Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Ranking the Offseasons: AL (Updated)

I am on a business trip this week and will not be able to get to the NL recap until next week. Here is an updated look at the AL after the three-team (not officially, but in practice) Mike Napoli-Juan Rivera-Vernon Wells-Frank Francisco deal and the Johnny Damon / Manny Ramirez signings - which were predicted by the Banter weeks ago.

These rankings - which are scaled to the league - are based on what has happened to each team since the final out of the World Series was recorded, including free agent signings, releases, non-tenders, trades, and retirements.

1) Boston Red Sox
Retained: RP Andrew Miller, DH David Ortiz, C Jason Varitek
Added: RP Bobby Jenks, RP Dan Wheeler, 1B Adrian Gonzalez, OF Carl Crawford
Lost: SP Casey Kelly, C Victor Martinez, 1B Anthony Rizzo, 2B Felipe Lopez, 3B Adrian Beltre, OF Reymond Fuentes
Recap: Boston signed the premier outfielder on the market and acquired one of the game's best hitters without having to sacrifice anything from their Major League roster. They did lose Beltre to the Rangers but after acquiring Gonzalez had no place to start him without having to move Kevin Youkilis to the bench.
Grade for 2011: A+. AGonz and Crawford should be worth five wins each, and the Sox should be disappointed with anything less than 98 wins in '11.
Grade Beyond 2011: B+. Although they dealt highly-rated prospects (read: not sure things) for him, AGonz will only be 28 on Opening Day. Crawford will be 29. They could easily form the nucleus in Beantown for the next seven years. They are docked points for having to surrender their first rounder in 2011.

2) Chicago White Sox:
Retained: RP Matt Thornton, C AJ Pierzynski, C Ramon Castro, 1B Paul Konerko, 3B Omar Vizquel
Added: RP Jesse Crain, RP Will Ohman, DH Adam Dunn
Lost: SP Freddy Garcia, RP JJ Putz, RP Bobby Jenks, OF Andruw Jones
Recap: The South Siders solidified the bullpen (addition by subtraction with Jenks) and added a run-producing DH that routinely crushes 40 homers per season.
Grade for 2011: A-. This is my sleeper team in '11. If the pitching staff can hold up over the course of the season, they are the best value on the board to win the World Series (30:1).
Grade Beyond 2011: C. Giving Konerko a three-year deal (he'll be 35 on Opening Day) was a major risk despite his career year in 2010. They are docked points for having to surrender their first rounder in 2011.

3 (were 6)) Texas Rangers:
Retained: C Matt Treanor
Added: SP Brandon Webb, RP Arthur Rhodes, C Mike Napoli, C Yorvit Torrealba, 3B Adrian Beltre
Lost: SP Cliff Lee, SP Rich Harden, RP Frank Francisco, C Bengie Molina, OF Jeff Francouer, OF Vlad Guerrero
Recap: A really interesting winter for the American League champs. They basically swapped out Cliff Lee for Adrian Beltre, a reasonable move considering the money involved. I like the risk they took on Brandon Webb although the chances of it failing are at least eight times (very scientific) the chances that he returns to his Cy Young form.
Grade for 2011: A- (was B-). Lee is a workhorse and the responsibility of replacing him will need to be spread among either inexperienced arms (think Derek Holland) or aging vets (Webb). Replacing Vlad won't be so simple either as he OPS+'d 122. The Napoli deal was brilliant as they dealt a fungible, injury-riddled reliever for a power hitting catcher that can also DH or platoon at first.
Grade Beyond 2011: B+ (was B). If given the choice, I like the idea of giving huge money to a position player rather than a pitcher. Napoli will not cost much more than Francisco would have, but he will provide more value.

4 (were 3)) Oakland A's:
Retained: 2B Mark Ellis, OF Coco Crisp
Added: SP Rich Harden, SP Brandon McCarthy, RP Brian Fuentes, RP Grant Balfour, OF Josh Willingham, DH Hideki Matsui
Lost: SP Justin Duchscherer, SP Ben Sheets, 3B Eric Chavez, OF Travis Buck, DH Jack Cust
Recap: The underrated Willingham goes to his third team (Marlins, Nats) that plays in a pitcher's park. Despite this, he still mashes to the tune of a 265 BA / .267 OBP / .475 Slg triple-slash. However, injuries have been his nemesis as he has never played in more than 144 games and hasn't been healthy for a full season since 2007. Oakland also strengthened the 'pen with Balfour and Fuentes. The gambler in me loves the pair of lottery tickets they bought in Harden and McCarthy.
Grade for 2011: B+. Cust was the only player they lost that contributed positively in 2010.
Grade Beyond 2011: B. The A's did not lock themselves into any foolish long-term deals. They went to two-years on Balfour and Fuentes, but I much prefer them to the three-year Rafael Soriano deal. They are docked points for having to surrender their first rounder in 2011.

