Rating the Off-Season

With Pitchers and Catchers reporting to camp a month from tomorrow, I’m looking at which teams are winners and losers. I’ve selected a winner and loser from each division; some we easy to pick, while other divisions had no clear cut winner (mainly the NL Central and West).

Yankees – Winners
Additions: CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, Mark Teixeira, Nick Swisher
Subtractions: Bobby Abreu, Wilson Betemit, Jason Giambi, Mike Mussina, Carl Pavano
The Yankees, after spending an off-season rebuilding within, are back to their spending ways. They tried to lay off the free agents and build their system up last year (which they did), but it caused them to miss the playoffs. As a result, their wallets have opened. Will this be enough to overtake the Rays and Sox? We’ll see. I’m worried about Burnett’s health and Teixeira in the big market of New York. I don’t think they really need to unload Swisher or Nady, as Swisher could take over in center and do no worse than Johnny Damon or Melky Cabrera.

Red Sox – Losers
Additions: John Smoltz, Josh Bard, Brad Penny, Rocco Baldelli, Takashi Saito
Subtractions: David Ross
It’s hard to say the Red Sox are losers, but they lost out on Teixeira and are now scrambling to get a big time bat. Manny is the top bat left, but you know that won’t work out. They have also said that they will stop dealing with Scott Boras; it’s good in theory, but he represents too many big name players. They’ll have to cave on this eventually. The starting pitching was probably not an area that needed a ton of help, and that’s what they’ve worked on the most.

Cleveland Indians – Winners
Additions: Mark DeRosa, Kerry Woods, Joe Smith, Carl Pavano
Subtractions: Franklin Gutierrez
Trading Sabathia mid-season is looking even better, since the Brewers are only getting second round pick for him (plus the first round supplemental pick). They’ve also taken the Cubs for a ride this off-season, getting versitile DeRosa for 3 bullpen prospects. They’ve also signed closer Kerry Woods, an upgrade over Joe Borowski and the others that couldn’t handle the role. Adding Pavano is a low-risk, medium reward move; if he can find his 2003 ways, he’ll be a value signing.

Chicago White Sox – Losers
Additions: Brent Lillibridge, Wilson Betemit
Subtractions: Javier Vazquez, Nick Swisher
One year after saying they were an improved team, they’ve taken a step back. Swisher struggled last year, but he was expected to make a comeback this year; they got a utility player and a couple low level prospects for him. They gave up more than that for the year they got from him. They then turned and traded one of the more durable, experience starters in their rotation for more prospects; they did get a couple of decent one in Lillibridge and Tyler Flowers, but neither will make an impact this year. They are also losing the left side of their infield (Joe Crede and Orlando Cabrera) and haven’t begun to think about replacements; Lillibridge might work, but Betemit won’t. They are talking about trading Jermaine Dye (and Paul Konerko to a lesser extent); This will get them younger, but they don’t have anyone ready to take over, in my opinion.

Oakland Athletics – Winners
Additions: Matt Holliday, Jason Giambi
Subtractions: Huston Street, Greg Smith, Carlos Gonzalez
In a surprise move, the A’s traded for high priced, free agent-to-be Holliday. It didn’t cost them much, since the team lost confidence in Street and have better prospects behind Gonzalez and Smith. They also added Giambi, who isn’t the same player who left years ago, but still has some power and will take walks. Those 2 alone are a huge upgrade for the offense; they may work on shortstop next.

Los Angeles Angels – Losers
Additions: Brian Fuentes
Subtractions: Francisco Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira
Sure, they’re getting a couple of extra picks, but they have a large hole at first. They also can’t expect Fuentes to be the closer they had with Rodriguez. Plus, re-signing Juan Rivera just keeps the outfield crowded; I don’t know why they are asking about Dye now. At least the pitching is good.

Atlanta Braves – Winners
Additions: Derek Lowe, Javier Vazquez, Kenshin Kawakami
Subtractions: Mike Hampton, John Smoltz, Brent Lillibridge
I think the Braves will make a serious run for the NL East title this year. They’ve completely rebuilt their rotation and have what it takes to match the Phillies and Mets; Lowe, Vazquez, Kawakami, Jurrjens, and Campillo are a strong group of starters, and that doesn’t include Tim Hudson who will be back at mid-season and prospect Tommy Hanson. They are now working to get a power hitter for the outfield.

