Breaking Down Major League Baseball's Winter Meetings

- by Jason Fryer

The Winter Meetings have now come to an end and were just about half way through the MLB Offseason. With that in mind, I feel now's a good opportunity for me to examine what has occurred the past few weeks and see who has/has not improved their roster this offseason.

Winners:

Boston Red Sox: The previous two seasons has seen the Red Sox lose a 9 Game September lead, change General Managers, hire a Manager that had numerous problems with his players, trade 3 of the teams highest paid players, and then fire Bobby Valentine. With all those problems the past 2 seasons, the Red Sox decided to start over and go back to the old Red Sox formula which helped them win 2 World Series Titles in a 4 years span.

The start of the offseason saw the Red Sox bring a familiar face back in former Red Sox pitching coach (and 2009-2011 Manager of the Toronto Blue Jays) John Farrell. With Farrell on board, the Red Sox decided to sign a number of quality "Clubhouse Players" and instead of spending 20 million per year on one player they signed 3 quality players for the same price in David Ross, Mike Napoli, and Shane Victorino. A number of people might criticize the Red Sox for some of the contracts they handed out but they needed to change their Locker Room and one of these players in particular (Mike Napoli) will put up great stats next season. Napoli has fantastic career stats at Fenway Park (.306 Average, 7 HR, and 17 RBI in 19 games) and with him not being an everyday catcher anyone (Boston already features David Ross, Ryan Lavarnway, and Jarred Saltalamacchia), I feel Napoli will get back to his 2011 Season.

The Red Sox still have two questions they have to address this offseason:

  1. With three catchers already under contract, when will Boston trade Jarred Saltalamacchia?
  2. Will the Red Sox trade Jacoby Ellsbury?

Texas Rangers: The Rangers haven't made any significant moves during the 2012 offseason, so why are they listed under the winners for the offseason? I decided to list Texas under the winners category because they've been mentioned in all the key players (Trade and Free Agency) this offseason. The biggest question surrounding the Rangers this offseason has been with 2010 MVP Josh Hamilton whose a Free Agent for the first time in his career. At 31, Hamilton is still an elite hitter but has had to deal with a number of injuries which have forced him to miss a number of game in his career (Hamilton has only played in 135 games only twice in his MLB career).

So why have they done such a good job with handling the Hamilton situation? Because Texas allowed for other teams to set the market for him and see what his value was in Free Agency. As that was going on, the Rangers decided to look at Free Agents Zack Greinke and Michael Bourn along with DBacks Outfielder Justin Upton and Rays Pitcher James Shields. With Greinke signing with the Dodgers (and hurting their biggest rival) and Shields being traded to Kansas City, look for the Rangers to now turn their attention to Upton, Anibal Sanchez, R.A. Dickey, and of course Josh Hamilton. With the Rangers linked to all these teams, this shows that the team that holds all the cards are the Texas Rangers. The Rangers can resign Hamilton or trade one of their young prospects for a veteran hitter/pitcher. With the money the Rangers will save from the Michael Young trade, look for them to make a significant signing or trade this offseason.

San Francisco Giants: Following San Francisco's first World Series since the Franchise moved to the Bay Area, the Giants decided to bring back a number of players from their former roster that won the World Series. Unfortunately for the Giants, 2010 Rookie of the Year Buster Posey went down with a season ending injury but had Posey not gone down with the injury in April 2011, the Giants might have found themselves back in the playoffs the next season. With that said, the Giants didn't make the 2011 Playoffs, brought in a number of new faces via trades and free agency (Angel Pagan, Melky Cabrera Hunter Pence and Marco Scutaro) which helped the Giants return to the top of the baseball world in 2012.

Following their Championship Parade, the Giants decided to resign all of their key free agents (Jeremy Affeldt, Pagan, and Scutaro) and go with almost the exact same roster that helped them win the 2012 World Series. With that said, a number of people have been surprised the Giants decided to go in another direction with Brian Wilson as they decided to Non-Tender his contract making him a Free Agent.

Breaking Down Major League Baseball's Winter Meetings
Oct 28, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; San Francisco Giants pitcher Jeremy Affeldt throws a pitch against the Detroit Tigers in the 8th inning during game four of the 2012 World Series at Comerica Park. Photo Courtesy By H. Darr Beiser-USA TODAY Sports.

I feel this was the correct decision for two reasons:

  1. With the Money they saved from not having Wilson on their roster anymore, there now able to sign their key Free Agents this offseason.
  2. Romo has the potential of becoming one of the best closers in baseball.

Losers:

Los Angeles Angels: The winners of last years offseason might be the losers to this years offseason. The Angels decided to revamp their team by letting Torii Hunter, Dan Haren, and Zack Greinke leave via free agency in addition to trading Ervin Santana away to the Royals.

So what have the Angels done so far to account for all these departures:

  1. The Angels traded 2010 All-Star Jordan Walden to the Atlanta Braves for Tommy Hanson who had an up and down career in Atlanta that ended with him going 12-5 with a 4.29 ERA during the 2012 season.
  2. Following that, the Angels signed Joe Blanton (for the backend of their rotation) and Sean Burnett (to add the lefty reliever they needed) each to a 2 year deal.

These three moves showed that the Angels were preparing to move on from Greinke and go in another direction. With Greinke, Haren, and Santana out of their rotation, I feel the Angels took a step back this offseason and still need another quality pitcher if they want to compete with the A's and Rangers in the American League West. If this is the Angels 2012 pitching staff (both starting and relief), then I feel the Rangers are the clear cut favorites in the AL West.

Seattle Mariners: The Mariners have a solid pitching rotation highlighted by Felix Hernandez and also includes Jason Vargas, HisashiIwakuma, Erasmo Ramirez, in addition to top pitching prospects Taijuan Walker and Danny Hultzen. This shows that the Mariners have a number of quality pitchers, however, if they want to be a contender they need to address their lineup. Currently, the best players in the Mariners lineup are Jesus Montero, Dustin Ackley, and Kyle Seager which shows that their's not much power in their lineup. With that in mind, I feel the Mariners should look to add two names: Josh Hamilton and Billy Butler. If the Mariners are able to add these two bats to their lineup, then the Mariners would become a legitimate contender in the American League West.

New York Mets: Mets fans were dreaming of a Wil Myers for R.A. Dickey trade but instead the Royals decided to trade their top prospect to Tampa for James Shields. With Greinke and Shields off the board, the Mets now need to look to trade with the Angels, Rangers, or Tigers and see what they would give up for 2012 CY-Young Award Winner. The Mets already have a solid rotation filled with a combination of veterans (Johan Santana and Jon Niese) and youngsters (Dillion Gee, Matt Harvey, and Zack Wheeler) and because of that the Mets are fortunate enough to have the space to trade Dickey so they can add power bat to their lineup. A few of the prospects the Mets should look to trade for include Mike Olt, Elvis Andrus, C.J. Cron, or another power hitting/middle of the infield player to their roster. If the Mets are able to do this, then the Mets would show a solid core of talent in both their lineup and rotation.

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