5 (were 4)) Detroit Tigers:
Retained: DH Magglio Ordonez, 3B Brandon Inge, 3B Jhonny Peralta
Added: SP Brad Penny, RP Joaquin Benoit, C Victor Martinez
Lost: SP Jeremy Bonderman, SP Armando Galarraga, C Gerald Laird, OF Johnny Damon
Recap: VMart will provide stability and switch-hitability in the middle of the lineup between Miguel Cabrera and Magglio. Benoit will be the bridge to closer Jose Valverde. Penny is a risk worth taking as a fifth starter.
Grade for 2011: B. In 2010, the Tigers' catchers triple-slashed an abysmal .223 / .294 / .330. Martinez's career numbers: .302 / .351 / .493.
Grade Beyond 2011: C. Giving Victor Martinez four years was risky since the catcher will be 32 on Opening Day - meaning a transition to DH will likely be in his near future. Not crazy about the three-year deal for Benoit, either. They are also docked points for having to surrender their first rounder in 2011.

6 (were 5)) Baltimore Orioles :
Retained: RP Koji Uehara, SS Cesar Izturis
Added: RP Kevin Gregg, RP Jeremy Accardo, 1B Derrek Lee, 2B Brendan Harris, SS JJ Hardy, 3B Mark Reynolds
Lost: SP Kevin Millwood, RP Mark Hendrickson, 3B Miguel Tejada, 3B Ty Wigginton
Recap: Put simply, the O's got better during the offseason for the first time in a long time. Unfortunately, they reside in a division home to the league's two biggest spenders and the league's smartest spenders.
Grade for 2011: B-. Reynolds will strike out a ton, but he'll also provide a power threat.
Grade Beyond 2011: B. Baltimore didn't rock the boat. The deal for Lee is only for one year, and they resisted whatever urge they might have had to overpay an aging veteran with "name" value (see Atkins, Garrett or Tejada, Miguel).

7) Seattle Mariners:
Retained: SP Erik Bedard
Added: DH Jack Cust, C Miguel Olivo, 2B Adam Kennedy
Lost: SP Ryan Rowland-Smith, 1B Casey Kotchmann, 2B Jose Lopez, DH Russell Branyan
Recap: A pretty ho hum offseason in the Pacific Northwest. They improve slightly at DH. They could also catch a huge break if Milton Bradley's arrest qualifies as a breach of contract.
Grade for 2011: C+. Status quo.
Grade Beyond 2011: C+. They didn't do anything dumb (like signing Chone Figgins) or anything really dumb (like trading Kng Felix).

8) Minnesota Twins:
Retained: SP Carl Pavano, DH Jim Thome, OF Jason Kubel
Added: 2B Tsuyoshi Nishioka, one first rounder, and five supplemental first rounders as a result of losing free agents
Lost: RP Jesse Crain, RP Brian Fuentes, RP Matt Guerrier, RP Jon Rauch, 2B Orlando Hudson
Recap: Losing four key performers out of the bullpen will hurt, but remember they get Joe Nathan back (hopefully). Nishioka will be a younger, cheaper, better version of Hudson.
Grade for 2011: C. Need to watch Nishioka before making any judgments.
Grade Beyond 2011: B. The draft picks really soften the blow of losing some key performers out of the 'pen.

9) New York Yankees:
Retained: RP Mariano Rivera, SS Derek Jeter
Added: RP Rafael Soriano, RP Pedro Feliciano, C Russell Martin
Lost: SP Andy Pettitte, SP Javier Vazquez, SP Dustin Moseley, RP Kerry Wood, RP Alfredo Aceves, 1B Lance Berkman, 1B Nick Johnson, OF Marcus Thames
Recap: The Yankees' offseason will be best known for what they didn't do: sign Cliff Lee or Carl Crawford. After missing on the big fish(es), GM Brian Cashman focused on solidifying a bullpen that was actually very good last season (3.57 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 7.7 K/9) especially considering they played half their games in a bandbox. However, it cost them dearly - $30m for Rivera and $35m plus their first rounder for Soriano.
The Yanks also added Martin with the hope he could revive his career; he's only two years removed from a .280 BA / .385 OBP season, but it's rare to see a catcher bounce back once the inevitable decline begins.
Overall, there's not much to get excited about. They lost more talent than they acquired and both Jeter and Rivera are on the downswings of storied careers. With this roster they have right now and the lack of starting pitching depth, winning 95 games again this season will be a challenge
Grade for 2011: C-. Focus should have been on starting, not relief pitching.
Grade Beyond 2011: D. Despite talk of not wanting to sign a free agent that would require them to give up their first rounder, the Yanks signed Soriano and did just that.

