Cliff Corcoran and Jay Jaffe
Monday February 23rd, 2015

With spring training now starting, the Hot Stove season is at its end. That means it's time for us to review our winter report cards and adjust the preliminary grades to account for subsequent moves and second thoughts about our initial reactions.

MLB
MLB Winter Report Cards: Grading the offseasons of all 30 teams

Those grades were based upon each writer's judgment as to whether the team in question improved for 2014 and in the long run, measured against a sliding scale to account for where a team's priorities should be heaviest (are they rebuilding, or in win-now mode). To wrap things up, we've adjusted those grades slightly, but if you're scoring at home, it's worth noting that using the traditional grade point scale (A = 4, B = 3, C = 2, D = 1, with plusses adding a third and minuses subtracting a third), the AL centers at 2.46 (basically, a C+).

Teams are presented below in order of their final grades; the original report cards for each team are linked with the date of its publication.

Final Winter Report Card grades: How each NL team did this off-season

Boston Red Sox

Preliminary Grade (Jan. 14): A-
Final Grade: A
Key moves since preliminary grade: Traded RHP Anthony Ranaudo for LHP Robbie Ross; signed RHP Alexi Ogando; signed SS Yoan Moncada

MLB
Spring training preview: American League East

The Red Sox scored well with an aggressive offseason that saw them land two of the top free-agent hitters on the market in Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, the latter of whom fills a big hole at third base, the former of whom will replace Yoenis Cespedes in leftfield. They then rebuilt their rotation by trading for Rick Porcello (with Cespedes the key player going to Detroit) and Wade Miley and signing Justin Masterson. Elsewhere, they flipped Will Middlebrooks, the failed third-base prospect displaced by Sandoval, for veteran catcher Ryan Hanigan, who could prove valuable as the team looks to break in prospect Blake Swihart behind the plate. Boston also re-signed closer Koji Uehara and lefty Craig Breslow and replaced setup man Burke Badenhop by swiping Anthony Varvaro from the Braves.

Since then, they added Ross and Ogando, two pitchers with high upsides looking to rebound from disastrous 2014 seasons, to the bullpen. The move that shaved the minus from their grade, however, was the signing of Cuban prospect Moncada, who won't turn 20 until late May and instantly became the top prospect in the organization and the No. 10 prospect in baseball, according to Baseball America—Cliff Corcoran

• JAFFE: Rich get richer as Red Sox add prospect Moncada

Chicago White Sox

Preliminary Grade (Jan. 16): A-
Final Grade: A-
Key moves since preliminary grade: Signed C Geovany Soto to a minor league deal; signed 2B Gordon Beckham; released LF Dayan Viciedo

The White Sox were not expected to be a major player in the free-agent market this offseason, but in David Robertson and Melky Cabrera, they landed two players who were among the best available at their position this winter. They also added a valuable veteran bat in Adam LaRoche who represents a significant upgrade over the retired Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko, as well as a front-end starter in Jeff Samardzija, a local product entering his walk year who could prove amenable to an extension.

MLB
Spring training preview: American League Central

We're less sanguine about the signings of lefty reliever Zach Duke or speedy utility man Emilio Bonifacio, or the return of Beckham, but the White Sox are undeniably a far better team now than they were at the end of October. What's more, none of their big acquisitions were particularly costly (Robertson's four-year, $46 million contract was the largest they handed out, and shorstop Marcus Semien, sent to Oakland for Samardzija, was not their top infield prospect). Cutting bait on Viciedo and bringing in Soto on a minor league deal are nice moves, as well, though not enough to alter their overall grade, particularly with Beckham getting a major league deal. —Cliff Corcoran

Toronto Blue Jays

Preliminary Grade (Jan. 29): B+
Final Grade: B+
Key moves since preliminary grade: Signed IF Ramon Santiago and OF Chris Dickerson to minor league deals

Sensing an opening in their division, the Blue Jays made two huge splashes in November, signing catcher Russell Martin to a five-year, $82 million contract and acquiring third baseman Josh Donaldson for a four-player package built around infielder Brett Lawrie and shortstop prospect Franklin Barreto. In doing so, they added two players who combined to average 12.5 Wins Above Replacement per year over the last two seasons.

By comparison, the rest of their offseason has been underwhelming, though Michael Saunders is a nice upside play as Melky Cabrera's replacement in leftfield, and trading faded outfield prospect Anthony Gose to Detroit for second base prospect Devon Travis was an under-the-radar move that could pay off nicely in the years to come. Non-roster invitee Santiago is a nice veteran addition to their second-base battle, but also a reminder of the depth of the holes that remain in their lineup. —Cliff Corcoran

Seattle Mariners

Preliminary Grade (Feb. 3): B+
Final Grade: B+
Key moves since preliminary grade: Signed 2B Rickie Weeks

MLB
Spring training preview: American League West

The big move here was signing Nelson Cruz to a four-year, $57 million contract to replace the pathetic 2014 production of Justin Smoak, Corey Hart, and Kendrys Morales (.203/.377/.335 in 770 plate appearances). Expensive as it may be, that's a big upgrade for a team that missed the playoffs by just one game last year. Elsewhere, they replaced Saunders with Seth Smith via pair of trades, and added a pair of righthanded bats to their bench in Justin Ruggiano and Weeks as potential platoon partners for Smith and Dustin Ackley in the outfield corners.

