While some of the best moves in baseball over the past calendar year were obvious, like the Braves' decision to keep phenom
With that in mind, here are the 20 best decisions over the past 365 days.
Everyone might think this was easy. But the Nationals failed to sign their No. 1 pick, pitcher
Strasburg, who has demonstrated four dominant pitches (two fastballs, a curve and a changeup), is nothing short of a sensation after a record 32 strikeouts in his first three starts. The $15.067-million, while nearly $5 million more than the previous record bonus paid to
Trading away Bradley is a great thing in itself. But to actually acquire a great pitching piece in the process is really a coup. The Cubs made ridding themselves of Bradley their winter priority and finally did it when Seattle figured it could solve its own Silva issue and slide Bradley quietly into that low-key city, hoping
Meanwhile, Silva became the first Cubs pitcher since 1967 to start a season 8-0, an incredible beginning for the pitcher who was arguably the worst in baseball over his two seasons in Seattle, where he went 5-18 with a 6.81 ERA. "He never was going to be able to do it in Seattle,'' one source said. But he is doing it in Chicago, even living up to his $48-million, four-year contract by leading the team's starters in wins (8), ERA (3.01) and WHIP (1.079).
This was the most unpopular of moves at the time in Detroit. It's way early to say for sure, but as of today it looks boffo, with Granderson starting slowly (.240 average) in New York and Jackson (4-6, 5.05 ERA) doing the same in Arizona. Austin Jackson is a Rookie of the Year candidate, providing Gold Glove-type defense, perhaps the most valuable piece in the deal that saved the Tigers beaucoup bucks. Scherzer has shown only flashes of greatness, and Coke is a middle reliever. But the Tigers look like they received a star, while setting themselves up to improve their offense (by getting
Everyone assumed new Padres GM
However, Hoyer and Padres decision-makers held both Gonzalez and top reliever Heath Bell, fortified the rotation by adding stable veteran
When the Reds acquired Rolen at last year's trade deadline, no one quite understood why Cincinnati wanted a 34-year-old with a history of recent injuries and a big contract. But Rolen had a year to go on his deal, was thrilled to go to Cincinnati (he's from Indiana) and it shows. "This is the best I've seen him in years,'' one scout said. He's helped the Reds become the biggest threat to St. Louis' supremacy in the NL Central by batting .301 with 14 home runs and 45 RBIs.
This looked like a tough one last year when Rios struggled at his new home on the South Side of Chicago, batting just .199 with a paltry 9 RBIs. But he has been brilliant this year, hitting .320 ("with any luck, it could be .400,'' one scout said) for a suddenly resurgent team. Rios is proving he deserves an All-Star spot.
The Rays needed to find a true closer and the Braves wanted to be rid of Soriano's contract after he surprised them by accepting arbitration because there weren't big deals for closers -- even good ones -- to be had on last years market. The move worked great, as Soriano has done his job as closer (with 16 saves in 17 chances and a 1.40 ERA.
Going into spring it was a three-way battle with
The temptation to fire Washington was there when he admitted to taking cocaine (and subsequently failed an MLB test for it) last July, but the Rangers stuck with Washington. They wound up winning 87 games and finishing second in the AL West, their best record in five years. After Washington's mistake became public on SI.com in March, the team banded together. Team leader
The move may have seemed obvious, but lots of teams save money by delaying players who are ready for the big time. The Braves only delayed announcing Heyward's ascension until the end of spring training, when it was clear he was the best player on a solid team. He's proved he deserved the promotion by ranking second on the team in home runs (11), RBIs (44), on-base percentage (.383) and slugging percentage (.481). As good a call as taking him with pick No. 14 in the 2007 draft, where apparently at least 13 mistakes were made.
Ordonez's $18 million extension for 2010 was tied to at-bats and games started and it looked like an albatross and a half midway through last year, when manager
After amassing just nine home runs and 50 RBIs all of last year, he has rewarded the Tigers' right thinking by responding with a year more typical of his talents, with nine homers and 47 RBIs to date, to go with a .333/.408/.522 batting line. His wife was going through a cancer battle last year, so Ordonez understandably underperformed. And the Tigers did the right thing by standing by him.
