MLB Hot Stove Report
In this day and age, the offseason for major league baseball clubs is as interesting as the regular season. Noobsports ranks the comings and goings of the hot stove season. Offseason Report Cards for the AL and NL will be published later this week.
Best Offseason, AL:
Toronto Blue Jays. Well, we might as well start off with a tough one right away. The White Sox had a heck of a winter, but the Blue Jays have improved too much to be denied. The Jays added A.J. Burnett and B.J. Ryan to the pitching staff initially (get it?) and then traded for Lyle Overbay and Troy Glaus to shore up the lineup. The offseason also gave ace Roy Halladay time to heal, meaning that finally the Red Sox and Yankees aren't the only contenders for the AL East crown in 2006. Adding free agent catcher Bengie Molina would be the icing on the cake.
Worst Offseason, AL:
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The Angels lost pitchers Jarrod Washburn and Paul Byrd, as well as catcher Bengie Molina from their 2005 AL West winning team. JC Romero is a decent pickup, but GM Bill Stoneman has to be worried about whether or not they have enough starting pitching or enough bats. However, this ranking has more to do with what the other teams in the division did with their offseasons. The A's and Rangers got tougher, meaning the Angels couldn't afford to be passive this winter.
Best Offseason, NL:
New York Mets. Sure, the Mets spent an obscene amount of money this offseason and that probably isn't fair to teams outside of New York and Boston. However, the blame for competitive imbalance falls to commisioner Bud Selig and not to Mets GM Omar Minaya. Minaya signed free agent Billy Wagner to a 4 year, $43 million contract and took advantage of the Marlins' situation to add Carlos Delgado and Paul LoDuca in seperate deals. Plus, the Mets added the versatile Xavier Nady and the ageless Julio Franco to an offensive mix already featuring Carlos Beltran, Cliff Floyd, Jose Reyes, and David Wright. This team still lacks pitching, but its hard to argue that they haven't improved themselves more than any other NL team.
Worst Offseason, NL:
Chicago Cubs. The Cubs added more seats to Wrigley Field, raised ticket prices, and then lowered the payroll. Jim Hendry missed on Rafael Furcal, overpaid for Jacque Jones to replace Jeromy Burnitz (what's the difference?), and refused to part with Carlos Zambrano to acquire Miguel Tejada. Juan Pierre is a nice player, but his average dropped to .276 last year. Chicago also signed relief pitchers Bobby Howry and Scott Eyre to 3 year deals. Both pitchers are coming off very good years, but I question the wisdom of signing any middle reliever to a 3 year deal. Haven't the Cubs been burned by enough relievers in years past? The offense, especially in the outfield, is lacking and the pitching is injury prone.
Best Free Agent Signing:
Paul Konereko, Chicago White Sox. After the World Series, I really thought that Konerko would walk to the Angels, Orioles, or Red Sox, teams who seemed more willing to spend more money than Chicago. In reality, Konerko had no intention of leaving the South Side. Kenny Williams let the Baltimore Orioles set his market value, then offered him a deal just under that at 5 years and $60 million.
Worst Free Agent Signing:
Jarrod Washburn, Seattle Mariners. Washburn is a good lefty with playoff experience and he is coming off a good season (8-8, 3.20 ERA) but the Mariners severely overpaid him, giving him 4 years and $37.5 million. The southpaw is 31 years of age and has had elbow problems in the past. The deal makes no sense for a club that will not contend next year.
Most Underrated Free Agent Signing:
Preston Wilson, Houston Astros. In a year where spending was once again out of control, Wilson's signing was surprisingly modest ($4.5 million). Preston can still hit and the Astros badly need him.
Best New Manager:
Jim Tracy, Pittsburgh Pirates. The Dodgers will regret not keeping Tracy as their manager. His players love him and he has already been drawing rave reviews from the Pirates about his personal approach.
Lyle Overbay to the Toronto Blue Jays. This trade gets the nod because it helps both teams involved. Toronto gets doubles machine Overbay (34 in 2005) while the Brewers clear out room for Prince Fielder. The big man is set to follow in his father's footsteps (Cecil, of course). My first of many predictions for this season is a 25 homer rookie campaign for Prince. He should be fun to watch for years to come.