Weeks, signed for what the White Sox gave Beckham, could prove to be a nice addition, but he'll have to learn some new positions in camp given that he has only played second base as a professional. Extra credit was received for signing the formerly underrated Kyle Seager to an extension that bought out all of his arbitration years and four of his free-agency years. —Cliff Corcoran

Texas Rangers

Preliminary Grade (Jan. 12): D
Final Grade: B-
Key moves since preliminary grade: Traded RHP Corey Knebel, SS Luis Sardinas and RHP Marcos Diplan to Brewers for RHP Yovani Gallardo; traded RHP Akeem Bostic to Astros for C Carlos Corporan; traded LHP Robbie Ross to Red Sox for RHP Anthony Ranaudo; signed LF Ryan Ludwick, RF Nate Schierholtz and RHP Jamey Wright to minor league contracts

The Rangers came up early in the report card cycle, and since then, they've addressed every concern from the "Unfinished Business" section, if not in spectacular fashion. The big move is the addition of Gallardo, who should provide quality innings in bulk in the middle of the rotation, not to mention an extra bat in an emergency (he's got 12 career home runs). Ranaudo could help either at the back end of the rotation or in the bullpen, and Wright, the master of making good on minor league deals, will fortify the latter.

Ludwick and Schierholtz, both of whom were terrible in 2014, are bounce-back candidates who will join a leftfield fray that has plenty of options—Jake Smolinski, Michael Choice, Ryan Rua and Kyle Blanks—but no certainties. Corporan is a light-hitting backup catcher with excellent framing and blocking skills (career 17.5 runs per 7000 pitches for the former, 8.5 per 7000 for the latter) who can slot behind Robinson Chirinos in better fashion than the departed J.P. Arencibia.

The down note here is not of the team's making. The inclusion of Sardinas in the Gallardo trade helped bring back a much-needed starter and alleviated a bit of the logjam in the middle infield, but last week's announcement that Jurickson Profar would undergo shoulder surgery that could cost him a second straight season is a blow to the Rangers' enviable depth. It's also yet more bad news for a player who entered the 2013 season as the game's top prospect but hasn't caught a break since. —Jay Jaffe

• CORCORAN: New pace of play rules are sensible step forward

Cleveland Indians

Preliminary Grade (Feb. 2): B-
Final Grade: B-
Key moves since preliminary grade:
Signed IF Michael Martinez and LHP Bruce Chen to minor league contracts

Owner of a career 32 OPS+ in 440 big league PA, Martinez isn't exactly what the doctor ordered when it came to fortifying the bench. Chen, who was rocked for a 7.45 ERA in 48 1/3 innings with Kansas City, won't be a difference-maker, but betting against a resilient lefty who's gone well beyond his ninth life—if he makes good, he'll join his 11th big league team—is inadvisable. —Jay Jaffe

New York Yankees

Preliminary Grade (Jan. 30): B-
Final Grade: B-
Key moves since preliminary grade:
Signed RHP Jared Burton to a minor league contract

That they didn't take up my suggestion to sign James Shields isn't really a surprise, in that the Yankees said they were going to stay out of the deep end of the free-agent starter pool and held to that. They did add another arm to their stable of bullpen options in Burton, a 33-year-old righty who pitched to a 4.36 ERA with a 1.8 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 64 innings last year but was at a 2.18 ERA with a 3.4 K/BB as recently as 2012. —Jay Jaffe

Houston Astros

Preliminary Grade (Jan. 12): C
Final Grade: B-
Key moves since preliminary grade: Acquired C Evan Gattis and RHP James Hoyt for RHP Mike Foltynewicz, 3B Rio Ruiz and RHP Andrew Thurman; acquired 3B Luis Valbuena and RHP Dan Straily for CF Dexter Fowler; signed CF Colby Rasmus; traded C Carlos Corporan for RHP Akeem Bostick; signed RHP Roberto Hernandez and LHP Joe Thatcher to minor league deals.

The Astros have been busy since they got a "C" in mid-January, trading for Gattis, cashing in Fowler in advance of his walk year, signing Rasmus to replace Fowler in centerfield, and throwing in a few lower-profile moves for good measure. I'm still not sure I like Houston's plan to move Gattis out from behind the plate or to start free-agent addition Jed Lowrie at shortstop, but they did well to add some upside bats to their lineup in Gattis and Rasmus. Flipping Fowler for Valbuena and Straily, then replacing him with Rasmus on a one-year, $8 million contract, was particularly clever: They targeted two areas of need with the trade (third base—where the Astros' incumbents, led by Matt Dominguez, hit .212/.255/.321 last year—and rotation depth) and made something close to a parallel move in center that saved them $1.5 million for the coming year.