Manuel was put on warning, but Mets ownership never seemed close to firing him, even after the team started poorly in 2010. To Manuel's credit, a more confident, positive feeling in the clubhouse has aided the team's rather stark turnaround to the top of the wild card standings. Manuel has a very thick skin (a necessity in New York) and a knack for developing a positive feeling, even when things appear down. He has an option for about $1.5 million for 2010, but a multiyear extension is in order.
Hughes has proven to be one of the league's better starters (he's 10-1, though offensive support has helped a bit there) while Chamberlain has struggled in the pen, going 1-3 with a 5.52 ERA. In fact, Hughes' performance is such that no one's complaining anymore that he wasn't traded for
It might have worked out in Oakland, but Beltre had already lived through five seasons in a pitcher's park, and Fenway fits his talents perfectly. He rejected a firm $16-million, two-year A's offer that probably could have become a three-year offer for similar annual money to take one year and $9 million from Boston, a rare gamble in baseball today. Beltre had spent his entire career on the West Coast and initially didn't want to go to Boston, but eventually made the right call. Now he'll be that much more valuable on this year's free-agent market.
The Yankee's lefty has been one of the league's best pitchers again, and appears all but certain to become the first pitcher ever to pitch in 16 seasons without even one losing campaign. Now 8-2 with a 2.47 ERA, he has enhanced the Yankees' chances and possibly also his Hall of Fame chances -- but those may depend upon his willingness to return for a couple more years. While yet another return doesn't seem probable now, it has seemed like he's been retiring for years now. And he hasn't.
It seems like a couple of the Braves' high-profile moves haven't necessarily worked big for either side (the trades to acquire
Some might say the opposite, that they haven't bought the type of run prevention they bargained for. However, look at it this way: Their offense apparently was plenty good enough. In fact, they lead the league in runs scored. So why devote their efforts to finding more hitters? They did the right thing, and they are right there in the AL East race because of it, tied with the Rays just one game behind the Yankees.
Of course, this decision wasn't made this year. But this is the year when it went into effect, and Target Field has opened to rave reviews and has helped increase their revenue $40 to $50 million. In the past, they've had to rely on superior hustle on the field and scouting off it. But this year they were able to sign reigning AL MVP
No one can argue with this move, as they got an anchor to their iffy rotation and quickly signed him to a pretty reasonable $60-million, three year deal. Halladay has met lofty expectations, at the very least, by pitching superbly, with an 8-6 record that includes a perfect game, and a 2.43 ERA. The reason this isn't higher on the list was their simultaneous decision to send
Even before the Mariners won three straight games this weekend to move within 13 games of first in the AL West, Mariners GM
Still, it looks like a major long shot to keep Lee past the deadline considering the Mariners their divisional deficit, even after their recent hot streak. But Zduriencik doesn't seem tempted yet.
"People are calling,'' he said. "I have to listen. But I have to give us a chance.''
Over the offseason, the Mariners incorporated a very logical strategy of building the team around pitching and defense, but their offense has been too abominable to compete, with several players -- including
Eventually, their battle looks extremely uphill. And Lee would be, by far, the prime pitcher on the free-agent market considering his recent performance, his postseason resume, no history of arm trouble and a desirable, expiring contract that pays him $9 million for 2010. The Yankees look like a favorite to sign Lee in the winter considering: 1) their vast wealth, 2) the potential loss of free agent
The Mariners are thought to have some extra interest in a catcher, which could give the edge to the Twins (
Every executive interviewed said they believe Lee will be merely a rental, and that he'll wait to sign as a free agent, no matter where he goes. Lee's agent,
There seems to be a smidgen more uncertainty here than there was with Strasburg since Harper is only 17, but one NL scout, referencing the scout's scale that ranks players from 2-8 on various abilities, said, "You just don't see a 17-year-old with 7 or 8 power.'' In fact, there's a lot of awe among scouts about Harper's talents (the aforementioned power is almost off the charts his arm strength is said to be superb as well).
Harper is programmed to be a pro, so it's hard to see him not signing. But he is only 17 and has time.