Skip to main content
Publish date:

Winter Report Cards: Final grades for American League teams

Now that the off-season is over, we've reviewed and, in some cases, revised the grades for our Winter Report Card series. First up: the American League.

With players reporting to spring training this week, the hot stove season is officially at its end, even if there are a few notable free agents who have yet to find new teams, such as shortstop Ian Desmond and centerfielder Dexter Fowler. It's thus time for Jay Jaffe and me to review our Winter Report Cards and see if we need to adjust the grades we handed out after accounting for any subsequent moves.

Our preliminary grades were based upon our judgment as to whether the team in question improved for 2016 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 are they in win-now mode). To wrap things up, Jay and I have adjusted those grades slightly based on each team's moves (or lack thereof).

Today, we'll re-examine the American League, and on Tuesday, we'll look at the National League teams. 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’s final grade point average was 2.57, or short of a 'B-.'

Boston Red Sox

Preliminary Grade (Jan. 20): A-
Key moves since preliminary grade: None

The acquisitions of ace David Price, closer Craig Kimbrel, dominant setup man Carson Smith and veteran fourth outfielder Chris Young by new general manager Dave Dombrowski highlighted an impressive off-season that finds the Red Sox poised to return to the top of the AL East standings in 2016.

Final Grade: A-

Detroit Tigers

Preliminary Grade (Jan. 18): B
Key moves since preliminary grade: Signed LF Justin Upton (six years, $132.75M, opt-out after 2017); Traded 3B/1B Jefry Marte to Angels for IF Kody Eaves

The Tigers’ unfinished business on their Jan. 18 report card was “one more outfielder.” The next day, they signed Upton, a 28-year-old three-time All-Star, to a contract that is likely to play out as a two-year, $44.25 million deal thanks to an opt-out after his age-29 season in 2017. Detroit couldn’t have taken care of business much more effectively than that.

Adding Upton to starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann, reliever Francisco Rodriguez and a handful of smaller, complementary moves of less obvious value completes an outstanding first off-season for new general manager Al Avila. He and Dombrowski, his predecessor in Detroit, are the only two general managers in the AL to earn an 'A-' or better this winter.

Final Grade: A-

Kansas City Royals

Preliminary Grade (Feb. 9): B+
Key moves since preliminary grade: None

The reigning World Series champions received that B+ less than a week ago for an off-season in which they accomplished their most important task: re-signing star leftfielder Alex Gordon. That they did so with a a hometown discount (four years, $72 million) was even better.

Final Grade: B+

Minnesota Twins

Preliminary Grade (Jan. 27): B+
Key moves since preliminary grade: None

SI Recommends

The Twins haven’t done much this off-season, nor should they have given their still-emerging core of young talent, but they did add a compelling bat in Korean slugger Byung-ho Park. They also upgraded their catcher situation by adding John Ryan Murphy from the Yankees in exchange for outfielder Aaron Hicks. Murphy will be 25 in May and has five team-controlled years remaining.

Final Grade: B+

Chicago White Sox

Preliminary Grade (Jan. 19): B+
Key moves since preliminary grade: Signed RHPs Mat Latos (one year, $3M) and re-signed RHP Matt Albers (one year, $2.25M)

Latos is still just 28 and wasn’t as bad as his results last year (4–10, 4.95 ERA with the Marlins, Dodgers and Angels) would indicate, as his velocity and strikeout rates rebounded slightly from his injury-plagued 2014 season. As a potential upgrade over John Danks, who is entering the final year of his disastrous contract and whose 4.49 FIP last year was his lowest mark since 2011, Latos may indeed make the White Sox’s rotation better. He could also find a new career in relief if Danks and Erik Johnson edge him out of the rotation in camp. At $3 million, he’s worth the flier. Albers, meanwhile, has thrown all of 47 2/3 innings over the last two years but is a competent middle reliever when healthy.

Neither of those pitchers really moves the needle, however. In fact, Chicago's continued failure to upgrade at shortstop or in an outfield corner, combined with its complete botching of the catcher position by non-tendering elite pitch-framer Tyler Flowers, drops the team's preliminary grade a bit.

Final Grade: B

New York Yankees

Preliminary Grade (Feb. 2): B
Key moves since preliminary grade: None

Our grade for the Yankees was handed out just after the news broke about first baseman Greg Bird undergoing season-erasing shoulder surgery, but it detailed the team’s sufficient in-house options for replacing him as Plan B behind the aging and fragile Mark Teixeira.

Final Grade: B

Toronto Blue Jays

Preliminary Grade (Feb. 8): B
Key moves since preliminary grade: None

The night that our Blue Jays’ Winter Report Card was published, Toronto signed incumbent AL MVP third baseman Josh Donaldson to a two-year, $29 million deal to avoid arbitration. While that did nothing to address Toronto's desire to extend Donaldson, who will hit free agency after the 2018 season, it did give the Jays some cost certainty for '17 as they attempt to keep sluggers Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion past their own impending free agency this fall.

Final Grade: B

Baltimore Orioles

Preliminary Grade (Jan. 22): B-
Key moves since preliminary grade: Acquired RHP Odrisamer Despaigne from Padres for RHP Jean Cosme; acquired 1B/OF Efren Navarro from Angels for cash; lost LHP C.J. Riefenhauser to Cubs on waivers; outrighted OF L.J. Hoes and Joey Terdoslavich off 40-man roster

The Orioles are reportedly close to a three-year deal with free-agent righthanded starter Yovani Gallardo, but until that deal is official, we can’t factor it in here. The possibility of signing Dexter Fowler after surrendering a top draft pick for Gallardo would also boost Baltimore's grade, with the team addressing its two biggest needs by adding both. If the O's bring in those two, we'll give them a B+, but for now, we’ll keep their grade where it was originally—the collection of minor moves listed above are of little consequence.

