicago teams seem to have bright futures ahead of them.

The Cubs’ rise to respectability was accelerated with the Maddon hire, as he brings an instant culture change to a club that had become too comfortable with being in the cellar.

That was followed by signing Jon Lester in early December. The Cubs also added Dexter Fowler and Miguel Montero, and managed to retain Jason Hammel.

Combine the presence of their new left-handed ace and other key pieces with a wealth of young talent, and arguably the smartest manager in the game, and those hopes for respectability get replaced with dreams of being a postseason contender.

And while the North Side is all abuzz about the new look to their squad, the South Side team made some noise of their own.

Filling the majority of their offseason needs, the White Sox added Samardzija to be a capable No. 2 behind Chris Sale, inked closer David Robertson and brought in Melky Cabrera and Adam LaRoche to be fixtures in the middle of the order.

Surpassing the Tigers in the AL Central may be harder than trying to grab the local headlines from the Cubs, but they are in a much better place than in recent years.

Optimism is truly overflowing in Chicago this particular year.

(AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

Much of what will take place from April to October is shaped by the events that occur during the offseason -- leaving us with many reasons to be excited about what's to come.

And in case you missed any of the winter's biggest moves, here are 10 takeaways from the MLB offseason so far.

More on AOL
The Winners of MLB's 2015 Offseason

Related links:
Ducks seek to buy time in the pocket with Adams audible
2015 TOC top ten: Outfields
Hockey fights of the week: 2/2

For more sports coverage please visit Bloguin.com and follow Brian Wright on Twitter: @brianwright86
Read Full Story

People are Reading