10) Los Angeles Angels:
Retained: N/A
Added: RP Scott Downs, RP Hisanori Takahashi, OF Vernon Wells
Lost: DH Hideki Matsui, DH Juan Rivera, C Mike Napoli,
Recap: Always a bridesmaid, never a bride. The story of every offseason in recent memory for the Angels. I detailed all of their "near" misses and still haven't been able to explain the lack of success in obtaining talent. They tried to spice things up by acquiring Wells (sure to be a colossal disaster in the last two year of his deal) for the price it would have cost them to sign Adrian Beltre and re-sign Napoli. Confusing.
Grade for 2011: C- (was D+). Wells will be better than the combination of Napoli and Rivera in 2011, but this now locks Jeff Mathis into regular at bats (see also: ominous signs for your baseball team) preventing me from upgrading them further. Are Downs and Takahashi difference makers? At least they didn't lose any big names this year.
Grade Beyond 2011: D- (was C-). Taking on over $80m of the Wells contract is borderline ludicrous. Giving Takahashi a two year deal when he will be 36 on Opening Day makes little sense. Giving Downs a three-year deal when he will be 35 on Opening Day makes even less.

11) Cleveland Indians:
Retained: N/A
Added: SS Adam Everett, OF Austin Kearns, OF Travis Buck
Lost: N/A
Recap: Being a fan in Cleveland right now is not enviable. I actually have no idea how the Indians plan to improve this season or beyond. Their three "moves" are all short-term fixes with very limited upside. A really bad offseason for the Tribe considering they won 69 games last year. In my mind, they have three players to build around: Grady Sizemore, Carlos Santana, and Shin-Soo Choo (two missed a large chunk of the year with injury). They need help.
Grade for 2011: D. A head-scratching offseason. It's almost like they aren't trying. Do something, anything. Buy out Hafner. Sign an international free agent. Come on.
Grade Beyond 2011: D. No discernable effort was made to improve the team long-term either. Santana can't turn this ship around by himself.

12) Toronto Blue Jays:
Retained: RP Jason Frasor, C Jose Molina, 3B Edwin Encarnacion
Added: RP Octavio Dotel, RP Carlos Villanueva, RP Frank Francisco, DH Juan Rivera, 2B Brett Lawrie, OF Rajai Davis, OF Corey Patterson, four supplemental first rounders, one second rounder as a result of losing free agents
Lost: SP Shaun Marcum, RP Jeremy Accardo, RP Scott Downs, RP Kevin Gregg, C John Buck, C Miguel Olivo, 1B Lyle Overbay, OF Vernon Wells
Recap: Toronto's moves this offseason were made with 2012 in mind. If you need proof, look no further than the brilliant move to trade for Miguel Olivo and offer him arbitration knowing he would decline, giving them a supplemental first rounder when he signed with the Mariners (he was a Type B free agent). Unfortunately, that won't help at all this year.
Grade for 2011: D- (was D). They lost their catcher, their entire bullpen, and their number two starter. Not a winning combo. The Wells deal does not help the 2011 product as he would have been more productive than Francisco and Rivera combined).
Grade Beyond 2011: A+ (was B+). Riding themselves of the Wells contract was tremendous, saving the team over $80m. Lawrie plus picks should help immensely long-term.

13) Kansas City Royals:
Retained: 3B Wilson Betemit
Added: SP Jeff Francis, SP Jake Odorizzi, RP Jeremy Jeffress, SS Alcides Escobar, OF Melky Cabrera, OF Jeff Francouer, OF Lorenzo Cain
Lost: SP Zack Greinke, SP Gil Meche, SP Bruce Chen, SS Yuniesky Betancourt
Recap: They traded an established ace for four prospects (none of whom is considered "can't miss") and added two terrible outfielders. Hey, at least they brought back Wilson Betemit. Oh that's right, it's not 2002 (that whole list is pretty laughable right now).
Grade for 2011: D-. Talk about waving the white flag before the season starts. This team has about as much hope of contending as their pitching staff does of keeping their ERA below 5: none. A wasted season.
Grade Beyond 2011: C-. Greinke is only 27 years old and under team control for a reasonable price through 2012. Are they really better off trading him than they would be trying to convince him to stick around with all the talent they have coming up through the system? I still am unclear what the rush to trade him was all about unless he demanded it.

14) Tampa Bay Rays:
Retained: RP JP Howell
Added: RP Joel Peralta, RP Chris Archer, C Robinson Chirinos, SS Hak Ju-Lee, OF Brandon Gruyer, OF Manny Ramirez, OF Johnny Damon, three first rounders, seven supplemental first rounders as a result of losing free agents
Lost: SP Matt Garza, RP Rafael Soriano, RP Randy Choate, RP Chad Qualls, RP Grant Balfour, RP Joaquin Benoit, 1B Carlos Pena, SS Jason Bartlett, OF Carl Crawford, OF Brad Hawpe, OF Fernando Perez
Recap: This offseason will be known as the exodus. They lost their best player (and outfielder), their first baseman, their shortstop, their number two starter, their closer, and half the bullpen. Before the Damon and Manny signings, I would have said that no team in history lost more talent (Florida's firesales of the 90's notwithstanding) during one offseason.
Grade for 2011: D- (was F). Damon and Manny help, but they still lost way too much talent lost.
Grade Beyond 2011: A-. The Garza trade netted them four decent prospects, and they will dominate the early part of the 2011 Draft.

The National League rankings will follow next Wednesday.

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