Final Grade: B-

Seattle Mariners

Preliminary Grade (Jan. 20): B-
Key moves since preliminary grade: Signed 1B Dae-Ho Lee and RHP Joel Peralta to minor league contracts

Lee, a Korean-born veteran of both the Korea Baseball Organization and Nippon Professional Baseball, will challenge Jesus Montero in camp for the role of being Adam Lind’s platoon partner at first base. Lee is a massive and gregarious man and a star in both Korea and Japan, and his arrival in the U.S. is exciting, but it doesn’t significantly alter the Mariners’ outlook. After all, he’s even less proven in the major leagues than the 26-year-old Montero, who despite hitting well in Triple A the last two years hasn't been able to translate that to a steady role in Seattle. Peralta, who will turn 40 in late March, is listed solely out of respect for my elders. He’s not the bullpen solution the Mariners need.

Final Grade: B-

Texas Rangers

Preliminary Grade (Feb. 3): B-
Key moves since preliminary grade: None

Nothing to see here. Move along.

Final Grade: B-

Oakland Athletics

Preliminary Grade (Jan. 14): B-
Key moves since preliminary grade: Acquired LF Khris Davis from Brewers for C Jacob Nottingham and RHP Bubba Derby; designated LHP Sean Nolin for assignment

Yes, the A’s needed a leftfielder, but Davis is a particularly bad fit for Oakland’s spacious Coliseum, and Nottingham is a particularly high price to pay for him. That makes this the rare occasion in which a team directly addresses its unfinished business and sees its grade fall as a result.

Davis is a 28-year-old hacker who is lousy in the field and is blocked at designated hitter by fellow righthander Billy Butler (or at least by Butler’s contract, which has two years and $20 million remaining). In his two full major league seasons, Davis has hit .245 with a .309 on-base percentage and has made contact with fewer than 70% of the pitches at which he has swung, with that rate falling to 66.9% in 2015. His only selling point is his power, and the impact of that will take a hit with his move from Milwaukee to Oakland.

For that, the A’s gave up Nottingham. Acquired last July in the trade that sent starter Scott Kazmir to Houston, Nottingham was rated the 66th-best prospect in the game by Baseball Prospectus earlier this month. In his age-20 season last year, Nottingham hit .316/.372/.505, including a .306/.357/.468 line in 258 plate appearances in high A ball. His catching is a work in progress, but he has a good arm and would be a significant asset if he could stick behind the plate. Nottingham wasn’t blocked by another catching prospect in Oakland's system, and the A's aren't close enough to contention for Davis to push them over the top.

Final Grade: C+

Houston Astros

Preliminary Grade (Feb. 1): C+
Key moves since preliminary grade: none

After getting closer Ken Giles, who was obtained in a trade with the Phillies, Houston's biggest acquisitions this off-season will likely be getting more time from players they already have. Shortstop Carlos Correa and budding ace Lance McCullers each spent one-third of last season in the minors but will be key pieces all year in 2016, as will centerfielder Carlos Gomez, who didn't join the Astros until a midseason trade with Milwaukee.

Final Grade: C+

Tampa Bay Rays

Preliminary Grade (Jan. 21): D+
Key moves since preliminary grade: Signed IF/OF Steve Pearce (one year, $4.75M); acquired OF Corey Dickerson and 3B Kevin Padlo from Rockies for LHP Jake McGee and RHP German Marquez

When we wrote about the Rays in late January, they hadn’t signed a free agent to a major league contract and had made just one trade with actual players heading in both directions. Since then, they effectively tripled their work with the two moves above, both of which attempt to upgrade their biggest need this off-season: the offense.

Neither Dickerson nor Pearce is guaranteed to do the trick there, but there are platoon scenarios that could maximize the value of both and of earlier off-season addition Logan Morrison. Dickerson is by far the more compelling of the two bats Tampa Bay added: He's a pre-arbitration slugger heading into his age-27 season with four team-controlled years remaining. The big question is how much he’ll suffer from the move out of Coors Field. For now, let's give Dickerson and the Rays the benefit of the doubt and bump them up a grade.

Final Grade: C-

Cleveland Indians

Preliminary Grade (Jan. 22): D+
Key moves since preliminary grade: Signed RHP Tommy Hunter (one year, $2M)

That one-year deal for Hunter, a journeyman reliever, sums up Cleveland’s off-season quite nicely. Hunter wasn’t expensive and does make the bullpen better, but it’s impossible to get excited about the fact the Indians upgraded their fourth-best righthanded option in the bullpen. It was a middling move by a middling team caught in the middle.

Final Grade: D+

Los Angeles Angels

Preliminary Grade (Jan. 28): F
Key moves since preliminary grade: Acquired 3B Jefry Marte from Tigers for 2B Kody Eaves; claimed RHP Christian Friedrich off waivers from Rockies; traded 3B Taylor Featherston to Phillies for future considerations; lost LHP Bobby LaFromboise to Phillies and OF Ronald Torreyes to Yankees on waivers.

The Angels had one job this off-season: Upgrade the offense around Mike Trout. They had two clear paths by which to do so: Sign one of this offseason’s many elite outfield free agents to fill their huge hole in leftfield, or trade from their considerable starting pitching depth. They did neither. For a team that missed the playoffs by one game last year and has more than $30 million coming off the books after this season with the end of the contracts of Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson, that’s a complete failure.

Final Grade: F