From the winter meetings to the $100-million bids for superstar free agents, the baseball offseason is almost as much a spectacle as the regular season. Even though the offseason merry-go-round isn’t quite finished with players like Yoenis Cespedes and Dexter Fowler still on the market, the hosts at MLB Network Radio shared their thoughts on which teams have done the best and worst jobs – so far – preparing themselves for next season.
The Boston Red Sox wheeled and deal’ed to shore up their pitching staff, which ranked second-to-last in the American League in team ERA (4.31) in 2015. Former Detroit Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski was hired as the new president of basketball operations and immediately went to work, trading four prospects in November for four-time All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel. With the bullpen strengthened, Boston landed the big fish in former Cy Young winner David Price, signing him to the largest deal ever for a pitcher at seven years and $217 million.
The 30-year-old Price spent last season split between Detroit and Toronto. He led the AL with a 2.45 ERA and finished second in the Cy Young voting. Kimbrel ranked sixth in the majors with 39 saves for the San Diego Padres last year.
The Red Sox ranked in the top-five in multiple batting categories like runs (748), hits (1,496), RBI (706) and batting average (.265). Making these necessary moves to improve the team’s pitching convinced four out of seven hosts to choose Boston as the team that has had the best offseason.
“Between David Price and Craig Kimbrel, they have addressed their most critical needs entering 2016,” one MLB Network Radio host said. “As long as their lineup produces as it did in the second half of 2015, they should make the playoffs.”
The Chicago Cubs, Arizona Diamondbacks and Detroit Tigers also received votes for the best offseason. The Cubs signed outfielder Jason Heyward, second baseman Ben Zobrist and starting pitcher John Lackey, adding to an already loaded roster that should be the favorite to represent the National League in the World Series. The Diamondbacks made a splash by signing Zack Greinke, who finished second in the NL Cy Young voting last year. The Tigers signed Jordan Zimmermann to bolster the pitching staff and Justin Upton to ignite an already potent offensive lineup.
As for the worst offseason, Baltimore received three votes for failing to do anything to cement its status as an AL contender. After what seemed like a hostage crisis, the Chris Davis saga ended last week with the first baseman agreeing to a seven-year, $161 million deal. Still, for a team that has a division title, two ALDS appearances and one ALCS appearance in the last five years, the Orioles don’t jump off the page as a team that can make a run to a World Series title.
“They have not addressed their need for an ace pitcher and lack sufficient power at the corner outfield spots,” one MLB Network Radio host said.
The Dodgers received two votes after letting Greinke slip out of their grasp and into the hands of an NL West division rival. They also backed out from a trade for star closer Aroldis Chapman. Los Angeles brought in Scott Kazmir to replace Greinke and re-signed starting pitcher Brett Anderson and aging second baseman Chase Utley. Japanese pitcher Kenta Maeda was signed to an eight-year, $25 million contract. These moves seem to be all over the place – and the MLB Network Radio hosts are unimpressed.
“They lost on Zack Grienke bidding and had deals for Hisashi Iwakuma and Aroldis Chapman blow up on them,” one host said. “They settled for Kazmir, signed Maeda to an eight-year deal with irregularities in his elbow. Plus they didn’t improve offensively at all, [and] there is no clear evidence of a plan or direction.”
The Cincinnati Reds, Miami Marlins and San Diego Padres also received votes. The Reds, who finished last in the NL Central, traded Chapman to the New York Yankees for a package of prospects and didn’t do anything else of significance. The Marlins haven’t done anything to build on the team’s young nucleus. After dominating free agency last year, the Padres signed three players, all in their 30s, to one-year deals, and traded away Kimbrel and others, receiving just prospects in return.
Only time will tell which team truly had the best or worst offseason. One thing’s for certain: the MLB Network Radio hosts are usually correct about these things.
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