It may not look like it outside, but spring is right around the corner. Well, at least spring training is right around the corner.
Despite playing a truncated season in 2020 because of the ongoing pandemic, Major League Baseball is determined to play a full 2021 season that gets started on time. That means spring training is almost here and the offseason is almost over.
While there are a few noteworthy free agents still available and perhaps one or two blockbuster trades still in the mix, it’s time to start grading each team’s offseason performance. This was undoubtedly an unusual offseason given everything that happened in 2020 and the financial state of the game right now. Nevertheless, let’s take a look at the biggest winners and losers of the MLB offseason.
Winner: New York Mets
There’s no question that the Mets are one of the big winners of the offseason. For starters, they finally rid themselves of the Wilpons, as Steve Cohen stepped in as the new owner.
As promised, Cohen is allowing the Mets to take a more aggressive approach in terms of acquiring players. That much was obvious when New York pulled the trigger on a trade for shortstop Francisco Lindor, a dream that also added to their rotation with Carlos Carrasco.
The Mets also solved their catching issues with James McCann, then added Trevor May to their bullpen, and filled out their bench with proven veterans in Jose Martinez and Jonathan Villar. It was the most successful offseason the Mets have had in a while, making them legitimate contenders in 2021.
Loser: New York Mets
You can take the Wilpons out of the equation, but the Mets are still the Mets, and there are a lot of ways the organization lost this winter.
For starters, they had to fire their general manager a few weeks after hiring him because of downright disgusting behavior. Later, Cohen had to take a break from Twitter because of some unpleasantness on social media. Also, while the Mets traded for Lindor, they lost out on bidding wars for Trevor Bauer and George Springer.
As a result, it’s still not a given that the Mets are better than the Braves in the NL East or a couple of the teams in the NL West.
Winner: Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers finally won their long-awaited championship in 2020, and then the rich got even richer.
Los Angeles signed Trevor Bauer late in the offseason, adding to a rotation that was already headlined by Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler, not to mention youngsters Dustin May and Julio Urias. The Dodgers will also get David Price back, giving them an entire rotation of pitchers who could conceivably compete for the Cy Young.
The Los Angeles bullpen is also considerably better with the additions of Blake Treinen, Corey Knebel and Tommy Kahnle.
In other words, the Dodgers have positioned themselves to repeat.
Loser: Pirate Fans
For what it’s worth, Pirates fans knew their team wasn’t going to be competitive in 2021. But the organization went full-scale scorched earth on rebuilding. Any player with any value on the trade market was shipped out of town, most notably Jameson Taillon, Joe Musgrove and Josh Bell with Gregory Polano very much on the trade block.
Pittsburgh has traded away established players the way the Marlins used to do after they won a World Series. It’ll be years until the Pirates are anything close to competitive and this season figures to be particularly long.
Even if fans are allowed at PNC Park this year, it’ll be hard for the Pirates to convince many to attend.
Winner: San Diego Padres
The Padres proved last season that they have enough young talent on their roster to be contenders in the National League and give the Dodgers a run for their money.
San Diego doubled down this winter, trading for Blake Snell, Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove, who join Dinelson Lamet and Chris Paddack to form an awfully intriguing starting rotation.
Getting catcher Victor Caratini in the Darvish trade was also a nice pickup. Those are some serious moves that will improve San Diego’s rotation by leaps and bounds, forming the perfect complement for one of the best lineups in baseball last season.
The only downside is that San Diego’s rotation still may not be enough to match up against the Dodgers if the two cross paths in October.
Loser: Oakland A’s
As usual, the A’s didn’t make any big-money moves this winter. They also saw Marcus Semien sign with the Blue Jays and had to trade Khris Davis to the Rangers to find a replacement shortstop in the form of Elvis Andrus, whose best days are undoubtedly behind him.
Losing Semien in free agency is a clear sign that Oakland’s window is beginning to close. Matt Olson and Matt Chapman are both getting to the point where their financial demands could force the A’s to trade them while their value is still high.
Granted, they have the young pitching to compete for a second straight AL West title and a fourth consecutive playoff birth this season. But losing Semien and having to trade Davis is a harsh reminder that they aren’t getting any younger and they may not be getting any better as their window to compete before the inevitable rebuild starts to close.
Winner: Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays teased before the offseason that they were ready to spend money, and it’s safe to say that they more than delivered on that promise.
Toronto made considerable improvements to its lineup with George Springer and Marcus Semien. Those two should pair perfectly with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and the other young hitters in Toronto’s lineup who will only get better in the years to come.
Pitching-wise, the Blue Jays also made modest improvements by re-signing Robbie Ray and adding Steven Matz and Kirby Yates, two pitchers who are coming off poor seasons but come with a lot of upside.
Keep in mind that the Blue Jays made the playoffs in 2020, and given the upgrades they made, Toronto could give the Yankees a serious run for their money in 2021.
Loser: Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays were agonizingly close to winning the World Series last year, so why did they have to go and do this? Tampa Bay made headlines for all of the wrong reasons this winter by trading away Blake Snell. They also failed to re-sign Charlie Morton, depriving the Rays of two vital pitchers who helped carry them to the Fall Classic in 2020.
To be fair, we’ve seen this before from Tampa. The club trades away top players to save money, acquiring young talent in the process that allows them to stay competitive. But they’re going to need to be a lot better offensively in 2021 to make up for the absence of Snell and Morton.
Losing those two pitchers could be the difference between competing for a Wild Card spot and barely being a .500 team.
Winner: Chicago White Sox
The South Siders did a lot of their business early in the offseason, so it’s easy to forget that the White Sox are one of the biggest winners of the offseason.
It started with a trade for Lance Lynn, bolstering an already promising rotation. The Chicago bullpen also got a big boost from Liam Hendriks, who was signed at a rather affordable price. They also retained Carlos Rodon to provide rotation depth and brought back old friend Adam Eaton, adding another veteran to a young roster.
Given the talent already on the roster, these were the perfect moves to make the White Sox AL Central favorites in 2021.
Loser: Chicago Cubs
Meanwhile, on the North Side of Chicago, the winter wasn’t so fruitful.
The Cubs didn’t exactly make moves that indicate they are trying to be a serious competitor in 2021. For starters, they traded Yu Darvish and Victor Caratini. With the rest of the turnover on the team’s pitching staff, the Chicago rotation looks nothing like it has in recent years outside of Kyle Hendrick. The likes of Kyle Schwarber and Albert Almora are also with other teams while the future of players like Kris Bryant and Javier Baez are in limbo.
To make things worse, they had to watch the Cardinals acquire Nolan Arenado, making St. Louis the clear favorites in the NL Central.
In what could be their last chance for a while to make a serious World Series run, the Cubs have the fourth-best odds to win the NL Central after a disappointing offseason.
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