The blockbuster with Miami brought shortstop Jose Reyes, starting pitchers Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle, and versatile Emilio Bonifacio — along with immediate credibility and fan excitement. But the best part of the Blue Jays’ remake is that they completed the job by bringing in Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey (pictured). His reliability (National League-best 233-2/3 innings last year) is precisely what Toronto needed, given Johnson’s spotty health history. The Jays also were wise to strike with the Yankees and Red Sox at (relatively) low ebbs.
Who came out on top?
Between the unsigned Scott Boras clients and daily PED revelations, it might seem as though the 2012-2013 offseason will last into perpetuity. The calendar says it won’t. The Colorado Rockies and Chicago White Sox begin formal workouts Monday, and all 30 teams will be open for business a few days after that. So now that the (baseball) winter is almost over, it’s time to take out our scorecard and declare the biggest winners and losers.
— Jon Paul Morosi
Loser: New York Yankees
The Yankees won 95 games last year, most in the American League. So, they began the offseason in a good place. But the winter itself was underwhelming — at least, by normal New York standards. The $189 million spending target already dogged general manager Brian Cashman, as he replaced outfielder Nick Swisher with an aging Ichiro Suzuki (pictured) and is left to hope on Mariano Rivera’s surgically repaired knee in a bullpen that no longer includes Rafael Soriano. Alex Rodriguez is an expensive and unproductive concern, no matter how far away he is from the team while rehabilitating from surgery.
Winner: Atlanta Braves
This is going to be fun. The Braves have smartly wagered that Justin (left) and B.J. will bring out the best in each other, while playing in the National League’s most explosive outfield alongside Jason Heyward. General manager Frank Wren was able to acquire Justin from Arizona without surrendering prized shortstop Andrelton Simmons, and B.J., still only 28, has plenty of upside left to realize. Although the Braves will miss Martin Prado, this is a more talented team than the one that lost the Infield Fly Rule Game.
Loser: Jeffrey Loria
If it weren’t for Alex Rodriguez and Anthony Bosch, Loria would be the most unpopular South Florida baseball figure right now. In fact, Loria might still have that title, at least among taxpayers who don’t want to underwrite a nearly new stadium after the Marlins’ latest fire sale. The Miami Herald reported that former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush tried to buy the team from Loria this offseason; Loria told him the club wasn’t for sale. Perhaps he will change his mind after seeing the coming year’s attendance figures.
Winner: Josh Hamilton
Hamilton was booed, at home, during his final game as a Ranger. Many in the industry wondered if his drug past would keep him from signing a big-dollar, multiyear contract. (Remember the suggestions that he would need to accept a three-year deal?) Well, the Angels gave Hamilton five years and $125 million — half of what Albert Pujols received the offseason before. Did Hamilton set records with his deal? No. But he ended up with a very fair contract in a division he knows well.
Loser: Los Angeles Angels
The Angels are lucky in two respects. The rival Texas Rangers had a nondescript offseason, and the Angels’ surprise signing of Josh Hamilton could account for the difference in more than one crucial intradivision game this year. But the Angels’ offseason maneuverings failed to upgrade the starting rotation. Manager Mike Scioscia now has an inferior cast to the 2012 group — which, by the way, was only good enough for a third-place finish. Zack Greinke, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana for Jason Vargas, Tommy Hanson (second from left) and Joe Blanton (left) was not a favorable exchange.
Winner: Washington Nationals
We could argue about the Strasburg Shutdown from now until the Nationals win the World Series. Fortunately for general manager Mike Rizzo, that could happen in 2013. Rizzo answered the key questions about his roster this offseason. No true center fielder? Here’s Denard Span. Worried about rotation depth? There’s Dan Haren (pictured). Concerned about closer Drew Storen after Game 5 against St. Louis? Call Scott Boras and offer whatever it takes to sign Rafael Soriano. The Nats might be the most balanced team in baseball.
Loser: Milwaukee Brewers
The issue isn’t the Brewers’ long-term financial marriage to Ryan Braun. At least, not yet. The most disconcerting aspect of the Brewers’ offseason is they didn’t comprehensively address a pitching staff that cost them a postseason berth last year. The starting rotation is inexperienced, with Yovani Gallardo backed by young arms such as Wily Peralta and Mike Fiers. Newly signed lefties Tom Gorzelanny and Mike Gonzalez will help in the late innings, but the bullpen remains thin in front of inconsistent closer John Axford (pictured). Plus, first baseman Corey Hart’s recent knee surgery was an unwelcome development.
Winner: Cincinnati Reds
Remember: This team was one key hit away from sweeping the eventual champion Giants in the division series last year. The Reds had as much business winning the World Series as anyone else in 2012, and the same can be said about the season ahead. Dusty Baker’s team was weak in center field and at the leadoff spot; enter Shin-Soo Choo (pictured) in the three-way trade with Cleveland and Arizona. The uncertainty surrounding pitcher Aroldis Chapman’s role is worrisome, but this is an excellent team.
Loser: Texas Rangers
Months after the fact, the Rangers still seem shell-shocked by that three-game sweep in Oakland to end the regular season. The offseason sputtered along in Arlington, as the Rangers failed to land pitcher Zack Greinke or outfielder Justin Upton to validate their patient approach. Two of the franchise’s foremost faces are gone, after outfielder Josh Hamilton signed with the rival Angels and infielder Michael Young was dealt to Philadelphia. Now the Rangers must deal with outfielder Nelson Cruz (pictured) reportedly being linked to the Biogenesis clinic in South Florida. It is hard to say this is a better team than the 2012 version.