Philadelphia Phillies – Losers
Additions: Raul Ibanez, Chan Ho Park
Subtractions: Pat Burrell
The World Champions don’t look much different, but their opponents do. New GM Ruben Amaro Jr has made some puzzling moves; I bet he’s kicking himself for signing the aging Ibanez for 3 years and over $30MM when he could have brought back Burrell for 2 years and half the money. They are similar players, but at least Burrell has age on his side. Also in the aging player department, will Jamie Moyer still be effective in 2010; will he be worth $6.5MM then? They could have taken that $44MM+ and signed Manny Ramirez and Carl Pavano and gotten a better value on their investment.

St. Louis Cardinals – Winners
Additions: Trevor Miller, Joe Thruston, Khalil Greene
Subtractions: Aaron Miles, Cesar Izturis, Felipe Lopez
The 2 biggest holes for the Cardinals coming into the off-season was the bullpen and the middle infield. To me, the biggest move they made was not making one at all. Chris Perez and Jason Motte will handle the closer role better than Ryan Franklin and Jason Isringhausen did last year; they also won’t be blocked by big name signings like Rodriguez or Fuentes. They’ve added low cost options for lefties in the ‘pen as well. Khalil Greene, no matter how bad he bats, is an offensive upgrade over Izturis; if he is like his pre-2008 form, then his defense won’t be too far behind. He also didn’t cost much talent to get, so it’s big upgrade. Now they need to add at least 1 starting pitcher and they will be right there in September.

Chicago Cubs – Losers
Additions: Milton Bradley, Aaron Miles, Kevin Gregg, Luis Vizcaino
Subtractions: Mark DeRosa, Kerry Wood, Bob Howry, Jason Marquis
The Cubs are the team to beat in the NL Central; unfortunately for their fans, they want to make it interesting. Kevin Gregg is not a suitable replacement for Kerry Wood; add in they gave up promising prospect Jose Ceda, and the deal looks worse. Aaron Miles will be over-exposed if he plays too much (but he gives them a decent emergency arm); he’s the opposite of what they had in DeRosa. That’s all before they gave Milton Bradley, clubhouse cancer and injury concern, a 3 year contract; they’ll regret that before the contract expires. At least they dumped Jason Marquis.

Los Angeles Dodgers – Winners
Additions: Mark Loretta, Guillermo Mota, Claudio Vargas
Subtractions: Derek Lowe, Brad Penny, Takashi Saito
The Dodgers are the winners by default in the NL West. They’ve resigned Casey Blake and Rafael Furcal, which will continue to stablize the left side of the infield. They remain one of the only suitors of Manny Ramirez (although the Giants could jump in). They need to find someone to replace Derek Lowe, but they have some good pitching prospects and signed Claudio Vargas – a low risk option for the back of the rotation. Plus, if Jason Schmidt comes back strong, he’s the equivilent of a big name signing.

San Diego Padres – Losers
Additions: Mark Worrell
Subtractions: Khalil Greene, Trevor Hoffman
I know they are re-building and don’t like to kick a team while they are down, but this franchise looks directionless right now. Between the owner’s divorce, the mis-handling of Trevor Hoffman, and the botched Jake Peavy deal(s), the franchise looks like a walking time bomb. They haven’t signed anyone to a major league deal. They’ve let the all time saves leader walk (granted, he’s not the same pitcher he was a few years ago, but still). They did at least move Khalil Greene for a solid reliever (plus a player to be name later), so they’ve done at least one thing right.

Reasons for the Current Market
The market has been pretty slow, especially for starting pitching. Everyone expected things to pick up after the big names signed, but I’m expecting things to be slower until spring training. The reason – Kyle Lohse.

Scott Boras and Lohse were asking for a multiyear deal worth more than $10MM a season and no one was biting. It looked as though he wasn’t going to be playing in 2008, until the Cardinals signed him for $4.5MM one year deal. It turned out to be a great deal for both sides, as Lohse had a career year and got his multiyear deal from the Cardinals on the last day of the season.

I expect more teams to take this approach this season.

Free Agent Tracker
I’ve taken my Geocites site and created a free agent tracker. I also have team pages that track their moves and list the top prospect lists that are released. Look back soon for Top 100 prospect lists, when they are released by their parent sites.

I’m trying to update it daily, but sometimes it gets done a little less frequently.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,