Prior to all of that, the Astros made some nice veteran additions to their bullpen, but also needlessly traded two good young players to the Angels, one of them a near-ready catcher, for backup catcher Hank Conger—Cliff Corcoran

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Preliminary Grade (Feb. 12): C+
Final Grade: C+
Key moves since preliminary grade: Signed RHP Matt Lindstrom to a minor league contract

The Angels made some nice moves this winter to add youth and potential to an organization with a largely barren farm system, acquiring highly-regarded lefthanded prospect Andrew Heaney, righty starter Nick Tropeano, catcher Carlos Perez, and third base prospect Kyle Kubitza. All could appear in the majors this season, but only Heaney projects to have a significant impact long term, and he cost them second baseman Howie Kendrick, whom the team failed to replace adequately. So while the Angels made some smart, forward-thinking moves, they will likely take a step back in the coming season. —Cliff Corcoran

Oakland Athletics

Preliminary Grade (Feb. 4): C+
Final Grade: C
Key moves since preliminary grade:
None

With three straight trips to the postseason to add to his earlier successes, busy Billy Beane may have the track record to deserve the benefit of the doubt with his remix of the Athletics' roster. Even so, from here, both leftfield (Sam Fuld, Craig Gentry, Mark Canha) and catcher (Stephen Vogt and Josh Phegley) still look particularly light, especially with the revelation that Vogt's recovery from offseason foot surgery will limit him to DHing early in the spring, ruling out work in the outfield or at first base. —Jay Jaffe

• JAFFE: Revisiting the controversial career of Jason Giambi

Minnesota Twins

Preliminary Grade (Jan. 13): C+
Final Grade: C
Key moves since preliminary grade:
None

The Twins added a couple of big name free agents (Ervin Santana, Torii Hunter) in December, but they've been very quiet since, bringing in nothing of substance in any of their subsequent minor league deals. They could have stood to find other options for a rotation that posted a league-worst ERA for a second straight year, but now the pressure is on Trevor May, Tommy Milone or Mike Pelfrey—not to mention 2014 bust Ricky Nolasco—to deliver acceptable performances. Likewise, another bullpen arm in front of closer Glen Perkins would have been more than welcome. —Jay Jaffe

Tampa Bay Rays

Preliminary Grade (Jan. 23): C-
Final Grade: C-
Key moves since preliminary grade:
Signed RHP Ronald Belisario to a minor league contract

The new-look Rays still haven't moved likely trade candidate David DeJesus, nor have they fortified the catching spot behind newcomer Rene Rivera; to borrow a line from Casey Stengel, backup Curt Casali is a light-hitting 26-year-old who's got a chance to turn 27 later this year. Picking up the erratic but occasionally effective Belisario via a minor league deal was a very Rays-like move; though he's been two wins below replacement level the past two seasons, the team's track record of reliever turnarounds gives them a better shot than most at finding value in such a move. —Jay Jaffe

Detroit Tigers

Preliminary Grade (Feb. 6): C-
Final Grade: D+
Key moves since preliminary grade:
None

Having stood pat since we covered them, the Tigers are still betting that Alfredo Simon and Shane Greene can offset the losses of Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello, and that a bullpen that's been ablaze almost as long as the Springfield Tire Fire is under control—nothing to see here, move along. That's even with the news that Joel Hanrahan, who missed most of 2013 and spent last year rehabbing from the Deluxe Elbow Combo Platter (Tommy John surgery, flexor tendon repair and bone chip removal) without pitching competitively, is still battling soreness—Jay Jaffe

Kansas City Royals

Preliminary Grade (Feb. 5): D+
Final Grade: D+
Key moves since preliminary grade: Signed RHP Joe Blanton and LHP Franklin Morales to minor league contracts

In short, the Royals replaced departing free agents James Shields, Billy Butler and Nori Aoki with Edinson Volquez, Kendrys Morales and Alex Rios, respectively. I'm most optimistic about the Morales/Butler replacement among those three, which should tell you something about how well the Royals' offseason went. The wild card here is Kris Medlen, who is coming off his second Tommy John surgery and signed to a two-year, $8.5 million contract with a mutual option for 2017. —Cliff Corcoran

Baltimore Orioles

Preliminary Grade (Feb. 11): D+
Final Grade: D+
Key moves since preliminary grade:
None

Matt Wieters continues to make progress in his return from Tommy John surgery, but the news that he won't be able to throw at full strength until March 17—the nine-month anniversary since the surgery—means that he'll need to avoid a setback to be ready by Opening Day.

Meanwhile, the team is said to be on the verge of signing ex-Padres shortstop Everth Cabrera, who could compete with Jonathan Schoop and Ryan Flaherty for time at second base while providing backup to J.J. Hardy at shortstop. Since leading the NL with 44 stolen bases in 2012, he's had issues staying on the field due to a Biogenesis suspension and recurrent left hamstring woes, though the holdup is said to be over ironing out his legal issues; he was charged with resisting arrest last September after being pulled over under suspicion of driving under the influence of marijuana. —Jay Jaffe

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