The MLB off-season is coming to a conclusion this week, as pitchers and catchers are set to report, and Spring Training games are just around the corner. This will give us our first look at some of the big new acquisitions in their new homes. We would like to figure out who won free agency, which we won’t actually know until the season is well underway. But we can speculate, and we will do that here:
Winner: Robinson Cano – Obviously the most sought after free agent this season, he demanded a historically large deal, 10 years and upwards of $200M, and got one. At age 31, his old team, the Yankees, were very hesitant to give him the long term deal that he desired. The gap was wide and nearly impossible to bridge, with the Yankees wary of the $189M luxury tax threshold. That’s when the Mariners jumped in and gave him the numbers he wanted. Most, if not all experts agree that the deal won’t be worth it over the term of 10 years, with his value doomed to diminish with age and a more pitcher-friendly home ballpark. But Cano got what he wanted, and won’t have to work another day in his life after he’s done raking in this dough.
Loser: Seattle Mariners – They locked up $240M over 10 years to Cano, which makes sense, considering he’s the top player in a premium position of second base. However, they bolstered their lineup around Cano, with Corey Hart, who’s missed the last season with an injury, and Logan Morrison, who has yet to hit his potential with the Marlins, which is saying something. With all the money they spent, they could have used it on more depth, as opposed to just spending most of their budget on one player. They are supposedly in on Nelson Cruz, which would probably get them out of the loser category, but as of now, they spent a lot of money on a little bit of improvement.
Winner: New York Yankees – Of course, the Yankees went on a spending spree. Last time they missed the playoffs, in 2008, they went and spent nearly $400M that off-season, and went on to win the World Series the following year. They missed the playoffs in 2013, and this year neared half a billion (with a B) in contracts signed during the winter. The notables include Masahiro Tanaka (7 years, $155M plus $20M posting fee), Jacoby Ellsbury (7 years, $153M), Brian McCann (5 years, $85M, option for 6/$100M), Carlos Beltran (3 years, $45M), and Hiroki Kuroda (1 year, $16M), along with a couple of smaller role-player acquisitions. It’s difficult not to improve when you go out and sign 4 of the top 6 free agents on the market (according to Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan). They got who they wanted, and prevented others from getting those guys. Oh yeah, and they aren’t paying A-Rod $25M
Loser: New York Yankees – Due to their spending spree, the Yankees once again eclipsed the $189M luxury tax threshold, something they were looking to avoid. Looking away from that, they spent lots of money on older players. The youngest players in the starting lineup, McCann, Ellsbury, and Brett Gardiner, are all 30 years old. Despite addressing big issues, such as Robinson Cano’s departure, they still have many issues to deal with. Their infield is full of question marks, whether you look at Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter returning from playing combined 32 games, Brian Roberts (missed 456 games the last 4 seasons) taking over for Robinson Cano’s departure, and the gap at third vacated by a platoon last year. The back end of the rotation includes a couple of players who haven’t started regularly in years, like Michael Pineda and David Phelps. Their bullpen includes David Robertson and a bunch of no-names. They have many issues that they didn’t quite cover.
Winner: Arizona Diamondbacks – Despite having a quieter off-season, the D-Backs made a couple of key trades, to improve their team subtly. The three-team deal between them, the White Sox, and the Angels landed them Mark Trumbo, a fearsome power hitter to protect MVP runner-up Paul Goldschmidt. They also got closer Addison Reed from the White Sox. Just yesterday, they signed innings-eater Bronson Arroyo for 2 years. None of these 3 are marquee names, but all of them are key pieces in improving this team. No one said you had to make large splashes in order to take a step ahead.
Loser: Cincinnati Reds – Another team with a quieter off-season, but they needed to make moves in order to gain back ground on the Cardinals and Pirates. They lost key players Shin-Soo Choo (Texas), Ryan Hannigan (Tampa Bay), and Bronson Arroyo (Arizona), and made too much noise not trading Brandon Phillips. To compensate for that loss, the Reds signed…well…not really anyone worth mentioning. They are calling up speed-demon Billy Hamilton to replace Choo in center-field. They are also considering putting flame-thrower Aroldis Chapman in the rotation. All of this will add up to the Reds missing the playoffs, and taking a step back in the NL Central.
Winner: Texas Rangers – The first big splash of the winter came in Texas, when Prince Fielder
jumped into a swimming pool was traded for Ian Kinsler. The big guy will man first for the Rangers, while second base will be covered by top prospect of years past Jurickson Profar. Also coming to the Lone-Star State is Shin-Soo Choo, who will hit near the top of the order, and get on base for the big Texas bats to hit him home. Along with a few other smaller signings, the Rangers improved mightily and will put up a good fight against the A’s for the AL West.
Loser: Matt Kemp – With the emergence of Yasiel Puig in Tinseltown, the Dodgers’ outfield is now super-clogged with Puig, Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford, and Matt Kemp. With no DH spot to platoon to, and with multiple injuries hampering his performance significantly, Kemp is likely the choice to be left out. He’s owed $128M over the next 6 years, so his albatross contract is not one easily picked up by anyone with a budget. There have been rumors fluttering about, but nothing significant has arisen. As it stands, Kemp’s playing time would be diminished gradually until he proves his worth over the other 3 outfielders.
Winner: The Fans – Baseball season is right around the corner. When you go outside after dusting the ol’ glove off and start throwing the ball around, you’ll see what I mean.