Oh man, it feels like we haven’t talked all year, doesn’t it? I’ve been busy. You’ve been busy. Our various beloved teams have all been busy (well, except for the Royals). There are still another 41 days to go before pitchers and catchers report for the Mets and for Cleveland. A lot of offseason left to cover. So with that in mind, let’s reset a little bit. Who is winning this offseason? Who is losing it? And what decisions and battles are still left to be fought?
Winning the offseason
Cleveland Indians: The AL Champs have landed Edwin Encarnacion for a very reasonable three year, $65 million deal. He was the second best free agent hitter on the market this winter and is a perfect upgrade for them at first base. It’s really their only big move, but it was also a perfect one.
Chicago White Sox: It’s weird to put a club on this list who clearly has made the decision to get worse. However, after failing to produce a winner with a stars and scrubs approach, Rick Hahn has opted to jettison the stars and rebuild from the ground up. His first two big moves, trading Chris Sale and Adam Eaton, brought a ton of talent back to the South Side, and he still has assets like Todd Frazier, David Robertson, and Jose Quintana to move.
Los Angeles Angels: The Angels wasted another transcendent season from Mike Trout thanks to injuries and black holes at several positions. They haven’t made huge moves to upgrade this offseason, so they’ll likely enter 2017 with low expectations as well. But the moves they have made have the potential to make the club much better very quickly. Ben Revere is a great glove in a corner outfield spot who can BABIP is way into a two win season. And acquiring the disgruntled Danny Espinosa for essentially nothing is a massive upgrade at second base. Martin Maldonado is not a great catcher, but he’s miles better than Carlos Perez and Jeff Bandy. With a little more luck on the health front, the Angels could be a borderline playoff team.
Losing the offseason
Kansas City Royals: After building a championship caliber team, Dayton Moore was ordered to rein in spending this offseason. A team that already had holes and disappointed in 2016 has been unable to upgrade at second base, in the rotation, and in the bullpen. So far, their only move has been to trade away former all-world closer Wade Davis for Jorge Soler, which doesn’t move the needle.
Colorado Rockies: It’s really hard to figure out exactly what the Rockies think they’re doing this offseason. Signing Ian Desmond to play first base was weird enough. But then giving a three-year, $18 million deal to an ok lefty reliever like Mike Dunn? It has to be frustrating to follow a team with this much talent, and no idea how to spend their resources.
Los Angeles Dodgers: The Dodgers have re-signed Rich Hill, Justin Turner, and Kenley Jansen this offseason. That’s great; they needed to retain those guys. But they have not upgraded their 91 win team anywhere. Perhaps they’re hoping that they’ll get luckier on the health front in 2017, and that could work for them. But they’re also an extremely expensive team built to win now, who will be disproportionately affected by the changes in the luxury tax system in the new CBA, and whose front office is running out of time to get over the hump and win a championship. They really do still need to upgrade their lineup in a significant way.
Will Brian Dozier get traded?
The Twins have had him on the market all winter. By now, I thought someone would have ponied up for a 40 homer second baseman who plays good defense and is a clubhouse leader with 80-grade hair. But the Dodgers are dragging their feet and it’s unclear if there’s a market beyond that for a middle of the order middle infielder who only makes $15 million over the next two years. Minnesota is starting to talk about holding him through the start of the season. We’ll see if that’s just bluster.
Doesn’t anyone want Jose Bautista?
There has been very little movement in Bautista’s market so far, with teams understandably wary of a slowing 36 year old who had trouble staying on the field last year. Bautista may be willing to take a one-year deal to prove he still has got something in the tank, but it’s unclear who is going to be willing to take the risk. It’s been a precipitous downfall for one of the most dynamic sluggers in the game.
Are the Detroit Tigers buyers or sellers?
The Tigers dealt center fielder Cameron Maybin at the start of the offseason, and have been caught up in trade rumors regarding J.D. Martinez and Ian Kinsler all winter. They haven’t made any significant moves to otherwise upgrade the club that just missed out on a playoff spot in 2016. Their veteran core is yet another year older, and there are massive questions in the starting rotation. But they seem so tantalizingly close to putting it all together every year for owner Mike Ilitch, and have the top-line talent to go toe-to-toe with anybody in the postseason. It’s January and I still have no idea which way the Tigers are going in 2017.